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The Name Game

December 27, 2011

A little trick with Nick

John Doe is not a theorist, but was once the name used as a place holder for everyone.

Today Ken and I want to thank everyone who reads GLL, including John Doe.

We love writing GLL, but with your support the writing is easier, it is more fun, and seems more worth the interruption that it sometimes causes with other duties. Thanks again to all.

Special thanks to all we have written about—we appreciate you forgiving our sometimes inaccuracies. Special thanks to all who have commented in public–we appreciate your lively comments, even the ones that we do not necessarily agree. Special thanks to all those who directly have helped and have commented in private.


John Doe, Joe Bloggs, John Q. Public, Joe Public, Luther Blissett, Mary Major, and Nomen nescio are just some of the examples of names that are used when a real name is unknown. Curiously, one of the driving forces behind such names is the legal world. They sometimes need to refer to a person that is unknown or unnameable: Nomen nescio, it is used to name an anonymous person in legal terminology, abbreviated to N.N., it comes from Latin “nomen” for name and “nescire” for not known. One of the names listed above is also a New York City restaurant, of some fame.

Our friends at Wikipedia say: The name “John Doe”, often spelled “Doo,” along with “Richard Roe” or “Roo” were regularly invoked in English legal instruments to satisfy technical requirements governing standing and jurisdiction, beginning perhaps as early as the reign of England’s King Edward III (1312—1377).

The Name Game

Shirley Ellis is famous for the song “The Name Game.”

Banana-fana fo-fatie Fee-fi-mo-matie Katie!

Go here to listen to it for a bit of fun:

Open Problems

Please keep reading and commenting. We greatly appreciate all your kind support. We will be back soon with lots of technical stuff and strange symbols of all kinds. Thanks again.

[changed Joe Doe to John Doe]

8 Comments leave one →
  1. richde permalink
    December 27, 2011 9:56 am

    Thanks Dick and Ken for consistently great posts!

    • rjlipton permalink*
      December 31, 2011 1:31 pm


      Thanks for all your kind support.

  2. December 27, 2011 11:40 am

    Jules Verne’s immortal character, Captain Nemo, deserves mention too:

    Etymology of Captain Nemo’s name

    Nemo is Latin for “no one”, and also (as νέμω) Greek for “I give what is due” (see Nemesis).

    Nemo is, moreover, the Latin rendering of Ancient Greek Outis (“Nobody”), the pseudonym Odysseus employed to outwit the Cyclops Polyphemus.

    And most importantly, you have earned everyone’s appreciation and thanks for sustaining, so well and so long, one of the very “best and brightest” of all STEM weblogs.

  3. John Doe permalink
    December 27, 2011 11:44 am

    My favorite blog, keep it up!

  4. Cem Say permalink
    December 27, 2011 4:29 pm

    “John” misspellt as “Joe” in two places.

    Thanks for the truly great blog, and happy new year!

  5. Bill Gasarch permalink
    December 30, 2011 8:57 am

    1) YES, a great blog- very impressive getting out technically interesting stuff as often as you do. and you talk about the people too!

    2) Do not play the name game with `Chuck’

    3) Random thought on names: Alan Smithee was the name used by a director on a film if he wanted to disown the film. They stopped this after there was a movie `An Alan Smithee production: Burn Hollywood Burn’ about a movie where the director’s name really was Alan Smithee and he wanted to disown the film but couldn’t since he would have to use the fake-name-which-was-his-real-name Alan Smithee. The movie itself was terrible (Ebert- 0 stars) and the real director really did disown it.

    • January 2, 2012 9:49 am

      Comment edited: Bill closed with a riff on “Katie bo-batie…” from the post:
      “billy billy bo billy bo nana nana no nilly, fee fi fo filly, billy (gasarch)”
      and it seems to have triggered our spam blocker…!?

  6. Duncan permalink
    January 3, 2012 12:30 pm

    Luther Blissett is the name of an English former professional association footballer who played for Watford, Milan, and England during the 1980s. Following Blissett’s time in Italy, the name was adopted as a nom de plume by a group of Italian activists.

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