One hundred and ninety-five thousand. That’s how many people there are in the UK with the same surname as me.

And I’ve discovered something rather unexpected – and entertaining – about being the bearer of a common name.

common name

For those of you who don’t know, my married name is Brown, which is ranked six in the UK’s 25 most common surnames, alongside – you guessed it – the likes of Smith, Jones and Williams.

My first name is Natalie, which in the decade I was born was among the top 20 most popular girls’ names in the UK. Put the two together and you don’t have to be genius to work out there are rather a lot of Natalie Browns around.

The trouble with a common name

It wasn’t long after I got married that I realised just how many Natalie Browns there are out there. I can’t ever have a username as simple as ‘NatalieBrown’ or ‘NatalieB’, I have to be ‘NatalieBrown620000’ (insert ridiculous number here), and when it comes to emails mistaken identity is an occupational hazard.

common name

It’s easily done – a hyphen instead of an underscore here, one less zero than there should be there. Which means I get an awful lot of emails that aren’t meant for me.

In no particular order, here’s the trouble with a common name:

To: Natalie Brown
From: Westminster City Council
Subject: Penalty Charge Notice Appeal

Please find the results of your latest penalty charge notice appeal attached (note the word ‘latest’ – this Natalie Brown gets lots of them, except they’re sent to me). The original decision is upheld, meaning £80 (£40 if paid within 14 days) is now due (I’ve had so many parking enforcement emails featuring this Natalie Brown that I picture her driving a Chelsea tractor around town and parking it as close as she can possibly get to her destination, regardless of yellow lines).

To: Natalie Brown
From: Watches of Switzerland Cardiff
Subject: Your timepiece

Hope all is well and Andy enjoyed his birthday yesterday (who’s Andy?) It was a pleasure to assist you on the purchase of your new timepiece (sounds intriguing). If there is anything else I can assist you with, please call me in store at any time. Hope you enjoyed Colin the cake (a cake called Colin? Tell me more! Also impressed with the level of customer service in this one – 10 out of 10 for Gemma at Watches of Switzerland in Cardiff).

To: Natalie Brown
From: Virgin Active Angel
Subject: Your membership

Thanks for your time on the phone earlier, it was great speaking with you. I just wanted to confirm that your appointment is all booked for you (I live 70 miles away from Angel). Please feel free to bring a friend with you, the more the merrier! (Do you think I’d be welcome?)

To: Natalie Brown
From: Sylvia Dobson
Subject: Fascia manipulation (sounds waaay more exciting than it actually is – I googled it and I think it’s something to do with guttering)

Good afternoon. You have been recommended for this job by one of our partners (what job?) Please kindly provide a quote at your earliest opportunity.

Of course, it must work both ways: presumably there are Natalie Browns out there getting emails that were destined for me. Sadly, I don’t think they’re as interesting as timepieces from Watches of Switzerland, cakes called Colin or multiple car parking fines though!

Are you the bearer of a common first name or surname like me? Do you get emails that aren’t meant for you, or are you ever the victim of mistaken identity? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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