The hazards of my popular name – and my book about someone else who had one

I went into single combat with Google the other week. They’ve persistently credited all my books to a lecturer in Classics at Exeter University who has the same name as me. To their credit, Google came back promptly with an informative answer which I’ll be acting on by way of getting the gaffe fixed.

Wright_AuthorPhoto2014_LoI’m mildly intrigued the Exeter lecturer hasn’t fixed the mis-credit, especially given that I do have a small repute in the UK for my academic work – I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society at University College in London on the back of it.

The incident highlights the problems of having a popular name. Here in New Zealand alone, there are 42 people on the electoral roll named Matthew Wright. Only one of them is me. There’s a Matthew Wright who pens poetry and publishes it online. There’s a Matt Wright who writes history (as do I). There’s a bank manager with my name. And in Norwich, there’s a 20-year old Matthew Wright who was arrested for beating people up while dressed as an Oompa Loompa.

That highlights the down-side of the name. Being confused with an English academic is one thing. Being confused with somebody who’s done something heinous could do actual damage.

I’m not the only one with a popular name, of course. Another ‘common name victim’ is the subject of my next book – Man of Secrets: The Private Life of Donald McLean (Penguin Random House 2015).

Man of Secrets 200 pxSometimes he spelt his name MacLean, more usually McLean. But McLean or MacLean, it’s a common name. As is ‘Donald’. A quick glance at Wikipedia highlights the point.

So have  I written about Donald MacLean/McLean the spy, the ice-hockey player, the song-writer, the basketball player, the Laird of Brolas, the Canadian senator, the judge, the churchman, the comedian, the fur trader, the New Zealand land-buyer, or what?

I guess the word ‘New Zealand’ is the give-away, given where I live. But I haven’t covered the ‘land buyer’ side of his life. Oh no. Everybody’s done that. I found something new to talk about. His secret life.

More soon.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


9 thoughts on “The hazards of my popular name – and my book about someone else who had one

  1. Fun post but I am sorry that you, once again, are having to deal with Google. Do I mis-remember or haven’t you gone down a similar road with Google? The new book sounds intriguing and perhaps you will discover something to help you with this name issue as you uncover MacLean’s secret life.


    1. It’s the same issue – I’m having another go at fixing it. Maybe this time… Oops – I realise the post’s ambiguous about the timing on book – it’s actually being released next week! I’ve got a Facebook contest lined up and various promotions for it.

      McLean didn’t have anything like the name conflation problem in his day, NZ’s settler population ran to about 60,000 and he was one of the most prominent people in it. His problem is history and the littering of it with deeds by others of the same name – from the spy to the hockey player to the songwriter, etc. A friend of mine dared me to work a reference to ‘American Pie’ into the book – which I did, though it’s kind of hidden.

  2. You sure the guy in the Oompa Loompa suit wasn’t you? I wonder…

    If I Google my name all I get are the LinkdIn profiles of a bunch of Dutch businessmen. So much for building an online presence 😉

  3. Hope you ‘get it sorted’ Matthew. (I had a lot of difficulty trying to find a website for my name. But that’s a different thing.)
    Credit where credit is due. Did you ever try contacting the man?

    1. I didn’t try contacting the other subject of the mixup – I wanted to get the details first out of Google to understand how it had happened. Turns out they draw their data from a third party, who made the original error, and I’ve got to contact them. If I get no joy with them I’ll contact the UK academic with the information.

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