John Grindrod: Say, you look just like…the case for doppelgangers

First Posted: 3/4/2014

As I sat in my easy chair, on a day of rest, gazing out at a bleak late January winter landscape, a future column idea was hatched. While reading my Sunday paper and looking in “Lifestyle” at the pictures of those celebrating anniversaries and birthdays, I saw a picture of my old teaching pal, Jeff Howison, an absolute prince of a guy with whom I was fortunate to work after he left Shawnee High School.

My initial reaction was, oh, that’s nice. Jeff and his wife Vicki are getting a little “anni” love! However, as I looked at the lady to the left, it wasn’t Vicki, and, for good reason. The names under the smiling couple who enumerated a half century’s worth of shared experiences weren’t Vicki’s and Jeff’s. They were Frances and Preston Long, now residents of Gaylord, Mich.

Looking to Frances’ left, I realized what I was witnessing. I was having a doppelganger moment. Jeff Howison has, at least in my opinion, a double living in Michigan.

According to Merriam-Webster, the noun doppelganger is defined as “a ghostly counterpart of a living person; a double; a person who has the same name as another.” Now, neither Preston nor Jeff is a ghost and certainly not sporting the same name, so we’re talking that middle definition.

Since I’m linguistically but certainly not numerically inclined, I’m always interested in the etymology of a word. The word doppelganger actually is a relatively new entry into the English language, having first appeared in the mid-19th century. German in origin, the word comes from two parts, doppel for “double” and Ganger for “walker.”

To me, the whole doppelganger phenomenon makes perfect sense. The website provides a rolling number of the tally of people alive second by second, and as of this writing, there were well over 7 billion of us inhaling and exhaling. So, just as physicists have told us that snowflakes, while not exactly alike, have some that are far more similar in their complexities than others, there will be people, perhaps two in particular, who are bound to exhibit extraordinarily similar appearances.

As a somewhat animated bald man, I’ve been told I look very much like Jim Cramer, of “Mad Money” television fame. Cramer and Grindrod, both bald and goateed, I get it. However, the similarities sadly don’t extend to our net worths. According to the site, Cramer’s is $100 million. Deduct several zeroes for mine, that is, assuming we’re measuring net worth in dollars as opposed to some type of metaphorical currency.

To be honest, I’m not sure I look all that much like Cramer. I’m pretty sure that if you’re the one forming half the doppelganger equation, you tend to be a lot more discriminatory when it comes to such matters.

However, with others, I can see the phenomenon much more clearly, just as I did with Preston and Jeff. I also believe my pal Denny Bauman’s son Nathan has a doppelganger ever since I saw the close-up shots last World Series of the Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester leaning in for the sign.

Of course, doppelgangers are more readily acknowledged when both individuals are widely known. So, I found a website for you to amuse yourself a bit on a day not suitable to go out and play. Just Google Famous Lookalikes Pictures on the site, and you’ll see some remarkable similarities in famous people, ones that’ll get you thinking doppelganger. How about a pretty amazing resemblance between actor Alec Baldwin and President Millard Fillmore?

I was also amazed how much, Old Hickory, Andrew Jackson, looked like actor Ted Danson, not the Sam “Mayday” Malone Danson but the post-“Cheers” version. Oh, and my deepest regrets to actress Kathy Bates, who bears far too striking of a resemblance to the presidential William Howard Taft than any female should.

So, there you have it, folks, doppelganger, your word for the day. Somewhere walking around this world, you just may have one.

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