A few years ago, a Vietnamese-Australian man called Phuc Dat Bich uploaded a shot of his passport on Facebook and added a complaint regarding Facebook’s continuous suspension of his account. Facebook thought his account was fake because Phuc Dat Bich sounded too unreal. The incident made international headlines and was reported by several prominent news agencies.
Then came the disclaimer: He had been crying wolf. The man later revealed that his name wasn’t Phuc Dat Bich and Facebook never suspended his account. The whole thing was an elaborate hoax. Lucky him. For others, their names are no joke and have caused them some real problems. Some have received death threats and almost been murdered for having the wrong name.
10 Osama bin Laden
One Iraqi boy realized the consequences of having the wrong name after he and his family received death threats because he shared a name with Osama bin Laden. When we say Osama bin Laden, we’re referring to the Al-Qaeda leader and not the rogue elephant that killed 27 people in India.
The unfortunate Osama bin Laden in question was born in Alexandria, Iraq, in 2002. The US invaded Iraq a year later, marking the beginning of his problems. He could not leave his home or even attend school because of his name. He was also turned away at sport clubs and always had to explain himself whenever he was asked for identification at checkpoints. Things got so terrible that his family received death threats, forcing them to flee to Baghdad.
Several attempts to change his name failed. Then Qassim al-Araji, Iraq’s Interior Minister, heard of his plight and offered to help him change his name to Ahmed Hussein. Unfortunately, the boy named Osama bin Laden was electrocuted to death four days before the identification papers bearing his new name arrived. An online publication reported his death with the headline “Osama bin Laden Killed in Iraq.”
9 Saddam Hussain
An Indian engineer called Saddam Hussain was refused employment from over 40 jobs for no other reason than sharing a name with the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. The Indian Saddam Hussain had his surname spelled “Hussain” (with an “a”), which is not the same as the late Iraqi dictator Hussein (with an “e”).
But that meant nothing to his prospective employers. Saddam Hussain later changed his name to Sajid Hussain, but that only worsened issues because it invalidated his educational certificates.
Saddam Hussain was not the only person to encounter problems for sharing a name with the former Iraqi leader. Another Saddam Hussein—who has the exact name of the former Iraqi leader and was unfortunate to also be an Iraqi—was captured and almost executed by an Iraqi militia because of his name. He only got away with his life because the weapon jammed.
A boy named Saddam Hussein was also taunted and bullied in school, while one man was fired from his job after he was accused of being a member of the Ba’ath party. The evidence? He had named his son Saddam.
Still in Iraq, a more unfortunate Saddam Hussein has been having problems since long before Saddam Hussein (the president) was ousted from power. Due to the young boy’s name, his schoolteachers held him to higher standards than other students and gave him severe punishments whenever he performed below expectation.
Thinking he would be better appreciated, this unfortunate Saddam Hussein joined the army. But he only got into bigger trouble after an officer assaulted him for tarnishing and daring to share a name with the dictator Saddam. Things got worse after the dictator Saddam lost power in 2003. The other Saddam tried changing his name in 2006 but couldn’t afford the cost and complication involved.
8 Craig Cockburn
Spam filters help to protect us from receiving malicious and unsolicited emails. But not for Craig Cockburn, whose messages were always marked as spam because his surname, Cockburn, contained a certain word. As if things couldn’t get any worse, even the servers at the Scottish Tourist Board, where he worked, always marked his messages as spam.
We only got to hear of Mr. Cockburn’s situation after he sent an email about the issue to the San Jose Mercury News. To ensure that his email didn’t end up in the spam folder, he wrote his name as C0ckburn, replacing the letter “o” with a zero, which is the same tactic used by spammers to beat spam filters.
Mr. C0ckburn is not the only one to encounter problems for using an innocent “cock.” The Age newspaper of Australia experienced a similar problem when its spam filter refused to accept an email from a reporter who was covering the Cock o’ the Bay yacht race.
7 Robin Kills The Enemy
Facebook wants its users to always use their real names. But in 2009, it banned someone for using her real name. Initially, Facebook prevented the user, a Native American called Robin Kills The Enemy, from signing up over concerns that Kills The Enemy was not her real surname.
Robin migrated to Myspace but returned to Facebook because most of her friends were there. Facebook turned down her registration attempts again until she merged her surname to Killstheenemy.
The merger came with its own problems. Robin’s surname was now meaningless, and her friends had problems finding her. When she emailed Facebook and requested to have her surname changed to Kills The Enemy, Facebook replied with a ban. After she asked for an explanation, Facebook told her that they don’t allow fake names and she could only regain her account when she used her real name.
Kills The Enemy’s situation is a perfect example of the larger problem facing Native Americans, who often have odd-sounding names to others. Another Native American called Melissa Holds The Enemy also had her account suspended for a month. So did Creeping Bear and Oglala Lakota Lance Brown Eyes.
Oglala Lakota Lance Brown Eyes provided identification to prove that he used his real name. Facebook released his account but not before changing his name to Lance Brown. Native Americans bypass this unique Facebook problem by merging their compound names into one name, translating their names from Cherokee to English, or even omitting words from their names.
6 Dr. Herman I. Libshitz
Sixty-nine-year-old Dr. Herman I. Libshitz and his wife, Alison, were trying to upgrade their home Internet service to DSL when Herman was required to provide an email address and password to complete the setup. He entered the details as required but was unsuccessful.
He made a call to Verizon, his Internet service provider, and was informed that he could not complete the setup because his surname, Libshitz, contained a certain word. The customer service agent didn’t mention the word, and we won’t mention it, either. Dr. Libshitz spoke with another agent who advised him to misspell his surname.
Dr. Libshitz refused and called Verizon’s billing number to explain his situation. After cycling him through various agents, they promised to call him back. They didn’t, but Verizon did sent him a letter stating that he couldn’t use his surname because “it didn’t comply with company rules.”
Dr. Libshitz was only allowed to use his real name after a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist got in touch with a Verizon spokeswoman who agreed that the Libshitzes had made a reasonable request. The spokeswoman got the company to make an exception to their policy against using objectionable names in email addresses.
5 Linda Callahan
Linda Callahan tried signing up for a Verizon email address containing her surname but kept receiving an error message. She and her son, Ed, soon realized that they could not create an email address that contained their surname. Yahoo—which was servicing the email for Verizon—did not allow accounts with names containing “Allah,” “Osama,” and “bin Laden,” among others.
Yahoo later explained that it began to stop users from registering accounts containing names like “Allah” because some previous accounts had used certain names to promote hate. Yahoo reversed the ban on “Allah,” but the disappointed Linda had already set up an account with Gmail.
4 Adolf Hitler
An American man went to prison after naming at least five of his children for Adolf Hitler, the Aryan race, Heinrich Himmler (a top officer of the Nazi Party), and Hitler’s girlfriend Eva Braun. The kids were called Adolf Hitler Campbell, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie, Heinrich Hons, and Eva Braun. Eva is the other four children’s stepsister.
The man, formerly known as Isidore Heath Campbell, completed the whole thing by renaming himself Isidore Heath Hitler. His new initials, I.H.H., are believed to mean “I Hail Hitler.”
The family got national attention after a supermarket refused to write three-year-old Adolf Hitler’s name on his birthday cake. Authorities took the children into custody over what they described as “domestic abuse” and sent Heath to prison on charges of domestic violence.
Heath served his time in that case but returned to court in an attempt to reclaim his children. He was wearing a Nazi uniform. As of this writing, it does not appear that Heath has regained custody of his kids.
3 Harry Baals
Fort Wayne, Indiana, found itself in a fix when it asked residents to vote for a new name for a city-county building. Most residents voted for the building to be named after Harry Baals, a four-time mayor who had died in office in 1954. This caused a problem for city officials who weren’t ready to name the building after the former mayor.
City officials had nothing against Mayor Baals. It was just that his surname, Baals, was pronounced “balls.” It didn’t help that his first name sounded like “hairy.” This had been a recurring joke in the county for years, and city officials weren’t ready to turn their city into the butt of all national jokes.
They couldn’t pronounce the name as “Bales,” either—which is what Baals’s descendants call themselves these days—because Harry Baals insisted that his name be pronounced “balls.” Decades back when Baals was still mayor, a newscaster pronounced his name as “Harry Bales” while reading the news. Mayor Baals phoned in 30 seconds after the broadcast to correct the pronunciation of his name to “balls.”
2 James Bond
James Bond, the fictional British Secret Service agent in Ian Fleming’s spy novels, is named after a real person called James Bond. The real James Bond was an ornithologist (bird scientist) who worked at Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences from the 1920s until 1989.
The real James Bond also wrote several books about the birds he studied. One of the books was Birds of the West Indies (1936), from which Ian Fleming borrowed the scientist’s name for his fictional character.
Fleming wanted a dull name for his character, and the real-life James Bond had the perfect moniker. However, the real James Bond was not very impressed with the way the fictional spy popularized his name. In fact, the ornithologist started to look like a copycat. At one airport, he was stopped by officials who told him that his passport was fake because it bore his real name, James Bond.
1 Isis Anchalee
Isis was a common name for girls in the United States until the ISIS terrorist group came along. In 2014, Isis dropped from the 705th most common name to the 1770th. One lady named Isis Anchalee discovered the bitter consequence of sharing a name with a terrorist group after Facebook banned her on suspicion of being a terrorist. She only regained access to her account after submitting her passport photo thrice.
Humans are not the only ones caught up in the Isis naming quagmire. Several businesses named Isis suffered poor sales and increased harassment, forcing many to change their names. The owner of Isis Nails in New York City was serially harassed and often reminded that ISIS cut off people’s heads. She also saw sales decline by 30 percent, forcing her to change the name of her business.
One Belgian chocolate maker, which had changed its name from Italo Suisse to Isis, quickly renamed itself Libeert after the company also experienced a serious drop in sales. Isis Pharmaceuticals changed its name to Ionis Pharmaceuticals, while some TV characters and agencies bearing the name Isis were written out of their respective series.