Usually thoroughly averted in real life workplaces, schools or other organized gatherings. When groups of friends, workmates, or classes have some shared names they're likely to find ways to differentiate people fairly quickly to avoid confusion.
Although it may be played straight if you have an uncommon name (especially if it's an uncommon first name in combination with an uncommon last name). You can actually go years without running into someone with the same name as you.
Especially common in the Furry Fandom where people often refer to each other by their fursona names, even when not in character. You then, however, run into the other problem of multiple people having the same fursona nickname or similar. People tend to just append it with something else or change the spelling. If someone's name is rare enough, or they just can't be bothered, they may just let people call them their real name instead of their nickname. It depends on their personality.
George Foreman named all five of his sons George (George Jr and George III to VI), and one of his five daughters Georgetta. He's explained that this was due to his not knowing his father, so he wanted to make damned sure his kids knew theirs.
On 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan named his children Tracy Jr. and George Foreman.
The Romans were pretty bad about breaking this rule. But the Julio-Claudian dynasty took the cake.
The famous Julius Caesar shared his full name (Gaius Julius Caesar) with his father, grandfather, and quite a lot of other relatives, among them his great nephew known as Augustus. This makes their history just a little confusing sometimes.
Even worse for women. Officially, a daughter's name was just the feminine version of the family name—Julius Caesar's sister, daughter, and paternal aunt would all be named "Julia". In practice, sisters would be distinguished by nicknames or other variants (a beauty might be called "Helen", a girl born on Lesbos might be called "Lesbia", etc.); but if you find a statue of "Agrippina", it can be hard to figure out which of Agrippa's many famous female descendants it represents.
And to further confuse things, his adopted son (originally named Gaius Octavius) changed his name in accordance to the named-after-your-father tradition, so both Caesar and Augustus actually went by the name Gaius Julius Caesar; though the latter, as an adoptee, had the optional Octavianus.
Then there were also the three emperors Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero, who where the third, fifth, and sixth emperors beginning with Caesar. The first two were actually names "Tiberius Claudius Nero", but despite other claims, Neros full name was Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus, which also wasn't much better.
In addition Julius was assassinated by Marcus Brutus, who shared a name with his ancestor who was instrumental in overthrowing the last king of Rome.
On the whole, the Romans weren't very big on inventive names. In classical times, their list of "acceptable first names" had been boiled down to ~20. This is, if they didn't outright number them through.
Mainland China has rather simple, conventional naming traditions when compared to other Chinese-speaking nations/areas/whatever such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. This essentially means it's rather likely that two or more people will share the same-sounding first and last names. This is generally averted with either calling them "male [name here]" and "female [name here]", or, if there are any of the same gender, making references to the different characters in those names. Of course, people sharing the exact same names, calligraphy-wise, in the same classroom are not unheard of...
Two female ice-racers (short-track speed skaters) named Yang Yang represented China in the 1990s – indeed, both of them were on the relay team which won an Olympic silver medal in at Nagano in 1998. According to David Wallechinsky’s Complete Book of the Winter Olympics, “Although their names were spelled differently in Chinese, they were pronounced the same. When they began competing together internationally, it became necessary to distinguish between the two for record-keeping purposes. One was given the name Yang Yang [L] for large and the other Yang Yang [S] for small. Large and small referred not to their sizes but their ages, L being the older of the two. However, Yang Yang [L] decided that she didn’t like the letter L and changed her designation to Yang Yang [A]. The younger Yang Yang remained content with her S.” (The "A" refers to the former "L"'s birth month of August; coincidentally, "S" was born in September.)
Demetrius of Magnesia wrote a book, “On Men of the Same Name” which provided something of the same function to the ancients as the disambiguation pages on The Other Wiki provide for us. It is cited often by Diogenes Laertius in his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, first at i. 38. This makes concern for the problem Older Than Feudalism.
It is very common for royal families to have repetitive names both in the same generation and in historical perspective.
E.g., the Carolingians, Capetians, Valois and Bourbons used the name Louis so often that there was a Louis XVIII of France. To these you can add the three Merovingian kings called Clovis, which is the same name in an earlier spelling. See also the Ptolemies of Egypt almost all of whom were called Ptolemy, or in the rare case of prominent females, Cleopatra (VII being the famous one). Those eighteen Louis were only the ones who became kings. Louis XIV, son of Louis XIII, was so long-lived that he outlived not only his son Louis but also his grandson Louis and great-grandson Louis, making Louis XV his younger great-grandson (yes, two brothers with the same name) king, who also named his son Louis and... you get the idea.
The House of Reuss, wherein every male member of the family has been named Henry/Heinrich since the Middle Ages. To tell them apart, they are numbered by order of birth, but separately within the elder and younger line of the house. One starts numbering afresh from I (1) when LXXXXIX (99) is reached, the other starts numbering afresh at the beginning of a new century. Within the family they usually use nicknames to tell each other apart (there are a number of derivative forms in German, such as "Heinz" and "Heiner", sometimes they also use foreign versions like "Henry", "Henri" or "Enrico").
France also provides us with the War of the Three Henrys, a three-sided Civil War in which the Royalist party was led by King Henri III of France, the Catholic League was led by Henri, the Duke of Guise, and the Huguenot army was led by King Henri of Navarre. Henri of Navarre won, becoming Henri IV.
There was another War of the Three Henries in 10th century Germany. In this case, the three Henries, the Bishop of Augsburg and the Duke of Carinthia and the deposed Duke of Bavaria, were all on the same side, rebelling against Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, who was allied with Duke Otto of Swabia and Bavaria. When the rebellion was put down Henry of Carinthia's Duchy was given to another Otto
The Breton War of Succession, which ran concurrently with the first part of the Hundred Years War, was also known as the War of the Two Jeannes.
Russian leaders used a limited number of names. From the 14th to 16th centuries, they were almost exclusively named either Ivan or Vasily. Keep in mind, they used patronymics, so they all were also Ivan Vasilyevich or Vasily Ivanovich. The trend resumed in the 19th century, when Russia had three Alexanders and two Nicholases. The last Tsar even named his son Alexy with intention that his heir would break the tradition... and guess what, they made a Revolution to never let him do it.
The royal house of Prussia would often do something similar in the case of duplication. For instance in the late 18th century, King Frederick William III had a younger brother called Louis, but there was another Prince Louis, son of Prince Ferdinand (the youngest brother of King Frederick the Great), who was therefore called Prince Louis Ferdinand, even though Ferdinand was not one of his Christian names.
Frederick William III had another brother called William as well as a younger son called William (1797-1888, later William I, king of Prussia and emperor of Germany). The former was sometimes called "Wilhelm Bruder" (William brother), but apparently not often enough. Prince William (1783-1851), the maternal grandfather of Ludwig II of Bavaria, is quite often mistaken for his nephew by non-German authors in works about the Waterloo campaign. To clarify: In 1815, (full) General Prince William, the king's youngest brother, commanded the reserve cavalry of the IV Corps which played a key role in the battle of Waterloo; Major Prince William, the king's second son, commanded a guard infantry battalion which only reached France after the fighting was over.
There are at least two historic sultans named Suleiman. "Suleiman the Magnificent" is the one who conquered Europe all the way to Vienna.
King George V had four sons living to adulthood, three of whom had "George" somewhere in their cluster of Christian names. However, the first went by David (Edward VIII), the second by Albert, and the fourth used George as his first name. However, when Albert became king in 1936, he, following the course of his grandfather Edward VII, declined to use Albert as his regnal name in recognition of his great-grandfather Albert, Prince-consort. Instead, Albert became George VI, to emphasize continuity with his father's long reign - which meant that the royal family now contained two brothers named King George and Prince George.
Louis XVIII (Louis Stanislas Xavier) of France was a younger brother of Louis XVI (Louis August).
Marie of Roumania (sic) was born in Germany and became queen of Yugoslavia. On the other hand, her mother, Marie of Edinburgh, ruled Romania. Hilarity Ensues.
Henry VIII was married to, in order, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. Three names for six wives.
According to urban legend, the trope is Enforced in the case of King John of England. It is claimed that he was such a notoriously bad king (it was during his reign that the nobility revolted and forced John to sign the Magna Carta) that the English royal family has never used the name since, to prevent there ever being another King John. However, there were a number of princes called John - notably John of Gaunt (son of Edward III, father of Henry IV) and Prince John (1905-1919, youngest son of George V). It's just that so far none of them became king.
Mitch Hedberg used to tell a joke about his ex girlfriend named Lyn and his current girlfriend (who later became his wife, and even later his widow) named Lynn.
Sometimes I screw up and call my new girlfriend by my old girlfriend's name. She can tell because I don't say the "nn" long enough.
Karl Reichsfreiherr vom und zum Stein was Prussia's premier minister from 1807 to 1808. Karl Reichsfreiherr vom Stein zu Altenstein was co-leading minister (along with Count Dohna-Schlobitten) from late 1808 to 1810. The latter was however generally known as Altenstein (and signed that way).
In rural Northern Ireland, people with the same name would be differentiated by the name of their father, resulting in conversations something like this: "So ah wuz talkin' teh Stephen the other day..." "Which Stephen?" "Wullie's Stephen - ye know, th' one that married Billy's Helen."
This trope is a rule in many showbiz unions, forcing those with common names to don Stage Names:
David X. Cohen is named thus because there was an existing David S. Cohen.
James Roday of Psych adopted his stage name because there was already a James Rodriguez registered with the Screen Actors' Guild.
Singer Katy Perry changed her last name, Hudson, so she wouldn't be confused with actress Kate Hudson.
Katy Perry (or at least her 'people') also attempted to sue an Australian woman whose name is Katie Perry because Katie Perry has a clothing brand with her name never mind the fact that she (Katie) had started the brand years before Katy had become famous.
David Harvard Lawrence saw he was 17th David Lawrence on IMDB at the time he had to register at the Actors Guild, and became David H. Lawrence XVII.
Averted in the current squad of Real Madrid, where shirt number 9 belongs to (Cristiano) Ronaldo. Until 2007 the owner of the number was the Brazilian Ronaldo (Luiz Nazario da Lima). Also, because of the Brazilian Ronaldo, Ronaldo de Assis Moreira has been using the nickname Ronaldinho. To go further, the Brazilian Ronaldo played under the name Ronaldinho too, in Atlanta, 1996, to distinguish him from teammate Ronaldo Guiaro.
If you're Korean, chances are that your last name is either Kim, Park (sometimes Pak), or Lee.
The joke is that if you throw a rock off the mountain near Seoul you'll hit someone with one of those names.
The Chinese are not quite as bad as the Koreans, but there is still a roughly 1-in-4 chance that any random Chinese you meet will have the family name Wang/Wong, Li, or Zhang.
In fact, there's an old Chinese saying referencing the five most popular names in China that goes 张王李赵天下刘 (Zhang Wang Li Zhao tian xia Liu). As is typical of Mandarin Chinese, there's a Pun involved - the fifth name, "Liu", is a homophone for the word for "flow". The saying thus translates roughly to "Zhang's, Wang's, Li's, and Zhao's fall from the sky".
In South-East China (and Taiwan), it's Chen and Lin that are the big names, hence the joke "more Chins (Chens) than a Hong Kong phone directory".
The Chinese refer to themselves colloquially as "the hundred surnames", after a famous poem that lists the most widely used surnames, and joke that if two people share the same last name, then two hundred years ago they were in the same family. (This was, of course, much more possible in the past when peoples were more geographically isolated, it might still hold true for some.)
Project Steve is a list of scientists who believe in evolution, all of whom are named Steve (or a variant thereof) in honour of Steven Jay Gould.
Averted by Apple Computer, which was founded by two guys named Steve.
Sebastian Vettel started driving for Formula One race team Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR) in late 2007. For 2008, his teammate was Sébastien Bourdais. When Vettel moved to STR's sister team Red Bull Racing in 2009, he was replaced by Sébastien Buemi as Bourdais' teammate. Sadly, when Bourdais was fired mid-2009, his replacement was named Jaime and not a variant of Sebastian. However, STR at the end of 2009 STR attempted to have rallying champion Sébastien Loeb test for them, presumably as a possible driver for 2010, though Loeb was unable to obtain the Super License required to race in Formula 1. So Loeb returned to rallying where his team mate at (Red Bull-sponsored) Citroen was Sébastien Ogier.
So for a while there, Red Bull employed four F1 drivers, named Sebastian, Sébastien, Sébastien… and Mark.
And now for One Steve Limit-lite: One of Mercedes's drivers is Nico Rosberg, and one of Force India's drivers is Nico Hulkenberg.
Red Bull seem to really thrive on this - for 2015 and the first few races of 2016, their drivers were Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat.
We also have Felipe Massa and Felipe Nasr, both on different teams, luckily. One commentator began referring to the latter as Fred; when word reached the driver, he stated he'd prefer to be mentioned as Phil. So instead, the commentator decided to call him Gladys.
Speaking of different teams, midway through 2016, Manor brought in Esteban Ocon, joining Haas's driver Esteban Gutierrez. Looks like there are certain names that REALLY help your chances of getting a drive at the top level...
In the past, there was Mika Häkkinen and Mika Salo.
And in the past brothers have competed in F1 - Michael and Ralf Schumacher.
Timo and Tommi Mäkinen (no relation), both champion rally drivers, both nicknamed the "Flying Finn".
In NASCAR drivers who raced most of their careers at the same time include Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett; Jeff Gordon and Robby Gordon (no relation); Cale Yarborough and Lee Roy Yarbrough (also no relation, note the spelling!)
Additionally, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Dale Jarrett were active at the same time from 2000 to 2008.
Speaking of motorsports in general, you'll often see in TV the driver's/rider's three word code. The main rule of the code is no one is allowed to have the same three word code. Usually, its their first three words of their surname. However, if two (or more) of them has the same first three words on their surname, they usually are distinguished by three formats: One (or more) of them must use at least their surname's fourth word substituting the third (for drivers who aren't family-related); First word of their given name, then the first two words of their surname; or the opposite, The first two words of their surname, then the first word of their given name (the last two is for family-related drivers). For example:
The Schumacher brothers: Michael is MSC, Ralf is RSC. This later became The Artifact when Michael made a three season comeback in 2010-2012 (Ralf already retired from Formula One by this point), in which MSC is still used because most fans are familiar with the MSC code.
The Aoyama brothers from MotoGP: Hiroshi is AOH, Shuhei is AOS.
Max Verstappen's three word code is VES, not VER. This happens because when Max officially tests a F1 car back in 2014, Jean-Eric Vergne still raced in Formula One, and it was Vergne who used the VER code.
Spanish MotoGP rider Marc Márquez uses MAQ as his three word code, not MAR. This possibly happened since back in 2009 when Marc is still in 125cc, there's an Italian rider named Luca Marconi. To avoid confusion, Marc agreed to use MAQ as his code, and that code stayed to this day.
In NASCAR, they did not use the three word code. Instead, there's their surname placed on either the front window (for Cup) or the rear window (for Xfinity/Truck). If two drivers have the same surname (i.e. the Busch brothers), their front names have to be included in that name sign. If two drivers are family-related and has the same first name and surname (usually father and sons, i.e. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), the son must included the suffix indicating they are the son in that name sign.
There was a Facebook group about how if Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner got married, back when they were dating, they would both be Taylor Lautner.
Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, co-hosts of ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning". They go by Greenie and Golic.
Microphones also sometimes go by the nickname "mike", so there's a plethora of "[Insert Name Here] and Mike" shows where there isn't a host actually named Michael/Mike.
ESPN's Pardon The Interruption featured Tony Kornheiser and Tony Reali; the latter is referred to by his last name, which became so commonplace that he's also called Reali at times by panel members on his own show, Around the Horn.
On the set of Friends, Matt LeBlanc was referred to by his last name to avoid confusion with Matthew Perry when given stage directions.
Averted by the team of Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis, who simply went by the collective moniker "Bob & Bob" when they worked together on the Back to the Future films.
Have you tried to read a history book about the Hundred Years War? There are about a dozen different guys that are named Charles (Charles V the Wise, Charles VI the Mad and VII the Victorious, Charles of Anjou, of Aragon, Charles the Bad of Navarra, etc) ... which makes it kinda difficult to follow.
Evidently feeling there weren't enough Charleses, prince Wenceslas of Luxemburg, who grew up at the French court, changed his name to Charles at his confirmation in honour of one of the last direct-line Capetians, king Charles IV. He fought at Crecy on the losing side along with his father, king John (the Blind) and after his father's death went on to become emperor Charles IV of Germany.
And then there's arguably the most famous king Charles - Charles I, who does help cut down on confusion thanks to his unique nickname: Charlemagne.
Similarly with the Wars of the Roses. Everyone was called Edward, Henry or Richard; there was a high turnover rate for the holders of important titles like Duke of Gloucester or Duke of York; and to make it even more confusing, authors keen to avoid both Pronoun Confusion and the stylistic faux pas of repeating names refer to the same bloke by both his name and his title in different sentences in the same paragraph... when on the previous page the same chap had a different title, and the same title was held by a different chap with the same name. There is a certain What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs? atmosphere to the whole period in any case, and with the name confusion on top of that it requires a reinforced skull to stop your head exploding.
This is lampshaded in the scene in Shakespeare's Richard III which has Queen Margaret, the Duchess of York, and Elizabeth Woodville commiserating over their mutual losses. ("I had a Richard, and a Richard killed him".)
Dave Gorman and his friend (also named Dave) had a drunken bet going. Namely that there was another "Dave Gorman" an assistant manager for East Fife FC. So they travelled several hundred miles from London to Fife to meet him. When they got there, they asked the manager if he knew any other Dave Gormans. "No. Well, wait, my Dad is also Dave Gorman. Oh yeah, and my son is Dave Gorman too." Dave Gorman (the original) happened to be a stand up comedian...so he travelled internationally to find other Dave Gormans and then he made his own show called "Are You Dave Gorman?
Dave Gorman (on Letterman): Yes, I have an idea for a new show. It's called "Are you Osama Bin Laden?"
Dave Gorman's friend... "Dave" Danny Wallace?
Mr & Mrs. Kelly Hildebrandt. They met when she looked up people with her last name on Facebook. They later divorced.
Many large creative projects, like creating a stage show or making a film, will include lots of people, and occasionally there are some who share the same name. For example, in all his films since Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan has worked with special effects supervisor Chris Corbould.
Early in the station's life, UPN ran an ad campaign based on the fact that three of their exclusive shows starred people named Richard: Platypus Man with Richard Jeni, Marker with Richard Grieco, and Legend with Richard Dean Anderson. How successful was this ad campaign? Note that none of the three shows have a page at this time.
Also on UPN was Star Trek Voyager, which had Robert Beltran, Robert Duncan McNeill, and Robert Picardo as part of the cast. They went by Robert, Robbie, and Bob respectively to keep things straight.
Harrison Ford was worried that he shared the same name as a silent movie star, but his fame as since eclipsed that of the original Harrison Ford.
When citing a list of United States presidents that only gives last names, presidents with similar names will often be differentiated with nicknames and variations. For instance, referring to "Roosevelt" often means TheodoreRoosevelt, whereas one who is referring to Franklin DelanoRoosevelt will refer to him as FDR. More recently, simply saying "George Bush" would tend to refer to the more recent one by default (though many will call him "George W. Bush" specifically anyway), while someone referring specifically to George Bush senior would likely call him "George H.W. Bush".
Subverted by Grover Cleveland (who really was the same guy who just got elected twice non-consecutively). Also Played With in that John Fitzgerald Kennedy is almost always called JFK, even though he was the only President Kennedy. This may be because of his many relatives who were also active in politics.
There's also Kennedy's successor Lyndon Johnson, who is often known as "LBJ"—not because we need to distinguish from Andrew Johnson (everyone would really rather forget Andrew Johnson), but because LBJ loved his initials so much he made them a part of his identity.
In Mexico there's the "C.U.R.P." which is an ID number based on your name, birthplace and birthday, if your name is "José" (for males) or "María" (for females) then that name's ignored for CURP purposes unless it's your only name (it's actually more common for people in Mexico to have two names than only one). For added fun you can ask any "María" if her full name is "María Guadalupe", you have a 50% chance to get it right.
The C.U.R.P.'s code is based on your name, first and second surnames, plus the date of birth. Given that there are a lot of surnames in Mexico that are really common, even to the point of making jokes (e.g. Juan Pérez), it's really common for people to have a repeated code (ex. GOHP130459 = GOnzález Hernández Pablo 13(d)/04(m)/59(y)), in which case they add an extra number (ex. GOHP1304592)
In the Canadian House of Commons, when there's a standing vote, MPs are called by their last names — unless they share a last name with (or have a similar last name as) another MP, in which case the name of the riding (constituency) is appended: for example, Ms. Davies (Vancouver East) and Mr. Davies (Vancouver-Kingsway). Fate dictates that the longer and more unwieldy your riding name is, the more likely you are to share a name with another MP, just to make life difficult for the clerks; during one troublesome period, there was a M. Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord) and a M. Guimond (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques).
A similar system is used in Germany as well, although here they generally use a hyphen. For instance Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was called Schmidt-Bergedorf in his capacity as a member of the Bundestag (during his first terms in the Bundestag he was Schmidt-Hamburg, as he then was elected in the constituency Hamburg-Nord). Another Social Democrat, Hermann Müller (chancellor of the Weimar Republic 1920 and 1928-1930) changed his Reichstag constituency and therefore was called Müller-Breslau (present-day Wroclaw) until 1920 and Müller-Franken (Franconia) afterwards.
Another similar system is used for life peers in Britain, who are traditionally known and addressed only as "Lord/Lady [surname]" (as "Lord/Lady [firstname] [surname]" is reserved for otherwise titleless children of hereditary peers). They are required to adopt a placename as part of their title in order to distinguish life peers with the same surname. For example, for a period in the late 1990s, there were Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, and Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, none of whom were closely related to each other.
Winston Churchill was a best-selling American novelist at the beginning of the twentieth century. When the British Winston Churchill began his public career, he identified himself as Winston S. Churchill so he wouldn't be confused for the then better-known author.
The town of Phil Campbell, Alabama is the home of the Phil Campbell Convention, which hosted 22 Phil Campbells and 1 Phyllis Campbell when it was first held in 1995. When the town took a direct hit from an F-5 tornado in April 2011, guests for that year stepped up to provide help.
Chris Colfer and Darren Criss who play Kurt and Blaine on Glee. It's been said that if they got married, Chris's name would be Chris Criss, or Chris Squared.
American Football players Roy E. Williams and Roy L. Williams who, to confuse matters even further, both played for the Dallas Cowboys at the same time. Luckily since one was a Wide Receiver and the other Safety they were never on the field at the same time (although the temptation to use the WR as an extra Safety in "prevent" defences must have been quite high...)
Former Miami Dolphin running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar changed his name to Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar after being (ahem) firmly requested to do so by former NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
A startling example was Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who had a younger brother, also called Nicolae. Supposedly their drunken father announced the name at the younger child's christening, forgetting that he already had a son with that name.
During Finnish Presidental Election in 2012, there were three people running named Paavo; Lipponen, Väyrynen and Arhinmäki. None of them made it to the second round.
At the 1996 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, two of the finalists were Michael Dupee and Michael Daunt. Dupee, the eventual winner, spent the finals being called "Mike" to avoid confusion.
In the 2008 Teen Tournament, the final two games featured two Rachels, so one went by "Steve" (really!).
It's been said that Star Trek did so well because it had good Genes. Eugene Wesley Roddenberry (Senior), and Eugene Lee Coon.
The above is more punny when you realize the Greek prefix "eu-" does literally mean "good". The name Eugene is Greek in origin and translates to "well-born".
The Post Atomic Horror Podcast solved the trouble when discussing episode authorship by calling Roddenberry "Gene" and Coon "Good Gene".
There's the Galton-Watson process in mathematics, which investigates the extinction probability of family names. Francis Galton came up with it because his contemporary Victorians were concerned about great aristocratic lines dying out. It shows how the number of names falling (in the absence of new ones) is inevitable given time. And sure enough, countries which have been using surnames extensively for a long time (like China) now have relatively few different last names, while countries which adopted them more recently (like much of Europe) have many more.
The Germans in the 16- and 1700's didn't have much name variety. Famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach had a great-grandfather Johannes Hans Bach, first cousin once removed Johann Michael Bach, father Johann Ambrosius, brother Johann Jacob, second cousin Johann Nicolaus, a first cousin once removed, an uncle, and a son named Johann Christoph, as well as two other sons named Johann Christian and Johann Christoph Friedrich. And a daughter Johanna.
A rugby test between Ireland and New Zealand on June 23rd, 2012 had three Smiths in the New Zealand backline - Aaron (halfback), Ben (right wing) and Conrad (outside centre) - resulting in hilarious moments where the commentators would talk about how "Smith passes to Smith, who kicks the ball for Smith to chase," or something similar.
Another example from rugby union is the Welsh national team, which is famous for its impressive number of Joneses.
Andy Hillenburg is an American stock car driver from Indiana, and Andy Hillenburg is an American winged sprint car driver from Oklahoma. The former also raced non-winged sprint cars earlier in his career.
The American Constitutional Convention of 1787 had two delegates named "Charles Pinckney." Both were from South Carolina, and were cousins (well first cousins, once removed); they distinguished themselves because the elder one had the middle name "Cotesworth" and often went by the initials "C.C.", while the younger had no middle name at all.
According to Leonard Susskind in 'The Black Hole Wars' There were lots of physicists in the twentieth century named Steve, and parents even started naming their kids Steve, hoping that they'll become great physicist. (if someone remembers the details, please correct)
When a Hassidic Rebbe dies it's common for his followers to name children after him. A few years after the passing of Rabbi Yoel of Satmar, kindergarten teachers in Satmar schools had to deal with classes consisting almost entirely of Yoels and Yoelis.
One Jewish tradition says that you're not allowed to marry somebody with the same Hebrew name as your parent. Fortunately, these are pretty easy to change (for example, "Moishe" can become "Moishe David" to marry another Moishe's daughter).
The Confederate Army had generals A.P. Hill and D.H. Hill. They both fought at the battle of Antietam.
They also had two full (four-star) generals called Johnston, Albert Sydney (who was killed at Shiloh) and Joseph (who survived the war).
Try not to confuse the Army of Tennessee (Confederate, named for the state) with the Army of the Tennessee (Union, named for the river).
There were several regiments in the Union and Confederate armies that bore the same name, most commonly of course in the border states, especially as respects lower numbers (e. g. 1st Kentucky, 2nd Tennessee, 3rd Maryland, 3rd Missouri etc.). Indeed, there was at least one Union unit from each Confederate state, and at least one white Union unit from every state except South Carolina, meaning that there was usually a "1st [Confederate State]" something in the Union Army for each Confederate state, and probably a corresponding one in the Confederate Army as well. A very notable case was the 1st South Carolina Regiment of the Union Army, one of the first Black regiments, which bore the same number and name as one of the first Confederate units.
Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America. Jefferson C. Davis was a general serving with the Union army.
Winfield Scott was the commanding general of the Union forces at the beginning of the war. Winfield Scott Hancock was one of the more famous corps commanders of the Army of the Potomac.
Although to be fair, Winfield Scott Hancock (1824-1886) was named after Winfield Scott (1786-1866), who was first promoted to (Brigadier) General during the War of 1812, and so had been quite famous as a military leader for some time before the younger man was born, although he was still the commanding officer of the Union forces at the start of the Civil War, until he was 75. Interestingly enough, both men ran (unsuccessfully) for President - Scott was the Whig Party candidate in 1852, and Hancock was the Democratic Party candidate in 1880.
Any astronomical or geographical feature, so as to prevent confusion when scientists want to discuss about them. However, Kansas City is one of the exceptions.
Professional snooker has always had a player called 'Davis' at the top level. The 1920s, 30s and 40s were dominated by Joe Davis. His younger brother Fred played during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Then the unrelated Steve Davis played through the 1980s to the 2000s. In the 2010s another unrelated Davis is in the top rank of players: Mark Davis. As well as Mark Selby, Mark Allen, Mark Williams, Mark King and Mark Joyce (all among the top 50 of the official rankings).
There have been at least three politicians called Gerhard Schröder in post-1945 Germany, including West Germany's first foreign minister, the Christian Democrat (and former Nazi party member) Gerhard Schröder, and the seventh federal chancellor, Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder.
At present (September 2013), it seems that if the Australian cricket selectors put Mitchell Johnson back in the team, it will be Mitchell Starc who loses his place, although the two have occupied the team at the same time in the past.
When R.L. Stine was in college, the student magazine for which he wrote would pick a Girl of the Month each issue. One month they played a prank by using a Hollywood starlet's publicity photo, claiming she was a student named "Pamela Winters" and giving the student senate's phone number out as hers. The senate fired back by redirecting the calls to Stine's house and giving his address out as "Pamela's."
"My parents were not amused. My sister, Pamela, loved it!"
Norwegian farm culture in old times lived by strict social rules. One of them was naming: The eldest son would be named after the paternal grandfather, the next after the maternal, and so on. Problems arose when both grandfathers had the same name, and rules were to be upheld. Even worse when the two grandfathers were related, and the same rules criss-crossed into confusing territory. In one single family, two brothers were named the same, and in another two sisters had to find a way around it, of the same obvious reason.
Subverted with German Emperor Friedrich III (who in fact was the only German emperor named Friedrich –– his regnal number derives from the fact, that he was simultaneously King of Prussia, which had had two other Friedrichs before him) but played straight with his father Wilhelm I, his son Wilhelm II and his grandson Crown Prince Wilhelm (who probably would have become Wilhelm III if the monarchy had not been abolished before).
In contemporary Christian music, Steve Chapman was a popular artist of the 70s and 80s, both as a solo act and with his wife Annie. In the late 80s, another Steve Chapman went into the business. The latter chose to record under his full name, and went on to become the genre's biggest-selling act ever as Steven Curtis Chapman.
Zig-Zagged by the African countries of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are right next to each other and have almost exactly the same name. They both adopted the name after becoming independent, one from France and the other from Belgium. This trope was averted when Mobutu Sese Seko took control of the formerly Belgian Congo and renamed it as the Republic of Zaire. The formerly French Congo was the only one with the name from 1971 to 1997, when Mobutu was deposed. Zaire was officially renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a name it still holds today. To distinguish one Congo from the other, people often add the names of the countries' capital cities, using "Congo-Brazzaville" to refer to the formerly French Congo, and "Congo-Kinshasa" or the "DRC" to refer to the formerly Belgian Congo.
Then there's Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea, three countries that have "Guinea" as part of their name. The Guinea in question refers to the Gulf of Guinea, which spans the coast of the countries; during colonial times, they were all identified by their colonial masters (the French, Portuguese, and Spanish, respectively).
The trope was spectacularly and specifically averted in the Tabletop Games world in the '80s, with the emergence of Games Workshop, co-founded by Steve Jackson of London, and Steve Jackson Games, founded by Steve Jackson of Texas. Both Steves have gone on to long and successful careers related to various sorts of games. Some casual gamers are still confused on the subject.
The MLB Hall of Fame strangely enough has two players who went by Goose: Goose Gossage (real first name: Richard) and Goose Goslin (real first name: Leon).
Many times there are teams which share a name and have to be distinguished by location - CSKA, Atletico, America...
For North American sports, the American Hockey League had two teams named "Admirals" - the Norfolk one was an expansion team in 2000, and just one year later the AHL absorbed a league which already had the Milwaukee Admirals - before the Virginia one was renamed after moving to California in 2015, and the NFL and MLB for some time shared teams named New York Giants (the baseball one is currently in San Francisco) and St. Louis Cardinals (Arizona currently has the football ones).
Valentine's Day has two Roberts (Julia Roberts and her niece Emma), two Jessicas (Alba and Biel), two Taylors (Swift and Lautner), and two Christophers... but said Christophers don't use their first names professionally (Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace).
The England football team for the 1986 World Cup included two players called Gary Stevens - the joke being that absent-minded manager Bobby Robson selected both to make sure he got the right one.