‘Yes, it really is – but I was born before the books came out.’
This is one of many well-rehearsed disclaimers I have at my disposal whenever I have to introduce myself.
Exactly a month after my third birthday, J.K. Rowling published the first of seven books in a franchise that would become a global sensation. She undoubtedly changed my life.
I was born in May 1994 in Reading, to parents who I can only assume believed they were blessing their son with a ‘normal’ name.
After all, both my first and last names are pretty common in the UK.
The first time I remember my name being of significance was when my family relocated to Devon in 2000.
The move brought with it a new area, a new school and new friends. I vividly remember being a new student, taken up and introduced on stage in front of the entire school.
While all the other starters were greeted by their first names only, I was – and from then only became known as – Harry Potter.
Soon after, a local newspaper came over to write an article about me.
The feature was accompanied by a photoshoot in our garden with me, at six years old, dressed in a cloak and circular glasses, posing with my copy of the books.
It wasn’t my last brush with the media, either. Last year I replied to a tweet asking ‘What piece of pop culture has ruined your first name?’ with ‘I take your first name, and raise you my full name’, which amassed 267k likes and 33k retweets.
Shortly after, I was given my five minutes of fame with a BBC news article and two minute segment on the national radio news.
In response to the tweet I also received messages from people across the globe who also share their name with a famous person. I heard from Katie Prices, Michael Jacksons and Gordon Bennetts – as well as plenty of Harry Potters.
I’m convinced we would all benefit from forming a support group to rant about the gifts our namesakes have bestowed upon us.
In my current role as a PhD student at the University of Manchester, I have attended several conferences in the UK and abroad where we have to wear a name badge and discuss research with other scientists in busy sessions.
It’s always a gamble as to how big and conspicuous the font will be on my badge, and I often see people double-take and crane their necks to see if that’s what it really says.
At airports I also like to bet on how many officials will look at my passport and give me the ‘are you serious?’ look.
I’ll never forget the poor lecturer at my undergraduate graduation who also stared at me in disbelief as I handed him my name card to read out in front of a packed St David’s hall in Cardiff.
While I am grateful for the great conversation starter, it does get tiring to have to answer the same three or four questions over and over again.
As soon as I say who I am, I usually get a predictable sequence of responses, which go something like:
‘Is that really your name?’
‘Were you named after the books?’
‘I bet you get so many jokes don’t you, poor you!’
‘[insert one of many predictable jokes here]’
Luckily, I have some very supportive friends who came up with an imaginative way to deal with this, which they presented to me on my 23rd birthday.
Although this shirt hasn’t protected me from all the minor inconveniences my name has brought with it.
Working recently as an intern, I signed my name off on some emails and pressed send.
After a few minutes, my colleague answered a phone call from the recipient who was concerned about the company having a virus.
They had to reply with: ‘Yes, he’s real. He’s sitting right next to me. The email he sent to you was real’.
During my late teens, as was the fashion back then, I was drinking some low-quality cider under a bridge with friends when (sorry Mum, sorry Dad) a couple of police officers came to apprehend us.
Being underage, we didn’t have an ID and so had to give them our details – you can imagine the combination of unimpressed officers, with my friends in stitches behind me.
More recently, I was locked out of Facebook because my name ‘violated their policy for impersonating notable figures’ and wasn’t permitted access until I sent in copies of my ID.
Quite often people will try and assess whether I actually look like Harry Potter or not, commenting that maybe I do when I wear glasses, but on reflection deciding that my ginger complexion makes me more suited to being a Ron.
In response to the people who ask whether I would change my name or whether I’ve contacted J. K. Rowling for ‘stealing’ my name – no and no.
If you’re going to be named after a famous character, you might as well go all out and pick the main character.
I’d never change it, although if she wanted to get in touch I’d love to chat to her about how her creation influences my daily life.
People love to hear that there was actually another Harry Potter in my school growing up, although I’m reliably informed he was born slightly after the first book was released.
As my family likes to remind me, it’s probably helped my career because people will remember me, even if just for my name.
It’s also a useful barometer of how close I am to my friends – the ones that have stuck around have become just as desensitised to it as I have.
I’ll probably spend my whole life wondering when the franchise will start to die down and my name will start to become a bit more inconspicuous, but until then I’ll ride it out and take the perks and fun stories as they come.
Hello, My Name Is…
It’s not easy having the same name as someone, or something, famous.
In Metro.co.uk’s weekly Hello, My Name Is… series, we’ll hear the funny, surprising and frankly mundane stories of people whose parents really didn’t know what they were getting their children into.
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