Nobodies Abroad: Joe Schmo, Meet Otto Normalverbraucher
Two weeks ago I talked about the names Americans use as placeholders, showing off the many facets of anonymity. For even greater variety, allow me to introduce the nobodies of other lands.
Many languages have "null names" parallel to John Smith or John Doe. The local equivalents of John are common choices: the Netherlands refers to Jan Jansen, Russia to Ivan Ivanov, France to Jean Dupont, and much of Latin America to Juan Pérez. Another common root name is Fulan/Felani, with variations like the Arabic Fulan Al-Fulani and the Spanish Fulano de Tal.
But as in the U.S., nobodies can be just about anybody. Some of the international placeholders capture an essence that none of our terms quite match. Below are some highlights of the world's colorful everymen and women.
(Fun tip: try searching for these names on supposed "real names" social networks. To get you started, here's a LinkedIn lineup of 25 Australians named Fred Nerk, a local equivalent to Joe Schmo. One lists his occupation as "Head Yokel at Yokels.")
Don Nadie (Spain): "Sir Nobody"
Dozaemon (Japan): An anonymous drowned body. From the name of an 18th-century sumo wrestler with an extremely pallid complexion.
Jan met de pet (Netherlands): "John with the cap," the typical man on the street.
Matti Meikäläinen (Finland): Meikäläinen has the form of a Finnish surname, but actually means "one of us."
Max and Erika Mustermann (Germany): A very literal placeholder, Mustermann translates roughly to "Sampleman."
Ola Nordmann (Norway): A personification of Norway and the typical Norwegian, somewhere between a John Q. Public and England's John Bull.
Otto Normalverbraucher (Germany): "Otto AverageConsumer."
Pihtiputaan mummo (Finland): Literally, "the grandmother from Pihtipudas." Represents the least tech-savvy person imaginable, to whom new products and jargon will be confusing.
Ploni Almoni (Israel): A placeholder name for millenia, Ploni Almoni is the Bible's own John Doe. For more of a "Joe Blow" effect, try Israel Israeli.
Svennebanan (Sweden): "Swedish banana." A kind of Swedish Joe Sixpack, the lowest common denominator of everymen.
A note of thanks: I compiled and cross-referenced these names from many sources, but I'm particularly indebted to Wikipedia's placeholder names page, and a former page on John Doe from NationMaster, now sadly defunct.