Double trouble

Exactly when, or how, did Doppelgänger spring into popular consciousness?

For a word that originated as early as the 17th century, hovering below the radar for hundreds of years, it seems to have crashed back in to popular language quite suddenly.

When I first noticed people on Facebook putting up pictures of their celebrity doubles a year or so ago, I should have picked up on the Doppelgänger phenomenon, but didn’t. I sat that one out anyway, not because I was unfamiliar with the Doppelgänger (which I was), but because I don’t think I have a celebrity double necessarily. I’ve been told I look like Mary Crosby (She shot J.R.), Marsha Mason, Helen Hunt, Laura Linney and Stockard Channing, none of whom look at all like each other.

Since the time Celebrity Doppelgänger Week was last celebrated on Facebook, I’ve been hearing this quirky word all over the place. It was kind of like kerfuffle, which seemed to lie low for years before becoming a fad.

Doppelgänger has come to be synonymous with evil twin, alter ego and clone. But where did it come from? It’s not easy to say exactly, because there are many meanings and, as best I can tell, many origins. In fact, it seems even the Doppelgänger has a Doppelgänger.

It can mean an omen of danger or death; a hallucination of one’s own image out of the corner of one’s eye, sometimes as a result of electromagnetic stimulation of the brain; looking in the mirror and seeing two faces; a mythological apparition of evil or just someone who looks very much like someone else.

There are references to Doppelgänger in poetry and literature, as well as historical references going back hundreds of years in the United States and Europe.

If you’re interested, I encourage you to go out and learn about each culture’s interpretation. Or perhaps you already know all this and I am the one who is late to the party.

Make mine a party of six—my five Doppelgängers and me.



Filed under All Things Wordish, Movies, Television and Radio, Reading, Technology and Social Media

5 responses to “Double trouble

  1. theveryhungrybookworm

    Interesting! I, too, have noticed this word take American culture by storm. Unfortunately for me, I don’t think I have a celebrity twin (evil or otherwise). I apparently have a distinct look!

  2. You look like Helen Hunt and Laura Linney, but prettier.

  3. William Greene

    Well, I’ll be Doppelgängered !!
    Guess I will buy the trial version of Fantamorph because of this column, Monica !! I will email a gif pic showing the transition from one face to the other to you. My vote goes to Monica Crosby.

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