doppelganger /’dɒplˌgæŋə/

In a blow to my ego, it turns out that I am not the only “Word Guy” on the web. There is another. Even more disheartening is the fact that my doppelganger has been wordy for longer than I. Bummer.

The other “Word Guy” is Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., who has a column distributed by the Creators Syndicate. I checked his “home page” at the site, only to find I couldn’t read his archives due to a huge flash ad covering them!

The word doppelganger derives either from the German doppelgänger or Dutch dubbelgänger, both of which mean “double-goer.” The anglicised form is double-ganger and the OED defines this as the “apparition of a living person; a double, a wraith.” In 1865, Charles Kingsley’s Hereward the Wake, Last of the English, contains the line “Either you are Hereward, or you are his double-ganger.”

Lara's Doppelganger

Lara's Doppelganger

It can also be used simply to described someone who is a double – and not an apparition. Thus, those actors who make a living impersonating famous people (c.f. the Celebrity Doubles web site or the International Celebrity doubles site) can be described as doppelgangers.

The myth of the doppelganger has a counterpart in Norse; the vardøger. This is, according to the ubiquitous Wikipedia, ‘a ghostly double who precedes a living person and is seen performing their actions in advance.’ Both words can be said to be “apparitions of the living,” unlike regular ghosts, which are apparitions of the dead.

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