Bifurcation pain

Aaargh. Does this happen to you too? You have some concept, object or person at the very boundaries of your awareness — something or someone you hear references to now and then, but don’t actively seek to find out about — and then all of a sudden you look into the thing and see there are two (or more) unrelated things you’ve been thinking of as one because of their similar names.

Just happened to me. I’d been aware for years of the existence of a philosophical, generally well-regarded novel called Sophie’s, er, something; written by some Norwegian, that apparently has some big choice in it, and was occasionally referred to by literary types.

Five minutes ago decided, on a whim, to see Wikipedia about that, and bam! instant bifurcation pain.

There’s a novel called Sophie’s Choice, written by William Styron; it has a horrible choice made by a character called Sophie in it, and it apparently is a famous (in the literary sense) and generally well-regarded book that I’ve seen passing references to now and then.

There’s also a philosophical or rather philosophy-teaching novel called Sophie’s World, written by Jostein Gaarder, a Norwegian chap; and while it’s less famous it is something that I’ve been thinking of as “the Sophie book” since I’ve actually seen a physical copy of it.

The bifurcation, it stings, it burns, and it makes you feel like a fool. This has happened before, though mostly when I keep hearing references to some semi-famous person that I don’t know anything about. It’s aggravating because you’re not confusing two things which are similar, but two that just have a similar name, and maybe a similar general subject: and then you keep piling the details of and references to two things under one label, and thinking “Golly! This is a big, important thing!”

A further example: the case of “that religious person called Templeton” — took some time before I ran across enough mentions to take the time to disassociate Charles Templeton, a preacher who was with Billy Graham but then got better, and John Templeton, who founded the odious Templeton Foundation for the Marriage of Science and Ancient Woo. (Not to mention Alan Templeton, a biologist, who is referred to in the Ancestor’s Tale, and all the other Templetons. With six billion people every surname is a Smith. Aaargh.)

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