Who is "John Smith" in your country?
In English-speaking countries, the name "John Smith" is often used as a placeholder name because it's boring and common: John is one of the most common first names among English-speaking men, and Smith is the most common surname/family name among English-descended people. Together, they make a very boring and bland name.
What's the equivalent in your country? What's the most boring, common name? What do people use as a placeholder when they need to use a name that isn't a real person but looks like it could be a real person?
In Slovenia it is "Janez Novak". Novak is a common surname for people who were new to the community, and Janez is John.
I guess you could translate that to John Newbie.
Close, it's actually "Henk de Vries" for the Netherlands. de Vries is the most common surname and Henk WAS the most common.
There’s a kid’s song about Jan Jansen (Yon Yonson), presumably because of his common sounding name.
In Germany it’s Max Mustermann
Max is a very Common Name and the surname translates to 'sample man'
"N. N." is sometimes used. "N. N." is short for "Nomen nominandum", latin for "name to be specified" or "insert name here". Mostly in contexts where the name is not currently specified but will be later.
There is no equivalent for bodies in forensics like John Smith/Doe in the US, our forms have a checkbox for "unknown identity".
"João Ninguém", which mean "John Nobody".
What language is this from?
If you see words and they have lots of accents and very few consonants its 85% likely to be Portuguese
Also, the tildes on vowels is usually a pretty big indicator it's Portuguese.
In France it's "Jean Dupont". Same idea, very common, generic-sounding name.
In the US, isn't it "John Doe" rather than John Smith?
I believe "John Doe" is used for unidentified corpses, because it's not a real-ish name. But when you're populating a random form with test data, you'll use "John Smith" because it is a real-ish name.
"John Doe" is used for all sorts of legal stuff, not just the unidentified dead, and turns out has a really interesting history going back to at least the 14th century. Thanks for prompting me to look that up.
In the US, we'll typically use "John/Jane Doe" as a blank name. It just appears a lot around dead bodies because of our exported media having a lot of unidentified dead people or criminals.
On Norwegian forms, the default placeholder name is very often Navn Navnesen. This is the equivalent of ‘Name Nameson’ and obviously fake. Unlike John Smith it’s not a name any real person might have, but it has the shape of a name. And it’s gender neutral.
As @KapteinB said, Ola and Kari Nordmann are names given to the archetypal Norwegian, like John Q. Public, the man or woman in the street. These names sound a bit archaic today, calling to mind some stereotype of the noble farmer from 200 years ago. Very national romantic and definitely white. Maybe because they come with a lot of connotations that don’t necessarily reflect the average person today, people are increasingly using an obviously fake placeholder name instead.
In the Netherlands we have "Jan Modaal" for the average man ("modaal" means mode, as in average). Jan (the Dutch version of John) is used for other types of generic person as well. His last name may then be "de Vries" (very common), but I can't think of the standard name.
There seems to be less of a standard name for a default woman
Sinds a few years there is "Henk & Ingrid" as the quintessential "hard working" (sometimes angry) white working class, supposedly "normal", couple, introduced by a far right politician.
As an international 'standard', I always enjoy Alice, Bob, and their alphabetical friends from the crypto world.
"Jan Modaal" exists mostly in the realm of statistics though, it's not really a name you'd put as a default in a form. Similarly "Henk en Ingrid" exists mostly within the context of political, or politicized, conversation. If you put it as a default you'd probably get some raised eyebrows.
I don't think Dutch really has an informally agreed upon standard, it could be anywhere from "Henk de Vries" to "Jan Smid/Smit" to "Truus Huisman".
Jan Jansen/de Vries/Smit probably.
I didn't think of a default woman's name - which just proves that English has had a sexist bias. I have seen "Jane Smith" used as a female equivalent.
I don't know how canonical or idiomatic the Wikipedia list of placeholder names is, but the Yiddishism that I grew up with was "Moishe Cohen". "Moishe" is anglicized as Moses. "Cohen" is the Jewish equivalent of "Smith", as the common surname adopted for the rabbinic Kahanim families.
Well, that's no fun! I didn't want a factual response. I wanted to get people talking & engaged.
Not trying to close the conversation! As I said, I don't know if it's factual - just because it's Wikipedia, it doesn't mean that that the article provides broad coverage of people's languages and common usage. Even if there's an "official" placeholder name for statistics or other purposes, I want to know about what people use them for in ordinary speech. [My mother used "Moishe Cohen" idiomatically to mean something like, "who is this garden-variety idiot?"]
As a native Tagalog speaker I can vouch for the veracity of the Tagalog section of the Wikipedia page for placeholder names.
In casual, everyday conversation we just refer to random people or persons whose name we forgot as "si ano". The name "Juan dela Cruz" or simply "Juan" rarely finds use in casual conversation but finds many uses in media reports and instructional materials from agencies.
In Russia it's—rather unsurprisingly—“Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov”. Although I've heard that graphic designers tend to use “Konstantin Konstantinovich Konstantinopolskij” to make sure that their design accounts for all kinds of long-ass real-life names.
I love the repetitiveness of “Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov”. It's almost poetic.
In Norway we use Ola and Kari Nordmann. Ola was a popular male name, and Kari a popular female name, but they're both out of fashion these days. Nordmann is the demonym for a person from Norway.
Thanks to @patience_limited for sharing the wiki page.
I just found the Poles have arguably the most hilarious culture(?) surrounding placeholder names for a variety of things!
(Other languages also use vulgarities but it seems rather prominent in Polish.)
In Croatia that'd be Ivan Horvat (translates to John Croat). Ivan is one of most common Slavic names, and while Horvat is not as ubiquitos (that'd probably be Kralj or similar, translating to King), it's almost always used for a placeholder.
The Italian equivalent of John Smith would probably be Mario Rossi, but IIRC the most common names are Giuseppe (masculine) and Maria (feminine; extremely common, if the fact that 40% of the women in my family are called some variation of "Maria" is any indication).
When talking about an unknown or hypothetical person, though, Tizio, Caio and Sempronio are more common. There's also Tal dei Tali and Pinco Pallino (more derogatory).
In Turkish I see Mehmet Yılmaz (male) and Ayşe Yılmaz (female) often, tho I'm not sure if we have a generic name as distinct as John Doe/Smith. There are also Ali/Veli/Selami and Ayşe/Fatma/Hayriye as male and female generic names like Italian Caio/Tizio/Sempronio.
Hagop is probably Turkish-Armenian version of John, tho IDK what surname would be the most common/generic.
Eleni & Nikos are the most generic Greek names.
Rojin/Rojan are generic Kurdish names.
BTW, don't take my word for minority names, my knowledge is totally subjective and lacking.
Ivan Horvat for Croatian. Literally "John Croat."
In Japanese "Taro Yamada".
Taro is first name and Yamada is family name.
Does Taro have a meaning, or is it just a very common name?
What's the significance of Yamada? Why is that the default surname in Japan?
Both of them is quite common.
In addition, I believe that Yamada (山田) is selected as placeholder because it is easier to write in Kanji any other common family name.
Fascinating! Thank you. :)