If you’ve got a parent who quite often gets your name wrong and confuses you for your siblings, dad or even pet dog, you know how rage-inducing it can be. And it’s frustrating for the parents, too, if they have to go through a million names every time they want to tell you to pick up your socks. “Jen-I mean, Kate – no, I mean, Nic! – can you pass me the remote, please?” Those names don’t even sound remotely similar, so why the mix-up? A study has found that names don’t even have to sound entirely alike for people to get them confused repeatedly – it’s actually all to do with the ‘categories’ the names belong to. Researchers from Duke University in North Carolina, USA, conducted five studies across 1,700 people, investigating why ‘misnaming’ occurs. They found that “familiar individuals are often misnamed with the name of another member of the same semantic category”. What does this mean? Well, “family members are misnamed with another family member’s name and friends are misnamed with another friend’s name”. So when your Nan goes through every one of your cousin’s names before getting to yours, it’s because she’s picking it out of a little filing cabinet in her brain labelled “grandchildren”. What about the names not sounding alike at all? The study found that phonetic similarity between names does lead to misnamings, but the semantic category effect was a bigger cause of people getting names wrong. And families with dogs have more reason to be offended, as the research also revealed that people are more likely to confuse their family members with the dog than any other pet. The report said, “Overall, our data suggested that dogs are grouped with other human family members, much more so than other pets. Although cats were owned by our participants about as often as dogs, they were rarely included in a string of incorrect names. Given the scarcity of misnaming episodes involving the names of family pets other than dogs, our data suggest that dogs may be a central part of families.” So next time your mum calls you your pet’s name by mistake, just breathe deeply and remember it’s not her fault, it’s all because you’re in the same semantic category.