What’s a ‘doppelgänger’?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: doppelgänger…

I wasn’t terribly impressed by the novel The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner. I can’t recall where I picked it up but I know I found it too cheesy and lightweight for my tastes. Still, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on one of my all-time favourite words, doppelgänger. Here is how the author used it:

She looks like me, but not enough to give me pause. Not enough to make me believe she’s a doppelgänger.

Of course, I knew the meaning of the word — a look-alike or double of another living person. Most politicians, actors and singers have doppelgängers.  In fact, Elvis had a whole slew of them. In my own family, we even have a joke based on the term. My adult son, Duncan, has a  doppelgänger who lives in our neighborhood. We call him the Dunclegänger.

Based on the umlaut (the two dots above the letter A — indicating it should be pronounced as the A in apple), I expected the word to be German. It is, coming from Doppel (meaning “double”) and Gänger (meaning “walker” or “goer.”) Here is something interesting I learned in researching this word. Apparently nouns in German are written with an initial capital letter. In English, however, the word should remain uncapitalized.