Anand Venkateswaran explores the awkward world of mistaken identities and faux pas.

The light of recognition is among the brightest in the universe. Even supernovas are weak competition. It’s just that recognition is on a hair trigger; it needs very little to make one’s eyes pop, finger point, mouth gape, and yell ludicrous things like ‘Heywhahimthaguy!’

For instance, you spot a known face in the crowd, rush up to him, slap him spectacularly on the back and yell, “How have you been, you old fart!” The man turns around in cinematic slow motion, his features mirroring whole pages from rage comics. Somehow, “Sorry, I thought you were someone else” doesn’t quite suffice. So what you do, is explain that you and he are the stars of the latest famous case of mistaken identity.

Other famous cases, some of them hardly a week old, are recanted with clever illustrations, for your pleasure.

Robin Van Persie is Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad

It must feel wonderful to be in the shoes of a celebrity. Even better if the shoes are football cleats that belong to, say, Robin Van Persie. And downright brilliant if those cleats just scored a hat-trick for Manchester United, taking it to the 20th premier league title! As Van Persie braced himself for the flood of congratulations, praise and the usual marriage proposals, it was Visvesvaraya Prasad, a mid-mannered, bespectacled IT Consultant and true owner of the twitter handle @rvp, who was getting all the attention. After 10,000 mentions in less than a day, @rvp declared the whole thing was “a real nuisance.”

What is the footballer’s official twitter handle? Well, a rather unhelpful @Persie_Official!

Chris Foy a Hoy!

The thing with sport, and football, in particular, is that the tide can turn suddenly, and rather nastily. Pulled by the current recently was Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy. Sir Chris Hoy to you and I. He woke up one morning to an unexpected twitteral workout, greeted with eloquent verse such as “Chris Hoy is so sh**. Chris How should just quit.”

The twitterati thought Hoy was Chris Foy, a referee who ignored penalty claims, wrongly ruled offsides and generally helped Stoke City defeat the Tottenam Hotspurs. Only politely flummoxed, as knighted sports heroes are, Sir Hoy swatted away the abuse and signed off with “On the plus side I've learned some new 4 letter words today.”

Saved by Abraham Lincoln’s almanac

He might have hacked down a cherry tree, but he surely didn’t do a hatchet job of his cases. Once upon a time, in the year of the Lord 1857, William ‘Duff’ Armstrong (no idea why ‘Duff’ is in quotes) was charged with murder. Former American President Abraham Lincoln, who was a friend of the suspect’s father, offered to argue the case free of charge.

An eyewitness said he saw Armstrong do the dastardly deed from 150 feet away, in bright moonlight. Lincoln narrowed his eyes (presumably). He didn’t buy the ‘I saw it with mine own eyes’ argument. He rose to his full height or 6 ft 4 inches, flourished his father’s almanac (panchangam as it is known hereabouts) and proved that the moon was simply not bright enough on that night. Armstrong was acquitted. His gravestone read – “…accused slayer, freed by Lincoln in Almanac Trial”

Selena Gomez’s face on Facebook

You’ve got to be the only you on Facebook. No duplicate accounts, no copies. They’re very strict about that sort of thing. Never mind that there are more accounts than there are people. The rules snap up and stand to attention when you share a name with someone really famous – like Selena Gomez.

Facebook thought this 18-year old from New Mexico was impersonating the Disney star and Justin Bieber’s girlfriend. And promptly blocked her account. It was reactivated quickly, but not soon enough for the Mexican.

The real Ms. Courtney

To an onlooker, it’s a rather thin line between a middle-aged man with a cap and shades driving away with a schoolgirl, and a fuddled old man who picked up the wrong child at school. Art Deaner found doing a friend a favour is rather more complicated that it seemed at first.

He was supposed to take Courtney Fetters home to her mother, but all he remembered of the girl was her name and that she was blonde and had brown eyes. So what does uncle Deaner do? He drives to school, rolls down the window and yells “Courtney!” and drives off with nine-year-old Courtney Durr, who too was waiting for a friend. He turns back minutes later, but not before police arrive, sirens blazing.

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Light AngleSeptember 2, 2013