I was reading at the breakfast table in the restaurant of the San Diego Marriott Hotel (I'm currently at the Popular Culture Conference) and had just reached an account of Malcolm Gladwell's work on measuring social networks (p.55):
He gives you a list of 248 surnames compiled from a Manhattan phone book and asks you to give yourself a point if you know anybody with that name. Multiples count, too: If you know three people named Jones, one of the names on the list, you get 3 points. Running the list by college students in the City College of Manhattan, most of them recent immigrants in their early twenties, Gladwell recorded an average score of 21. In other words, they typically knew about twenty-one people with the same surname as somebody on the list.
At this point, my waitress arrived. 'Room number, Ma'am?'
I gave her my room number.
'Thomas' I said.
'Oh', she replied, surprisingly unsurprised. 'That's my boyfriend's last name.'