Anonymous letter-writers revealed

It’s traditional in advice columns, both online and print, for those seeking advice to conceal their true identities in some way. But a number of years ago I came across one with a person whose identity I was 99% sure I knew, due to the circumstances of her situation, her location, and her first name.

Has anyone else experienced such a discovery?

Not in an advice column, but this is common in peer-reviews for academic papers.

I remember when I was an undergraduate and submitted a paper for review, the submission was blind (my name was not attached) and the reviews were blind ( the reviewers name was not attached). One of my reviews came back with “and say hello to <my advisor’s first name>”. I was quite puzzled, so I asked the postdoc I was working with about it. He glanced at the review and said “Oh, that’s Jose from University blablabla. Your other reviews are … Steve from College X and… George from University of Y”. I was amazed and asked how he could tell: he answered that there’s only 5-6 labs in the world working on the same topic I was working on, so we always get asked to review each other’s papers, and eventually you get to learn what each lab is working on, the writing style of the people in those labs, and what journals they tend to submit to. After being in the field for a year or two, no review is really “blind” anymore.