"A Character with that name already exists"

69 Blood Elf Priest
So today I've encountered a total of three problems. The first was the connecting problem, which was quickly fixed thanks to Blizzard :) Once that was over, I was able to play for a few hours until I was disconnected. I logged in again, and it said "Error retrieving character list", so I logged off and attempted to log on again. Luckily, this time my character selection screen came up with no problem. So I try to go on this character, and I get the message "A character already exists with that name". Now, I wasn't making a new character. I've been playing this new alt with this same name for a few days, so obviously I was under the impression that only my character had this name on this server. But now it seems I can't play on this toon because of somebody else apparently having the same name that I've had for days.

I'm confused 0.o
Is this a common thing?
Thanks for any help
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