Created By: CactusWrenJanuary 7, 2012 Last Edited By: CkuckooJanuary 20, 2012

Good Names Bad Names

Good guys have familiar names, villains have names no reader could have.

Name Space:
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Page Type:
Trope
In fiction, while good characters have reassuringly ordinary or familiar names, like "Jenny Jones" or "John David", bad characters tend to have improbable, disturbing, bizarre, and/or and intimidatingly sophisticated names such as "Warwick Grope", or "Cruella de Ville". This trope is particularly notable in juvenile fiction.

(Saving this trope from oblivion, since original poster seems to have forgotten it.)

Examples:

  • Probably the most famous example would be that wizard kid whose main foils are called Draco Malfoy, Severus Snape, and of course, Voldemort.
  • In the Nancy Drew novels, Nancy goes up against such mean characters as Tom Tozzle, Tom Stripe, Mr. Warte, Alonzo Rugby, Red Buzby, Rudy Raspin, and Bushy Trott.
  • Obadiah Slope is a slimy antagonist from the Barchester Series by Anthony Trollope. He romantically pursues one of the protagonists, Eleanor Bold.
  • Midsomer Murders has normal British names, then one episode has a particularly vulgar Asshole Victim named Jezebel.
  • All of the characters in Twelfth Night have unthreatening names except for ... Malvolio.
  • In The Girl From Tomorrow, the heroes Kelly and Alana are up against the ruthless Silverthorn.
  • In Oliver Twist, Oliver's biggest threat is Fagin.
  • In Gilbert And Sullivan's Ruddigore, Robin Oakapple inherits a baronetcy whose family curse requires him to commit evil deeds. He reluctantly assumes the office as "Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd." His equally reluctant manservant Adam Goodheart changes his name to "Gideon Crawle" to fit in better.

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Community Feedback Replies: 13
  • January 7, 2012
    Rytex
  • January 7, 2012
    Rytex
    Never mind.

    Galbatorix, Durza, Varaug, Lord Voldemort, Ariakas, Runescape has Zamorak, Nex, and Zaros, et cetera
  • January 7, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    A children's story comes to mind where the boy hero is named Harry Potter and his two chief foils are Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape.
  • January 10, 2012
    Cider
    A lot of those are real names or not too uncommon nicknames. Unfortunate Name seems good enough already.
  • January 10, 2012
    Ckuckoo
    ^Unfortunate names is just for when you have a bad name. This is for when good characters with familiar, reassuring names like 'John Jones' or 'Hannah David' are contrasted with bad characters with names like 'Obadiah Slope'. So it's about both the main character and the bad guy. Actually, maybe this trope might be better if it was expanded so it was about good character names vs bad character names, which IMO is at the heart of this trope.

    • Obadiah Slope is a slimy antagonist from the Barchester Series by Anthony Trollope. He romantically pursues one of the protagonists, Eleanor Bold.
  • January 11, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    Tom Riddle...Tom MARVOLO Riddle...I am Lord Voldemort.

    (I realize this was mentioned but I thought it important to point out his original name as well.)
  • January 11, 2012
    Cider
    Good Names Bad Names? Okay, maybe that's not a good title but if its about contrast then I guess I'm no longer against it.
  • January 12, 2012
    Chabal2
    Midsomer Murders has normal British names, then one episode has a particularly vulgar Asshole Victim named Jezebel.
  • January 12, 2012
    kouta
    A theater example:

    All of the characters in Twelfth Night have unthreatening names except for ... Malvolio.
  • January 12, 2012
    Ckuckoo
    I think Good Names Bad Names is good.

    Just remembered other examples.
  • January 12, 2012
    Debatra
    Good Names Evil Names, if only to keep with the Good X Evil X theme we have.
  • January 12, 2012
    Jhimmibhob
    In Gilbert And Sullivan's Ruddigore, Robin Oakapple inherits a baronetcy whose family curse requires him to commit evil deeds. He reluctantly assumes the office as "Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd." His equally reluctant manservant Adam Goodheart changes his name to "Gideon Crawle" to fit in better.

  • January 12, 2012
    HandsomeRob

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