Created By: capsaicinfinity on July 1, 2013 Last Edited By: capsaicinfinity on September 11, 2013
Nuked

Mundanely Named Child

Generic names for generic child characters.

Name Space:
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Trope
In a work that features a generic child character, especially if the character or setting is conspicuously wholesome (and doubly so if it's a parody), the kid will have a particularly mundane name that is a diminutive of an adult name. This kind of naming can signal that the character is supposed to represent Everykid, lampshade the hokey nature of the setting, or be used for ironic effect if the kid is not so wholesome after all.

These names tend to have two syllables, with the accent on the first. They also usually end in the diminutive suffix "-y" or "-ie" (in other words, the sound [i] as represented in IPA ).

Favorites for girls include Susie and Sally; for boys, Billy, Jimmy and Bobby. Bonus points if they are addressed or referred to with "Little" preceding their name.
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • July 1, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    I can only speak for this trope as it applies in English. If you know how it does or doesn't apply in other languages, your input is welcome.

    A snappier alternative name could be "Little Namey", but I figured I'd start with the most explanatory title. Examples very welcome.
  • July 1, 2013
    XFllo
    Well, I see here teeny tiny possibility for a trope. As non-native speaker, I noticed it myself in works from US/GB when I was a kid. But all things considering, it sounds like People Sit On Chairs. Isn't it very common in Real Life as well to call a small boy Robert Bobby? William Billy? Joseph Joey? What would be its story-telling purpose?

    More interesting could be the reverse when Little Elizabeth is called Lizzie by everybody, but one cruel sadist Child Hater would invariably call her Elizabeth.

  • July 2, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    ^ If people decide it's People Sit On Chairs, I understand. Although in real life it is common to call little kids by their nicknames, not every instance of a kid being called by a nickname would be this (proposed) trope. For instance, Billy Elliot would not be an example, because he's not supposed to be a "generic kid," nor is there anything ironic about him having a mundane name. But in the song "So Long, Mom" by Tom Lehrer, the generic fresh-faced young soldier (implied to be barely more than a kid) is named "Little Johnny Jones", which would be an example of this trope because it's a mundane name used as a diminutive for humorous effect.

    Your inverse scenario, Insistent Real Name, would also make an interesting trope.
  • July 2, 2013
    batgirl1
    There must be a trope in here, since I've seen it parodied. However, it is very susceptible to decay.

    Web Original
    • The One Ring to Rule Them All series by Legendary Frog had Wayne show Sauron a film about magic rings. It was a spoof of old educational shorts, and featured a wholesome lad named Billy.

    Dick And Jane likely qualify, or at least Dick, depending on the exact nature of the trope that you're going for. (Just mundane, or both mundane AND diminuitive?)

    Less clear to me is Dick Grayson, who was meant to be an Audience Surrogate for children, although anyone can tell you that Gotham is not a very wholesome place. (Heck, the first comic to introduce him had him pretty much kill a dude.)

    Maybe call the trope Little Billy? I think that name tends to conjure a certain image, which might help with establishing the trope.
  • July 2, 2013
    StarSword
    @OP: The Spanish equivalent is the suffixes "-ito" and "-ita," the masculine and feminine of "small" (for example, Rosita would be "little Rose").
  • July 2, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Everything not Chairs about this trope (in other words, what Batgirl said) is Little Jimmy. Motion to discard.
  • July 2, 2013
    StarSword
    Little Jimmy is something completely different. It's an Audience Surrogate with no traits other than complete ignorance of the subject matter.

    Motion to table the motion to discard.
  • July 3, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    If tropeable, I think this one is a Dead Horse Trope or possibly even a Dead Unicorn Trope.
  • July 8, 2013
    zizoloziz
    I think this is an actually valid trope. "Susie" and "Jimmy" et al. have continued to be popular as names for child characters in fiction well beyond when they were actually common names.

    The most common children's names today are also excluded from this trope. "Sophie" or "Mason" is not used in this manner.

    Little Jimmy actually uses this principle of using somewhat outdated, "wholesome" diminutives when generic children are introduced. I don't see why people are using it as a reason this shouldn't be a trope.
  • July 9, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    In an age where it's fashionable to name kids (previously) uncommon or "exotic" or even invented names or uncommon spellings of common names--names like Caleb or Brittani or Track or Stayci, etc.--using diminutive names more common in previous generations (Billy, Susie, etc.), especially if a story isn't explicitly set in an era when these names were more common, might portray something like this trope. Seems it would be hard to define what that is exactly though, but I think I "get" it. (Either that or these names could simply be used for "generic" purposes, as versus the much more diverse and "individualized" naming conventions of recent times.)

    Still, I think a lot of this might be associated with juvenile literature from, say, the 50s and 60s--when these names were commonly used as they were in real life--literature which is also often (by more recent standards) considered more "wholesome" or "old-fashioned". Thus newer works using these names might be either trying to hearken back to more "innocent" themes, or are parodying them.

    (Note/Disclaimer: the stuff I talk about above applies mainly to the U.S.--not sure about the rest of the Anglosphere even. I do wonder if some similar kind of thing gets used in other languages--I have heard the -ito/-ita thing when I spent a year in Guatemala.)
  • July 9, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    As for using the term "mundane", I'd be hesitant to--that term is pretty relative, and in an age where there may very well be more Brittanys (albeit of various spellings) than Susies or Suzies, perhaps Brittany is now "mundane". Plus "mundane" to me has a negative connotation, particularly when applied to people (or the names that represent them). Little Namey might work better (since the diminutive thing also seems to be a big part of this--diminutives also being less commonly used in Real Life today. And Brittany isn't a diminutive just because it ends in a "y" (or "i" or whatever), btw).
  • July 9, 2013
    zizoloziz
    The name should have been in widespread use prior to 1990 to qualify. Starting in the 1990s, we have the trends of variant spellings (Katelyn, etc.) and locations (Dakota for boys, Cheyenne for girls) that have continued into the present. Also, the 1990s started trends of names appearing high in the rankings for a few years, then dropping out. ("Kelsey" and "Chelsea" come to mind as examples of names that specifically were popular in the 90's.) There was also much less variety in names prior to the 1990s, meaning that you'd see fewer names in wide usage. These names are almost all diminutives of names in historical usage.

    (I haven't checked the data on everything up above, but it agrees with facts from what I've looked at.)

    I do believe this principle is trying to reference a time when fiction was more "moral". Using names like "Bobby" and "Susie" which were common in the 60's creates a reference to the time. Works that I know of that have such names also generally have other references to pre-Internet times.

    Perhaps we can make this a subtrope of the general principle of giving characters names that would be appropriate for the setting.
  • September 11, 2013
    XFllo
    YKTTW Bump.

    This badly needs examples.
  • September 11, 2013
    DAN004
  • September 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the Show Within A Show "Ask Mr. Lizard" from Dinosaurs Mr. Lizard blows up his boy assistant in every scene, and they're all named Timmy. His catch phrase is "We're going to need another Timmy!"
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