Created By: crazysamaritan on December 11, 2016 Last Edited By: crazysamaritan on March 20, 2017

Withholding Their Name

The character won't tell you their name. (Hats?)

Name Space:
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Page Type:
trope
This draft is part of the TRS thread for The Nameless. Suggestions on naming are welcome. Description could use improvement. Examples will come from existing pages.


This character hides some secret, and their name is a part of it. To keep this secret buried and cut all ties to it, this character withholds the name associated with that secret from their friends and allies. While the character is hiding their name, admitting that they refuse to share their name is at least telling the audience that there is a secret to be learned and this secret is often revealed in the story.

The character may have abandoned their old name in favour of a new name, adopted a name that reflects their lack of a name, decided they don't need a name, or just use part of their name because the rest of their name is embarrassing.

If I Know Your True Name is in effect in the work, a person may hide their True Name to prevent their enemies from using it against them.

Sub-trope to The Nameless (the character seems to have no name). Contrast with Code Name and Nom de Guerre: this trope is only in play if the character refuses to share their name, not if they disguise their name by using another. Compare to the Sister Trope No Name Given, where the author avoids naming a major character in their work.

Examples:

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     Anime, Light Novels, and Manga  
  • In Accel World, the female lead is Only Known By Her Nickname of "Kuroyukihime" (Princess Snow Black). She claims that it's not that far from her real name, but refuses to say what it is, even going so far as to hack her student ID to read Kuroyukihime (something that other characters had previously thought to be unhackable).
  • Bleach: The zanpakuto of the Soul Reapers (the swords are sentient spirits who are created with their own identity) withhold their names from their owners until a Secret Test of Character is passed. They withhold it because I Know Your True Name is very important in this universe; affecting the power something or someone has.
  • Inverted and Played for Laughs in Cromartie High School: Hokuto's lackey frequently gets cut off before he can say his name. The background and author notes in the manga finally does reveal his name to the reader, but the whole cast of the series admits that it's better that he just continues to go by "Hokuto's Lackey" because they've built up their friendships and familiarities with him around it. Learning his name would be a rather jarring change to that relationship.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Ishvalan known as Scar underwent a Meaningful Rename, and tossed away his old name in his quest for revenge.
    • During Brotherhood, Yoki asks Scar's name. Scar responds that to Ishvalans, a person's name is the most important thing; the name is regarded as a gift from God. So Yoki asks again, and Scar's response is "I threw it away. I threw away my own name." Yoki doesn't dare ask him again. At the end of the series, he still refuses to give his name and says you can just call him whatever you want to.
    • During the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Scar's name is never given, even when he's about to die. When Lust asks him his name, he answers that his body once had a name, but "that person died a long time ago." Lust, who'd only called him "scarred man" up to this point, finally uses the "name" Scar as he dies: "Goodbye...Scar."
  • Yuko Ichihara from ×××HOLiC never reveals her true name, as that would give others power over her so she only uses a pseudonym.

     Comic Books 
  • 'The Dog' in Footrot Flats has such an Embarrassing First Name that he never allows it to be said or revealed in any way in the comic, and holds a grudge against Aunt Dolly for giving him the name.
  • In Warren Ellis's breakout series Nextwave features a protagonist named only "The Captain". Due to his abusive childhood, depression, and alcoholism, he refuses to divulge his real name; his teammates theorize that he may not even remember it.
  • Ghost of Thunderbolts erased all record of his original identity after he became Ghost. When he recounts his origin, every mention of his original name is blacked out.
  • V from V for Vendetta underwent a Meaningful Rename, where they discarded their old name/identity to become a symbol of revolution. When asked, V states: "I do not have a name. You can call me V."

     Film 

     Literature 
  • Artemis Fowl: Only Butler and his mother know his birth name, for security reasons. Thus when faced with impending death, Butler tells Artemis his first name, Domovoi, a type of Russian Fair Folk. This comes in handy later when (a recording of) Artemis uses it as proof of their having been through truly harrowing experiences together, allowing Butler to defeat the fairy mind-wipe.
  • In Darkness at Noon, No. 402 refuses to give his name when Rubashov asks. No, we don't know their name, either.
  • The title character in Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal assumes several identities over the course of the story, but we never learn his real name and only a few hints about his background. Much of the plot hinges on a Red Herring, with investigators assuming he's another man (Charles Calthrop) with shady ties to international arms dealers.
  • A Dozen Black Roses by Nancy A. Collins: The main character Sonja Blue is referred to as "the stranger" throughout the whole book, when asked for her name, she either refuses to give it, or is cut off. She finally reveals it at the end to one of the few surviving characters.
  • The short story An Encounter And An Offer has a nameless fae boy, who's name was stripped from him by the fae courts. He refuses to reveal why.
  • Played With by Seerdomin from Malazan Book of the Fallen, who goes by the title of his former military rank to show that he won't hide from his crimes under the Pannion Domin. It is later revealed that his real name was Segda Travos, but nobody alive remembers it.
  • The fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin has as one of its main points the queen trying to find the name of the eponymous dwarf as the escape clause out of the Deal with the Devil she had made with him in order to keep her child. He gives three chances to correctly guess his name, and it takes all three nights for her to find out what it was. When she says his name, he throws such a tantrum it actually kills him.
  • Servants of the Spells, Swords, & Stealth dark god Kalzidar give up their names as part of their service to him. One such nameless priest is the primary antagonist of the second book. Upon meeting a rogue in the third, the party is immediately wary when she initially refuses to give her name. In that case, it's just a case of the rogue, Elora, being cautious.
  • In The Southern Reach Trilogy, expedition members are explicitly forbidden from telling each other their names. None of the characters in Annihilation are named, referring to each other only by their job titles: the biologist, the psychologist, the anthropologist, and the surveyor. While most of them Subvert the trope by sharing their names over the course of the next two novels, the biologist refuses to ever give her real name, insisting that she be called by the nickname "Ghost Bird".

     Live-Action Television 
  • On Angel, "The Host of Caritas" was not given an official name (even to the other characters) until late into the second season. The explanation, when their name is revealed, is that it's too embarrassing. Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan.
    Host (who is a green-skinned demon): It's Lorne. I don't like to mention it because, well...
Angel: Lorne Greene! (Cordelia and Gunn stare blankly) Angel: Bonanza? Fourteen years on the air doesn't mean anything? (They are still blank) Angel: Okay, now I feel old.
  • Doctor Who: When a Time Lord graduates, they choose an alias that they will be known by, and keep their personal names secret. This overlaps with Meaningful Rename and Naming Ceremony. The Doctor prompts the Title Drop when people try to ask him his name, and he insists on the title instead.
  • The Janitor from Scrubs makes a point of never revealing his name to anyone. When J.D. is leaving for another hospital, he finally reveals his name is Glen Matthews. But when J.D. leaves, another character addresses him by a completely different name.
  • Stargate Atlantis is Playing With this trope. When telepathic Wraith get captured for interrogation or just become recurring characters, Colonel Sheppard randomly assigns human names to them so they can be called something other than "that Wraith". The Expanded Universe novels reveal that Wraith have names that they use among each other, but they're apparently based on their roles in society and/or how their minds "feel" to each other telepathically, which means they have no way of communicating their names to humans even if they wanted to.
  • Superstore: The pilot episode features one character who always wears a name tag with someone else's name so that customers won't know her real name. While all the other workers know her name, she doesn't tell it to Naļve Newcomer Jonah until near the end of the episode. Her name is Amy.
  • Once Upon a Time: The motorcycle rider who suddenly comes into Storybrooke partway through the first season reveals hardly anything about himself, not even his name, for the first few episodes he appears in. Eventually, he introduces himself as August W. Booth, but that's just what he goes by. His real name is Pinocchio.

     Music 
  • GaMetal's creator has the stagename Jonny Atma, but his real last name is unknown. He described it in an interview as 'Long, German, and very unsexy', though.

     Video Games 
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt: After Gunvolt fights him as a boss, he asks for Copen's name. He refuses, saying that he won't share his name to "abominations" like Gunvolt, but then added, "But when God sends me to judge you, you may hear Him whisper, 'Copen'...".
  • Rival Schools has Chairperson, who refuses to reveal her real name and would rather prefer other characters refer to her by her title.

     Webcomics  
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: One of the fairies refuses to share their name with the other characters because her best friend gave it to her. Her name is <Snuffle> (her friend was a jackelope) but it has to be said/done in a specific way or it sounds completely different.
  • Magick Chicks: If the mysterious girl who is the spirit of the wand has a name, she has yet to reveal it and has evaded the question both times she was asked about it. She's only known by the nickname: "fade-out girl"note  or FoG for short.

     Web Original 
  • Inverted and Played for Laughs in the case of Rookie from Batty Battalion, who often tries to tell the others his name, but no one cares so they call him Rookie instead.
  • Kate, in KateModern, revealed in episode 4 that her name wasn't really Kate. Her actual first name wouldn't be revealed until episode 88. It's Genevieve, by the way.

     Western Animation 
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Good Ol' Whatshisname", Squidward and SpongeBob compete in against each other to learn the names of all the customers in the Krusty Krab. When Squidward gets down to the last customer, it seems like the customer doesn't want to tell Squidward his name, as it sounds like he tells him "What's it to ya?". After Squidward takes the customer's wallet from him, getting himself arrested as a result, Squidward finds out the customer's real name is "What Zit Tooya".

     Real Life 
  • Cracked had an article about a guy who filmed a porn movie on short notice. The director didn't give his name, but for the sake of clarity told the author to address him as Mr. [Name of the street they were on].

Community Feedback Replies: 36
  • December 11, 2016
    FlyingDuckManGenesis
    Western Animation
    • In the Sponge Bob Square Pants episode, "Good Ol' Whatshisname", Squidward and SpongeBob compete in against each other to learn the names of all the customers in the Krusty Krab and win what appears to be a luxury vacation from Mr. Krabs. When Squidward gets down to the last customer, it seems like the customer doesn't want to tell Squidward his name, as it sounds like he tells him "What's it to ya?". After Squidward takes the customer's wallet from him, getting himself arrested as a result, Squidward finds out the customer's name is really "What Zit Tooya". At the end of the episode,Squidward finds out from Mr. Krabs that his prize wasn't a luxury vacation after all; it was just the brochure for it.
  • December 12, 2016
    Snicka
    "Share Name" can be misinterpreted as two people sharing the same name. Keeping The Name Secret?
  • December 12, 2016
    Snicka
    • The Doctor in Doctor Who keeps his name secret. In fact, the title of the series is a question often asked by characters who want to learn his name.
  • December 12, 2016
    crazysamaritan
    I'm liking Keeping The Name Secret because it moves the focus from "character does X" to "character's goal is X". I'll wait a bit to see what other names are suggested, unless that one gets several supporting votes.
  • December 12, 2016
    Tallens
    • The fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin has as one of its main points the queen trying to guess the name of the eponymous dwarf as the escape clause out of the Deal With The Devil she had made with him in order to keep her child. When she finally guesses right, he throws such a tantrum it actually kills him.
  • December 13, 2016
    Getta
    First time in this place.

    As I'm reading "refusal to share name", does secret identity superheroes, agents and the like count for this?
  • December 13, 2016
    crazysamaritan
    I don't think using a Code Name or Secret Identity is quite the same narrative purpose as a character who gives their allies no other name to identify them.
  • December 13, 2016
    Getta
    [up] So the "character not giving any name" must be part of the story's mystery?

    BTW Appropriated Apellation sounds related to this.
  • December 13, 2016
    crazysamaritan
    Yes, the character must have an opportunity to share their name, and refuse to do so. No, choosing nicknames is not directly related. Both this draft and that trope deal with names, but that's all.
  • December 13, 2016
    Tallens
    An aspect of the Mysterious Stranger.

    • Once Upon A Time: The motorcycle rider who suddenly comes into Storybrooke partway through the first season reveals hardly anything about himself, not even his name, for the first few episodes he appears in. Eventually, he introduces himself as August W. Booth, but that's just what he goes by. His real name is Pinocchio.
  • December 13, 2016
    Unsung
    Maybe these names need to be shifted around as the trope is split up? Because this sounds more like No Name Given to me, while if the character presumably has a name that others know but the audience never hears, that'd be something more like No Name Stated or Offscreen Name. Not Given A Name (for Name Is Ungiven) keeps the association with No Name Given but is fairly unambiguous. Somebody Named Nobody could potentially overlap with some of these, since sometimes it's a title or nickname, although it is sometimes the character's actual name in-universe.

    Hopefully people could follow that. Maybe I should be posting it in the TRS thread?
  • December 13, 2016
    crazysamaritan
    Please review the TRS thread, yes. This draft requires the character to have a personal name, unlike the others you've mentioned. The "character presumably has a name that others know but the audience never hears" is the definition on No Name Given.
  • December 13, 2016
    Unsung
    Right, that's what I'm saying. I've reviewed the thread, I was just asking if it's worth posting this there instead of here.

    The title (that is, the title itself) "No Name Given" sounds more like the person in question would have a name and just hasn't given it. As opposed to the current version of No Name Given (meaning the trope as described), which seems more on the meta side (the Doylist side) where the writer merely hasn't given their name in the text, which doesn't necessarily imply that they have no name at all.
  • December 14, 2016
    Getta
    So... would this count?
    • Zigzagged with Copen from Azure Striker Gunvolt. After Gunvolt fights him as a boss, he asks Copen for his name. Copen refuses, saying that he won't share his name to "abominations" like Gunvolt. But then he said: "But when God sends me to judge you, you may hear Him whisper, "Copen"..."
  • December 14, 2016
    crazysamaritan
    ^^ Yes, so making a structural change to that trope requires a TRS thread to decide; it cannot be done in TLP. The current thread on The Nameless may switch over to No Name Given, but that's a policy decision that a/the moderators would make.

    ^ Just Subverted Trope. You forgot Emphasis For Work Names again.
  • December 14, 2016
    Generality
  • January 12, 2017
    TonyG
    Amy in the pilot episode of ''Superstore. She always wears a name tag with someone else's name so customers don't know her real name. While all the other workers know her name, she doesn't tell it to Naive Newcomer Jonah until near the end.
  • January 12, 2017
    Omeganian
    Often a necessity when the I Know Your True Name trope is part of the setting.
  • January 19, 2017
    Getta
    I think "Refusing to Give Names" would be better for the title than "Keeping Your Name a Secret". The latter can be confused with using an alias to conceal their real identity.
  • March 3, 2017
    crazysamaritan
    Looking for hats or suggestions on names.
  • March 3, 2017
    Skylite
    in X-Men: Rogue kept her real name a secret until the character appeared in the movies, at which point they had to name her in the comics before the movies named her.
  • March 4, 2017
    crazysamaritan
    ^ That's not really providing context (how is Rogue not her name?)
  • March 4, 2017
    Prime32
    In Accel World, the female lead is Only Known By Her Nickname of "Kuroyukihime" (Princess Snow Black). She claims that it's not that far from her real name, but refuses to say what it is, even going so far as to hack her student ID to read Kuroyukihime (something that other characters had previously thought to be unhackable).
  • March 5, 2017
    Chabal2
    • Cracked had an article about a guy who filmed a porn movie on short notice. The director didn't give his name, but for the sake of clarity told the author to address him as Mr. [Name of the street they were on].
    • Artemis Fowl: Only Butler and his mother know his birth name, for security reasons. Thus when faced with impending death, Butler tells Artemis his first name, Domovoi, a type of Russian Fair Folk. This comes in handy later when (a recording of) Artemis uses it as proof of their having been through truly harrowing experiences together, allowing Butler to defeat the fairy mind-wipe.
  • March 5, 2017
    Tuckerscreator
    • Mad Max Fury Road: Being a paranoid loner of the post-apocalyptic landscape, Max Rockatansky refuses to reveal his name, until after the climax of the film. As such, Furiosa refers to him as "fool" and Nux as "blood bag".
  • March 9, 2017
    Getta
    So I guess, people with Code Name can choose to share their real name, while in this trope that doesn't happen?

    It means a potential of overlap, right? (But not duplicates)
  • March 9, 2017
    crazysamaritan
    Yes. James Bond has 007 as a Code Name, and (usually) Bond, James Bond is his name, handed out to practically everyone. The character has to refuse sharing their name, not just using a Code Name.
  • March 15, 2017
    crazysamaritan
    Looking for hats or suggestions on names.
  • March 20, 2017
    BKelly95
    Live Action Television
    • The Janitor from Scrubs makes a point of never revealing his name to anyone. When J.D. is leaving for another hospital, he finally reveals his name is Glen Matthews. But when J.D. leaves, another character addresses him by a completely different name.
  • March 20, 2017
    WaterBlap
  • March 20, 2017
    Madrugada
    "Won't Reveal Their Name" ?

  • March 20, 2017
    crazysamaritan
    ^^ Those are making me consider The Secret Of Their Name.

    Edit: Perhaps Withholding Their Name or They Withhold Their Name
  • March 20, 2017
    Getta
  • March 20, 2017
    WaterBlap
  • March 20, 2017
    ginsengaddict
    Call it "Name Not Given"
  • March 20, 2017
    crazysamaritan
    Too similar to No Name Given, which is already a very similar trope (the author does not reveal the character's name).
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