When a person (often a superhero, villain or more grounded criminal) takes his name from a nickname, an insult, or a botched pronunciation, spoken or spread in print by someone else.
In real life, this could extend to criminals who adopt the moniker given them in the press. A subversion could be a criminal corresponding with the press to "correct" the error like Son of Sam or Jack the Ripper.
Can be a form of Insult Backfire when the name was meant to be derogatory. Arguably a form of in-universe Ascended Fanon.
Compare: Line-of-Sight Name, Namedar, Title Drop, Ascended Meme. Compare and contrast Named by Democracy where someone is often forced to accept the name others use instead of willfully adopting it, possibly even lacking the ability to appropriate or protest the name. When a whole group of people does this it's N-Word Privileges.
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Anime and Manga
"Chad" of Bleach got his name when Ichigo met him, and mispronounced his real name "Sado" (the Japanese version uses "Chado").
In Rave Master, the name of the Demon Card was originally supposed to be Demon Guard instead (as they were an anti-demon security force before their Start of Darkness), but the original founder painted the sign the wrong way and failed to notice it in time. However, the name stuck.
In Death Note, Light is quickly dubbed Kira ("killer" approximated in Japanese) by the media, and decides to use that name in his dealings with others. He dislikes how it's obviously derived from "killer", but it's what the world already knows him as, so he might as well go along with it.
Tokyo Mew Mew got their name from reporters mishearing Ichigo's introduction of "Uh, we're from Cafe Mew Mew in Tokyo...", partially thanks to Minto, who, having some sense, muffled her to protect their secret identities.
Played straight in Gundam 00 with Patrick Colasour. He survives getting his ass kicked by the Gundams enough that he earns the nickname "Colasour The Indestructible". He seems oblivious they're disparaging him.
Kati Mannequin tries to explain it to him once; apparently, he doesn't know what "disparage" means.
In One Piece, Zoro was frequently called the Pirate Hunter, as he was a bounty hunter, and pirates were the most likely people to hold bounties. But the reality was that Zoro needed their bounty money to pay for food and to repair his swords. Also, this could have easily been the epithet for any other bounty hunter.
Now that he's one of the most wanted pirates in the world, he's STILL called "Pirate Hunter Zoro", which doesn't really make sense considering he's, well, a pirate. Unless you consider that plenty of the people's he's fought have been other pirates. It's only been in his more recent incidents where he's attacked the government.
Jeremiah Gottwald of Code Geass lands the nickname Orange in association with the scandal to which he was linked by Zero. Eventually he takes it as a symbol of loyalty once he learns of Zero's identity and motives.
Gon names his Rock-Paper-Scissor (Janken) move Jajanken after he stutters on the first syllable and his opponent thinks he called it Jajanken on purpose (Jajan! as a surprise, and Janken for the rock-paper-scissors)
In the backstory of Saiunkoku Monogatari, Ko Houju was called "kijin (weirdo)" as an insult. After he was rejected by a woman for being too much more beautiful than herself, he began wearing masks constantly and calling himself Ko Kijin, which is the name that most of the other characters of the series know him by.
In DC Comics, Booster Gold got his strange name when he flubbed his own intended name, "Gold Star", along with his college football nickname "Booster", when asked by Ronald Reagan.
He also gave Doomsday his name when, after Superman caught an airborne Booster, he mentioned that "It was like Doomsday is here!" When Superman confronts him, he says "What did you call him? Oh, yeah: Doomsday."
The Joker himself, according to The Man Who Laughs. This is initially what the media calls him, since they don't know anything about him except for his clown-like appearance — he loves the name and decides to embrace it.
the Ur Example with the DCU was the entire, orginal Doom Patrol. The press gave them superhero handles, which they initially rejected as "freak names," but eventually embraced. (Though they never called each other by those names)
Invincible got his name from someone saying to him "What do you think you are, invincible?"
The Heroes RebornContinuity Reboot attempt had the Hulk and Iron Man do this to each other when their origins were mashed up into a single storyline. (Tony used the H-word when he first saw the mutated Banner, and the Hulk liked the sound of it; the other side was just applied Hulk Speak.)
Similarly, when Betty Ross first saw the Gamma-transformed Emil Blonsky, she described him as "some kind of... abomination!" Guess what his supervillain name became...
This has become the default way of explaining why superheroes have their superhero names: somebody in the media giving it to them. The 80s reboots of both Superman and Wonder Woman have them get their names this way.
Hollis Mason of Watchmen was given the sarcastic nickname "Nite Owl" by a co-worker irritated by Mason's early bedtime. At the same time, he was looking to become a "costumed adventurer," but was stuck for a name...
"'Nite Owl.' I liked it. Now all I had to come up with was the costume."
"'But you can keep calling me Mysterio. I like that. I would have never come up with that name myself but it's out there now... and I like it.'"
This may have been a ruse by Ultimate Mysterio, who was revealed to be an android controlled by the mainstream Mysterio.
It should also be noted that in an early issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, when somebody made a movie about the hero, the villain/monster was a fictional-in-universe Mysterio.
Transmetropolitan: The term "The New Scum" was coined by presidential candidate Gary "The Smiler" Callahan as an insulting reference to Spider Jerusalem's audience; the term was appropriated to a degree during the scandal that broke out after Spider leaked that outburst to the public.
MAD artist Don Martin created Captain Klutz, whose name derived from the insult ("You Klutz!") of a robber he captured by accident. (Young Ringo Fonebone had actually been attempting suicide when he landed on top of the fleeing crook.) When a police Captain asked for his name, the dazed Fonebone replied, "I'm a Klutz, Captain." Perhaps not a pure example, as Fonebone was briefly amnesiac, and actually thought it was his real name, at least at first.
The New Warriors got named when a random reporter referred to them that way, and Night Thrasher hurriedly announced they'd be sticking with that before any of his team could come up with anything more embarrassing.
It's often said that Batman gave Bart the codename "Impulse" as a warning. This is actually a retcon; he created it himself during Zero Hour (though all-but-confirmed in his second appearance a month before and reinforced a few issues later in the main Flash ongoing), a fact even his creator forgot.
In Chapter 2 of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, we see the Beagle Boys evolving from river pirates to who they are today, except they had a bit of trouble naming their group — throughout the comic they considered naming themselves "the Mardi Gras Gang" (their employer, Porker Hogg, got their masks from said event), "the Dirty Double-Crossing Dogs", and "the Masked Marauders". Eventually, when Scrooge tricked the gang and saved the day, he announced to the nearby government ship, who came to investigate, "These are the awful Beagle Boys!"
Beagle Boy 1: "The Beagle Boys"! Catchy! Simple, yet elegant! Beagle Boy 2: Not bad! Rolls off the tongue!
Corrupt Corporate ExecutiveKrösus Sork ("Croesus Vole") apparently adopted "Krösus" as his given name based on an ironic derogatory nickname in school (as The Un Favourite, he never had any money). AFAIK, we have never seen his real name - but an earlier version of him was called "Sigge", so presumably he was Sigmund Sork or something.
Arseface from Preacher, after hearing Cassidy say he has "a face like an arse" and then seeing his father shoot himself. He takes up his new moniker in a straight send-up of many classic scenes:
- "Uh wuh huh vuhhyuh uh Juhh Cuhh! Vuhhyuh fuh uh bluh uh muh fuhh! Uh uh uh huh uh fuh luh uh uhh — suh buh uh! Uh wuh becuhh Uhhfuhh!" (I will have vengeance on Jesse Custer! Vengeance for the blood of my father! And if I have a face like an arse — so be it! I will become Arseface!)
In Punisher Noir, Detective Martin Soap nicknames the mysterious vigilante who's been wreaking havoc on the Manhattan underworld "The Punisher", after a popular radio drama he theorizes inspired the man. He's partially correct — Frank Castelione, Jr. took a few pages from his favorite radio show when he started his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, but he never really had a name for himself before he heard the one Soap gave him.
Captain Mar-Vell made his debut when he stopped a killer robot sent by his own superiors in the Kree army that was sent to Kill All Humans. During the battle the robot kept addressing him by his rank and name "Captain Mar-Vell". Bystanders misheard and assumed that Mar-Vell was a new superhero named "Captain Marvel". Mar-Vell decided to go along with it.
According to The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix,X-MenenemyMr. Sinister got his name from the curses of his dying wife. Appropriately enough for a guy who became a supervillain in the 1800s, you don't get more gothic than that.
Astro City: Infidel took his name from the insult his enemies had hurled at him countless times across the centuries.
Captain Marvel first got his nickname, Big Red Cheese, from his Arch-Enemy Dr. Sivana, but it was quickly adopted by both his friends and his fanbase.
When Bruce Banner first turned into the Incredible Hulk, nobody else realized, besides Rick Jones. And so, a superpowerful being of unknown name and origin destroys the military base while leaving it. The soldiers deploy to locate and kill the creature, and one unnamed soldier said "We got to find... that Hulk"
The Silver AgeFlash gained his name when a reporter interviewing him noted Central City's mysterious new hero "sure caught that guy in a flash...what did you say your name was?" Barry responds, "you just said it—the Flash!" It helps that Barry also idolized the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick.
The Thing of the Fantastic Four got the idea for his codename when Sue had called him such after he first transformed.
Butterball, one of the most pathetic heroes of the Marvel setting got his name from a rather surly Taskmaster taunting him about his weight. Evidently it stuck and became his official name.
Marvel D-list superhero Darkhawk got his name from a crazy old hobo. Before that, he'd seriously been considering calling himself "Edge-Man".
Elijah Price: In a comic, you know how you can tell who the arch-villain's going to be? He's the exact opposite of the hero, and most time's they're friends, like you and me! I should've known way back when. You know why, David? Because of the kids! They called me Mr. Glass.
In The Incredible Hulk, a student on the news says "It was like some kind of... Hulk!" Also, when Blonsky is forcing Stearns to give him Hulk powers, Stearns warns him that the combination of the Super Serum and Gamma Radiation might result in "An Abomination". Both of these are straight out of the comics.
In the novelization, he mentions the Black Sabbath song of the same name.
In Iron Man 2, when Rhody puts on the earlier suit and gets into a brawl with Tony, Tony asks him, "You wanna be a War Machine?" Rhodey grows to like it, even after his Pentagon backers rebrand him Iron Patriot.
Played straight in Superman, when Lois Lane decides to call the guy in a cape flying around "Superman".
Similar to the animated example below, Meredith Dimly accidentally gives the Bratz their name in the live movie.
In Spider-Man, when Peter Parker tried out at an underground fight club just after he gained his super powers, he called himself "The Human Spider". The fight announcer thought that was a stupid name and instead introduced him as "The Amazing Spider-Man". The rest is history.
Green Goblin was also named by the press, as was Dr. Octopus in the sequel.
Rain Man was named by his little brother, who couldn't pronounce "Raymond."
In Captain America: The First Avenger, the name "Captain America" was given to Steve during the USO tours, but he would use that name during his first military mission. The soldiers he rescued would also use that name without any sarcasm. And by the time he is an Avenger, he's still referred to as "Captain" (to the point some call him "Captain Rogers"). Given he uses this to pull rank early on, it seems that they actually made him an Army Captain even though he was mainly an entertainer at first.
Subverted in Mystery Men. The protagonists spend most of the film without having thought of a name for their team. After saving the day at the end:
Reporter: Well, whatever you call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these mystery men. The Sphinx: Wait! Wait, that's it! We are... The Super Squad!
Idiocracy: Time-travelling Cpl. Joe Bauers is re-named Not Sure by the bar code machine as he tries to explain that he doesn't understand how it's supposed to work.
That's President Not Sure to you, private!
Crazy Stupid Love has Hannah called Nana by her family because her little sister had trouble with her name.
The Dirty Dozen: Sergeant Bowren nicknames the twelve convicts 'the dirty dozen' after they refuse to bathe or shave as a protest regarding their poor living conditions. The name sticks.
Ronan: But...you are mortal. This is not possible. Quill: You said it yourself, bitch. We're the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Bane from the Star Wars Expanded Universe. To put this in perspective: the first person to call him this was his father, who was physically and emotionally abusive, calling his son the "bane of his existence." When he joined the Sith, he became Darth Bane.
Tyrion Lannister actually tells Jon Snow to use this trope.
Tyrion: Let me give you some advice, bastard: never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.
Sandor Clegane is known as the Hound due to the hounds on his coat of arms and his perceived total lack of ethical concerns interfering with his loyalty to his master. The self-loathing Sandor wears a helm crafted into a horrible dog-face.
The ex-smuggler Davos Seaworth was knighted for delivering food to a besieged city. The other nobility look at him as a common thug who bought his knighthood with onions, dubbing him the Onion Knight, but Davos proudly put the onion on his coat of arms.
Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish is lord of a tiny tract of worthless land on a group of peninsulas called the Fingers, and is also physically short. He goes by the name as part of his scheme to get people to underestimate him.
Jaime "Kingslayer" Lannister got his name for murdering Aerys Targaryen, who he had previously sworn to protect. He hates the title, but uses the name and the reputation that comes with it to get away with a lot.
Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully was labelled the Black Sheep of the family after he refused to enter an Arranged Marriage set up by his elder brother and leige lord. Because the sigil of House Tully is a fish, Brynden said a "black fish" would be more appropriate, and adopted it as his own personal coat of arms.
The warrior-slaves The Unsullied are given a different (and demeaning) name each day, to remind them they are so worthless they don't even deserve a real name. After the Unsullied are freed and allowed to choose their own names, their leader chooses to keep his current name, "Grey Worm," believing it to be lucky because it was the name he had when freed.
Galinda in Wicked (both the musical and the book) is called "Glinda" (notice the lack of an A) by her talking Goat teacher. When he is killed, she changes her name to Glinda in his memory.
In Ender's Shadow, Bean gets his name when some other street children are taunting him that he isn't worth a bean. He then immediately lampshades that the name sucks, but the mere fact that he has a name at all is enough of a sign of status that he'll take it.
Ender himself gains his nickname because his older sister couldn't pronounce "Andrew."
He drops it for the sequels, though, after "Ender" becomes anathema.
Stereth Tarkrim (it means "rice thief") in the Ivory trilogy by Doris Egan.
The Forsaken in The Wheel of Time were mostly given nicknames by people in the Age of Legends to reflect their deeds, such as Ishamael (The Betrayer of Hope), Sammael (The Destroyer of Hope), Moghedian (The Spider) and so on, and by the time of the series have embraces their names to the point of almost forgetting their original names, and certainly the names of most of their fellows. The exception would be Lanfear (the Daughter of the night), who coined her new name herself.
"Yes, Betrayer of Hope. So men have named me, just as they named you the Dragon. When they gave me that name they intended to revile me, but I will yet make them kneel and worship it. What will you do with your name? After this day they will call you the Kinslayer, what will you do with that?"
In Harry Potter, the Gryffindors' eventual adoption of "Weasley Is Our King" after Ron's first successful turn as Keeper could count as a version of this, similar to the American adoption of "Yankee Doodle." Though, they changed the lyrics to praise Ron and his Quidditch skills rather than keeping the insulting ones.
In the same book, the Ministry attempts to restrict the amount of defensive magic students can learn out of fear Dumbledore wants to turn them into his own private army. Since the Big Bad is out there building up his power base, the students form a secret Defense group and name it "Dumbledore's Army". When they're discovered, Dumbledore goes along with the idea in order to prevent any blame falling on the students. He notes it's "Dumbledore's Army", not "Potter's Army."
In Codex Alera, it's a joke among veterans that new recruits are "fish," since their flailing around is more reminiscent of a landed fish than a legionnaire. The legion Tavi was assigned to happened to have an outsized regiment of Knights Aeris: namely, ones who were powerful enough to qualify but so short on practice that they couldn't fly (which is the entire point of Knights Aeris). Tavi dubbed them "Knights Pisces." It stuck. Then the battle of the Elinarch rolled around, when Tavi stopped the enemy army from sneaking across the river by having butchers and the like dump buckets of blood and offal in the river to attract sharks. Next time we see the Knights, they've chosen a certain fish as their new insignia. They keep the name for the rest of the series.
In Jingo, 71-Hour Ahmed might qualify. His tribe called him 71-Hour Ahmed because he had killed a man one hour before it was acceptable (his tribe offers everyone hospitality for three days, i.e. 72 hours.) He explains to Vimes that the man was a mass-murderer, and that once all the evidence was in, why wait even a single hour? While clearly not meant to be complimentary, he lets people refer to him by that title because its meaning is known and frightening to Klatchians. He doesn't let custom get in the way of doing what's necessary.
Also applies to his tribe, the D'regs. The name is Klatchian for "enemy". It's "not the name they chose for themselves, but they adopted it out of pride".
Rincewind: Just "Mad"? That's ... an unusual name.
Mad: It ain't a name.
The Barrayaran Vor were an aristocratic military caste. They received the name (Russian for thief) from commoners, who thought they were being stolen from. The aristocrats adopted the name, and will steal everything from any who oppose them.
In Robert Asprin's Phule's Company series, the Legionaire who had chosen the name "Rose" for herself was usually called "Violet" (from "Shrinking Violet") by the others due to her crippling shyness in face-to-face contact. But when it's discovered that over the radio, she's phenomenally good as a communications officer (If she can't see the person she's talking to, she's fine) and very motherly to everyone in the company, everyone starts calling her "Mother" and she adopts it herself.
In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn's alias Strider is initially a derogatory nickname given to him by the people of Bree, who see the Rangers as mysterious, dangerous ruffians. When he becomes king of Gondor, he translates the name into Quenya and uses it as his family name.
In a minor but humorous moment with Gollum, Sam calls him a "sneak", causing Gollum to go on a sarcastic rant about Sam's rudeness, causing Sam to apologize. Then Frodo wakes up:
Frodo: Hullo, Smeagol! Found any food? Have you had any rest?
Gollum: No food, no rest, nothing for Smeagol. He's a sneak.
Frodo: Don't take names to yourself, Smeagol. It's unwise, whether they be true or false.
Gollum: Smeagol has to take what's given him. He was given that name by kind Master Samwise, the hobbit that knows so much.
In Tales of the Magic Land, the wooden soldiers are called Deadwood Oaks, after their creator's constant insults about their learning abilities. In the end, one of the soldiers called himself that, and Urfin Jus decided this is the perfect name.
In the Chris Wooding young adult novel Poison, the village children of Gull choose their own names when they turn sixteen. The titular character chooses hers as a jibe against her much disliked stepmother after she called her "a poison to their family".
Also a bit of a Stealth Pun as her original name, Foxglove, is the name of a poisonous plant.
To go with several other sibling mispronunciations, Beezus, who got her name when Ramona Quimby couldn't pronounce Beatrice.
Several villains (and tragic heroes) from the GONE series seem to take pride in all the nasty things the Perdido Beach kids say about them;
"Whip Hand" was originally a terrifying code word for Drake Merwin who has a tentacle for a arm (It Makes Sense in Context , we swear!) He seems to like this analogy a awful lot, even elaborating on it and calling himself "Uncle Whip Hand".
An Orc is a type of troll. Before the FAYZ, Charles Merrimans nickname was this and he loved it. When he actually becomes a stone monster, for once all he wants is for people to call him Charles and grows to hate the name, making it subverted. Lana remarks that when he was a boy he relished in being known as a monster, but when he was a monster all he wanted was to be recognised as a human being...
The talking coyotes in the series (Makes Just as Much Sense in Context, I fear), refer to Brianna as Swift Girl. The coyotes hate Brianna and have tried to kill her a multitude of times. Which makes her take all the more pride in the nickname.
Diana Ladris had no qualms with her reputation as a "Bitch", "Slut", "Mean-spirited", "bad girl" and seemed to refer to herself as it even more than the heroes who hold her in so much contempt for it. This is later deconstructed as Diana is slowly humanized and Rescued from the Scrappy Heap , eventually leading to the fandom feeling sorry for her and yes, it did get her fangirls.
In Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, the demon warlord Leon Abbott gives all the demons in his clan a name of his choosing when they metamorphose from imps into true demons, and refers to one of the imps as 'Number One' as an insult, because he is the only member of his brood who is reluctant to transform. By the end of the book, when it turns out that Number One is actually a warlock demon and will develop powerful magic and cerebral powers instead of transforming, he decides to take the name as his own.
The eponymous character in the Jack Blank trilogy never had a last name, so he'd leave a blank after his first on all his school papers. The name Jack _____ morphed into Jack Blank, and it stuck.
The Reynard Cycle: In Defender of the Crown, Rukenaw is called The Fairlimb, a name she shares with the morningstar she wields in battle. The origin of the nickname? A bad pick-up line. The guy was referring to her legs.
Subverted in Relativity. The supervillain who can talk to bugs? The heroes always call him "Cricket". Even the narrative calls him that. However, he only refers to himself by his real name.
Cricket (I mean Matthew Morton): Seriously, who the hell came up with that name? Do I look like a cricket? I don’t even have wings!
Live Action TV
Beaver from Leave It to Beaver got his nickname from his brother, Wally, not being able to pronounce "Theodore" [his given name].
Richard Hammond of Top Gear was nicknamed "Hamster" by Jeremy Clarkson and eventually came to like the name. He even refers to it with his production company, "Hamster's Wheel".
In Game of Thrones, the Unsullied, highly conditioned slave soldiers, are given names like Red Flea or Black Rat in order to remind them that they are nothing but vermin. When Daenerys frees them and allows them to take whatever names they wish, Unsullied commander Grey Worm decides to keep his own, considering it lucky: it was the name he had when he was freed.
A minor version in Babylon 5 when the Centauri Republic reconquers Narn with Shadow backing, they imprison all government officials and appoint a puppet regime, including a new ambassador to Babylon 5. G'Kar is replaced and no longer able to call himself "Ambassador G'Kar", and Londo makes a point of calling him "Citizen G'Kar", intended to demean him and mock his being stripped of his position. Nonetheless, G'Kar actually begins to regard the title as something of an honorific, and continues to use it when he becomes a rallying point for Narn resistance.
Several times on Smallville , as a Mythology Gag. When Clark Kent joins an underground fight club, the manager calls him "The Man Of Steel" because he earlier demonstrated he was bullet proof. Green Arrow called him "Boy Scout" because of his simple-minded idealism. When he becomes an active superhero, the media calls him "The Good Samaritan" (because he helps people in trouble for no reason), "The Red-Blue Blur" (named for the only thing visible when he uses Super Speed), and finally, "The Blur". Also, when he reveals his secret to Jimmy Olsen, Jimmy goes, "Wow! You're some kind of Super... Super... Guy."
There was also "Clark Kent, the Man of Tomorrow" when he was running for high school president, though it was the other guy who photoshopped his face into what is basically superman's suit. There was also a time when Lana found him reading something by Friedrich Nietzsche and asked him if he was "Man, or Superman?", though he said he hadn't really decided. Also, he sometimes calls himself "Naman" in the early seasons, when interacting with people who know the local ancient legends about kryptonians.
Much like the movie and animated TV show, in The Adventures of Superman (from the 1950s), Superman gets his name from the Daily Planet. His first public heroic was rescuing a man who had fallen off of an airship, and the man later described him as "some sort of... Super-guy...", and shortly afterwards Lois calls him Superman.
In Lois and Clark, Lois names him after the "S" insignia, which is supposed to be in an alien language.
Spike was known as "William the Bloody" during life, because his poetry was bloody awful, and one critic said that he'd rather have a railroad spike driven through his head than listen to it. Upon becoming a vampire, he took up those insults and "granted the critic's wish".
Angel. Liam took his vampire name from his sister, who mistook her resurrected older brother for an angel.
Shotaro Hidari and Philip received the name "Kamen Rider" from the citizens of Fuuto, which they use with pride. Interestingly, it's the villains that refer to them as Kamen Rider Double.
Most of the "Neo-Heisei" Kamen Rider shows have the main character adopt the Rider name in this fashion. Fourze learns about his predecessors from his school's Perky Goth and closet Rider fangirl, and himself becomes a Rider fanboy, eagerly looking for any opportunity to meet his Sempai. In The Movie, Fourze explains the name to Wizard, who decides it sounds pretty cool. And then in his Post-Script Episodes, Wizard turns around and introduces Gaim to the term (though in his own show, he's referred to as Armored Rider Gaim, which is still an example of this trope).
On the self-titled sitcom Roseanne, one episode has her mother explaining that Jackie's name isn't really Jackie, but Marjorie. Roseanne couldn't properly pronounce her name as a child and it always sounded like she was calling her "My Jackie", and after a while, the name stuck.
WKRP in Cincinnati: Radio DJ Gordon Sims initially wanted his Stage Name to be Venus Rising, but due to a slip-up when he first came on the air, he was introduced as Venus Flytrap, and the name stuck.
A flashback in Have Gun — Will Travel shows that the hero, Paladin, got the name in this manner. A villainous employer falsely made him believe that a gunfighter calling himself Smoke was a villain terrorizing a town. The dying Smoke revealed the truth and sarcastically referred to his killer as a "paladin". His killer adopted that name and to atone, becoming a hero while wearing Smoke's costume.
Holby City: Percival Durant, a wildly anti-authoritarian surgeon working in a Ghanaian clinic at the time of his introduction on the show, earned the nickname "Abra" from his colleagues and patients, which he wears with pride. It roughly translates to "troublemaker".
Queen Hippolyte:Go in peace my daughter. And remember that, in a world of ordinary mortals, you are a Wonder Woman.
Princess Diana:I will may you proud of me... and of Wonder Woman.
While everybody on the other side in Stargate SG-1 initially calls him "shol'va" (traitor) as an insult (practically spitting out the curse), Teal'c pretty quickly warms up to the "title" and a few times even smiles proudly when being called that. Later on, the other rebel Jaffa treat the term the same way.
There's a song featured in Glee called Loser like me which is written by the Glee clubbers saying to their bullies that they may be losers, but that's hardly a set back and is actually a advantage for their future ambitions.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Applies to Odo twice. Firstly, when he was discovered, he was a gelatinous blob that was not clearly a lifeform. He was kept in a flask with the label "unknown sample"; a loose Cardassian translation of this was Odo'ital, meaning "nothing". He eventually took on the shortened "Odo" as a form of identity. Secondly, he adopted the nickname "Constable" that was given to him by Kira as an appropriate if unusual title (for the time) for someone now working in station security.
Garrison's Gorillas: Lt. Hanley from Combat referred to Lt. Garrison's team as "Gorillas" in the pilot episode. The team adopts this as their unofficial title.
In QIStephen manages to "reclaim" the word 'charioteer' about 2 minutes after the panel suggest it should be a euphemism for gay. That's got to be some kind of record.
This is also a Real Life example. Seattle-based sketch show Almost Live! had aerospace-engineer-turned-comedian Bill Nye as a cast member. He kept correcting host Ross Shafer's pronunciation of "gigawatt." Shafer's reply was "Who do you think you are, Bill Nye the Science Guy?" Needless to say the name stuck, and the rest is history.
Subverted on The Big Bang Theory. Howard knew that the other astronauts would give him a nickname; he planned to influence their decision by having his phone ring during a videoconference: the ringtone would be Elton John's song "Rocket Man". Unforturnatley, his mother butted in and asked him if he wanted some Froot Loops for breakfast, and the other astronauts called him "Froot Loops" from then on.
Played for Laughs in Roger And The Rottentrolls. 1000 years ago, Merlin was attempting to create a ski resort for King Arthur, but his spell was ruined by some Norwegian trolls, causing the wizard to curse angrily, "Oh, those rotten trolls have messed it all up!" The trolls, too stupid to realise that Merlin was insulting them, assumed he was calling them by their name, and their descendants still refer to themselves as 'The Rottentrolls' to this day.
Daft Punk named themselves after a review of their first musical attempt (a punk rock band, Darlin'), that a British music magazine dismissed as "a bunch of daft punk".
The Residents got their name from a rejection letter they received after sending a demo tape to Warner Bros. Records: because they didn't include a name in the return address, the letter was simply addressed to "Residents".
Shortly after deciding to form a band together, Al Jourgensen, Richard 23 and Luc Van Acker went out to a bar and eventually found themselves kicked out for starting a brawl. The bartender called them "a bunch of revolting cocks", and sure enough, the band was newly christened The Revolting Cocks.
Jourgensen is particularly fond of this trope. Jourgensen's project 1,000 Homo DJs was similarly named after a comment from Wax Trax! owner Jim Nash, who said of the group's demo, "No one's gonna play this. It's gonna take a thousand homo DJs to play this for anyone to buy it." The title of Ministry's album Filth Pig is also lifted from a derogatory reference to Jourgensen, this time from a speech by a British MP.
When Stan Ridgway played a friend some music he and Mark Moreland were working on for a film soundtrack, he jokingly compared the layered production to Phil Spector's "Wall Of Sound". Because of how unnerving the music was, said friend quipped that it was more like a "Wall of Voodoo".
When the Yardbirds collapsed, leaving Jimmy Page as sole remaining member, he recruited three unknown musicians (they knew each other through session work) and carried on. Legal uncertainties caused them to become the New Yardbirds. Then The Who's Keith Moon and John Entwistle made a remark about them going down "like a lead zeppelin". They adopted this name, changing the spelling to the familiar Led Zeppelin at the suggestion of their US distributor, who thought people might mispronounce (and misconstrue) "Lead" as if it were "lead a horse to water".
According to Josh Homme, "When we were making a record in 1992, under the band Kyuss, our producer Chris Goss, he would joke and say 'You guys are like the queens of the stone age.'" And after Kyuss folded, Homme made good use of that joke.
When Noise Rock band Steel Pole Bath Tub submitted demos for what was to be their second album for Slash Records, the label rejected the material, calling it "unlistenable". The band would eventually release these same demos on their own label, giving it the title of Unlistenable.
Lil B was originally called "based" as an insult, but he adopted it into his nickname, Basedgod.
"Weird Al" Yankovic adopted the moniker as his late-night DJ handle after his classmates at California Polytechnical called him "Weird Al" for his looks.
In Argentina, a "grasa" is a derogatory term for someone with customs of poor people, and a "negro" is someone with a dark skin (usually from northern Argentine provinces or other South American nations). The audience of the "Malón" band organized a crowd chorus: "Baila la hinchada baila, baila de corazón, somos los negros, somos los grasas, pero conchetos no" ("dances, the crowd dances, it dances with a passion, we are the negros, we are the grasas, but socialites we are not"). The band itself liked the song so much that they follow it with their instruments.
Tully Blanchard, the Anderson Brothers and Ric Flair were thrown together at the last minute to fill up the NWA's tv time. The segment was well received and compared to the Four Horsemen in the Bible, so the fans began calling them The Four Horsemen of Wrestling, which the group then adopted themselves. Being a carbon copy, Evolution tried to invoke the same thing but it was only in story, the fans didn't jump on the name that time.
Phil Mushnick, longtime sports writer for TV Guide, has written a number of blistering rants against Professional Wrestling. One of them in the '90s was aimed at wrestling fans in particular; Mushnick dubbed wrestling's mostly-18-to-24 fanbase "Degeneration X", lamenting the mental and moral degeneracy they must have to enjoy the product WWF was putting out at the time. Fast forward a few months, and Shawn Michaels and Triple H formed a tag team known for lewd and sophomoric antics — and, after Bret Hart called them and their fans "degenerates", they decided to label themselves D-Generation X. Thus making their team name an example both in-Kayfabe (Michaels and HHH appropriating the label Hart gave them) and outside of it (WWF appropriating the label Mushnick gave their fans).
Being the unintelligible rambler of Gateway Championship Wrestling with friends almost as antisocial, all of Delirious's signatures and finishers were named by his enemies, Operation Shamrock. Names such as Panic attack, chemical imbalance, shadows over hell and banana phone and the fact he doesn't seem to protest them paints a pretty good picture of his psyche.
From Australian Rules Football: In their early days, Richmond Football Club didn't have an official nickname. However, their colors of yellow and black inspired fan cries of "Eat 'em alive, Tigers!", and eventually the club adopted "Tigers" as their nickname.
Geelong's nickname of the Cats comes from a story about a black cat crossing the ground and Geelong winning the match.
In the late 1800s, fans of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (seriously), were derisively referred to as Trolley Dodgers by the pre-dominantly more well-to-do fans of the archrival New York Giants, because in order to reach Bridegrooms' ballpark, it was necessary to cross a series of perilous trolley tracks. The Brooklyn fans took it as a badge of honor in a way, as did the team, adopting it as an unofficial nickname until they officially changed it to the Trolley Dodgers in 1911, then shortened it just to the Dodgers.
The Pittsburgh baseball team in the National League was commonly called the Alleghenys, until they signed away a player from the cross-state Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. An A.A. official denounced their actions as "piratical", so the club decided that being known as the "Pirates" was a good way of tweaking the other league.
Originally, the Iowa State University teams were known as the Cardinals. After the football team scored a decisive victory over Northwestern, the Chicago Tribune reported the outcome with the headline "Struck by a Cyclone." Iowa State teams have been the Cyclones ever since.
In Brazilian soccer, the supporters of Flamengo, mostly poor and black, were called "buzzards" by rivals. Then in a 1969 game one of Flamengo's attendants threw a vulture in the field before it started, and the team eventually won, leading Flamengo's direction to adopt the vulture as their team mascot.
Also, Palmeiras' supporters adopted a pig as an unofficial mascot in the 1980s - but still popular enough to eclipse the parakeet that is the official one - after decades of being called "pigs" (it dates back to when "pig" was a common derogatory term for the Italians that created the team).
The 1972 Miami Dolphins got the "No-Name Defense" name given to them by Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, who couldn't name anyone on the defensive side of the ball. The defense was number-one ranked in the league and helped the Dolphins achieve the only perfect season in the Super Bowl era.
While in Japan, Hideki Matsui got the nickname "Godzilla" from the Japanese media because of his skin problems. His powerful bat soon took over and made it a point of pride, something which stuck around when he moved across the Pacific and joined the New York Yankees in 2003.
Nick "the Goat" Thompson was once called "The Fainting Goat" because he was so easily knocked out in practice. Once he toughened up, it got shortened to "the Goat" and became an Artifact Title.
Current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon "Bones" Jones received his nickname from his high school football coach because the lanky Jones was too skinny for his defensive linesman position.
The Tottenham Hotspur Football Club has a rather large Jewish fanbase, leading to rivals referring to their Jewish fans as "Yids". In a show of solidarity, Tottenham fans decided to take that name for all their fans, Jewish and non-Jewish. In spite of some controversy, they still refer to each other as "Yid", "Yiddo", and "Yidette", and the fanbase itself as the "Yid Army".
In the Warcraft universe, the orphaned son of Orc chieftan Durotan was raised as a gladiator by a sadistic human who only called him "Thrall" (slave). He kept his name even after gaining his freedom, rising to the position of Warchief of the entire Orcish Horde, and learning his birthname (Go'el) from his grandmother.
The English-language localizations of the Sonic the Hedgehog games introduced the name "Eggman" for Dr. Robotnik this way; in Sonic Adventure, it was an insult used against him by the heroes, but in all later games he used it himself.
That's actually because his name in JapanisEggman; early games, realizing that wasn't the imposing name of a robot-themed supervision, named him Dr. Robotnik and kept Eggman as an insult. Later games stated "Robotnik" was his family name and Eggman being the nick-name he normally uses. His full name is Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik.
Super Robot Wars: Original Generation refers to the assault on the White Star as "Operation SRW". While an official meaning for the acronym is never given, Ascended Fanboy Ryusei announces that it must mean - you guessed it - "Super Robot Wars!"
There's also Ibis Douglas, whose partner/rival dubbed her "Shooting Star" because of her tendency to get shot down during training exercises. When her boss finds out, he mentions that it's a great name for someone who dreams of exploring space. She finally accepts the nickname during her "World of Cardboard" Speech, which is accompanied by a theme song of the same name.
The Alteisen's name. For those of you who are unaware it translates as old/pig iron which is a low quality metal. In-universe the Alteisen is considered old-fashioned for not using Extra Over Technology (some very advanced technology that has been reversed engineered). The name stuck.
TheIllusiveMan in Mass Effect 2. He derives his name from a vitriolic response from an Alliance official to an anti-alien manifesto he wrote anonymously ("survivalist rhetoric written by an illusive man"). The version of Illusive he uses means deceptive. It also sounds like Elusive, which might be the point, or not.
Legion also has an Appropriated Appellation, given to him by EDI.
Not scorn per se, but "EDI" stands for Enhanced Defense Intelligence, simply a label of her function. As EDI's character developed, it just sorta... become her name.
Partial example: when Tali gets tried for treason during her loyalty mission, the Admiralty Board legally has her ship name changed to "vas Normandy," believing that being associated with a human ship (and having a human captain represent her instead of a quarian) would hurt her chances of avoiding exile. Whether it works, backfires, or leads in an unexpected direction is up to the player. Later on, if you earn Tali's loyalty, she lets the name stick.
The term Reapers was originally bestowed by the Protheans, since they never learned the true name of their enemy. Notably, the Reapers never actually refer to themselves as Reapers. Harbinger occasionally uses the phrase "that which you know as 'Reapers'" to refer to their race, but this phrasing still makes it clear he doesn't consider the name valid. The Catalyst, controller and creator of the Reapers, does use the term, probably simply out of convenience, using terms that Shepard will understand.
Sovereign: "Reaper". A label created by the Protheans to give voice to their destruction. In the end, what they chose to call us is irrelevant. We simply... are.
In the second game, Legion explains that "Sovereign" was just a title used by Saren. When it communicated with the Geth, the millions of programs that comprised the Reaper instead referred to themself as "Nazara".
The first example ever used in Mass Effect? Your helmsman, Jeff 'Joker' Moreau. He got the nickname in flight school for his habit of never smiling (he suffers from osteoporosis, which probably didn't help). He adopted the nickname after graduating, and now everyone apart from EDI (until the latter end of Mass Effect 3) and Dr Chakwas (who knows him well enough/is professional enough to stick to his real first name) uses the nickname when talking to or about him. One would think a 'morose' joke would have been too intelligent, given he becomes a wonderful barrel of snark and incidental humour.
The term "glorious PC master race" was originally used sarcastically to poke fun at PC gaming elitists. PC gaming elitists took it and ran with it, now proudly using the term as they berate "console gaming peasants".
The Renrijra Krin, a quasi-legal nationalist faction of Khajiit introduced in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The name translates as something like 'Mercenary's Grin', 'Laugh of the Landless' or 'Smiling Scum', and was first applied to them by their enemies, but it amused them enough for them to make it their own.
The Stormcloak faction in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was derisively referred as such for following Ulfric Stormcloak's beliefs. They took that name in pride.
In Dragon Age II, many residents of Kirkwall use "Dog Lord" as a slur against refugees from Ferelden, a reference to Fereldan culture's deep-seated love of Mabari hounds. In Act II, Hawke encounters a Fereldan expat street gang called the Dog Lords. (Incidentally, the Dog Lords are probably the toughest of the gangs encountered in Act II...because they're backed up by Mabari.)
During Mask of the Assassin, after Hawke asks Varric why they never got a nickname, depending on their personality, he suggests "Waffles" and "Killer" for Paragon!Hawke and Renegade!Hawke. Snarky!Hawke on the other hand, admits to genuinely liking "Chuckles".
Subverted in Angels 2200 when the six girls of Icebreaker Squad in all receive scornful call signs that are either disparaging or ironic comments on their characters: "Hammer", (the vacillating leader), "Quetzalcoatl" (The Neidermeyer) "Whiskey" (the Hard-Drinking Party Girl), "Bubblegum" (as in: can't walk and chew it at the same time), "Loser" (self-explanatory), and "Kid" (The Ingenue). It does NOT help them bond as a team, and their attempts to "make these names their own" just makes it worse.
In El Goonish Shive, Elliot's female Superhero form is dubbed "Cheerleadra" by Internet users. This is learned mere seconds after Justin compares her skirt to a cheerleading outfit in a TV interview.
In Drowtales, "Tainted" was originally an insult towards Drow who failed to control a summonned demon and got infected/partially possessed by it. Then some started to do this deliberately to gain immunity against full possession. They were derided and persecuted to some degree, but eventually adopted "Tainted" as their designation.
The FreakAngels from FreakAngels have been called "sick freaks" and "angels of destruction," according to Luke.
In Earthsong, the villain takes his name from one of his first victims. He calls him "beluosis," or "full of monsters."
The Oathbreakers from Modest Medusa rebelled against their new leadership (breaking their oath doing so) and took the name for themselves.
Lois Lane also names Superman in The Animated Series. After discussing the new hero at the Daily Planet, Lois sums up with "A regular superman," referring to him metaphorically as being the embodiment of the Nietzschen ideal. Perry quickly agrees that this is what they should call him. Clark, who is in the room, is surprised at first, but likes the name by the time everyone leaves.
Adrian Toomes points out to potential victim Norman Osborn, that he's "not Toomes now, I'm what you called me, the Vulture!" Osborn sneeringly replies that he called Toomes a buzzard, and that Toomes can't even get the name right.
Max Dillon, super-powered accident victim, is nicknamed Electro in the course of Spider-Man's battle banter. Later, Dillon rants that since there is no cure for his condition, he is no longer Max Dillon. "I'm... what'd you call me? I'm Electro!"
Meek, submissive Otto Octavius is bullied by his boss Norman Osborn, who adds insult to injury by calling him "Doctor Octopus", a name Otto considers demeaning. One high-voltage Freak Out later, he is demanding to be called the same, after delivering a ranting smackdown to both his boss and Spider-Man.
Likewise Doc Ock's team, the "Sinister Six," is named by The Daily Bugle.
In Transformers Animated, Nino Sexton adopted the name Nanosec after a throwaway comment from a bank teller after his first heist.
Slight subversion: Grimlock named himself after Megatron bemoans his "prospects are grim, locked in this prison of a lab."
Wreck-Gar gets his name from Angry Archer's abbreviating what he previously called himself, "worthless-wreck-walking-pile-of-garbage".
Crash Nebula in the Show Within a Show on The Fairly OddParents. The students at his school insulted him by saying he "crashed the Nebula", the Nebula being an experimental weapon/spacesuit. Sprig Speevak decided to make this his superhero name, Crash Nebula.
The band "U Stink" from Arthur got their name like this.
Robin from The Batman took his alias from a nickname his mother gave him, which he initially resented.
If you're wondering, the Golden Age origin of the name was Dick paying tribute to Robin Hood. Hence the green outfit, shirt lacing, and so forth.
The Bratz get their name from Kirstee and Kaycee in Bratz: Rock Angelz.
Samurai Jack "Jack" is not his name, but rather a slang term much like "Man", "Guy", or "Dude" that he is called repeatedly by the first people he meets in the future during the pilot, and later... "They call me Jack."
"Titan?" "That's what the Earth people call us!" "I like it! Engage... Sym-Bionic Titan"
Defied in Danny Phantom. The press calls Danny "Inviso-Bill" and Danny hates it. He does everything he can to get people to call him "Danny Phantom" instead, finally succeeding in the first movie.
In the season 2 premiere of Transformers Prime, Megatron claims to Orion Pax that the term "Decepticon" was meant as a demonizing insult by the Autobots, which they took for their own.
Pizza Face: Pizza Face? I like-a that! 'Cause I have a pizza for a face!
Mikey also names Mutagen Man formerly Timothy/The Pulverizer, who refers to himself as such later in the episode. Mutagen Man's mind has been so warped by his mutation that there's a possibility that he might not even remember his real name.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was disparaged by Republicans as "Obamacare", which has since become its official nickname in mainstream news media. Even Barack Obama himself has stated that he's now fond of the name, and uses it in his own speeches. In the midst of the disastrous rollout, however, he has gone back to calling it by its formal name.
Obama joked that if the Act became a success, the Republicans would stop calling it "Obamacare".
In Dutch, a name that has been 'appropriated' in this manner is called a geuzennaam, after the most famous example in Dutch history: the confederacy of Calvinist Dutch nobles and other malcontents, who from 1566 opposed Spanish rule in the Netherlands, called themselves Geuzen (singular Geus). This was derived from Gueux, French for 'beggars'. Berlaymont, one of the councilors of Margaret, Duchess of Parma, referred to the nobles as such when they came to plead with her for more religious freedom.
Come the American Revolution, the British Loyalists referred, condescendingly, to rebellious British-Americans as "Yankees." The term stuck as a catch-all name for Americans. Within America, it applies to a concentric series of ever-increasingly specific demographicnote In the South, it's anyone not from the South. Outside the south, it's Northeasterners. In the Northeast, it's New Englanders. In New England, it's New Hampshirites., but outside of America it's applied to everyone.
Also from the revolution, once General Cornwallis was kicked out of Charlotte, he referred to the city as "a hornet's nest of rebellion". The city still has the nickname The Hornet's Nest.
That's how the followers of popular Anti-Mary SueLiveJournal Pottersues got their Fan Group Nickname: one troll with a grudge against Pottersues included the readers and fans among her insults, calling them "Lesbian Minions". They immediately reacted by calling themselves exactly that.
Musiu Lacavalerie, late Venezuelan TV and radio personality, was born as Marco Antonio Lacavalerie, but because of his obviously non-Hispanic last name he was jokingly called "musiú" an affectionate (and then popular) term toward immigrants and foreginer-looking people. Lacavalerie decided that he liked how the combination sounded, so he took it as his professional name.
Quite common for religious movements:
The term "Christian" was originally an insult. Christians used to call themselves "followers of the way" but called themselves Christians after being called that consistently as an insult.
Mormons, originally derogatory nickname for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has passed into common usage, including among church members.
Ditto for Quakers (the Society of Friends) and Santeria (Lukumi).
Members of the Churches of Christ have consistently refused the appellation "Campbellites", but frequently accept other epithets thrown at them. One author's tract semi-famously declared "I Have A Closed Mind".
A bit obscure, but the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing were 1) an offshoot of a Quaker group and 2) known for their use of dance during worship. They were given the nickname "Shaking Quakers", which then got abbreviated again into "Shakers".
Likewise Methodism, which started as a Bible study/spiritual formation group led by John and Charles Wesley at Oxford and were called "Methodists" and "The Holy Club" by their fellow students.
"Puritans" was an Elizabethan-era insult for that group; at the time they called themselves "Professors" (as in someone who 'professes' the Word).
Adherents of Germanic reconstructionist Neo-Paganism often identify as "Heathens", while adherents of some neo-pagan traditions such as Wicca and Stregheria self-identify as "Witches".
Far older than all of these is one of the original names for the Israelites: Hebrews. The word for "a Hebrew" in Hebrew is "Ivri", and one of the first times this word appears in the The Bible is when the Pharaoh's wine steward is telling the Pharaoh about this boy Joseph that can interpret dreams. He's concerned that Pharaoh might raise him too highly, so he calls him a "na'ar eved ivri" - a boy, a slave, and an "ivri", which means a descendant of Eber, but in this case is used in the context of "across", as in "across the border", as in "foreigner". The intended insult would become one of the common names for the Israelites.
A few later places in the Bible imply the word to have the meaning "people living beyond the borders of society".
Not an insult but the Persians called the people from Judah "Jews". Today Jew has completely displaced "Hebrew".
Jesus Freaks, originally applied to Christian Hippies.
Non-religious and anti-religious types occasionally (and more commonly in recent years) adopt the title Infidels.
Back in the day, on our fine fora, someone dropped in on a thread and prefaced their remarks with the following. Take a look at the alt title on Troper.
When Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition was newly announced, a number of angry gamers weren't just satisfied with expressing their unhappiness and spent a lot of time spreading unfounded rumors on the Wizards of the Coast boards. Other posters went out of their way to correct them and one frustrated rumormonger angrily denounced his being 'oppressed' by what he called the '4e Avengers'. within a week, dozens of posters had that name in their sig with Super Hero names like '4e Batman'.
As a joke on his strained relationship with the press, then-Minnesota governor (sigh) Jesse Ventura issued media credential badges to his press corps labeled something along the lines of "Press Jackal." The issue-ees were none too pleased, but the badges soon became collectors' items among the better-humored.
Fans of the erotic artist Julius Zimmerman are known as the Flaming Horde after an incident in 2003. An inker was discovered to be tracing Julius' art and auctioning it as his own and fans of Julius filled his inbox full of complaints. When Julius e-mailed his image host asking who it was, the response was something like: "No one you or your horde of flaming fans need to worry about any more" and he ceased hosting the tracings. Though Flaming Horde was intended as an insult, the group embraced the novel designation.
The astronomer Fred Hoyle, a proponent of the Steady State model of the Universe, coined the term "Big Bang" as a dismissive term for the rival model. The name was taken on by proponents of the theory, at first ironically but later in all seriousness.
When the idea of a number line at right angles to the reals was first proposed, many mathematicians considered it to be ridiculous and called them "Imaginary Numbers".
The term "survival of the fittest" was originally used by a writer dismayed at the perceived coldness of the theory of evolution by natural selection. He meant "physically fittest", which is still a common misunderstanding today, but it was appropriated on the understanding of fittest meaning "best at its job".
The reason why members of the Something Awful forums are collectively referred to as "goons" by themselves and other internet denizens.
In terms of minorities and such, it's called reclaiming; it's why a good handful of gay men will call themselves "faggots", lesbians use "dykes," both of the above call themselves "queer", transgender women call themselves "trannies", black people reserve N-Word Privileges, et cetera et cetera.
The "Star Wars" missile defense system was originally called that in mockery of its implausibility.
As noted on the People's Republic of Tyranny page, a number of left-leaning localities have been given derisive nicknames of this type, but have ended up wearing them proudly.
The term "Marxist" was invented by a French conservative in the late 1800s as an insult. The communists of the time quickly started referring to themselves as Marxists and their ideology as Marxism, despite Karl Marx himself detesting the term and going so far as to insist that he was not a Marxist. Admittedly, this last was more a reaction to what the ideology developed into.
The Rats of Tobruk, the Allied defenders of the besieged WW2 garrison who proudly took their name from Nazi propaganda. Likewise the Scrap Iron Flotilla that supplied them.
Subverted with the Nazis themselves. Well before Adolf Hitler came about, "Nazi," as a nickname for Ignaz (Ignatius) was a common epithet for the Bavarian equivalent of a Good Ol' Boy. So when a political party called the Nationalsozialistische came to prominence, people were quick to seize on Nazi to describe it. They tried reclaiming it but instead decided crushing their enemies was a better use of their energy upon taking over the German government, and so it was their enemies who made them permanently known to history as Nazis. More information here.
The Impressionists got their name from a satirical journalist, who derived it from Monet's Impression, Sunrise.
In The American Civil War, Northerners took to calling Southerners "Johnny Reb" and Southerners took to calling Northerners "Billy Yank". They took to calling themselves that in jest.
Eastern and Central European literature theorists who were developing theories set forth by Ferdinand de Saussure and Nikolai Trubietskoy were called 'structuralists' by their opponents who scorned their overly scientific methods. Later the name stuck and now the movement is officially known as structuralism.
The terms Whig (Liberal) and Tory (Conservative), used by various British and British-derived (American, Canadian etc) political parties through the ages, both started out as fairly insulting terms in Irish Gaelic (whiggamore 'horse thief' and toraidh 'outlaw'). "Whig" fell out of use in the UK in the early 1900s, but "Tory" is still current.
Chicago is well known as "The Windy City." The nickname was around before the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 (See the article at The Other Wiki), but it was pushed into popular culture when it was used as an insult by the New York Sun editors to refer to the hot air being created by Chicago politicians as they tried to get the World's Fair to come to Chicago. The name stuck.
Façade, Edith Sitwell's suite of poems set to music by William Walton, originally started out as a personal, technical exercise. She wanted to see if, by a careful arrangement of words, she could cause people to recite them in a particular rhythm (waltz, foxtrot, etc.). Then someone remarked that it was "very clever, but just a façade" - and she decided to let the name stick.
Doyle Brunson, poker player, got his nickname "Texas Dolly" by Jimmy Snyder misreading "Texas Doyle". It stuck, and got shortened to "Dolly".
Rush Limbaugh was once called "The Most Dangerous Man in America". Rush now calls himself that.
Similarly, he and his fans refer to his fanbase as "Dittoheads", which was originally to disparage them as Yes-Man.
After reclaiming the title of World Chess Champion, Mikhail Botvinnik was being fawned upon by his fans. He tried to keep the celebration restrained by telling the well-wishers, "No, no, I am not a patriarch, you know." Guess what his nickname was after that?
This is how pilots get their callsigns.
During World War One, Kaiser Wilhelm referred to the British Expeditionary Force as a "contemptible little army." Immediately British army regulars started referring to themselves as the Old Contemptibles... But the quote from which the appellation was taken was fabricated by British propaganda.
The US Marines call themselves "Devil Dogs", supposedly in reference to a German report referring to them as Teufel Hunden. The only problem is, the only sources for this claim are from the American media, and that the word would more properly be Teufelshunde.
Indo-Caribbean people (Caribbean nationals who are descended from indentured servants brought from India to the Caribbean), particularly those from Guyana or Trinidad & Tobago, are known as "Coolies." This started out as an insult by their former masters (the British plantation owners), as the original meaning was that a person being called a Coolie was a low-class worker. However, in recent decades, Indo-Caribbean people adopted it as an affectionate nickname for themselves. An Indo-Caribbean politician in Trinidad famously made a speech declaring himself to be "Coolie to the bone" to emphasize his heritage. Also, New York City's sizable Indo-Caribbean community also generally uses the word Coolie to describe themselves.
Members of the online celebrity news community Oh No They Didn't! proudly call themselves "jackals" after being referred to as such by an online columnist.
In the same vein, the word Stan once used on the site as a derogatory term for overly-obsessed fans of any given subject has now been adopted by said fans and is even used as a verb ("Who do you/I stan for _____"). This is mostly in female fanbases, popular shows, and mainstream american culture.
Some Britney Spears fans who actually like her and support her accept being called a "Britard".
Lady Gaga calling her fans Monsters is a double subversion, they had this name before, but due to the more questionable things they have said and done (like all fan bases) they are called "Real Monsters" to those who really don't like or get them and how they deal.
The Crystal Palace was the purpose-built venue for London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 and a wonder of the Victorian Age, being the product of a brilliant and innovative design. Its iconic name, however, was originally coined by a writer for Punch magazine, as a backhanded euphemism for the proposed structure in one of their typically flippant comment pieces.
The Chamber of Horrors in Madame Tussaud's Waxwork Museum in London acquired its name in the same manner. A Punch writer coined the term while commenting on the newly opened "separate room" (as it was originally referred to) in 1846.
A large number of US state nicknames are derived from this:
The term "badger" for a Wisconsin resident originated as a derogatory name for the copper and iron miners in the western part of the state who, due to poverty, would sleep in holes they dug in the ground. Today, Wisconsin is officially nicknamed "The Badger State" and the athletic teams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are known as the Badgers.
Minnesota got the nickname 'The Gopher State' when a political cartoon called Minnesotan legislators a bunch of gophers and for some reason it stuck.
"Michigander" started as a pejorative; today, it's the only acceptable term for a person from Michigan, at least as far as people from there are concerned. The nickname "Wolverine State" for Michigan also began as an insult, when Ohioans called the Michiganders "vicious as wolverines" (or something to that effect) during the "Toledo War".
The term "Masshole" is used mainly to describe the perceived tendency for residents of Massachusetts to be overly aggressive about driving, sports, or things in general, but it's not uncommon to see cars with Mass plates proudly sporting bumper stickers with the word on it.
Jack Thompson came up with the term "pixelante," a mix of pixel and (for some reason) vigilante to describe video game players. The GamePolitics forum wasted no time in appropriating the name for themselves, much to Thompson's annoyance.
"Pixel-stained technopeasant" was coined by Howard Hendrix as an insult to his fellow science-fiction writers who were demeaning "the noble calling of Writer" by posting their work on the net for free (*gasp*). They now have their own holiday.
The Space Opera genre was originally called that as an insult- the term opera was used along the same lines as Soap Opera and Horse Opera to connote that a work was filled with unbelievable characters, plots, and settings. Now, the term Space Opera is value neutral and just means a work with "grand themes" that's probably on the softer end of the Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness.
Fans of Atlus games, particularly the Shin Megami Tensei series, like using the term Fatlus to refer to themselves, despite its origins as a derogatory term.
Lately there's been a trend of militant vegans on Tumblr referring to omnivores as "bloodmouths" in an attempt to guilt them about their dietary choices. The omnivores' reaction? To wholeheartedly embrace it, declare "bloodmouth pride" and sometimes change usernames to incorporate the word "bloodmouth." Let's face it, if the vegans wanted to make a point, they should've chosen a term whose connotations were far less badass.
Many people with the nickname "Bubba" got it because a sibling couldn't properly pronounce the word "brother."
Every name for every artistic movement ever was found this way. The Impressionists are so called because a critic said that "they can't draw anything other than an impression", the Fauves (which translates as 'beasts') are so called because a critic called them beasts... and the list goes on.
Averted by Dada, whose name was chosen by (according to legend) sticking a knife in a dictionary.
The sports teams of Ohio State University named themselves buckeyes after many a comment made by visiting teams about the large number of buckeye trees on campus.
The title Jack the Ripper was actually given by the media around the time of the murders, the original murderer never left behind any such Calling Card. However, as soon as the newspapers were published, cue hundreds of fake notes sent to the police station claiming to be from Jack the Ripper himself, at least one of which even says how he enjoys his new nickname.
Danish showhost Bubber (real name Niels Christian Meyer) got the name from his mother mishearing her father-in-law calling him "bubbele" (doll) upon birth.
In a slightly more scary example, the pink triangle often used as a symbol for gay pride was originally used by the Nazis as the symbol the gays were required to wear.
After a Rhode Island teenager called Jessica Ahlquist got a prayer banner removed from her school one of the many negative reactions she suffered was a Rhode Island representative dubbing her "an evil little thing" during a radio interview. This is her You Tube channel
Outlaw motorcycle clubs have appropriated the "1%er" appellation from an apocryphal story about how the American Motorcyclist Association or another body said something along the lines of "1% of motorcyclists are the problem." They take it as a badge of honor, as in they are the most hard-case 1% and everyone else on two wheels is really just a Rule-Abiding Rebel or a wuss. These are the guys who put the grain of Truth in Television in All Bikers Are Hells Angels.
The N-word, which was(and still is)used as a racial slur against Black people, is now used by many within the Black community themselves. However there are also plenty of Blacks who strongly oppose the use of the word due to its extremely negative original (and sometimes current) meaning.
During The Gilded Age, political cartoonist Thomas Nast started to caricature the Republican Party as an elephant—for being bloated but unstoppable (in Nast's day, the GOP ran everything that wasn't the South or New York City)—and popularized the use of the donkey to represent the Democratic Party (Andrew Jackson had been called a "jackass" in the 1830s, and as the Democrats were seen as being rather obstinate in the late 19th century, the symbol was extremely fitting). The Republicans and Democrats adopted the animals as mascots, and use them to this day.
The "Crocoduck" was originally a Photoshopped Mix-and-Match Critter used by creationists Kirk Cameron (of Growing Pains fame) and Ray Comfort to mock the theory of evolution. Since then, prominent atheists like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins have taken to wearing ties with crocoducks on them. Also, several fossilized animals with both crocodile and duck-like features have been found, earning them the nickname "crocoduck."
Richard Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew, once called opponents of the Vietnam War "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals". After this, some of them started wearing "Effete Snobs for Peace" buttons.
The tiny nation of Singapore was dismissed by Indonesian President B.J. Habibie as merely a "little red dot" on the map. The Singaporean government and people almost immediately pounced on it a proud reminder that the nation has managed to prosper out of all proportion to its size.
"Tree huggers" for environmentalists.
Sioux City, Iowa has a a problem with its airport. The FAA gave it the identifier "SUX", so every plane ticket and baggage tag would have "SUX" printed on it for anyone going there. After trying unsuccessfully to change it, the city now embraces it and have T-shirts saying "Fly SUX".
Seattle features a trolley known as the South Lake Union Train. There are t-shirts for sale saying you "took a ride on the slut."
At one point, a member of the North Carolina legislature called the famously liberal town of Asheville "a cesspool of sin." Not long after, many Asheville-based organizations, including the local NPR affiliate, began turning out "Cesspool of Sin" t-shirts. They remain quite popular among natives.
After the 2013 protests in Turkey were described as the work of a bunch of looters ("çapulcu") and drunkards ("ayyaş") by Prime Minister Erdoğan, many supporters of the movement appropriated the terms to mock the ridiculousness of the charges. In addition to people on Facebook changing their nicknames or occupations to "çapulcu" or "ayyaş", there was also a meme involving photos showing the protesters doing harmless or constructive things (like cleaning up the streets after a clash with the police) with a caption underneath reading "Look at what those damn looters are doing". It also helps that both "ayyaş" and "çapulcu" are considered mild examples of Inherently Funny Words in Turkish.
The name of the Crips street gang was originally the "Cribs," reflecting the members' young age, but after members began appearing in public with pimp canes, people began calling them "cripples" or "crips." The nickname stuck.
The Edwardian Era show the birth of a new art movement in painting, characterized by "wild brush work and strident colors". Art critic Louis Vauxcelles nicknamed them "les Fauves" (French: "the wild beasts"), intending it as an insult. He accidentally baptized the nameless movement as "Fauvism", when the press started using it as a formal name. Several of the artists he was insulting, such as Henri Matisse and Georges Braque started using the name in reference to themselves and went on to become household names.
Some inhabitants of the Isle of Sheppey in Kent will call themselves "Swampies," a word formerly used as a term of abuse for them. Some on the Isle still consider it an insult, so tread carefully here.
A young James Butler Hickok was nicknamed "Duck Bill" to make fun of his nose. After a while, he modified it to "Wild Bill" and occasionally went by William.
The antifeminist Internet forum the Slymepit was named for a feminist nickname of the blog ERV, from which the forum was spun off.
The creationist Michael Egnor's blog is named Egnorance, referring to a word used to mock him for his ignorance.
The ancient Cynics were constantly called kynikos, or dog-like, for their asceticism and shamelessness. Eventually they took the name for their own.
The online term "Social Justice Warrior" or "SJW" was created as a pejorative term for people who often spoke negatively about sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism or anything of that ilk, with a special focus on tumblr-ites who had just found out what "cultural appropriation" meant and applied the term rather broadly, before expanding to become a general invective that could be yelled at anyone. Eventually, it was adopted as a self-descriptive term by geeky online folks with strong opinions about inclusivity and social equality, leading to a fad for replacing "warrior" with other Dungeons & Dragons classes, and eventually these buttons being sold at conventions.