I'm Agent Robert Thornbird, and you are? O'Neill: Captain James T. Kirk
of the Starship Enterprise
Your dog tags say otherwise. O'Neill: They're lying
Fictional characters going undercover need snazzy aliases so that they aren't recognized. Can't think of what to call yourself, and the scenery isn't providing any helpful hints
? Just use the name of a character from fiction, or the name of a real famous person! No one will ever know who you really are.
If a character makes a habit out of doing this, it may be a case of Themed Aliases
Compare with Line-of-Sight Name
, Sdrawkcab Alias
and Sue Donym
. If the character has traveled back in time and is using a name from the future, it's I'm Mr. Future Pop Culture Reference
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- In Five Star Stories by Mamour Nagano, the main character uses the alias Ladios Sopp. In Heavy Metal L-Gaim, which Nagano worked on, the main villain is Oldna Poseidal. Ladios Sopp backwards is (P)possoidal.
- In Detective Conan (Case Closed in the English dub), Shin'ichi Kudo is changed into a little boy by a powerful poison. When he returns to his house after the change, he is surprised by his girlfriend Ran Mouri and hastily thinks up the name of Conan, from the famous author of Sherlock Holmes. His fake last name of Edogawa comes from a famous Japanese author.
- Edogawa Ranpo, a Japanese mystery author, whose pen name in turn is a pun on Edgar Allan Poe (Edogaa Aran Po).
- The Martian Manhunter, shapeshifted into an (apparently) Japanese woman, as "Hino Rei". Seriously. What's more: Batman picked up on the reference. Out-of-universe, this is supposedly due to someone pranking the author when he asked for a name connected with Mars.
- Spyboy's partner Bombshell attended his sleeper personality's high school under the name "Marta Hari."
- When Young Justice infiltrated said high school, they used even more obvious aliases, including Rob Roy (Robin) and Helena Troy (Wonder Girl). Mercifully the charade didn't last long.
- Sonichu 1984 has the anonymous main character make up the alias "Winston" when meeting another character, who uses the alias "Orwell".
- This trope was also part of a major trolling scheme against the "original" Sonichu author, who was successfully convinced that his comic was being plagiarized by an Englishman named Jimmy Hill, who is actually a football commentator.
- In American Psycho Patrick Bateman gets out of conversations with the detective by claiming to have a meeting with various characters from 80s sit coms.
- All of the aliases used on name tags by the main character in Fight Club are names from films such as Taxi Driver (Travis) and Planet of the Apes (Cornelius).
- In Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale Jr. uses the alias Barry Allen, secret identity of The Flash. One of the guys on the case figures out that the person they're looking for is probably quite young based on this information.
- In Back to the Future, Marty's name is assumed to be "Calvin Klein" because that's the name on his underwear. In the third movie, he adopts the name "Clint Eastwood" while stuck in the Old West.
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. An undercover Austin introduces himself as Richie Cunningham and Vanessa as his wife Oprah. Because he's been in cryostasis for decades, he doesn't realize that these are famous names.
- In Fletch, the title character goes by a number of aliases:
- In The Saint with Val Kilmer, all of Simon's aliases are names of Catholic saints.
- Real-person name example from In the Line of Fire: Would-be presidential assassin Mitch Leary uses the name Booth (as in John Wilkes -) when taunting Agent Frank Horrigan (a former JFK bodyguard) over the phone.
Leary: Why not call me Booth?
Horrigan: Why not Oswald?
Leary: Because Booth had flair, panache - a leap to the stage after he shot Lincoln.
- In The Birdcage, the flamboyantly gay housekeeper is pretending to be a stereotypical butler and introduces himself as Spartacus.
- The otherwise forgettable made-for-TV Generation X movie had Emma Frost pass off herself and Banshee off as Hootie and the Blowfish without the police officer batting an eyelash. Luckily, Emma has also messed with the guard's mindsight.
- In the first Die Hard: John McClane decides that the name he'll use with Powell will be "Roy" after Roy Rogers (which McClane referred to in a previous scene — the one with his Catch Phrase). It can also be considered a real person name example, although Rogers was not the actor's birth name.
- In Shock Treatment, it turns out that Cosmo and Nation McKinley are not real doctors, but character actors who use an assortment of last names — all those of U.S. presidents.
- In The Player, the blackmailer uses the alias 'Joe Gillis' (the narrator from Sunset Boulevard) but this is intentional because he knows the connotations will rattle his target.
- The male serial killers in The Devils Rejects use the names of Groucho Marx characters.
- In Shakespeare in Love, Lord Wessex brings a knife to William Shakespeare's throat and threatens him to stay away from his future wife Viola de Lesseps. Wessex demands to know Shakespeare's name to deter any future meddling. Will uses the name "Christopher Marlowe", the name of his chief competitor. In real life, Marlowe was murdered in mysterious circumstances.
- In Notting Hill Julia Roberts' character (a famous actress) uses fake aliases taken from cartoon characters to check into hotels.
- All names The Cable Guy goes by are sitcom characters, starting with Chip Douglas.
- In Copycat, Peter Foley uses the names of serial killers as his aliases.
- In novel "The Unknown", Marco, Rachel and Cassie are captured in a military base. They give their names as Fox Mulder, Dana Scully and Cindy Crawford, respectively.
- In the very last book, they identify themselves to a rogue Yeerk ship as the Starship Enterprise, from the United Federation of Planets. This turns out to be a bad idea, as a human-Controller responds, asking sarcastically to speak to Captain Picard.
- Roger Zelazny wrote a series of short stories, collected in My Name Is Legion, about a secret agent whose real name even his employer didn't know, whose aliases were always the names of obscure-but-notable historical figures. (In a break from the usual procedure, the historical figure always had nothing whatever to do with the job at hand; for instance, on his first appearance he was undercover as an engineer, but using a name whose original owner was a doctor.)
- In The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz, one of the villains uses at least two aliases from Kurt Vonnegut novels.
- In False Memory by Dean Koontz, the evil psychologist is named Mark Ahriman. Not only is his last name identical to the name of the chief figure of evil in Zoroastrianism, but when he travels, he uses aliases that have two things in common: very ordinary first names, and last names that are the name of the Devil. One example is "Jim Shaitan," Shaitan being one of the names for the Devil in Islam.
- In Colin Bateman's Mystery Man the narrator, who runs a crime bookshop, goes by a succession of names of crime writers and fictional detectives - unfortunately the people he's talking to are more genned up on their crime fiction than he expects and there are a few "oh, like the writer?" jokes.
- In Catch-22, Yossarian censors letters under the name Washington Irving. This is eventually copied by Major Major, who is delighted by the fact that "Washington Irving" can be flipped around and people will know the difference.
- In the Ellery Queen novel The Origin of Evil, there is a character who calls himself Alfred Wallace. Recognising the connotations of the name (Wallace was a naturalist and contemporary of Darwin who independently proposed a theory of natural selection) is what starts Ellery down the path to the solution of the mystery.
- In Ender’s Game, Ender's brother and sister make "Locke" and "Demosthenes" their online identities.
- In Daniel Pinkwater's Young Adult Novel, the Wild Dada Ducks of Himmler High School, who use their Dada names instead of their real names, include the Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico), previously known as Pecos Bill.
- The main character of Little Brother originally goes by "w1n5t0n", as in the protagonist of 1984. When the plot starts heating up, he realized it might be a tad too obvious, and gets a new alias.
- Trix MacMillan is not the real name of the character from the Doctor Who Expanded Universe who's known by that name, and it's very close to Tricia McMillan.
- Sweet Valley High had a spin-off series, Elizabeth, in which Elizabeth runs away to London and becomes a servant in an aristocrat's mansion. She decides to use the alias Elizabeth Bennet, and while people do call her out on it, she ultimately gets away with the ruse.
- In Neverwhere, the Marquis de Carabas admits to taking that pseudonym from "a lie in a fairy-tale".
- In The Vampire Chronicles book Tale of the Body Thief Lestat uses aliases that refer to figures from Gothic literature ("Sheridan Blackwood," "Sebastien Melmoth") and from It's a Wonderful Life ("Clarence Oddbody," "Lionel Potter").
- A character in "The Dancing Floor" by Cherry Wilder goes by the name "Ben Gunn". The protagonist spends most of the story trying to figure out why the name seems familiar, at one point looking at metallurgy texts because she's remembered that it's connected to "flint" and "silver".
- In-universe example in The Fifth Elephant, when Watch Commander Sir Samuel Vimes questions a dwarf who'd been involved in a recent street brawl who started it, the dwarf responds with the name "Agi Hammerthief" before Vimes releases him. Captain Carrot (who was raised by dwarfs) explains to Vimes that Agi Hammerthief is a figure out of dwarf folk lore, a mischievous trickster spirit.
Live Action TV
- On one episode of Pushing Daisies, Ned, Emerson and Chuck go undercover in a nunnery to solve the murder of a nun. Emerson uses the alias Father Dowling, lifted from a television show called The Father Dowling Mysteries, and Ned goes by Father Mulcahy, from M*A*S*H. Chuck uses the name "Sister Christian", a song from the band Night Ranger. Subverted a bit when they do end up getting caught.
Mother Superior: Perhaps you'd like to call your associate, M*A*S*H's Father Mulcahy. And Sister Christian is nothing but a heavy petting metal ballad.
- On Criminal Minds one UnSub was a teenager who said his name was Nico Bellic. Everyone was shocked when Rossi said he knew that's GTAIV's main character.
- One CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode featured a serial killer who used the names of slasher villains as aliases.
- Sam and Dean on Supernatural almost always use the names of musicians whenever they pose as policemen/agents/reporters to interview people.
- Psych has done this in almost every episode, usually in the form of Shaun giving himself and Gus ridiculous names such as "Galileo Humpkins" or "Byron Bojengles III".
- The Doctor Who episode "The Fires of Pompeii" has the Doctor introduce himself as Spartacus. Donna Noble quickly follows with "and so am I."
- Rose once introduced him as Mr. Spock.
- In this case, the character she introduced him to is from the 51st century. The lack of knowledge of 20th century pop culture is justified.
- In an episode of Life On Mars, Sam Tyler goes undercover as "Tony Blair" with Annie as his wife, "Cherie". When Gene tags along, Sam introduces him as "Gordon Brown".
- Dexter orders his tranquilizers as Patrick Bateman.
- The "title character" (sort of) of Remington Steele, a movie buff, has multiple passports, each bearing the name of a character Humphrey Bogart played in the movies. In a later episode, Laura catches him in a lie because a woman calling him uses the alias of an Ingrid Bergman character.
- On LOST, Ben's passport says "Dean Moriarty," a character from On the Road.
- Stargate SG-1: Cameron Mitchell once introduced himself to alien bounty hunters as Hans Olo.
- Veronica Mars plays a similar name game with other notable fictional detectives. Keith Mars has memorably introduced himself as "Adrian Monk" and as "Carson Drew, and my daughter Nancy". Veronica, infiltrating a rival school, went by the name Betty, saying she was Horny, the mascot for the Rhinos, the team at her old school...Riverdale.
- On one occasion, Veronica went to a church group and pretended to be pregnant. Her chosen alias was Hester.
- In one episode of Monk, "Mr. Monk on Wheels", Monk uses the name Encyclopedia Brown while knocking on a thief's door.
- Farscape used Butch and Sundance as aliases when Crichton and Aeryn were masquerading as bounty hunters.
- Crichton loves this trope. He's also claimed to be The Wizard of Oz.
- And the reverse: He referred to himself as "Fred Scarran" during an Earth episode.
- The aliases used in Leverage generally have some connection to the heist they're pulling. Word of God states that this is because Hardison picks them.
- And at least once they were names of characters or actors from Doctor Who.
- The Middleman did this in every single episode, not just with the heroes' aliases; in any given episode, virtually every proper name, real or alias, was part of a pop-culture-allusion theme of the week.
- On Heroes, Christopher Eccleston's character, who can turn invisible, introduces himself as Claude Rains, after the actor who played The Invisible Man. The line was actually improvised by Eccleston, but they decided to Throw It In, and eventually, it was decided that this might even be the character's real name.
- On one episode of Jeeves and Wooster, Bertie, Sir Roderick Glossop, J. Washburn Stoker, and the entire Drones club are all arrested, and all give false names, mostly derived from Communist leaders, although there is one exception...
Oofy Prosser: I say!
Judge: Quiet, Dr. Crippen!
- In the Law & Order episode "Charm City," a fugitive signs into a hotel under R. Reagan. When he is eventually arrested, Lennie Briscoe says, "You're not going anyplace, Mr. President!"
- The X-Files:
- In the Corner Gas episode "World's Biggest Thing," Brent adds the names Peter Parker, Marge Simpson and Jean-Luc Picard to a list of people who have bounced checks at the gas station. Oscar doesn't recognize the names, gets very angry about the bounced checks, and tells Brent, "Don't take checks from Marge Simpson or that French guy!" Brent finds this hilarious and a few minutes later he tells Lacey that Oscar is still trying to track down Arthur Fonzarelli.
- Modified slightly in the Hustle episode "Conned Out of Luck" - Mickey mentions Ash to The Mark as "Mr. Bond", after which Ash simply can't resist introducing himself as "Bond... James Bond. *beat* No relation."
- The War Next Door's Femme Fatale went by the name Barbara Bush.
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures story The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith, Sarah Jane and her son Luke, having met Sarah Jane's parents when she was a baby go by Victoria and David Beckham.
- There's one The Golden Girls episode where Sophia gives her name as Melanie Griffith.
- A blackmailer in one episode of Castle used a cheap motel as the drop point for the money. She rented the room under the name Scarlett O'Hara.
Castle: (disbelieving) She's a fictional character.
Clerk: It's that kind of place.
- In another episode, which turns out to be about heroin smuggling, the man who made the pickups for the drugs at a pizza parlor, no less used the names of characters from noir films.
- Played with slightly in another episode, in which Castle puts a tracking app on his phone to track Alexis' movements through GPS. When he calls her out on not being where she said she'd be, she asks how he knew. He said a friend saw her, and he said that friend was J. J. Adams, who happened to be Leslie Nielson's character on Forbidden Planet (which Alexis realized almost immediately). Castle got a pretty piercing "The Reason You Suck" Speech for that.
- Sam on Burn Notice usually uses "Charles 'Chuck' Finley" as his alias, but in the second episode he and Fiona introduced themselves to a pair of con artists as Detectives Cagney & Lacey. This alludes to the fact that Sharon Gless (Cagney) plays Michael's mother.
- In Princess Returning Pearl, Xiao Jian's real name is Fang Yan. Also, when going on incognito trips, emperor Qian Long uses the fake surname Ai.
- In the Cabin Pressure episode "Cremona", there's a Shout-Out to Notting Hill (see Film above) where Hester Macauley explains that she uses the names of cartoon characters as aliases while checking into hotels and asks Martin which name she should give this time. Flustered, Martin suggests Jessica Rabbit.
- Family Guy: "I'm Officer T.J. Hooker. Sheriff Officer T.J. Hooker. And this is my partner MacMillan and Wife".
- The Simpsons: "Uh... Elvis. Elvis Jagger Abdul-Jabar".
- In one episode the mafia mistakes Homer for Krusty the Clown (since in this episode he's dressed as Krusty after attending clown school). Homer denies it, but when it turns out the mafia doesn't like Homer either he starts making up several identities, all of which the mafia still would kill him for.
Homer: But wait! You can't kill me for being Krusty. I'm not him. I'm Homer Simpson!
Fat Tony: The same Homer Simpson who crashed his car through the wall of our club?
Homer: Uh, actually, my name is Barney, Yeah. Barney Gumble.
Legs: The same Barney Gumble who keeps taking pictures of my sister?
Homer: Uh, actually, my real name is, uh — think, Krusty, think. — Joe Valachi!
Louie: The same Joe Valachi who squealed to the Senate Committee about organized crime?
Homer: Benedict Arnold!
Legs: The same Benedict Arnold who plotted to surrender West Point to the hated British?
- On Gargoyles, immortal Anti-Villain MacBeth uses the alias Lennox MacDuff as his modern persona. Both are characters from Shakespeare's Macbeth. The first time he uses it, the person he's talking to (a writer) immediately finds him suspicious.
- Jake Long once came up with the alias Beyoncé Timberlake, but it was okay because he was time traveling at the time.
- A common tactic of 419 baiters. They usually do this for these reasons:
- It's more amusing if they manage to fool the scammer.
- The scammer may use it as a false name later, making his future scams more obvious.
- As shown in the documentary film Kanehsetake: 270 Years of Resistance, one of the protesters at the Oka Crisis used the alias "Freddy Krueger". Naming yourself after a child-killer is probably not the best way to get the public on your side...
- The 2010 Orwell Prize for best political blog was ironically awarded to an anonymous blogger calling himself Winston Smith.
- The electronic musician Moby is a big fan of The Simpsons, and checks into hotels with names from the show.
- A few Porn Names, such as Kylee Reese and April O'Neil (who even cosplayed as her inspiration).