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Famous-Named Foreigner
A Famous Named Foreigner is a character hailing from some foreign nation who, due to the authors not knowing anything about local naming conventions and/or thinking it would make their nationality more recognizable and/or just being lazy, is named after some very famous person from the respective nation's history or culture. Which most of the time sounds pretty ridiculous to the local ear, due to those names often being quite rare and primarily associated with those same famous persons.

This trope, as noted earlier, is often the result of either Small Reference Pools or They Just Didn't Care. If the authors care even less, it often results in As Long as It Sounds Foreign. And of course, names do become popular because famous people have them—for example, "Muhammad" is by far the most common name for Muslim boys (and in fact, is the single most common boys' name in the world).

Compare Named After Somebody Famous, when this is done deliberately as a reference, and not just with foreign characters.


Examples:

Albanian

Australian (Indigenous)

Belgian
  • Young Indiana Jones: Indy's Belgian friend in the army is named Rémi. Steven Spielberg is a huge fan of the Belgian comic strip Tintin, which was created by Hergé, whose original name was Georges Remi.

Brazilian
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: has Pelé Dos Santos, the Brazilian in the movie's Five-Token Band. Named, of course, after perhaps the most prominent Brazilian of all time (Complete with the last name, which despite being very common, possibly refers to the team Pelé played for (Santos)).

Bulgarian
  • Several members of the Bulgarian Quidditch team in Harry Potter bear the names of notable historical figures; Zograf is a 19th-century painter, Levski a revolutionary hero. Krum was a king who killed the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros, and is also famous for being the first to introduce written laws. "Krum" is particularly unlikely as a surname, though it has some popularity as a given name.

Corsican
  • In the English translation of "Astérix in Corsica" the Corsican warrior is named Boneywasawarriorwayayix, in reference to the only Corsican the British may have heard of: Napoleon Bonaparte.

Chinese
  • Mao (as in Mao Tse-Tung) is fairly common, especially in anime. Note that Mao could be written several different ways in Chinese, and is a common enough surname.

Czech
  • Miss Wenceslas in Sherlock, presumably named for Wenceslaus of Bohemia. Unfortunately for the makers, the Czech version of the name is Václav, which is not used as a family name, and even if it were, would be lacking the "-ová" ending all female surnames that have a noun root.
  • In the Night Watch series of novels, there is the Czech vampire Vítězslav Hrubín. While "Vítězslav" is a common name, this combination obviously is merging names of two famous Czech poets, Vítězslav Nezval and František Hrubín.
  • At one point in WET, Rubi is put in contact with a Czech woman named Kafka Dvorak. Kafka is a last name!

Finnish
  • Early in the movie Swordfish, a Finnish hacker is arrested. His first name, Axl, is not a commonly used Finnish name, but his last name is Torvalds - just like a certain other Finnish hacker.
    • Axel, however, is a common enough Scandinavian name (a variant of "Absalom"), and it fits quite well with the Germanic-based surname (akin e. g. to Thorvaldsen, the name of a Danish sculptor).
  • Fate/hollow ataraxia has Luvia Edelfelt, a Finnish Ojou and Rich Bitch extraordinaire. In Finland, Edelfelt is practically a synonym for a noble family whose members are talented architects, painters, writers et cetera.

French
  • St Trinians school, in the 2007 film, has a French teacher called Miss Maupassant
  • Invisible Kid II from the Legion of Super-Heroes was named Jacques Foccart. For added irony appeal, he was also black.
  • The X-Files: Chester Bonaparte in "Fresh Bones".
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has a teacher named Jean-Louis Napoleon (Bonaparte in the English dub).
  • Inglourious Basterds: The Dreyfus family shares its name with the most famous French Jew in history. Tarantino was actually drawing a reference to Julie Dreyfus.
  • Inspector Dreyfus of the Pink Panther films. The name itself however is originally Yiddish, a language related to German.
  • George de Sand from Mobile Fighter G Gundam. George Sand was the Moustache de Plume of a woman. It's meant to sound English - the French form of "George" is Georges and the French word for "sand" is sable.
  • Captain Tsubasa: The two main players of the French team are named El Sid Pierre, and Louis Napoléon.
  • Marvel's Canadian superheroine Murmur alias Arlette Truffaut, rather similar to actress Arletty and film director Francois Truffaut.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation had Captain Picard, a scientist-explorer, who sounds suspiciously like the (French-Swiss) Piccard brothers, who were scientist-explorers. Or Jean-Felix Picard, a 17th century French astronomer.
    • In the later seasons and the first movie, it is vaguely suggested that he is a distant descendant of said famous Picards.

French and German
  • Emile Zola, writer of J'accuse was the best-known Dreyfusard and French voice against anti-semitism, so it's weird that Jack Kirby named a Nazi Mad Scientist and enemy of Captain America Arnim Zola. The chosen first is the surname of a German noble family that included, among others, the romantic poet Achim von Arnim and his wife, Bettina von Arnim, née Brentano; the latter was a well-known liberal with social reform tendencies during the decades leading up to the Revolution of 1848.

German
  • Code Geass:
    • Bismarck Waldstein. Or perhaps this one, though the two were related.
    • Jeremiah Gottwald.
    • Nina Einstein (this could be a reference to her invention of the atomic bomb, a project to which Albert contributed)
  • Arsenic and Old Lace has a Doctor Einstein. Somewhat lampshaded in that Elaine expresses obvious surprise at hearing his name. The play goes even further when Jonathan clears it up for her by revealing that his first name is Herman, not Albert.
  • Gunbuster has mostly Japanese characters, named after people on the staff, and one foreign character (Toren Smith) named after a well-known manga translator. When it came to the female German pilot, though, they fell headlong into this trap, ending up with Jung Freud, which is... not exactly a name anyone is likely to have. Especially since neither Carl Jungnote  nor Sigmund Freudnote  were German.
  • Len Wein has gone on record that he came up with Nightcrawler's civilian name in 1975 by combining the first name of Kurt Waldheim (Austria, then secretary-general of the United Nations) with the family name of Richard Wagner. Kurt Wagner would hardly raise as much as an eyebrow with a native speaker, though.
  • Final Fantasy VII has a fat villain named Heidegger, with an annoying laugh. He is in no way to be confused with either the Dr. Heidegger in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story or the eponymous German philosopher, author of "Being and Time," an inquiry into the nature and meaning of existence.
  • Marvel's Destiny alias Irene Adler, named for the Sherlock Holmes character, although there are a number of famous Austrians and Germans with the same surname.
  • Minor Marvel villain of the Hellfire Club Friedrich von Roehm, quite probably named with Nazi leader Erich Roehm in mind.
  • The current führer of Reich-5 and successor to Viktor Alchsneiss is named Günter Wallraff. In our world, that's the (first AND last) name of a decidedly leftist German author. Makes you wonder how much research they did on that.

German and Hungarian

German and Russian

Greek
  • On one episode of American Dad!, a Greek butcher named Hercules is introduced. At only one point is the correlation between his name and the mythological hero pointed out, in the form of a pun in his store signage ("Witness the 7 Meats of Hercules!") Otherwise, the name is treated as perfectly normal name. This is particularly noticeable because Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek hero Herakles, and a Greek having the former name ahead of the latter, if either, is quite odd.
    • Forms of Hercules are actually used in some languages, such as the Italian Ercole and the French Hercule.
  • In Eyeshield 21, Panther's all-American, white best friend is named Homer. Not exactly a common name in the States due to who its associated with...
  • The Greek ship builder in The Simpsons is named Aristotle Amadopolis, in reference to the most famous Greek ship builder of all time: Aristotle Onassis.

Hebrew
  • Where else but Demi Moore's Striptease, where a (female) stripper "from Israel" is introduced as Ariel Sharon? Admittedly likely a stage name.
  • In the Gabriel Allon novels involving an Israeli spy/assassin, his superior is named "Ari Shamron" which is one letter and an abbreviation away from Ariel Sharon.

Indian Languages
  • Hadji Singh from the Jonny Quest series. Hadji is an obviously Muslim title, and Singh is obviously Hindu or Sikh. Also, the chances of a guy named Hadji Singh being the prince of Calcutta are about the same as a guy called Kaiser Wilhelm being the king of England or France.
  • Indians in fiction named "Mahatma". It's not a first name, it's a kind of honorific. Probably, the cause of this is Gandhi.
  • In the late 1980s sitcom "Head of the Class", an Indian-American character is named "Jawaharlal Choudhury." Not only do the given name and the family name unlikely to be paired in a real Indian person because they come from two different ethnicities, but also "Jawaharlal" is obviously taken from the name of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Also, naming fashions change from generation to generation in India; thus, to an Indian, someone named Jawaharlal should have been born in the late 19th century, not someone who is a teenager in 1986.
  • Mahomet Singh in the Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of the Four. The Penguin Books annotation calls this a solecism, and blandly remarks that "the two names would not be found together." This annotation should be accompanied by bells, whistles, flashing lights, and a maroon. Especially a maroon.

Indonesian

Italian

Japanese
  • In the Thomas Harris novel Hannibal Rising, Hannibal Lecter has a Japanese aunt-by-marriage named Lady Murasaki Shikibu. The historic Murasaki Shikibu is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, one of the world's earliest novels as well as one of the most famous and significant works of Japanese literature. The character in the book is said to be a descendant of the historic author, but this doesn't make the name much more plausible because "Murasaki Shikibu" was the author's pen name. The author's real personal name is unknown, but she was a member of the Fujiwara clan. "Shikibu" isn't even an actual Japanese family name, it was a reference to the court position held by the historic author's father.
  • Pretty much every 'foreign' character in WWF at least through the Attitude Era, what with Mr. Fuji, that sort of thing. To be fair, Mr. Fuji's real name is Harry Fujiwara.
    • Averted with Kenzo Suzukinote , who originally was going to be called Hirohito and come in as if he was related to the Emperor of Japan.
  • The protagonist of Shaena Lambert's novel Radiance is called Keiko Kitigawa, just one letter different from the name of actress Keiko Kitagawa. Incidentally, "ti" is not a native Japanese syllable and would never show up in any real Japanese name, though it is an entirely legal rendering of a 「ち」 syllable in the official Kunrei romanisation system. (The better known Hepburn system renders it as "chi".)
  • Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater, has Clarence Yojimbo, author of Yojimbo's Japanese-English Dictionary. Subverted by the revelation that he's not actually Japanese but Venusian.
  • On the Angel episode "Players," a Japanese character is named Takeshi Morimoto, doubtless referencing Takeshi Kaga and Masaharu Moriomto from Iron Chef.

Mongolian

Norse
  • World Heroes: Erick, justifiable in that Erik is still a very common Norse name.
  • Celty Sturluson of Durarara!!, who came from Ireland and now lives in Japan, but ended up with a Scandinavian name along the way. Kind of runs into problems because Sturluson is a patronymic, not a last name.

Norwegian
  • The X-Files, in the episode set in Norway, introduces the Norwegian fisherman... Trondheim (also the name of one of Norway's biggest and most important cities, and a former capital). While naming kids after cities or places is not unusual in the States, it is not a part of Norwegian naming conventions at all, neither as given names or surnames. On the other hand, Trondheim is established as having been born in Pensacola, which is in Florida...
  • Sigrid Nansen, the original Icemaiden in DC Comics, is presumably named after the Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen. Note that her first appearance involved an expedition by the Super Friends to Antarctica.

Pakistani
  • The Pakistani boy who comes to live with the American family in Aliens In America is named Raja Musharraf.

Polish

Romanian
  • The Anti Christ from the Left Behind series is named Nicolae Carpathia. To be absolutely fair, his other name is "Jetty" (?!?!) and this is hardly the only offensive moment in these novels.
  • Perhaps best used in Work Time Fun in the Rock-Paper-Scissors World Tournament mini-game. The Romanian character in the world league championships is named "Mayor Dracula." In fact, just about every opponent in that minigame falls under this trope, including "Victoria Potter" from England and "George Spielberg" from America.

Russian

Serbian
  • Draza, one of Lazarevic's lieutenants in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was almost certainly named after Drazha Mihailovic, the leader of the Chetnik "resistance" movement during World War II.
    • Not to mention Lazarevic has a historical name of his own.

Spanish

Tibetan

Turkish
  • Pearls Before Swine once used Ataturk as a name for a Turkish diplomat. It's uncertain whether the author realized that this was the nickname of the Republic of Turkey's founder.
    • It's actually his official surname, but everybody else is prohibited by law to use that particular surname. So yes, that seems like a major mess up, unless it was deliberate.

Korean
  • X-Men
    • The real name of the Marauders mutant Scrambler is Kim Il Sung, after the communist revolutionary leader.

Other / Multiple
  • Jerry Jenkins has admitted to consistently using a variant of this to name foreign characters: first name of a famous foreigner, then a notable location in their country as a last name. When this fails, it really fails (e.g. Nicolae Carpathia.)
  • Apparently Jerry Jenkins and Ann M. Martin took the same creative writing class. Mallory of The Baby-Sitters Club gets a boyfriend in Australian Ben Hobart.
  • Harry Potter has the Wronski Feint, named for a Polish Seeker. Wronski is pronounced the same as Vronsky, Anna's lover in Anna Karenina.
    • Although in this case there is also a "Wronskian" in math. (Yes, invented by some guy named "Wronski". Jozef Hoene-Wronski, in fact.) It's pronounced "Vronsky" as well.
  • According to Word of God, Survival of the Fittest character Clio Gabriella was originally going to be named Ava Gardner. Yes, that Ava Gardner.
  • Major General Abraham Lincoln in Fantasy Mission Force might be a case of this. (Though it's possible he is meant to be the historical Lincoln; it's that kind of movie.)
  • Enforced by the random generator that names the explorer unit in Age of Empires III. The first name and the last name are drawn from separate lists, both of which are based on historical European explorers and conquerors. You can end playing with Cristóbal Cortés or Francis Smith.


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alternative title(s): Famous Name Foreigner
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