Ominous Mundanity

Basically, when a perfectly mundane or simplistic name is used for dramatic and sinister effect. When the writers don't want to invoke Doomy Dooms of Doom, this makes a nice substitute. Something about a realistic name brings the plot closer to home and if done properly, is scarier than Spiky Cliffs of Evil Soul-Crushing Damnation. (Often, if the name is taken out of context, it wouldn't sound scary at all.)

This trope is also the reason you ought to watch out for anyone named "John Smith". Unless he has a blue box. No, especially if he has a blue box. Compare Tom the Dark Lord, a version specific to people, and Trouble Entendre, which is casual conversation with sinister hidden meanings.


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  • Area 51, a famous American Air Force base that has become the root of any number of alien conspiracies.

     Anima & Manga  

  • The Big Bad of Fullmetal Alchemist is simply named "Father".
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: the story's Japanese title, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni translates to 'When the Cicadas Cry', which essentially holds the implication of 'in a hot summer day', while still holding a vague hint of menace, since the Japanese word 'naku' has the same double meaning as the English 'cry'. Unfortunately the English translation went with much more unambiguously creepy title, When They Cry - mostly because large parts of the Western world don't have that sort of cicada, meaning the implications fall completely flat.


  • In The Matrix, the Agents all have extremely common names like Brown and Smith, suiting their role as The Men in Black. The good guys, on the other hand, have What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic? handles like Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, etc.
  • Jonathan Doe in Se7en is a psychotic Theme Serial Killer.
  • District 9 is named after a ghetto for alien refugees in Johannesburg, with all the squalor, gang violence, and Fantastic Racism that that entails.
  • The Strangers of Dark City all go by names involving Mr. and a simple everyday word, e.g. Mr. Hand, Mr. Quick, Mr. Book.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You, there! Sinister-looking warlock! What is your name? "There are those who call me... 'Tim'."
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Several attacks on Starfleet facilities are launched by a rogue Section 31 officer by the name of John Harrison, including an attempted Decapitation Attack against Starfleet's leadership. Captain Kirk is ordered to track him down and kill him. The Reveal midway into the film is that "John Harrison" is actually an alias for Khan Noonien Singh, and that Kirk's boss, Admiral Marcus, is trying to play them both against each other as part of a plot to start a war with the Klingon Empire.
    • Star Trek Beyond plays with the trope, with Krall's original name being revealed as Balthazar Edison. While Balthazar is an unusual name, it's not unheard of in the western world, being the name of one of the Three Wise Men.


  • Room 101 in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Trope Namer for one nightmarish form of Industrialized Evil.
  • In the Discworld book Carpe Jugulum, all the cool vampires opt for mundane names, and one vampire mentions that the witch Agnes (Agnes actually is her real name) is wonderfully clever for coming up with her name. This is less for ominous effect than comedy, inverting people's attempts to give themselves cooler names (especially if they're into vampires and the like.) Particularly apt, since Agnes Nitt's pseudonym is Perdita X Dream ("The X stands for 'someone with a really cool and interesting middle name'" — "X" Makes Anything Cool).
  • The name James Bond was specifically picked by Ian Fleming to be as mundane as possible, having been lifted off an ornithologist's book. It's fallen victim to the One Mario Limit nowadays.

     Live-Action TV  


  • The Bruce Springsteen song "Nebraska" is sung from the perspective of a Serial Killer awaiting execution. The only time Nebraska is even mentioned in the song is that one of his crimes took place in Lincoln, Nebraska.

     Video Games  

  • Half-Life 2: City 17 and the Combine themselves.
  • The Resident Evil series sees The End of the World as We Know It, courtesy of the Umbrella Corporation.
  • The chief Republic spy agency in Star Wars: The Old Republic is the prosaically-named "Special Information Service", which sounds about as dry as the Government Accountability Office or countless other tell-the-Senators-the-facts bureaus. (This is in stark contrast to their nemeses, the no-nonsense Imperial Intelligence.) The in-game codex entry suggests that, every so often, the Republic espionage community gets in some scandal or another and reinvents itself with an even-more-innocuous name to avoid people thinking of them as a danger.
  • The Covenant from Halo, which is named for the pact (i.e. a covenant) forged between the alien conglomerate's two founding species, the Elites and Prophets. Despite the voluntary-sounding name, the Covenant is a theocratic and authoritarian empire, with most of its member species having been forced to join on pain of death. Also, their religion tells them to kill all humans and activate ancient superweapons that will kill all sentient life in the galaxy, including themselves.
  • Grim Fandango has "The Meadow", where Hector Le Mans keeps the bodies of what must be hundreds of people he's "sprouted", either for getting in his way or failing him.
  • Dragon Age: Origins takes the Warden and their friends to the mountain village of Haven. It sounds like a pleasant place, like a religious retreat or something. It's actually home to a murderous Ax-Crazy cult of dragon worshipers. (By the time of Dragon Age: Inquisition, which returns to the same location, it's become much more like what the name would imply.)
  • Tooth And Tail has "The Kitchens", which are the headquarters for the military faction. Sounds like a very unfitting name, unless you know that all the characters are cannibals.

     Western Animation  

  • Many things associated with the Homeworld gems of Steven Universe have exceedingly simple names to demonstrate their brutally utilitarian tendencies—just for starters, their home planet is never called anything but "Homeworld".
    • The place where Gems drain the life from the environment to make more of themselves, which almost caused The End of the World as We Know It and started a war that lasted a thousand years, is called "Kindergarten".note 
    • Their superweapon, a giant ball of fused-together Gem shards meant to break Earth in half with its creation, is just called "The Cluster".
    • Homeworld's People Zoo is simply called "The Zoo".

     Real Life  

  • The Manhattan Project, the development of the most devastatingly powerful class of weaponry the world has ever seen.