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One-Letter Name

"You may want to add a few more vowels into your name there, Z."
Sebastian Stark, Shark

When you take Only One Name to the extreme, this is the result. Most often a Code Name.

For some reason letters from the second half of the alphabet are much more likely to be chosen. Even people who change their names to something starting with A to get to the top of an alphabetical list seem to never use just A.

A fair number of older novels (from, say, the 19th and early 20th centuries) use this as a form of "discretion shot". (See Spell My Name with a Blank.) For example, a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories refer to "Mr. B——" as a way to imply that this is a real person and the story really happened in the real world, but that due to the potentially embarrassing nature of the events Watson is too much of a gentleman to reveal Mr. B's true identity.

Compare You Are Number Six, when the name is a number. Not to Be Confused with One-Letter Title.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Valvrave the Liberator, soldiers trained at the Karlstein Institute have their real names taken, and they are replaced by combining this with You Are Number Six. So we have L-Elf (Elf meaning 11), and several others.
  • Count D and his relatives in Pet Shop of Horrors.
  • D, the alien spy from Project A-Ko. It is, however, a code name.
  • D from Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure.
  • The title character of Tekkaman Blade is nicknamed D-boy. In the OVA, he has taken to signing his name "D", and Yumi simply calls him that. (It's actually "Dangerous", for doing a lot of reckless things early in the series.)
  • The title character of Vampire Hunter D.
  • G, the Big Bad of Real Bout High School, who honestly doesn't remember his name after the years of psychological and physical conditioning he was subjected to since he was a boy in order to become the perfect bodyguard. As far as he's concerned, it's a placeholder; He'll find out what his name is if it's the last thing he does.
  • G., the first Vongola Storm Guardian from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!.
  • Phantom Thief G? from D.Gray-Man
  • Soldat J, from GaoGaiGar
  • J from Heat Guy J
  • J from Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. You know, the one with the garlic/onion (the heroes can never decide this) for a head?
  • In the Diamond/Pearl saga of the Pokémon anime, a villain known as Pokemon Hunter J and a one-shot filler character known as O were introduced.
  • Gravitation's K. (Although his actual name is revealed later.)
  • K in Puni Puni Poemy.
  • L from Death Note. A handful of other characters use one-letter codenames at some point, as well, but, as revealed in the "how to read" book, L actually is his first name. The full name being L Lawliet.
  • L-sama from Slayers novel afterwords. Though this is an abbreviation of L.O.N. or Lord of Nightmares.
  • The main antagonist of the third Tenchi Muyo! OVA goes by Z, remarking that his real name, Z-0001332536893, is too long.
  • Mazinger universe: Fanon often refers to Humongous Mecha Mazinger Z as simply "Z". Great Mazinger's name is reduced to simply "Great". Oddly, Combining Mecha Getter Robo G is usually called "Getter G" instead of just "G".
  • The Alphabets, Major Eberbach's subordinates in From Eroica with Love, are each known by one single letter as a codename. The Major always seems to have 28 of them around despite having sent some to Alaska. (Also, the letters are pronounced like German alphabets.)
  • In Naruto, a lot of people from the Village Hidden in the Clouds: The Raikage is "A", his brother is "B" (though everyone called him "Killer Bee"), he has an aide named "C" and they sent a shinobi after Sasuke, who was called "J", and an incidental character was named "F". In this case, these are code-names/ranks (that may have fully replaced the characters' original names which are never revealed). For example, B is given the name after being chosen as the combat partner for A when he was promoted to head of the village and its armed forces (implying the Raikage is always called "A" and paired with an assistant/bodyguard called "B").
  • The Gundam Engineers Doctor J, Professor G, Doktor S, Instructor H, and Master O. The sequel novel Frozen Teardrop has Trowa and Quatre taking similar aliases Doktor T and Instructor W, as well as revealing Doctor J's real name: Jay Nul
  • Z, the Big Bad from the eponymous One Piece movie One Piece Film: Z.
  • Y in Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. Assuming that's her actual name, seeing as no one else has one...
  • In the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Aster Phoenix's adoptive father is named The D. In the Japanese version, he was called DD, which is a two-letter name, but comes close.
  • [C] – Control (itself a One-Letter Title) has an Asset going by the name Q. Also, a chain reaction that impacts the global economy when a Financial District goes bankrupt is simply known as C.
  • A serial killer in Hell Teacher Nube that patterns himself after Aka Manto (Red Mantle) is simply referred to by authorities as "A". It's clear this is an attributed alias, but we never learn his real name.

    Audio Play 
  • Ixpellia from Striker S Sound Stage X, whose nickname of Ix/Ikusu is transcribed in English as "X" in the CD booklet.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 

    Film 
  • G, of the movie Holy Man (played by Eddie Murphy) - the titular character, in this case.
  • In Envy, Christopher Walken's hobo character calls himself "the J-Man."
  • Men In Black agents, including Agents J, K, L, and Zednote , along with almost everyone else with the organization. The third movie adds an "AA", but it's only in a Bad Future anyway.
    • Interestingly, the names appear to be based on the first letter of the first name (James, Kevin, Laura, Michael). This begs the question - are there only 26 agents in the MIB? What happens when two agents have their first names start on the same letter?
    • The animated series also has Alpha, one of the founding members of MIB and K's mentor, before he went rogue. When he first meets J, he introduces himself as agent A. When J later mentions A to K and Zed, Zed points out that there is no agent A.
  • M from James Bond. Based on the Real Life head of Mi6, who goes by the codename "C".
    Bond: I had no idea it stood for-
    M: Utter one more syllable and I'll have you killed.
  • V for Vendetta: "Voilŕ! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition! The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V."
  • Willem Dafoe's character in New Rose Hotel is known only as X.
  • X, leader of the alien invaders in Godzilla Final Wars. He says it's just a nickname for the humans to call him because his real name is too hard for humans to say.
  • X is one of the men going to the Million Man March in Get on the Bus. Flip doesn't believe it's his real name, and it isn't — it's short for Xavier, but he's always preferred "X".
  • Woody Allen's character Z in Antz (short for Z-4195).
  • Z (pronounced Zed) from (and short for) Zardoz.
  • Professor Z, The Dragon of Cars 2.
  • The film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has M, who is the one who gathers the League and gives them their task. Of course, it turns out that M stands for Moriarty.

    Fanfic 

    Literature 
  • In The Bourne Series, Jason Bourne went by the military-alphabet name Delta when he was in the Medusa program in Vietnam.
  • Older than Television: The protagonist of ''The Castle' by Franz Kafka is known only as K.
  • The protagonist of Franz Kafka's The Trial is named Joseph K.
  • In Sputnik Sweetheart, the narrator is only ever known by the letter K.
  • As the title probably suggests, the heroine of the erotic classic The Story of O is known only by her initial.
  • S (aka "The Stooge"), the protagonist of Paul Pope's sci-fi graphic novel, Heavy Liquid.
  • V from Vegan Virgin Valentine. Her full name is Vivienne Vail Valentine, so you can see why she shortens it.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird has a bit character called X Billups. Most people didn't believe that was his full name until he was asked to spell it during a court case.
  • John Hackworth's nemesis Dr. X in The Diamond Age. (A slight subversion in that his actual name is quite long, but it is very hard to pronounce, so everyone just calls him Dr. X. Interestingly, his Chinese name is written with only one character as well.)
  • 6 and @ from Max Berry's book Syrup. When 6 was born, her parents named her 0 (zero), then on her first birthday, she was renamed 1, up until they were killed when she was, yup, six years old. The name stuck. As for @, well, it's not explained, but 6 says she only did it to copy her.
  • In The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pčne du Bois, the island of Krakatoa is settled by twenty families, who take on the letters A through T as names (e.g., the man who founded the island is only known as Mr. M, his wife is Mrs. M, and their children are M-1 and M-2). When the protagonist is stranded there, he asks if they would like to start referring to him as Mr. U; they decline, as it would lead to pronoun confusion. No mention is made of how they manage to non-confusingly talk about the I family, though at least I is only a pronoun in the subjective case.
  • Members of the Audubon Ballroom in Honor Harrington use X as a surname, though most have a different legal name.
    • As an extension of this, freed slave and noted academic Web Du Havel's full name is W. E. B. Du Havel. He didn't understand how names work when he needed to provide one for the record, so W. E. B. doesn't actually stand for anything.
  • The Aann, a reptilian race from the Humanx Commonwealth novels, use a string of capital letters in place of a surname. As they advance in rank within their society, letters are removed from these strings, meaning that the Emperor of their kind has a one-letter surname.
  • E.E. "Doc" Smith and Stephen Goldin's Family D'Alembert series has two major villains: Lady A, and someone (or something) called C. However, there is no B in the hierarchy (nor D through Z for that matter) and C is actually the boss. Why this is so is only revealed when it's almost too late to save the situation.
  • J. Eugene Raxford in Donald E. Westlake's The Spy in the Ointment, due to not being given real names by the FBI agents he was forced to deal with, referred to them mentally as Agent A, B, etc.

    Live Action TV 
  • Mister F from Arrested Development.
    • Which turns out to be a subversion. MRF actually stands for Mentally Retarded Female.
  • G Callen from NCIS: Los Angeles (his first name accidentally vanished when he was put into foster care). When they finally track it down, the building explodes before Callen can open the drawer.
  • Horatio Caine, usually just H, from CSI: Miami.
  • Played for laughs in Herman's Head. Jay goes to a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting and to maintain his confidentiality declares he will introduce himself by the first letter of his name.
  • Q from Star Trek. Since it's used for both the character and the species to which he belongs, things can get confusing when other Qs show up. (Though it's less so in print: the second Q from "Deja Q" is rendered as Q2, and Q's son is q.)
    • An Expanded Universe trilogy adds another god-like being named 0. That's right, a One Digit Name. There's also <*> (that energy cloud from TOS causing humans and Klingons to fight), a One Asterisk Name.
  • Mr. X, Mulder's second Mysterious Informant from The X-Files.
  • Lord Zedd from Power Rangers. His Mooks had this letter on their breastplates.
    • Power Rangers S.P.D. had a character named Z, short for Elizabeth.
    • Power Rangers RPM has a character known only as Dr. K, later explained as being because she grew up in a secret government think-tank codenamed "Alphabet Soup". Presumably Dr. A through Dr. J had non-Ranger based areas of expertise.
  • One episode of Shark involved a fashion designer named Z Pruitt. He was much ridiculed.
  • Doctor Who has a villain named Omega.
    • In "The Happiness Patrol", the natives of Terra Alpha all have one-letter surnames denoting social rank. Offworlders have their surname replaced by 'Sigma'.
    • The Doctor himself has been known to sign his name as simply "?".
  • Get Smart: When Max and the Chief swap roles due to a bureaucratic foulup, the Chief goes back to his old designation of Agent Q (he joined CONTROL before they switched to numbers).
  • On Dollhouse, all the actives in the LA house are apparently assigned a letter, but are referred to as the military phonetic code for said letter (Alpha, Echo, November, Sierra, Whiskey, etc). How they deal with having more than 26 actives is never addressed.
    • Quite possibly they don't have a large contingent of actives at any given time.
  • Mr. K from Go On. It may or may not be short for something, but given his odd mental state, it's probably not worth asking.
  • A, the main antagonist of Pretty Little Liars.

    Music 
  • E from the band Eels, who used to also make solo albums under that name, until he decided it made his music too hard to track down. He has gone by his real name though - his autobiography Things The Grandchildren Should Know and the soundtrack to the film Levity are both credited to Mark Oliver Everett. He initially started being called E in high school because he just knew too many other people named Mark.
  • In Vivian Stanshall's comedy LP Sir Henry at Ndidi's Kraal, the eponymous Sir Henry Rawlinson mounts an expedition to Africa, the "dark incontinent". He can't remember his native bearers' names, so "to their - ahem - cheery delight, I numbered the sods. The last twenty-seven I named after the letters of our alphabet. The twenty-seventh - knew you were going to ask me that! - was a question mark."
  • Hello! Project former group W. Quite tricky to search for their material, if it wasn't for one of their alternate names, Double You.
  • Ian "H" Watkins of Steps.
  • The alternative rock band A, though they were originally called Grand Designs.
  • M, the new-wave band most famous for "Pop Muzik".
  • L from Infinite.
  • N from VIXX.
  • If plurals of a single letter count, short-lived Christian swing/ska band The W's.

    Video Games 
  • A from Digimon: Digital Card Battle. It's a pseudonym.
  • D in Another Code: Two Memories (a.k.a. Trace Memory''). D turns out to have been a nickname. His real name is Daniel.
  • At one point during Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, you run into a thin-blood named E, who asks you to find out about thin-bloods and rescue his girlfriend and sire, Lily. The Malkavian run lampshades this at one point, referring to him in conversation with Lily as "the letter that comes before F and G".
  • The mutant form of William Birkin in Resident Evil 2 is officially called "G", but most players simply refer to him by his real name.
    • The Tyrant from the same game was also given the nickname of "Mr. X" in the American version.
  • G from The House of the Dead, who, despite being the only one with such a unique name, is pretty ordinary for a secret agent.
  • G from Bust-A-Move 4. He's an old wizard, but he acts like a senile old coot to throw people off.
  • H, an otherwise unremarkable mook from the video game Fighting Force. Also features an Agent X toward the end.
  • Double H from Beyond Good & Evil, though this is just a codename, his real name is Hubb
  • J from Final Fight.
  • Agent J from Elite Beat Agents.
  • Julius Belmont from Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow refers to himself as J until he regains his memory.
  • K from Virtue's Last Reward, the sequel to Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Technically Phi and Sigma too, although their names are spelled out in English. K is a placeholder variable in math, hinting at his switch with Akane in the true timeline and Sigma's name references his ability to remember memories from multiple timelines.
  • K′ from King of Fighters (the apostrophe-like symbol, pronounced "dash" or "prime", is the mathematical notation for derivatives, a hint of his origin as a genetically altered clone of Kyo Kusanagi).
  • Mr. L from Super Paper Mario, though that's not his real name. He's Luigi, much to the surprise of no one.
  • Inverted in the PC game N: most people think the main character ninja's name is N, but actually the ninja is nameless and N represents "the way of the ninja", a system of beliefs to which the ninja subscribes. These details are found on N's "Story" page.
  • N from Pokémon Black and White. (The Japanese games actually use the English letter as his name, a rarity in a JRPG). It's short for Natural, as in natural number, so it makes sense.
  • O is the name of a minor NPC in Planescape: Torment. He's not just any old O, but part of the "divine alphabet." Whatever that means, he can give you a permanent boost to your Wisdom if you ask the right questions, before vanishing.
  • Dr. O from the "Old World Blues" DLC for Fallout: New Vegas. Only not really - while everyone calls him O, his actual name is 0.
  • Q from Street Fighter III 3rd Strike.
  • Many of the main characters from the Mega Man X series:
    • The main character, X. Technically a shortening of Megaman X, but no one ever calls him that in series.
    • Technically, Zero is a one-number name (0).
    • Sigma (∑) is also one letter name, but with a Greek letter. His name is actually written with the Greek letter, and is the symbol on the health bars of anyone associated with his organization in later games.
    • And Omega (Ω.)
    • R from Mega Man X: Command Mission.
    • And Epsilon (E), the game's villain.
    • The Biometals in Megaman ZX are all named "Model [Single Letter]."
      • The letters are derived from the names of the guardian the biometal is based on. So Model P for the ninja Phantom and Model X for... well... X.
  • Mr. X, the Big Bad of Mega Man 6. He turns out to be Dr. Wily, to the surprise of no one.
  • Mr. X and Robot Y from the Streets of Rage games.
  • 3 from 3 in Three (though she's an anthropomorphisation of the actual ASCII character "3", so this is as much a job description as it is a name).
  • D is the default name of the main character in Crystal Story II.
  • The second character David meets during the events of The Crooked Man calls himself D. He refuses to give out his full name.
  • The main playable character of Elite Beat Agents is known as Agent J.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Coach Z, from Homestar Runner. Didn't start out this way, as his name was spelled "Coach Zee" in the original book of Where My Hat Is At?, presumably to prevent his name from being pronounced "Coach Zed".
    • In answering an email from Canada, Strong Bad reasons that Coach Z would be called "Coach Zed" there and decides to call him that in the future (Although he doesn't).
  • Happens frequently in Twitch Plays Pokémon, especially with the letter A.

    Western Animation 
  • Substitute teacher Mr. E in Recess. Helps his Badass mystique that gets him to cow the rest of the class into doing what he wants (in a good way!)... Except for the resident idealist T.J. (Theodore Jasper, in case you were wondering. He's not an example of this trope, he just uses it as a better-sounding nickname. Can you blame him?) They find common ground in the end anyway.
    T.J.: So, can I ask what the E stands for?
    Mr. E: No.
    T.J.: You are so cool.
  • Invader Zim plays with this, and has a character named "The Letter M".
  • N the Eliatrope from Wakfu: Les Gardiens and Dofus.
  • O is also one of the racers in the Oban cycle of Ōban Star-Racers
  • "X Agent" from Sheep in the Big City. The trope was parodied in his first appearance:
    General Specific: I don't want an "X Agent"! I want a current agent!
    Private Public: The "X" is put in to indicate mysteriousness rather than his job status sir.
    General Specific: Well why can't he choose another letter? Like "K"?
    Private Public: "K" isn't as mysterious a letter as "X", sir.
    General Specific: What about "L"? "L" is prety mysterious! [waving fingers] Llllllllllllll... Lllllllll!!!
    Narrator: So as General Specific re-acquaints himself with the alphabet...
  • X, later know as Rampage, from Beast Wars.
  • Z from All Grown Up!.
  • The Zeta Project has Infiltration Unit Zeta. His companion Ro calls him Zee, and sometimes he uses "Zee Smith" as an alias while pretending to be human.
  • X Racer, (named after his uncle's codename), from Speed Racer: The Next Generation.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer decides to find out what his middle initial J stands for. It turns out, it stands for Jay.
  • B from Total Drama Revenge Of The Island. It turns out it's short for Beverly.

    Real Life 
  • The head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (a.k.a. MI6) is always codenamed "C".
    • As Al Franken points out while talking about the Downing Street Memos in The Truth (with jokes), there are a number of other individuals in British government given single letter codenames. He mentions a meeting involving "C, Z, R, and a group called 'the vowels'."
  • In botanical publications, Carl von Linné (aka Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern botanical nomenclature) usually gets his name abbreviated to just "L."
  • The artist formerly known as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" had, during the time when he was known by the quoted name, an unpronounceable symbol as his name. Said symbol, while not a alphabetical letter, still had to be printed during this time, and Warner Brothers had to send out floppy disks of a special font that included the symbol so that print media could print it.
  • There are several one-letter geographic names, including:
    • D, "the world's shortest" river in Oregon.
    • E, a township in Maine.
    • Ĺ, Nordic for "brook", a dozen places in Scandinavia. There are also 249 Norwegians with this as a surname, spelled "Aa". It's pronounced "awe", by the way.
    • Y, a commune in northern France. Also a "census-designated place" of the same name in Alaska. And a short river in Siberia.
    • Mount E, a volcano in Northern Japan.
  • A writer for Wired named his daughter "E" with the intent of letting her choose her own name later on. She ironically decided to stay as "E".
  • ? of the band ? and the Mysterions, although ?'s namenote  is normally rendered as "Question Mark" in interviews.
  • Harry Truman's name is in full "Harry S. Truman". Besides having the name "Harry"—usually a nickname for Henry or Harold—as his actual first name,note  the "S" famously doesn't stand for anything. His middle name was really just "S.". This was apparently an old Scots-Irish tradition, revived by Truman's family because they couldn't decide if they wanted his middle name was to be "Solomon" (after his maternal grandfather Solomon Young) or "Shipp" (after his paternal grandfather Anderson Shipp Truman). However, the Urban Legend that his name was "S" without a period is false—he almost always spelled his middle name with a period, despite it not standing for anything—the legend comes from a joke that the famously folksy Truman once told the press.
    • Ulysses S. Grant is in the boat as well, though his name came about due to a clerical error when he joined West Point. Though he did take on the nickname "Sam".
  • H Ty Warner, the founder of Ty Inc. (creators of Beanie Babies and various other plush toys). He added the "H" as an affectation.
  • Johnny Cash's birth name was J. R. Cash because his parents could not think of a good name at the time. He later changed it to John R. Cash (the middle initial still didn't stand for anything).

Examples of One-Letter Surnames:

  • Vanilla H from Galaxy Angel.
  • In Real Life, O is a genuine Belgian surname.
    • Ditto for Hispanic countries, with some people called "de la O".
  • Mr. T pities the fools who haven't added him to this list.
    • He legally changed it from Lawrence Tureaud so people would have to call him Mister.
  • Louis V. from Love Is In The Bag. Subverted, it's "Vee".
  • Y (or I, or Yi) is the second most common family name in Korea, shared by about 20% of the population. Pronounced "ee". In much of the West, however, they take up the more traditional "Lee" (or "Rhee", or... okay, forget it) just to make things less confusing (it matches up better with the Chinese pronunciations for the same character, and it is not incorrect: the traditional spelling is in fact "Ri", a pronunciation still retained in much of the north).
    • So, in a moment of great drama, if you wanted to have an epic Say My Name moment with a person by this surname, you could literally shout out "Riiiiiiiiiiiiii!"
    • The Korean surname Lee/I would use two letters, but one character. The majority of Korean surnames are one character, but made up of 2-3 letters. It is impossible for any words to be one letter in Korean.
  • A valid Korean name is A O. A double dose of One Letter Name!


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