In Real Life, the popularity of names goes up and down over time. One factor that affects this is the emergence of celebrities with a particular name; if there is some highly successful and well-loved pop star called Mario, then expect the number of babies called Mario to rise significantly.
In fiction, however, the effect can be reversed. If one character becomes sufficiently iconic, they can come to "own" their first or last name so that whenever a person hears that name, they immediately think of that character. This can cause problems for similarly-named characters who will often be forgotten or assumed to be inferior copies, and so other writers avoid using the name outside of deliberate shout outs to the original.
The ability of characters to cause this effect is to some extent a function of the existing popularity of their name; for a character to really achieve this distinction, their name must be sufficiently obscure to be distinctive but common enough that other writers would have used it. Indiana Jones provides a prime example of a highly iconic character who doesn't count — his first name (technically, his nickname) is so obscure that it would probably never have been used again even if Raiders of the Lost Ark was a total flop (although part of that may have something to do with one of the United States of America taking that name — note that any Lawyer-Friendly Cameo will probably be named Oklahoma, Montana, or similar), while his surname is too common to have any attachments to one specific individual, similar to Agent Smith.
Compare One Steve Limit, which is the principle of having only one character with each name within a work to avoid confusion. Contrast Name's the Same, where by coincidence, two unrelated works have characters with the same name. See Named Like My Name for when an ordinary name becomes famous by association with a particular celebrity.
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The Trope Namer is, of course, Mario. Outside of the Mario series, you would be hard-pressed to find a single video game use of the name that isn't a Shout-Out or a licensed game using the name of a real person/character from another medium. Luigi isn't that common either.
Looking up just "Mario" on Wikipedia goes to the article for theMario. Even his brother shares this distinction.
There is an R&B singer named Mario Barrett, who just goes by the name Mario.
There's NFL wide receiver Mario Manningham, though on days he makes big plays, the sports commentators will always refer to him as "Super Mario".
And then, of course, is Mario Lemieux of NHL fame. His first year was 1984, the year in between the original Mario Bros. game and Super Mario Bros.. He, like Manningham, would gain the moniker "Super Mario". Interestingly, he got his own game on the Sega Genesis of all platforms, leading to some confusion about a Mario hockey game on a Sega system.
The English Premier League has a player called Mario Balotelli. His nickname is Super Mario, though, as is anyone in sport called Mario.
The "Super Mario" label has also stuck on Mario Monti, former Prime Minister of Italy, and Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank.
And now, Masashi Kishimoto, author of Naruto, has the audacity to name his one-shot manga about the Mafia Mario. He seems to be aware of the connection to the plumber but doesn't care, as in that issue's Author's Notes, he jokes about making a sequel called Luigi.
To be fair, both Mario and Luigi are very common names in Italy, the plumbers' fame having never really influenced their diffusion in any way.
A Zelda will probably never be a prominent character in a video game ever again. For that matter, neither will Link — sorry, guys named Lincoln.
Thanks to Halo, if you ever play a game where naval ranks are present, you're not likely to ever see anyone with the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer ever again.
It's an odd rank for the protagonist of an FPS game to have anyway. Given what FPS player characters normally do, the voice on the radio giving them orders is far more likely to be an E-9 (actually, even that's a little far down on the org chart for an E-9) than the PC is.
The Walking Dead: It is unlikely that any little girl in video games may be named Clementine again.
Dragons in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have names that are actually dragon shouts. As such, each dragon's name is totally unique. Shouting a dragon's name will cause them to fly directly for you, although this behavior is merely born out of their own ego more than anything else.
Often, the leads of Bleach and Tokyo Mew Mew are differentiated by the names "Shounen Ichigo" and "Shoujo Ichigo". The former is sometimes called "Bleachigo".
There are only 2 Kaminas in anime: Ayoto Kamina from RahXephon and Kamina from Gurren Lagann. It can be a girl's name as well (spelled with different kanji). Kamina also just happens to be a name in Hindi-Urdu, meaning "rascal". It also is a town in the Congo, which is the first page you're sent to if you look for it on The Other Wiki.
It may be a real Japanese name, but you're not likely to see many Nanohas after the inception of the Lyrical one.
Even though Asuka is one of the most common female names in Japan, for years after Neon Genesis Evangelion first aired, you could not use that name for a character without it being automatically classified as a Shout-Out. (Or worse a Possession Sue.)
I guess after Tekken 5 came out was when it ended, right?
Good luck finding another Jotaro except for all of the protagonists named some variant thereof in the various JoJo's Bizarre Adventure series.
Fist of the North Star: There have been people actually named Kenshiro in real life who predate Hokuto No Ken, but there aren't a lot of other characters who use the name nowadays.
Because of Pokémon, the surname Ketchum can never be used ever again on any side of the Pacific.
Superman: No one will be using the name "Clark" anytime soon, let alone Clark Kent. Other than his popularity, the fact that he is possibly more Clark Kent than any other superhero helps. For example, Bruce Wayne has much less influence in Batman.
Two-Face's name was originally Harvey Kent, but was changed to Dent to enforce the One Mario Limit
Oddly enough, averted with the Joker, despite being a unique alias; Mass Effect has a fairly prominent character that everyone calls Joker.
Willow, though not quite as off limits, will also have this effect on people who checked My Immortal out.
This does not seem like a thought that would immediately leap to the average person's mind; it's far more likely that it will be assumed to be a Buffy reference or possibly a reference to the eponymous character in the fantasy movie Willow.
No fanfiction writer would name their character Mary Sue unless they are joking or are oblivious to the meaning of the name.
Star Wars: Luke in science fiction is rare; the last name Skywalker even more so.
The use of the term "matrix" for things computer-related also dropped off since The Matrix, though at least a few franchises predating the movie (like Gargoyles, ReBoot, and Shadowrun) continue to use it. Transformers used it prior as the Matrix of Leadership, but dropped it in favor of "Allspark" as the Macguffin of choice. With The Matrix fading out of public consciousness with time, recent Transformers incarnations are reinstating the Matrix of Leadership as the primary Macguffin.
How many horror fans can hear the name "Jason" without thinking immediately of Jason Voorhees? In fact, the name is so iconic that (as James Rolfe once pointed out) most people wouldn't even know who you were talking about if you bothered to give the full name, but will understand when you limit it to the first name. "Jason Voorhees? Who's that?" "You know, Jason." "OHHHH!! Jason! Right, hockey mask, machete." Try to find another slasher villain named Jason who didn't predate him and isn't a parody of him.
In A Fish Called Wanda, this trope (or the reaction to its aversion) is one of the many examples of Otto's stupidity. When he hears that Archie's daughter is named Portia (a homophone of "Porsche"), he asks why on earth Archie would name her after a car.
Porsche's name recognition is so great, in fact, that even some people who know that "Portia" is a name (and not just in English; it dates back to ancient Rome) assume that it's spelled the same way as the car.
So great, in fact, that some people have named their daughters "Porscha", nearly bringing us full circle.
To say nothing about (the legitimate girl's name) Mercedes.
The car is ultimately named after a girl with that name (it's a little complicated).
In Braveheart, William Wallace's wife's name got changed from Marian to Murron, as an attempt to avert confusion with Robin Hood's love interest Maid Marian.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind hangs a lampshade on this trope: when Clementine and Joel first meet, she asks him to not make any jokes about her name, but he still does by singing "Oh, my darling Clementine".
"Ferris" was never popular as a first name to begin with, but Ferris Bueller's Day Off effectively killed whatever usability it may once have had, both in film and in real life.note Incidentally, as a consequence of the same film, "Cameron" jumped into the top 100 baby names for boys in the U.S. the following year (1987).
Sherlock may never have been common enough to count, but it's rare to see a fictional character called Holmes that isn't making an obvious reference. Same goes for Watson.
John, however, is still safe.
Vladimir Nabokov once said in an interview, "I am probably responsible for the odd fact that people don't seem to name their daughters Lolita any more." But "Lolita" is the protagonist's pet name for the character Dolores, and there were tons of Doloreses around (at least until Sadist Teacher Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter). Still, Lolita might have diminished the use of this nickname, and the town of Lolita, Texas almost changed its name because of this.
The name Hermione was once fairly obscure, but not unheard of. There were two famous actresses in the 50s and 60s named Hermione: Hermione Gingold and Hermione Baddeley (the former you would know as the mayor's wife in The Music Man, the latter you would know as Ellen the maid in Mary Poppins). Before Harry Potter, it was most associated with a Shakespeare character, which was where J. K. Rowling got it from. Now you probably can't hear the name without immediately picturing a brainy witch with bushy brown hair. Harry and Ron are, however, common enough that they don't make you think of the series unless you hear them together. Still, the name Harry is not likely to show up in another fantasy series any time soon.
Which makes referencing the Hermione in Romeo X Juliet tricky, as (obviously enough) she's based on the Shakespearean Hermione.
The other wizard named Harry will do at least one joke per book about being the wizard named Harry. Particularly amusing, since he's actually named after Harry Houdini.
"Potter" is now similarly blackballed, despite Lionel Barrymore's character in the film It's a Wonderful Life.
Which must be really annoying for a barrister named Harry Potter who recently presented a series on BBC 4 on the history of the English legal system.
Speaking of "Inherit The Wind", one of the writers' names was Robert E. Lee.
It happened with the last name Cullen, too. Pre-Twilight, people with the name could expect to be mistaken for Cohen or Collins by every restaurant where they made reservations. Now, it's impossible to mention the name anywhere without hearing "You mean like EDWARD????"
The word Middle-earth (translated from Midgard) was an old name for our world to distinguish it from the other eight worlds in Norse cosmology. This was why Tolkien named his constructed world "Middle-earth" — he drew a lot of inspiration from Norse mythology and he wanted to establish that a relationship exists between his Middle-earth and our own. Thanks to that, though, no one can use "middle-earth" for its original use anymore without accidentally invoking Tolkien and his legendarium. Other works that reference Norse Mythology tend to use "Midgard" instead.
Both Franklin and Arthur are sufficiently iconic that you almost never see characters in either children's picture books or animated shows with these names anymore, despite them both still being fairly popular male names.
Averted, however, with Little Bear. Despite the extreme popularity of the series, the name is apparently considered generic enough that to this day it's still used for any of a number of other young bear characters, such as this one here.
If you encounter a person named Ebenezer or Scrooge, it's very likely that the name derived from the main character in A Christmas Carol.
Perhaps the oddest victim of this was the well-known hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing", which originally contained the line "Here I raise my Ebenezer" — a reference to the monument erected by Samuel in the Old Testament which all Ebenezers are ultimately named after. In 1973, a new version of this two-hundred-year-old hymn was written that replaces four lines and completely removes this reference.
That is exactly why the first Space Shuttle was named "Enterprise", after a nation-wide letter-writing campaign by Trekkies.
And this is also why the first Spaceship Two being sold to Richard Branson is being named "Enterprise" (and the second is apparently "Voyager").
There won't be much use of the surname House either... maybe a casino reference, but that's it.
The Muppets made Kermit synonymous with a talking frog. In real life, Teddy Roosevelt's son, born in 1889, was named Kermit Roosevelt. The name caught on and there's a long line of Kermit Roosevelt Jr., etc. Kermit Roosevelt III, born in 1971, grew up Genre Savvy and named his daughter Rana. Which is Spanish (and Latin) for "frog."
Grover, Elmo, Bert, and Ernie are residents of Sesame Street, and no other place in the universe. The latter two have the same names as characters who appear together in It's a Wonderful Life, causing a lot of Sesame Street jokes (and subsequently, gay jokes).
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The likelihood of TV characters having the name Buffy has gone down dramatically. Or at least ones that deal with vampires.
When most people hear the name "Lassie", they will probably think of the Heroic Dog rather than what Scots might call a girl.
The X-Files: It's unlikely there'll be any more characters named Mulder or Scully any time soon.
Gilmore Girls: Don't think you'll be hearing the name Lorelei (or its short form, Rory) in many comedies from here on out.
When you hear the term "the Doctor" outside of a medical drama, you're probably thinking of Doctor Who and/or the character on Star Trek: Voyager.
Red Dwarf: When Rob Grant and Doug Naylor adapted their radio sketch series Dave Hollins: Space Cadet for television, they decided to change the main character’s last name to Lister, as a football player by the name of Dave Hollins had become famous.
Seinfeld: You can get away with giving a character the last name Kramer, but only if they're on a First Name Basis. Saying "Hey Kramer!" is just begging for all the meaning to go out of a scene like air out of a balloon as the unintended Shout-Out rears its head.
Pretty much all Elvises are direct shout outs to The King. The ones who are not are forced to use their full names.
Elvis Costello named himself in reference to you know who. And he sometimes released music under the psuedonym "The Imposters".
Elvis Crespo. His real name is Elvis. However, his parents probably named him after THE Elvis.
A Swedish series of children's books by Maria Gripe features a young protagonist named Elvis by his Presley-loving mother. (Swedish children are NEVER named Elvis unless it's a tribute to The King.note Though there is a Norse name Alvíss, it is unrelated etymologically.) After The King dies, his mom starts calling him Edwin or Edmund.
There is an Elvis in Quantum of Solace and it's played straight, and without making a Presley joke or impression anywhere. This was done on purpose.
In the French version of Harry Potter, Voldemort's middle name (and presumably his grandfather's name) is Elvis. This is so the "I am Lord Voldemort" anagram translates.
All controversies aside, don't expect to be hearing of any pop singers named Britney in the future. Britney Spears pretty much owns the name.
When Madonna Ciccone's given name is that uncommon and that strongly associated with one person, many people assume "Madonna" must be a stage name.
Michael: No way. Why should I change my name? He's the one who sucks...
Reba McEntire is at the point in her career where, there are so few other Rebas anywhere, she named her own sitcom Reba and is usually listed as just "Reba" on the music charts. It's actually a very uncommon diminutive form of "Rebecca".
When Garth Brooks entered the country music scene in 1989, another singer whose real name was Douglas Jackson Brooks went by Doug Stone so as to avoid confusion. On the other hand, Brooks & Dunn had no problem.
Macarena was once a reasonably common girl's name, particularly in Spain. In fact, the song was about a woman named Macarena. Nowadays, Macarena immediately calls the song and/or dance to mind.
Niall has been a popular name in Ireland for a long time; it has been used since the 5th century and was the name of two Irish kings. However, in the United States (and pretty much everywhere outside Ireland), it is almost solely associated with one person: Niall Horan from One Direction.
Zayn is a much more extreme case of this. While the name remains normal in Muslim countries, it has become tied to Zayn Malik everywhere else.
As the documentary "Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears" mentions, around 1989 the most well-known "Kurt" on the Seattle grunge scene was Kurt Danielson of TAD. The 'other' Kurt was the singer of a relatively obscure band called Nirvana.
The first thing to come to anyone's mind now with mention of the last name of Bieber is Justin Bieber, to the point that just having that last name has made people's lives miserable. It isn't common, at least in the United States, but it isn't that rare either.
Adele isn't that rare of a name, but now it is mostly associated with the British singer, especially after her international breakthrough in 2011. She's the reason that Adele Sandé goes by her middle name Emeli.
The Russian singer Valeria. It's a stage name; her real first name is Alla. No, there cannot be another Alla on the Russian pop scene.
Bad News Allen used the Red Baron "The Ultimate Warrior" prior to coming to WWE as Bad News Brown. However, and Google backs this up, the name "The Ultimate Warrior" conjures up one image, and it's not a Badass black guy from Harlem, NY, or even a 1975 Yul Brynner movie. It's the wrestler whose birth name was Jim Hellwig.
Ricky Gervais invokes this trope in one of his shows; There are not many "Adolfs" around these days, although there are many Robbies and Kylies.
Most of William Shakespeare's more famous characters are strictly off limits, and no one uses their names unless they intentionally mean to evoke those plays, Romeo being the worst offender.
Hamlet, Lear, Othello, Ophelia, Iago, Macbeth, Shylock, Romeo, etc. are hardly ever seen, except as shout outs, like the Iago in Aladdin or the Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth. Though nowadays, if you mention "Iago" (a variant of "Jacob" in Spanish and Welsh), people are going to think of the parrot thanks to Disney's ubiquitousness.
Some of these names were unpopular, considered exotic or even unheard of before Shakespeare, though. "Shylock" seems to be completely made up, "Iago" was the Spanish form of a common enough name (James/Jacob). On the other hand, some names became popularized by Shakespeare — for instance Cordelia, Imogen (Shakespeare's misspelling of "Innogen"), Horatio, Portia, Jessica (misspelling of "Iscah" from The Bible), and Miranda (invented for "The Tempest"). There is also another Ophelia, Jamie Lee Curtis' character in Trading Places; "Ophelia" also seems to be a 16th century poetic invention, though not by Shakespeare, but by Jacopo Sannazzaro. "Rosalind" got a big boost from being used by Shakespeare and Spenser.
"Othello" is also a common name for the board game "Reversi."
Pressman marketed the game under that name so that they could trademark it.
A fictional universe example: in the web comic Jack, it's said that the titular character gave such a... specially strong... impression (being a genocidal dictator surely helps), that no one has had that name since his death, because everyone grew sick of that name and no one likes the connotations. And it was implied that it had happened several centuries since, so...
Parodied in the "Asakura Hour" segment of Negima The Abridged Series: almost every time the name "Asakura" is mentioned, the OP for Shaman King starts playing, much to the enragement of the host.
Outside of cartoons, while there are a few other famous Mickeys, the only other Donald who people know of is Donald Trump.
Donald Sutherland, Donald Pleasance, Donald Glover ... there are at least as many famous Donalds as there are famous Mickeys (after Rooney and Mantle the pickings get pretty thin on the ground).
In baseball alone, Mickey Mantle was acutally named after Mickey Cochrane. In turn, Mickey Tettleton was named after Mantle. Then there's Mickey Lolich. Outside of baseball, you could also add Mickey Spillane, Mickey Rourke...
The Simpsons: No one will ever be able to call a character Homer or Bart again.
Principal Skinner: There are no other Barts! (Which is ironic, since he doesn't know who El Barto is.)
In an attempt to keep Homer Simpson away, one treehouse group (and later The Stonecutters) use this trope in Homer the Great:
Girl points to "NO HOMERS CLUB" sign. Homer: But you let in Homer Glumplet! Girl: It says "NO HOMERS." We're allowed to have one.
Even though the main character in October Sky was named Homer. They got away with it because 1. it took place in the 1950s. and 2. it was based on a true story and the guy's real name was Homer. Even by the 1980s, it was considered an old-fashioned name.
Xenogears got away with having a Bart, probably because the show is not as culturally significant over in Japan.
In fact, the name "Homer" is nowadays more associated with the character from "The Simpsons" than with Homer Plessey, of Plessey vs Ferguson fame, or with the ancient poet whose name is just "Homer."
The Simpson's even makes a joke about the poet when they do a recreation of "Homer's Odyssey", which Homer briefly assumes is a story about an SUV he once rented...
Simpsons-watching readers of Nathaniel West's novel The Day of the Locust will be surprised to find a character named Homer Simpson that pre-dates the TV Homer.
In India, you could probably get away with naming your kid Apu. But if you're an immigrant family wanting to give your child a traditional name, then you can forget about it, unless you want your kid taunted mercilessly for the rest of his life. Though a common name in India, no one trying to name an Indian character will even touch that name, because of the rampant "Thank you, come again!" jokes.
A superhero called Bart Allen (aka The Flash) made his debut in 1995, at the height of the Simpsons' popularity. It probably helps that superheroes are more often known by their superhero names than by their birth names.
Not to mention Ursula, one of Dawn's rivals in the Pokemon anime.
In Arabic-speaking countries, "Aladdin" (or, rather, its un-Anglicized form, Alā ad-Dīn, and its variants) seems to be largely unaffected by this trope. In English-speaking countries, however, it's almost always understood as a reference to the story (and, by extension, the Disney film).
"Abu" is a West African name meaning "little monkey", hence why Disney named Aladdin's monkey sidekick Abu. Any children of African immigrants who happen to be unfortunate enough to have that name will have a tough time getting through middle school unscathed.
Which makes learning about the Muslim explorer Ibn Abu Jafar much more amusing.
Good luck with having the name Rudolph in real life, let alone in any fictional media.
Though at least one real-life Rudolph family takes this and runs with it: They're Jewish, but seem to have a large collection of Rudolph-themed items, including serving plates and drinking glasses (also hand towels). They also have golf balls with the image… and an entire country club in two states returns them, or used to do that…
Very few teenage girls in cartoons since 1970 have been named Velma or Daphne.
The name "Shaggy", aside of the Scooby Doo character, has only been associated with that well-known reggae singer.
"Nemo" is an interesting example. Latin for "no one", the name has been held by various people and places. In fiction, there's the comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, and the even better-known Captain Nemo in the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, after whom the title fish in Pixar's Finding Nemo is probably named as a Shout-Out. In February 2013, a large blizzard (by far the most famous of the season) was dubbed "Nemo" by the Weather Channel, and the consequent jokes on Twitter made it clear that the clownfish is now the Nemo. One journalist for Discovery.com wrote:
I find it a little sad that few people seem to have any pre-Disney knowledge of name Nemo. Doesn’t anyone remember Captain Nemo of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” and “The Mysterious Island,” by Jules Verne (the latter book was the basis for the 2012 movie “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”)?
It should be noted that Captain Nemo is not entirely "pre-Disney", as Disney did make the most widely-seen film adaptation of the novel.
Pity the Caspers of the world. Casper was actually one of the Three Wise Men (also spelled Gaspar). It's a really nice name, but if you name your child Casper, you better be prepared for the therapy bills.
There has been exactly one King John (Norman French: Jean) of England. It's considered a cursed name. King John's grandson, Edward I, named his firstborn son John, but the child died young. Edward II in turn named his own younger son John, and Edward III named one of his sons John (the famous 'John of Gaunt' of Shakespeare and Chaucer). John was a common name for English princes for centuries; it just so happened that none of the plethora of Johns inherited the throne (thus showing that non-Britons who learned all they "know" about King John from Robin Hood are quite wrong when they assume that John was so reviled that no future king would give his son that name).
One probably could also have expected that after Mary I of England ("Bloody Mary") and the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots they would avoid the name Mary, but they still kept naming princesses that, and thus the penultimate Stuart ruler of the England and Scotland was Mary II. This is probably because of the existence of another, more important "Queen" (so to speak) named Mary...
The name John was actually avoided by Scottish royalty before the Union, ever since JohnBalliol, also known as Toom Tabard ('Empty Coat') after his public humiliation at the hands of Edward I. (The arms of Scotland were formally torn from John's surcoat by Edward, hence the name.) It's debatable whether he was a weak king or just unlucky, but he gained such hatred for his perceived caving in to Edward that the name was considered unlucky; Robert III actually changed his name from John to Robert to avoid having another King John.
You find that the number of Johns in the English royal family really started to peter out in the 16th century. As respects the Tudors this is unsurprising, as they didn't have very many kids in the first place (that was the whole trouble), but among the rather more fecund Stuarts, one suspects that the Scottish tradition respecting John Balliol is what drove any avoidance they might have had to the name (they were Kings of Scotland before taking the English throne).
The current Windsor tradition of avoiding the name "John" is even more stringent than the tradition regarding the name "Albert"; whereas the latter is actually very popular in the family as a personal name, the former is just never used. It's not for the reason that you might think, either.note Do note that the current heir's personal name is after an arguably worse King. George V and Queen Mary of Teck had a younger son named John. When this John died young, the King, who normally was every stereotype about the British aristocracy that you have ever heard, was emotionally crushed, and essentially banned the name within the family. Flash forward to 1980 or so, and Princess Di (who wanted to name her firstborn son after her own dead brother named John) found out that the rule stuck.
If your parents hope you'll be King Arthur II, they'll probably be disappointed, as shown by:
Arthur, Duke of Brittany, who Richard the Lion-Hearted designated as his heir. He was disappeared by the aforementioned Prince John.
There has also only been one King Stephen (Étienne) of England. This may or may not have been due to the civil war known as the Anarchy.
Or maybe due to the fact that Stephen's family, the house of Blois, had different naming traditions from the Norman kings and the Plantagenet. Had his heir not died before him, Stephen could have been followed by King Eustace (Eustache).
There's not been any Queen Matildas since that time either, although to be fair, half the women in England then seemed to share the name and maybe overkill led to its falling from popularity thereafter...?! And of course, there haven't been a whole heap of women ascending the throne in total since, either. That said, there haven't been any kings married to a Matilda since then, either; a Queen Consort named Matilda would still be called "Queen Matilda".
Matilda was an extremely popular name in Western Europe around the time of the Crusades, after which it fell into disuse, not just in England, but also in France and Germany.
Not just "Matilda" fell from grace, though. With the accession of the Plantagenets, the hitherto popular name "William" fell into complete disuse for centuries until it was finally reintroduced to the English throne by another conquering William, William III, who came from the "William" (or "Willem" or "Wilhelm")-obsessed House of Orange.
The Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great remains evidently so very great that, 1100 years after his reign, no-one else has yet dared appropriate the name Alfred for monarchical use.
One of George III's sons was called Alfred, but he died as a child (born 1780, died 1782).
When Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, became king in 1901, he took the regnal name Edward VII so that the name Albert would only be associated with his father, the late Prince Consort. He did this in defiance of his mother Queen Victoria's wishes that all future kings would assume the name Albert [Something] upon taking the throne. Later, after the abdication of his grandson Edward VIII, the latter's brother Albert adopted the regnal name George VI in order to continue his grandfather's tradition of not using the title King Albert.
A similar-though-not-identical situation: though Edward VIII used his first baptismal name (Edward) as his regnal name, he was known within the family as "David," his last baptismal name, to avoid confusion with his grandfather.
Prince Harry was baptized Henry Charles Albert David; were he to become King he'd be faced with a weird choice:
Become Henry IX. This is bad for association with Henry VIII; although the comparison is somewhat apropos, it's still not a great choice.
Become Charles III or IV. Herein lies the problem: Prince Charles himself has stated that he doesn't much care to become King Charles III (considering who Charles I and II were), preferring if feasible to become George VII (probably establishing a Two-Mario Limit on Charleses for Britain). It's unlikely that Harry would disrespect his father's choice.
Become King Albert. As noted above, this is a huge House of Windsor no-no; the name Albert would be limited to Victoria's Prince Consort and Victoria's Prince Consort alone.
Become King David III. This one presents several problems: first the fact that he'd well, be KingDavid, leading to all kinds of opportunities for stupid jokes; second, the family's association of "David" with Ed VIII; and finally, the fact that by House policy, he'd have to be David III, confusing everybody. There's a good reason for it: in The Fifties, some nationalistic Scots complained about the terminology "Elizabeth II", saying that no Elizabeth had ever ruled Scotland (true). The Royal Family, desiring to be accommodating, held that they would use Scottish numbering when it was higher and English numbering when that was higher; conveniently, that was the rule accidentally followed since the Union, as the only post-Union monarchs either used new names (Anne, George, and Victoria) or ones where the English numbering was higher (William, Edward, and Elizabeth).note Counting only from the Acts of Union 1707, of course. Prior to the Acts of Union, there had been one name used with higher Scottish numbering—James VI and I and James VII and II. As you can see, they went by one number in Scotland and another in England; we can retroactively justify this by virtue of the fact that at the time the English and Scottish monarchies were still legally distinct and they only happened to have the same person occupying the throne at the time. There having been two Kings of Scots named "David" (one in the 12th century, the othernote The son of Robert the Brucein the 14th), the next David of the United Kingdom would be David III.
Just pick a new regnal name, which he's entitled to do. Legally, his regnal name doesn't have to be one of the names he currently has. Maybe King Bradley.
Or go great, and become King Henry Charles Albert David.
As a result, he's probably very happy he's probably going to be a "spare" and live out his life without succeeding to the throne (more likely now that big brother William is married and has a child).
Of those four names, Charles is easily the least likely to be used; those kings had actually challenged the constitutional system, which Henry VIII never did. David is also out, because of the Scottish connotations; even with the very real possibility of Scotland leaving the UK by the time William or Harry become King, it would almost certainly maintain the monarchy. Henry and Albert are more likely, especially since this couldn't really occur until after HM Liz and Prince Charles are dead; bear in mind that Prince Albert died during Palmerston's government,note which was at the same time as the Lincoln administration, for Americans and Charles is probably of the last generation of the family to care at all, if even he does (though admittedly one should never underestimate the traditionalism of the British monarchy). As for "King Henry IX", overall opinions of Henry VIII are mixed and not at the overall low level of John; if anything, the British public and media would likely just be amused by the connotations.
You'd have a hard time running into somebody with the name of Walt these days.
This isn't the case with "Walter", though.
You're not likely to ever find a fictional character with the surname Disney, either. Though there may be other reasons for that...
Happens all the time in real life whenever a tyrant makes big. Not too many Adolfs around these days, are there? Admittedly, part of the reason must be that the name was uncommon to begin with, thus strengthening the connection with the dictator. After all, the name "Iosif" or its equivalent forms "Joseph" and "Josef" have not been particularly associated with Stalin, Goebbels, or Mengele, nor very common German names like Heinrich and Hermann, let alone Reinhard.
No Pope assumes the name Peter, primarily out of deference to the apostle Peter, generally considered the first Pope. The apocryphal Prophecy of Malachy also claims that Peter II will be the last pope before the end of times. Presumably, none of them want to tempt fate.
Although in all likelihood, it's an accidental fact that none of the early popes after Peter was christened Peter (the practice of taking one's name on the assumption of the papacy was first mentioned in the 6th century). The "Prophecy of Malachy" (first mentioned in the 16th century, ascribed to a 12th century monk) provides a list of 112 popes, the last of which is called Peter the Roman, so it would not have been a reason not to choose a man called Peter as pope or for a pope not to take the name Peter on accession if he would not have been No. 112 on a list of popes starting with the first one mentioned in the "prophecy".
They chose the 112th pope since the first one mentioned in the "prophecy" in 2013. His birth name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio (no "Peter" there) and chose the regnal name "Francis" (new—the first entirely new regnal name in a thousand years—but not "Peter"). Although of Italian ancestry, he traces his roots to Genoa and the Piedmont and was born in Buenos Aires. Signs of the Apocalypse during his reign have been lacking.
Note that this doesn't hold for Antipopes, people claiming to be the true pope without the support of the Vatican. Several of them have declared themselves Peter II. Plenty of Patriarchs (the Eastern Orthodox version of popes) have been named Peter.
After Pope John XXIII was deposed at the beginning of the 15th century, popes avoided that name. That is, until Cardinal Roncalli chose the same name and number in the 20th century.
This is the most likely reason nobody outside Spain and Latin America names children Jesus. Likely the only reason it's acceptable in those countries is that "Jesús" is the proper rendering of "Joshua" as well, meaning that there are multiple famous Jesuses in the Spanish Bible — hence, the name by itself is considered nothing too special. To distinguish the Son of God in Spanish, one refers to Jesucristo (Jesus Christ). The tradition of using Latin in the Catholic church is likely to blame for Jesus himself not simply being known as Joshua elsewhere.
Nor is it unheard of for Muslim men to be named Isa (the Arabic form of Joshua/Jesus) or Mohammad (and all the many variant spellings). It's not a big deal because neither Jesus nor Mohammad is considered divine, as Islam doesn't allow for anyone except Allah being divine. But Mohammad's prominence in the Qur'an is equal to that of Jesus in the New Testament. In fact, Mohammed is the most common name in the world.
Interestingly enough, for that same reason, the name Maria was not used in Poland until the 17th century. In fact, variants of "Mary" were actually not common anywhere in the Christian world until about the 12th century, since the name was considered too holy for normal use. Which is ironic, since it was common among first century Jews, and once people started using it again, it basically became the most common girl's name ever.
Ireland had an unusual case; you can name your girl Máire, but you can't name your girl Muire (used exclusively for the Virgin Mary)
In English, this happened to the first name of Jesus's betrayer, Judas Iscariot. He was named after a prominent Old Testament leader, Yehudahnote and indeed the Jewish people, and their religion, are also named after that leader. That name was, and is, very popular for Jewish boys (indeed, Jesus had two apostles with that name). In English, however, the One Mario Limit is enforced by the ways the name is transliterated. People named after the Old Testament figure are invariably called "Judah," and the good apostle and people named after him are always called "Jude"; the Greek-influenced rendering "Judas" is used only for the betrayer. (This doesn't apply in most other languages.)
Similar to Judas, despite the names Michael, Gabriel, etc. etc. being quite common, Lucifer is not, for some mysterious reason. The name itself is fine — it sounds nice, means "Lightbringer"/"Morning Star", can be shortened to Lucy or Luke — but just because it's associated with this one chap...
He's not the only archangel whose name didn't catch on. Not many Uriels are around either, outside of The Elder Scrolls or the Ultramarines novels.
Not many Remiels, Sandalphons, or Camiels either (except in Evangelion for the first two). Worth noting that "Lucifer" was a title, not the name of the (Fallen) Angel, which was apparently "Samael" (Possibly... the names of angels were all titles of one type or another, usually meaning "The [Adjective/Noun] of God" in the original Hebrew, and so the same "name" could be used to describe different angels depending on the author of the text, with very few uniquely referring to a single alleged individual).
The names of many other evil Biblical figures, such as Ahab, Jezebel, Zimri, Haman, Lot, Onan, Herod, Herodias, and Caiaphas, are likewise avoided.
Salome is a subversion. While the name is generally avoided in English, in other languages such as German, French, and Spanish, Salome is not unheard of. This is due to a second Salome - a woman who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. (Needless to say, more people will recognize the evil Salome than the good one.)
The name Cleopatra, while common in ancient times, is very rare today due to being associated with the queen Cleopatra. (The Shakespearean connotations only hinder the name.) In Romance-influenced countries like Italy, the name is outright avoided.
Two Japanese emperors having the same name is rare, three is completely unheard of. In Japan, the Emperor is never referred to by his name when alive; he is always, "His Majesty the Emperor". Once he is dead, he gets another name (as is customary in Buddhism), and the time of his reign is known as his era. The emperor before the current one is known to the rest of the world as Hirohito, but when alive in Japan, he was simply "The Emperor" and is now known as Emperor Shōwa; consequently, his reign (1926 to 1989) is the Shōwa era. (Which is why it's referenced in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei).
You're unlikely to see very many people named Oprah who aren't a homage to the overly influential talk show host. Her name is actually a misspelling of the biblical figure Orpah, which isn't a common name either.
The creator of Woods For The Trees is named Thom Jones. He has mentioned that he's been pulled over by officers who thought he was lying when he gave his name. He could easily just say "Thomas Jones" in those situations and most people wouldn't even make the connection right away, but his response to such a suggestion would be the same as Office Spaces Michael Bolton above.
It's been many decades since the death of Marilyn Monroe, and the name "Marilyn" is still associated with almost nobody else (Marilyn Manson, of course, took its name from her screen name).
The name Oscar fell out of favor for a very long time once the famous dandy Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor for being a homosexual, though most people nowadays associate the name "Oscar" with "Oscar the Grouch" and the Academy Awards (in Brazil, there's also a basketballer). And hot dogs.
Oscar or Oskar is actually a quite popular name in Sweden since Napoleon named the future King of Sweden Oscar I, which spread the popularity of the name among the populace.
You will find a few Oscars in Italy as well. It's by no means a common name, but it's not hated or otherwise purposefully avoided either.
Viewers of Canadian sitcoms would associate the name Oscar with Brent's curmudgeonly old father in Corner Gas.
And across the Pond it's undoubtedly experiencing an upswing in favor due to a certain fellow named Benedict Cumberbatch.
The Spanish version of the name, Benito, also may be avoided outside of Spanish-speaking countries due to a certain Benito Mussolini (who ironically was named after Benito Juarez of Mexico).
A handful of hurricane names are retired every year if the storms are bad enough. Hence, there will never be another Katrina. Though it's been proven that hurricane names are often popular choices for newborns. After the hurricane, the name "Katrina" became very popular for newborn girls, especially in Louisiana of all places.
Other retired hurricane names like "Andrew" and "Hugo" will forever be associated with the destructive hurricane, but when they are just mentioned, they will just be thought of as names. However, the name Katrina will forever be associated with the hurricane and not a girl's name, considering, with the exception of Sandy, there has never been a hurricane nearly as infamous as Katrina.
There is another race car driver called Mario who isn't MarioAndretti; Mario Dominguez.
This happens to surnames in the no-common-not-rare category of most other examples here. It's less common in film and music than in art and science, because the latter ofthen involves surnames being used by themselves.
Inverted in the case of Michael J. Fox, one doesn't think another Michael Fox would be popular, but he added the J because of 50s actor Michael Fox.
The patronymic Ilyich (son of Ilya) was associated exclusively with Vladimir Lenin in the Soviet Union. When there appeared another leader with that patronymic (Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev), it inevitably drew comparisons, cementing Brezhnev as "the other Ilyich" in the mass conscious.
"Mercedes" is actually a pretty Spanish girl's name that means "mercy". The car company was named after the owner's daughter. As with Portia, good luck with trying to convince people you didn't name your kid after a car.
Although, you could justify the name Portia by saying that it's a reference to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
Or to The Merchant of Venice e. g. when Rumpole refers to Miss Trant (later Erskine-Brown) as "the Portia of our chambers".
Or Mercedes could be a reference to Dumas, and in any Hispanic culture it will be widely accepted as a normal name. It is pronounced closer to "Mehr-seh-dez" (which is the accepted pronunciation in the car's home country of Germany as well) than "Mer-say-dees."
The Spanish explorer Joăo Fernandes Lavrador gave his name to a region in Canada called Labrador, where a certain breed of Retriever dog was first bred. For most people, "Labrador" is the dog, not the place (in Canada, or Australia, or the Philippines) or the surname (held by an Idaho representative, among others).
Bellatrix is a Latin word meaning "female warrior". An all-women's Professional Wrestling promotion named themselves Bellatrix after this. Of course many fans simply thought the promoters were massive Harry Potter fans. One promoter Saraya Knight is just as Ax-Crazy as Bellatrix Lestrange.