When suddenly a guy behind me in the back seat popped right up and cupped his hands across my eyes
I guessed, "Is it Uncle Frank or Cousin Louie? Is it Bob or Joe or Walter? Could it be Bill or Jim or Ed or Bernie or Steve?"
I probably would have kept on guessing but about that time we crashed into the truck.When there are multiple characters in a certain group (usually members of a family) and one of them must be summoned, it is a fairly common occurrence that whoever is calling them will get distracted and start calling out the wrong names. Or, they might just forget who's called what. First the mother will try Tom, then Dick, and so on and so forth... until finally realizing that the son she wants is the one named Harry. In extreme cases, they may try names which belong to the other sex. Or to distant relatives. Or family pets. This is most definitely Truth in Television. See also Accidental Misnaming.
— "Everything You Know Is Wrong", "Weird Al" Yankovic
- In Fairy Tail, when Cana tells Gildarts that she is his daughter, he gets completely shocked, and he falls to the ground, rambling off a list of women he's been with who could potentially be her mother. However, when he comes back to his senses, he can instantly tell who Cana's mother actually is, meaning that he just didn't think clearly out of surprise.
- Light does this in the Death Note fic A Cure for Love. Not for his usual reasons but just because he's stuck in a boring meeting and L is ignoring him to speak with his "assistant" the mysterious "N":
Light: I wonder what N stands for... 'Nobody', 'Notus', 'Nomad', 'Nincompoop', 'Norman', 'Nemo', 'Neo'... 'Norris', 'Nathaniel', 'Noah', 'Ned', 'Nando', 'Napoleon', 'Nelson', 'Nickelodeon', 'Nicodemus'...
- In the Harry Potter Filk Song "What Kind of Name is Hermione?" the singers go through more than a dozen names for "that other red-haired boy" in Harry and Hermione's group. Eventually a third voice (possibly Hermione herself) yells "IT'S RON!," prompting them to get back to the actual song.
- Played with in The Movie of The Importance of Being Earnest: Jack calls out for Algy, but Algy is currently pretending to be Ernest. Jack is very miffed that he must call out "Ernest" in order to get a response.
- Played with in Being John Malkovich. John Cusack's nerdy puppeteer Craig tries to pick up an attractive woman by guessing her name within three guesses. He then proceeds to engage in Rapid-Fire Name Guessing by mouthing the first few sounds in many female names, using the woman's reaction to home in on the right name. He "guesses" tons of names (via eliminating anything that doesn't have the right sounds) before managing to stammer out "Mar....Mah....x....Maxine?!" She reacts by being surprised and dubious, but agrees to meet him in a bar.
- In Ted, John guesses the "white trash name" of the cashier Ted met.
John: Brandy, Heather, Channing, Brianna, Amber, Serena, Melody, Dakota, Sierra, Bambi, Crystal, Samantha, Autumn, Ruby, Taylor, Tara, Tammy, Lauren, Charlene, Chantelle, Courtney, Misty, Jenny, Krista, Mindy, Noel, Shelby, Trina, Reba, Cassandra, Nikki, Kelsey, Shawna, Jolene, Urleen, Claudia, Savannah, Casey, Dolly, Kendra, Kylie, Chloe, Devon, Emmalou, fuckin' Becky?Ted: No.John: Wait, was it any one of those names with a "Lynn" after it?Ted: Yes!John: Oh, I got you, motherfucker! I got you! Alright, Brandi-Lynn, Heather-Lynn, Channi—Ted: Tammi-Lynn!John: FUCK!!!
- Zinny's parents in Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech have this problem — there are seven children in the family. Some of the children propose color-coding their clothing to avoid this.
- From Friends: Joey is confused whether he's about to go out with Angela or Andrea. Chandler gives the identifier for each, and Joey remembers that he's going out with Julie.
- Also, Rachel's sister seems unable to remember Emma's name (thinking that Phoebe's name is Emma), and uses every rhyming variation.
- In Black Books, a drunk Bernard tries to guess Manny's name.
- "Well, Gerald... Samantha..."
- In the Father Ted Christmas special, Ted gets Mrs Doyle to try and guess the name of their new house guest. She spends several hours guessing before hitting on the right name. The reason? Ted doesn't know who the mysterious but over-friendly guest is, and is too embarrassed to admit it.
- Spike Jones' rendition of "My Old Flame":
My old flame
I, I can't even think of her name!
Wh-wh-wh-WHAT WAS HER NAME?
Doris, Laura, Chloe, Manny, Moe, Jack?
No, it couldn't have been Moe...
- In an extended duet version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" recorded for a 1952 Christmas broadcast of The Bing Crosby Show for General Electric, Ella Fitzgerald makes several unsuccessful guesses at the name of "the most famous reindeer of all":
"Is it Herman? Is it Sherman? Is it Hart, is it Schaffner, is it Marx perhaps?"
- "Sometimes your parents get so mad at you they forget your name. 'Come here, Ralph — Roquefort — Rutabaga — what is your name, boy?! And don't you lie to me, because you live here and I'll find out who you are!"
- Peter Kay mentions this trope in his routine, and in particular about how alarming it was when his mum started going through the names of female relations before reaching his.
- There's a bizarre version in Family Guy, where he seems to have actually forgotten Meg's name. He keeps running through the entire family's names until Brian tells him 'it's your son.' "Meg!"
Brian: Peter, the final plague is the death of the firstborn son!
- Another variation:
Peter: Oh no, Stewie!
Brian: Your firstborn son.
Brian: (deadpan) Your wife.
- Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid tries to guess Ariel's name, with mixed results ("Mildred?" "Rachel?"). Sebastian the crab has to prompt him.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Pinkie Pie does this shortly after Nightmare Moon appears.
Nightmare Moon: Why, am I not royal enough for you? Don't you know who I am?
Pinkie Pie: Ooh! Ooh! More guessing games! Um . . . Hokey Smokes! How about Queen Meanie? No! Black Snooty! Black Snooty!
- Pinkie also does this in "A Friend in Deed", trying to guess what Cranky Doodle Donkey's first initial stands for.
- One of Erma Bombeck's articles centers on the embarrassment of forgetting your children's names, which also plagued her mother. Ironically, her mother named her Erma because it was short and easy to remember — and still couldn't remember it. This is even more embarrassing/hilarious when you remember that Erma Bombeck was named after her mother.
- "Psychics" like John Edward do something very similar to this, asking the audience leading questions (usually in the form of an "I'm feeling a..." statement) until someone hears something familiar-sounding and speaks up.