aka: Meaningful Initials
Moreover, as high school English teachers never tire of observing, the innocence of martyred fictional characters bearing the initials "JC" must never be questioned. Indeed, as we first discover about an hour into The Green Mile, this particular JC bears mysterious powers of healing, as well as monumental capacities for sympathy and forgiveness, that make his Biblical heritage even harder to ignore or, for filmgoers who prefer not to be beaten over the head, to put up with.
A monogram is a symbol made from two or more letters - usually a person's initials. Sometimes a character's personality or destiny is indicated by his or her full name, whether it be a Steven Ulysses Perhero
or a Louis Cypher
. Sometimes, however, the character's full name seems perfectly ordinary, until you spot his or her monogram on a handkerchief or pen and find a funny "coincidence"
. This trope is about when a character's initials bear some significance to the story.
The most common Significant Monogram
, of course, is "JC
," most often seen on the Sacrificial Lamb
, Messianic Archetype
, The Obi-Wan
or The Hero
. Those initials can be found everywhere from Jesse Custer in Preacher
to Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio
to John Connor in The Terminator
and its sequels to JC Denton
to Julius Caesar
. When those specific initials are used unintentionally and in a completely discordant manner with the character's role in the story
, they can often lead to an almost literal Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory
However, sometimes initials may be used as a Shout-Out
to another, pre-existing fictional character. It's almost certainly not a coincidence that so many fictional super-spies in the late 20th and early 21st century have had the initials "JB
" (Jason Bourne
, Jack Bauer
, Jack Bristow
, et al.) And sometimes the similarities may be subliminal
or completely unintentional
, as for instance with Gene Roddenberry
's dashing, womanizing, handsome young hero who first debuted in 1966
. Although ostensibly named after Capt. James Cook, his "JTK" monogram would be merely a stroke and a half away from the commonly-used monogram for a certain dashing, womanizing, handsome young president who had been martyred, in the eyes of many Americans, merely three years previously. Er... probably
. In many cases, initials may be used to indicate an Author Avatar
, especially in Mary Sue
or Marty Stu
Compare to Significant Anagram
, Meaningful Name
, Name's the Same
and Fun with Acronyms
. Distinguished from Theme Initials
in that Theme Initials
are used for multiple characters in a story or universe and may have no significance outside of their recurrence, whereas Significant Monograms
may be used for only one character in a story but refer to someone or something outside of that story. However, when Significant Monograms
are used for multiple characters in a universe or work of fiction, it may easily become a case of Theme Initials
It can also become an unfortunate name
, particularly if other characters remark upon such initials as "BS," "ASS" or "FU." Often in comedies, an Embarrassing First Name
or Embarrassing Middle Name
may be employed to complete the monogram.
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JC and Other Variations
- Jesse Custer in Preacher.
- John Constantine and several other key characters in Hellblazer.
- John Crichton from Farscape certainly has some messianic qualities: a non-corporeal god-like creature who took the form of his father gave him some pretty powerful powers; he is a an outcast in a strange land who likes to contrast his morality with others; also he has a perchance for self-sacrifice.
- Jordan Collier on The 4400; he even comes back from the dead at one point.
- British sketch show Not the Nine O'Clock News ran a sketch parodying moral outrage at the film Monty Python's Life of Brian, in which a self-proclaimed Pythonist accused The Bible of being a rip-off of Python lore, pointing out that the main character's initials were the same as those of John Cleese.
- Attorneys Lindsey MacDonald, Lilah Morgan, Lee Mercer and Linwood Murrow, who share their initials with Lucifer Morningstar, on Angel.
- Firefly: Jayne! The man they call Jayne! Jayne Cobb not only bears the initials, but in "Jaynestown", we're introduced to a village that worships him as a folk hero.
- John Casey from Chuck, who's often tempted to cross to the dark side but always stays loyal to the good guys. Although since he's played by Adam Baldwin, the initials could very well be a Shout-Out to Firefly—the show is just full of them.
- Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear mentions this during the Middle East Special when he begins to get delusions of grandeur near the Sea of Galilee.
- Jane Crocker from Homestuck. She hasn't yet been developed enough to show many Christlike qualities, but as a Hero of Life, she has special healing and possibly resurrection powers, and she has risen from the dead more than once.
- Jiminy Cricket, the Only Sane Man in Pinocchio. No coincidence, since his name comes from a Bowdlerisation of Jesus Christ.
- In one episode of King of the Hill, President Jimmy Carter settled a dispute at a Habitat For Humanity house. Bobby instantly invoked this, since Carter was "a carpenter, who worked a miracle, with the initials J.C.".
- For a Protestant fundamentalist, Jack Chick has a rather fortunate set of initials.
- Many decades before it became a thing, we had Julius Caesar. Indeed, coming so soon in the wake of Caesar's legacy, it may be that Jesus Christ's movement was a beneficiary of having the same initials as Julius Caesar.
Other Shout Outs
- Star Trek: The Original Series: James T. Kirk's monogram would be extremely close to that of President John F. Kennedy's, of whom series creator Gene Roddenberry was a known admirer.
- The name is also very similar to that of the famous explorer James Cook.
- Star Trek: Voyager: Kathryn Janeway, the first major female Starfleet captain, has the inverted initials of Star Trek's first-ever captain.
- On House, Gregory House shares a lot with Sherlock Holmes. House's 'sidekick' James Wilson has the same monogram as Holmes' Dr. John Watson, while House himself shares his second initial with Holmes (as well as being a pun on the name). Not to mention both are addicted to opiates and House's apartment address is even 221B on Baker Street.
Unfortunate Names and Punny Names
- Minor Justice League foe Ira Quimby (whose power is enhanced intellect).
- Variation: In And Then There Were None, Mr./Ms. Owen gives his/her hosts various first and middle names that start with "U" and "N" respectively. Combined with the last name, they're pronounced as "unknown".
- From another Agatha Christie novel, The ABC Murders, we have the unfortunately named Alexander Bonaparte Cust, the red herring who was deliberately set up by the true murderer.
- In House of Cards, the author picked the name Francis Urquhart for the protagonist from the initials, "F.U."
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry's son, Albus Severus Potter has quite a good reason to be afraid of getting sorted into the snake-themed Slytherin. Word of God says it was intentional. The series also has Sirius Orion Black, whose initials are both a hint at his animagus form and an accurate description of his mother.
- In Charles Stross' Bob Howard series, a throw-away line reveals that geeky Bob's full initials are B.O.F.H. (another throw-away line reveals that his name is a pseudonym to protect his True Name, suggesting that he picked his initials deliberately).
- In Live and Let Die, the villain's name is Buonapart Ignace Gallia, which combined with his size made the nickname "Mr. Big" inevitable.
- Pops up a few times in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books: Peter Uteger ("P.U.") and Preston Mudd ("P. Mudd") are subject to teasing by their middle school peers. Greg proudly takes credit for the former incident.
- In the Oz books, the Wizard of Oz is named Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs. Because this is so long, he typically shortens it to O.Z.P.I.N.H.E.A.D., which he (for understandable reasons) further shortens to O.Z. Which is why he became the ruler of Oz.
- In the Uglies series, one of the character's names is Andrew Simpson Smith.
- Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden's initials are HBCD. He must be very thankful his father couldn't think of any magicians whose names began with "A".
- All in the Family: when Mike and Gloria had a son, they were going to name him after the two grandfathers: Stephen Archibald Stivic. Archie complained that his name should come first, until Mike mentioned his initials would then be A.S.S. Eventually, they named him Joseph.
- In Only Fools and Horses, Del Boy names his son Damien Derek Trotter. Rodney points out that this makes his initials DDT.
- Carl Otis Winslow. And he's well aware of what it spells.
- Arby, the psychotic assassin from Utopia is actually named Pietre. His assumed name comes from his habit of eating raisins - Raisin Boy - and reveals to him to his own tragic past.
- Nineteenth-century military buff Hiram U. Grant was reportedly always embarrassed by the weak-sounding implications of his monogram. That is until his application for West Point, when his Congressman, who nominated him for acceptance, apparently mistook his middle name for his first name and his mother's maiden name for his middle initial and submitted him under the much more patriotic initials "Ulysses S. Grant," which Hiram kept throughout the remainder of his career as general and later as president.
- 1950s B-Movie director Bert I Gordon, who specialized in giant monster movies.
- In the Netherlands, we have "Katholieke Universiteit Tilburg" (Catholic University of Tilburg), the initials of which spell out the Dutch word for cunt.
- At a lecture to the Digital Biota group at Cambridge University, which studies evolution algorithms, Douglas Adams commented, "I was born in Cambridge in 1952, and my initials are DNA!"
- Russian Humour offers us a joke about one Barov Leonid Yakovlevich, whose initials read "BLYA" (a vulgar expletive, derived from "whore").
- The Unitarian church in the California suburban town of Kensington is named "First Unitarian Church of Berkeley", Berkeley being a somewhat larger town just to the south.note
- Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, whose initials spell out an unfortunate signature in his notes to Oscar.
- Philip Josť Farmer has had two characters with the same initials in his works: Peter Jairus Frigate in the Riverworld novels and Paul Janus Finnegan in the World of Tiers series.
- P. Frank Winslow in F Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack novel Bloodline.
- A.P. (Alan Patrick) Herbert's "Albert Haddock", defendant in numerous preposterous law cases in Misleading Cases In The Common Law. According to Herbert, Haddock's middle name was probably Percival.
- Franz Kafka and every character named "K" in his body of work.
- Charles Dickens was reportedly very surprised when a reader pointed out that the initials of the title character in David Copperfield (a quasi-autobiographical novel) are Dickens' own, reversed (there's also a Charles Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities).
- From The Host, written by Stephanie Meyer: the main character's host Melanie Strider. Bonus points in that the two names sound alike.
- Babylon 5's Jeffrey Sinclair and John Sheridan both share their initials with series creator J. Michael Straczynski.
- He did it again with John Simon, protagonist/narrator of his comic book series Rising Stars.
- The initials of the lead couple (JS and D) also match the initials of JMS and his wife at the time, Kathryn Drennan.
- Straczynski once said, "I don't do cameos, my initials do."
Anime & Manga
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica has the Soul Gems serving as the Puella Magis' Transformation Trinket and the Grief Seeds, which act as their sort of cleaning device when their Soul Gems go dark that spring up from defeated Witches. It turns out that they are one and the same, as the Grief Seed is what happens if you don't clean your Soul Gem.
- In The Santa Clause franchise the businessman who takes on the role of Santa Claus is named Scott Calvin.
- Antitrust — the villain is Gary 'Winston...GW....WG...William Gates.
- If you come across any character with the initials "RF" in a Stephen King book, there's a good chance that character is actually Randall Flagg.
- Stanley Hopkins, first introduced in "The Adventure of Black Peter", is a young detective at Scotland Yard who Sherlock Holmes believes may have a bright career.
- In The Illuminatus! Trilogy, one of the characters is warned to look out for anyone with the initials H.C. The character is almost raped in a jail cell by a convict named Harry Coin.
- In an unusually all-encompassing example, the initials of the cast of Atlanta Nights spell out "PublishAmerica is a vanity press", which the book was written to prove.
- Doctor Who: The Scrooge character in A Christmas Carol is named Sardick, although his first name is Kazran. His father, however, was named Elliot, and was even Scrooge-ier than he is.
- In the pilot episode of Grimm, the little girl who's been kidnapped by a Big Bad Wolf has her initials of "RH" written on her backpack, as if her wearing a red hoodie weren't enough of a hint which fairy tale is being played out.
- In the last episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the Steve Jobs-esque CEO has the initials JS.
- On the stereo remake of the original cast recording of Kiss Me, Kate, Those Two Guys who sing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" are credited as "Aloysius Donovan" and "Alexis Dubroff." These were both pseudonyms for featured star Alfred Drake.
- In Halo 3: ODST, the Rookie's initials are JD. He has no voice (besides for grunting) and no face. JD could stand for John Doe. This would also mean we would have 2 Johns. Add this with the Spartan Clone Training facility description for a map in Halo 1 (all MP maps/descriptions in Halo are canon) and we may have a John-117 clone. Could explain his John levels of luck.
- In Metal Gear Solid the Patriots AI are named GW, TJ, AL, TR and JD. The first 4 are named after the initials of the American Presidents on Mount Rushmore and the latter (the head AI) stands for John Doe.
- In City of Heroes, the Longbow officer in charge of operations in the Rikti War Zone is Wilhelmina Marlena Dietrich (WMD).
- The Big Bad in the first Bioshock game is an ambitious, government-hating industrialist named Andrew Ryan. Get it?
- The protagonist of Bioshock Infinite, Booker Dewitt, has the letters 'AD' branded on his right hand which stand as a self-inflicted reminder of his daughter, Anna Dewitt, whom he sold away to pay off his debt.
- Homestuck: During an intermission, Nanna Egbert reveals that her Evil Matriarch, Betty Crocker, wasn't human. A while later, we've almost forgotten about it - until Feferi's ancestress shows up, in a warship titled Battleship Condescension.
- The Exiles. Their names change, but their initials remain the same, forcing their past selves to be named with an additional question mark (with the semi-exception of Snowman and Jack Noir).
- The post-Scratch kids retain the chumhandles of GG, GT, TG and TT. Jake English also retains the monogram of John Egbert, and RL and DS also stay this way (even though the names themselves weren't revealed yet), and Jade Harley (JH) is, predictably enough, replaced with JC.
- In the Library of Congress Classification scheme used by most college and university libraries in the U.S. and Canada, Bibles and Bible commentaries are shelved under call numbers starting with the letters "BS". At the reference desk, we'd tell students to use the memetic "Bible Studies".
- Vladimir Putin's initials read VVP, which is the Russian abbreviation for GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Cue the jokes derived from him promising to double the Russian GDP and instead doubling himself (bringing Medvedev into big politics).
- British comedian Adrian Edmondson is known for his staggering array of talents in addition to comedy. His middle name is Charles. Think about that for a second.