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The Namesake
Suppose you go see a film called "The Boat". Movie starts and it takes place as far away from a body of water as is possible. No boats. An hour can pass and you won't see a single boat. But just when you were thinking "maybe it's a Nonindicative Name", It is revealed that the characters suffered a horrific shipwreck that they are now afraid to even speak of anything related to boats and ocean. Expect to hear someone in the theater go, "Oh, that's what it was!" This trope is similar to a Title Drop except that a character need not say it aloud.

A namesake is the thing within a story that the story itself is named after. It could be a character, a place, an object, or indeed a metaphor. Often, the namesake is rather obvious (Romeo and Juliet is obviously named that way because there's a character called "Romeo" and another called "Juliet"; The Time Machine obviously includes a machine to travel through time) but sometimes, authors (or film studios) want to use titles that draw attention, and that's when the namesake may not appear until the end of the story, or might indeed only be a metaphor for a certain situation in the story which doesn't become clear until the end. In short, this becomes a trope when the reason why the book/movie/chapter/episode/etc. is called the way it is, isn't revealed to the audience until near the end; regardless of whether the characters knew about it all along or not. If book/movie/chapter/episode is named after a pivotal plot point rather than an actual person/place/thing, then it's a Spoiler Title.

Examples below should be stories where either what the title "promised" wasn't delivered until rather late in the story, or the title seemed non-indicative, and later was revealed to be physically in the story. Please do not put stories whose name was intentionally misleading all along, with the title thing never actually appearing.

Sometimes this is turned on its head when titles that the audience expects to refer to a metaphorical namesake become literal. As an example, if you haven't read Asimov's short story "Nightfall", you'll probably think the title is a metaphor for the situation the characters find themselves in, similar to Stephenie Meyer's use of the title Twilight. Asimov's story, in fact, revolves literally around an imminent sunset, which is an event the characters have never experienced.

May be lampshaded if, once the namesake finally appears, a character asks, "why do they call it that?" usually immediately after the Title Drop.

Compare Justified Title, when an apparently thematic title is revealed to really be a reference to some concrete element within the story, and Epunymous Title when's it's a pun on the main character's name.

Not to be confused with Namesake Gag, the book and film entitled The Namesake, or the webcomic. In literary circles this is called an eponym, a term also used to refer to a Character Title.

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

     Comic Books  

  • DC Comics' 52 at first seems like a reference to its Real Time format a la 24 (each issue covering the span of a week and published weekly for one year), though a number of gratuitous 52s were thrown around. Near the end it's revealed that it refers to fifty-two parallel universes - after being destroyed in the Crisis on Infinite Earths twenty years ago, The Multiverse has returned.
  • The English title for the Tintin adventure Tintin The Red Sea Sharks references an element which only shows up at the end of the story. In most other languages, this album is known as "Coke on Board", with "coke" or some variant being a code-word for human cargo being shipped to slavery.

     Film  

  • The Phantom Menace has an interesting title, especially compared to the self-evident titles of the other Star Wars movies. Namely, it raises the question, who is the "phantom menace"? Darth Maul, as the advertising campaign would suggest? Senator Palpatine, the mastermind behind it all who hides behind a respectable front? The Sith in general, who are supposed to be extinct? Or perhaps Anakin, who at this point is only a "phantom" of the "menace" he will one day become?
  • In the original version of The Wicker Man, the man of wicker in the title isn't shown or otherwise mentioned until the very end of the movie.
  • Disney's The Princess and the Frog: Tiana, the film's heroine, only eventually becomes a princess by marriage, and the frog is actually a prince.
  • The Peter Sellers/Ringo Starr vehicle The Magic Christian is about the title's cruise ship which (a) doesn't appear till the third act, and (b) turns out to be a sham.
  • 101 Dalmatians repeatedly counts the dalmatians in the film, reinforcing throughout it that there aren't 101 of them. It isn't until the end that Roger proclaims "that's 84, and 15 plus two is a hundred and one!"
  • The last third of the James Bond film Skyfall is set in Skyfall Lodge, the Scottish estate of the Bond family.
  • A Time for Drunken Horses is not a metaphor; you will see intoxicated equines.
  • One might wonder why a film without a single character named Amy is called Chasing Amy until almost the very end, when Silent Bob finally refers to her.

     Literature  

  • Bridge to Terabithia: The title "bridge" finally appears when Jesse builds it to replace the rope that he and Leslie used, the breaking of which resulted in Leslie's Death by Newbery Medal.
  • Harry Potter chapter titles do this quite a bit. For instance, chapter eight of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is entitled Flight of the Fat Lady. This doesn't actually happen until the second-last page of the chapter.
    • Azkaban has a chapter titled "The Servant of Lord Voldemort". When you start the chapter, you think the title simply refers to Sirius Black. By the time you've finished the chapter, it's become apparent that the eponymous servant is Peter Pettigrew.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club: The title club is sometimes the only thing its members have in common.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish doesn't reveal its namesake until chapter 23.
    • Although those who read the first book know that it's the dolphins' last message to humankind, making the title itself a foreshadowing of their hand in Earth's restoration.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: The second tower is revealed quite late in the book.
    • Of course, which two towers is open to interpretation. While Tolkein stated in a letter to his publisher they were Orthanc and Barad-dr, almost any combination of Orthanc with Barad-dr, Minas Tirith, and Minas Morgul makes sense. (Orthanc is inevitable, as half the book consists of fighting Saruman.)
  • The Nick Hornby novel A Long Way Down is about four people planning to jump off a building, so it seems clear what the title means. Except that a line near the end twists what you think The Namesake is; they ask whether they should jump, which would be the short way, or take "the long way down", that is, taking the stairs back down and moving on with life, which is literally "the long way".
  • The Brandon Sanderson novel Warbreaker's namesake is revealed on the last page.
  • In The Name of the Rose, it's not made clear what the title refers to until the last page.
  • Although Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain largely averts this, the final book, The High King, plays it fairly straight. It's not until the last three pages that it becomes revealed that the title refers to Taran, the series protagonist, being proclaimed High King of Prydain.
  • The books in the second Warrior Cats arc, The New Prophecy are all named after times. In the first book, the chosen cats are told to go to the place where "the sun drowns" to "listen to what midnight tells them". At the end of the book, they go into a cave to take shelter and get attacked by a badger. But the badger is actually named Midnight and she can talk cat. She then tells them that their forest will be destroyed and that they must find a new home.
  • The book of The Hundred and One Dalmatians has this even more than the movie, because there AREN'T 101 dalmatians for most of the book: there are Pongo and Missus, the original 15 puppies, the puppies' foster-mother Perdita, plus the additional 82 puppies Cruella had, giving a total of 100 dalmatians. The narrator actually mentions this problem in the second to last chapter, promising that the 101st dalmatian will be along soon.

     Live Action TV  

  • Crossed, Double-Crossed is a book shown in an episode of the TV series Charmed. Though the characters in the book generally mistrust each other, there isn't an actual betrayal until the end; when the main characters find themselves surrounded by bad guys and the book's narrator reveals The Namesake by saying, "The couple knew they'd been double-crossed and there was no way out."
  • Several LOST episodes do this, such as "The Substitute," "Some Like it Hoth," and "Jughead." The flashbacks in "Not in Portland" depict Juliet being recruited for a job in Portland. At the very end, we learn this is actually how she was recruited by the Others. Richard tells her, "Well, actually we're not quite in Portland."
  • The eponymous event in The Event is not revealed until the final episode. Because the series is Cut Short, it only really gets mentioned in passing and we never see it transpire.
  • Although "Doctor Who?" is asked by many characters throughout the series, it has now become the Final Question, and must never be asked during a specified Cannot Tell a Lie scenario, or else "Silence Will Fall" and the Doctor will be killed to prevent an ambiguously apocalyptic outcome.
    • The title of the episode The Name of the Doctor was assumed to be taken literally; its real meaning is revealed at the end.

     Video Games  

  • Kingdom Hearts is named for a mysterious location that's most accurately described as "The Heart (Core) of all worlds (Kingdoms)." though in the first installment it isn't even discussed until about 85% of the way in. Its sequel reveals it halfway in and the prequel talks about it just before the last area.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess plays with the trope. An early Title Drop by Midna makes it appear that the second part of the title refers to Zelda herself, as the princess of a kingdom flooded with twilight. Only when the game is at least half finished is it revealed that it's actually Midna who is the Twilight Princess, as the rightful heir to the invading twilight realm's ruling family.
  • In World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, the Mists are in fact the Sha of Pride.

     Web Comics  

  • Panthera: The reason for the title isn't revealed until the 19th strip, which, due to the comic being weekly and having missed an update, meant that it was revealed after 6 months! Once it was, the author was quite verbal in pointing it out.
  • Something Positive: The title never actually appears in the strip anywhere. One of creator Randy Milholland's friends urged him to do "something positive" with his life, and the comic was the end result.


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alternative title(s): Eponym; Namesake; Thats What It Was
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