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The Trope Formerly Known as X
A type of Stock Shout Out and parody of an event from the 90s.

In 1993, Warner Bros. Records legally prevented the musician Prince Rogers Nelson from recording under his legal first name "Prince". As part of a Take That, he changed his name to an unpronounceable, and then-untypeable "love symbol", which resembles a mix of the symbols for male and female. O(+>  In response, the phrase "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" was coined by a public that had no idea what else to call him, and quickly became a very popular target for parody. Seven years later, his contract with that recording company expired and he went back to being known as simply Prince, making him the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, if you're being technical.

Not to be confused with Renamed Tropes.

Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • Used in the Knights of the Dinner Table strip "A Character With No Name" where Dave refuses to name his new character, and eventually ends up creating an unpronounceable symbol to designate the character. B.A. eventually tires of the whole thing and has the character smote by the gods.
    "Will 'The Character Formerly Known as the Man With No Name' and now associated with this symbol please be advised that he has inexplicably attracted the unbridled wrath of the Gawds and has just been turned into a newt!!"
  • Also used in Gold Digger, though it might have been topical when it was printed. Galford, a member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad, after getting some augmentations, changes his name to "大死". His boss's reaction:
    Lord Talon: So now you're "The ninja formerly known as Galford?"
    • Averted — his new name, Daishi, stuck once it was actually pronounced/written in Roman characters!
  • The Superbuddies - Formerly Known As Justice League America.

    Fan Fiction 
  • One Aladdin fanfic featured several Princes. One was called "The Prince Formerly Known as Artist", probably referencing the theatre adaptation mentioned below.

    Film 
  • In Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth:
    "Dawson, let me introduce you to the principal. Sorry, The Administrator-Formerly-Known-as-Principal."
  • Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties:
    McBunny: Well, obviously, that feline is not Prince, you idiots!
    Preston: He's not even a cat formerly known as Prince.
  • Cindrella: The Sillicious Musical: The Artist Formerly Known as The Prince. TAFKATP
  • In An Inconvenient Truth, a slowly-melting glacier park is referred to as 'The Park Formerly Known as Glacier.'
  • Long before the Prince situation, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Knights Who Say Ni demand... a shrubbery! When King Arthur and co. bring a shrubbery back...
    Head Knight: We are now... no longer The Knights Who Say Ni.
    Random Knight: Ni!
    Head Knight: Shh. We are now The Knights Who Say... Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-pikang-zoom-Boing-z'nourrrwringmm.
    Random Knight: Ni!
    Head Knight:Therefore, we must give you a test.
    King Arthur:What is this test, O Knights Of - Knights Who Till Recently Said Ni?
  • From Digimon: The Movie:
    Kari: (narrating) ...And Matt's trying to make it as a rock star! His stage name is the Digidestined Formerly Known As Matt.

    Literature 
  • In the Star Trek novels The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonian Singh, Roberta Lincoln calls Khan "The Artist Formerly Known As Noon."
  • In Animorphs, Ax always calls the leader of the group Prince Jake. (Ax is an Andalite, and 'Prince' is a military title.) During one issue where only the pair of them were left, Jake tells Ax that there aren't enough people around, so he should be called The Jake Formerly Known As Prince. Later, when the group is back together, the two go through their Running Gag ("Don't call me Prince." "Yes, Prince Jake") and Ax says, instead, "I will call you The Jake Formerly Known As Prince."
    Marco: Now he's telling jokes. Bad, bad jokes.
    • When Rachel tests Marco by saying "You know you're a toad, right?" his answer is:
      Marco: "Kiss me and I'll become a prince. I'll be the Prince Formerly Known As Toad. You know you want me. You can't help it. After all, you're female, and I'm... well, I'm me."
  • In the 1632 series, Don Fernando, the Spanish king's younger brother, was in holy orders as the "cardinal-infante" ("infante" is Spanish for "prince who's not heir to the throne"). Then he got a dispensation to give up being a cardinal. From that point on, there are occasional references to him as "the prince formerly known as cardinal-infante."

    Live Action TV 
  • The Show Formerly Known as the Martin Short Show
  • On LOST, in between the point where Ben went by Henry Gale and where people started using his real name, Sawyer referred to him as "The Artist Formerly Known As Henry Gale".
  • Roundhouse had a Cinderella parody with TAFKAP as the Prince. His name was announced as holding a cardboard sign with the symbol up and the sound effect of the first electronic riff plus 'uhn' in Prince's "Kiss".
  • On an episode of The Drew Carey Show Ryan Stiles was pretending to be a frog: "The frog formerly known as Prince."
    • He used that same gag at least once on Whose Line Is It Anyway?.
    • Speaking of Whose Line, Colin Mochrie used this gag as the "top story" on Weird Newscasters, where Prince changed his name again after changing long-distance providers.
    Colin: Therefore Prince, the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, will now be the artist who formerly phoned with Sprint.
  • On 30 Rock, one of Tracy Jordan's antics was to declare that he was now to be addressed as "the gentleman formerly known as Rectum".
  • Prince appeared on Muppets Tonight during his 'Formerly Known As' phase. When introducing himself this way to Bobo the security bear during the Not on the List schtick, Bobo snarkily replies, "And I'm the bear currently known as unamused."
  • Naturally the joke was played with on Mystery Science Theater 3000, in the Russo-Finnish movie The Sword And The Dragon:
    Subject: Oh radiant prince!
    Servo: That's 'The Artist Formerly Known as Radiant Prince'.
  • In a Key And Peele sketch, which features a list of players for the East/West Collegiate Bowl, the second to last one is "The Player Formerly Known As Mousecop", complete with a symbol.

    Music 
  • Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain was called "TAFKAL80ETC" ("The Artists Formerly Known As Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain") during the Cataclysm expansion of World of Warcraft. During this time, they used a symbol that resembled Prince's glyph. For Mists of Pandaria, they returned to their previous naming scheme (which included the maximum possible player level in World of Warcraft).

    Newspaper Comics 

    Other 
  • A stand-up comic once joked that if Prince could change his name to an unpronounceable symbol, then he could change his name to a scent, so that if people wanted to talk about him they'd have to carry around perfume bottles to spray on each other.
  • In a promotional spot for Good Burger, Keenan and Kel talked about how they're becoming big stars and that they'd like to known as "The artists formerly known as Keenan And Kel". Kel then shows their symbol: a white card with a black circle on it. Keenan takes a look and says "It's upside down." They then try to correct it.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WCW, near the end, had The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukaea, which was former island boy Prince Iaukea now doing a parody Prince gimmick.
    • An angle that was dropped once the real Prince dropped the unpronounceable symbol shortly after the gimmick started. This led to a mock press conference to announce that "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukaea" was changing his name to "The Artist." For the record, no one really cared about Iaukea, real name Mike Haynor and no relation to King Curtis Iaukea, during either gimmick.
  • Meanwhile, after Goldust's Heel-Face Turn didn't go so well, WWF had him turn back heel, trade his black and gold for a red, black, and green outfit, and dub himself The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust.

    Radio 
  • The subject of a game of 'Limerick' on Im Sorry I Havent A Clue (where the contestants are given an opening line and have to complete a limerick by supplying one line each in turn):
    The artist formerly known as Prince,
    On stage he would posture and mince,
    Then just for a giggle,
    He changed his name to a squiggle,
    And nobody's heard of him since.
  • At the time when Prince was 'the Artist Formerly Known as Prince', Tony Martin and Mick Molloy did a bit on the Martin Molloy radio show about how his close friends get to call him 'Formerly'. It was later included on one of their albums.
  • In Mitch Benn's Crimes Against Music, a song about people refused entrance to the US refers to Yusuf Islam as "the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens".

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • Fallen London occasionally mentions The Magazine Formerly Known as the London Magazine: apparently after London fell, the Masters of the Bazaar demanded that the London Magazine change its name, but the editors were not in a cooperative mood.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Homestar Runner, when Marzipan is dressed as Prince for Halloween:
    Homestar Runner: Hey, the girlfriend formerly known as Marzipan. I think you missed a little bit when you were shaving. Right there, about the sideburns area.
    Marzipan: More like the former girlfriend known as Marzipan.
    Homestar Runner: Sounds like a plan!
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series : "I have had many names. Once I was known as Pharaoh. Then I was the artist formerly known as Pharaoh."
  • An episode of The Nostalgia Critic has the titular critic wonder why King Koopa from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show isn't simply called "Bowser," or at least "The Artist Formerly Known as Bowser", cutting to a Koopa-fied Prince symbol.

    Western Animation 
  • Used twice by The Simpsons; one of the puppies in the 101 Dalmatians parody is called "The Puppy Formerly Known as Prince", while "Lisa's Wedding" shows a list of arrested celebrities that includes "The Artist formerly known as *unpronounceable symbol*" and "The Artist formerly known as Buddy Hackett."
    • There's also one of the flashback episodes (possibly "Lisa's First Word"), set during a time when "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince was currently known as Prince."
  • In an episode of House of Mouse Donald Duck tries to become a celebrity and changes his name to the "Duck Formerly Known as Donald."
    • And Mickey ended the episode by calling himself "The Mouse Currently Known As Mickey".
  • In one episode of Happily Ever After Fairy Tales For Every Child, Mother Goose's decision to fly the coop leaves all the nursery rhyme characters in a muddle, and Humpty Dumpty starts referring to himself as "the egg formerly known as Dumpty."
    • In another episode, "The Frog Princess," the title character entreats the prince to help her cook, and when he refuses on the grounds that he is a prince and thus can't cook, she sings him a song that includes the lyrics, "You could be the prince formerly known as helpless."
  • "The Artist Formerly Known as Spot" from 101 Dalmatians: The Series.
  • In one episode of Johnny Bravo, Johnny accidentally becomes a famous artist, all the fame drives him nuts and at some point he makes a quick doodle and claims that's how his new artistic name is pronounced.

    Real Life 
  • Prince is obviously the Trope Namer.
    • Music website Rhapsody used a subversion of this trope as a Take That against Prince in one instance, referring to him as "The Artist Never Known as Tall".
    • From a certain perspective, Prince's decision to rename himself makes perfect sense: "Prince" was a trademarked identity that was actually owned by his record company of the time. By legally changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, he was able to release material, and tour, when said record company did not approve - until their ownership of the "Prince" name lapsed and he was able to reclaim it.
  • Since Microsoft was blocked from using the name "Metro" for its Windows 8 UI system, some now call it the UI Formerly Known As Metro.
    • Or TIFKAM, "The Interface Formerly Known As Metro".
  • As a compromise with Greece, the United Nations in the 1990s admitted a new member country using the name "The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia" (FYROM).

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