Dr. Frank-N-Furter: Go on, Dr. Scott... or should I say, Dr. Von Scott?!
Brad: Just what exactly are you implying?Want to give an ambiguous character that extra bit of onomastic intrigue? Tack a "Von" on to their last name. Technically, von is merely a German preposition which approximately means of or from which appears mostly in names of families that belong (or once belonged) to the nobility. To set themselves off from commoners with "von" in their names, German-speaking noble persons sometimes prefer the abbreviation "v.". The nobility was abolished as a privileged estate in 1918, since then "von" and titles of nobility like "Graf" (count) or "Ritter" (knight) are treated as mere parts of the name. Note that in German, Von is not capitalized unless the first name is missing (compare "Helga von Trope" and "Frau Von Trope"). A permanently capitalized "Von" is mostly English usage. Before the 20th century, it was quite common to translate "von" as "de" in French texts and German-speaking diplomats would sign that way under treaties (which explains why even today it's not uncommon to see Germanic names preceded by that particular Latin preposition). Some German-speaking noble families have more elaborate particles before their name such as "von dem" (shortened form: "vom") or "von der" (both mean "of the"), others have "zu" or "zum" (roughly "at", which usually indicates the actual or former place of residence), some have "vom und zum". There are also both noble families which have "SURNAME von OTHER NAME" or "SURNAME zu PLACE NAME" (as usual, there are exceptions, such as names of the pattern "Meyer zu PLACE NAME" and e. g. the poet August Hoffmann von Fallersleben, who added "von Fallersleben" after his birthplace to distinguish himself from other writers called Hoffmann). And there are ones that combine "von" with "nobility indicators" from other languages such as with many surnames containing the slavic suffix "-ski" or "-sky" or Franco-German combinations as the noble Huguenot family von Arnauld de la Perière. At its most basic level, "von" merely exists as a marker of Germanic origin, high origin or both. However, character namers have seen fit to use the syllable to make two main branches of the Von Trope Family tree.
- Darker Von Trope: Often the Von implies sternness, skill at intrigue, power, autocracy, villainy, sadism or any of the other tropes that Those Wacky Nazi Noblemen tend to inspire — ironically, as the old nobility largely despised the Nazis as parvenus. Less dark variations may include the particularly Gothic or the militaristic badass, especially those that are a riff on Otto von Bismarck (a classic Magnificent Bastard) or Baron Manfred von Richthofen, The Red Baron. Sometimes the characters with the name do not have a Germanic origin at all.
- Lighter Von Trope: It is also used as more of a Stock Foreign Name for a Germanic Funny Foreigner (especially Mad Scientists), or for goofy characters for whom the aristocratic bearing of the name seems incongruous.
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Darker Von Trope Examples:
Anime and Manga
- Isaak Fernand von Kämpfer from Trinity Blood invented the Rosenkreuz Order.
- Bermuda Von Vichtenstein from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!. Not exactly evil, but he's still a Vendice afterall.
- Kanae Von Rosewald from Tokyo Ghoul :Re. The Sole Survivor of a prominent German clan of Ghouls, he's a servant of the illustrious Tsukiyama family and a Yandere towards his beloved master, Shuu Tsukiyama. For all his Camp mannerisms, he proves to be a dangerous opponent when provoked.
- Rudolf Von Stroheim in Jojos Bizarre Adventure, a proud Nazi soldier who's very convinced that anything from German is THE BEST IN THE WORLD. But nonetheless, he's also a heroic patriot who'll give his life for his country and recognizes the Pillar Men as a threat to the world, thus has no problems with teaming up with people from the Allied nations for that.
- Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, the leader of Hydra in the Marvel Universe.
- Doctor Victor Von Doom. Marvel Universe, Reed Richards' archenemy. Though he's actually Romani rather than German, and had little chance of being on the Almanac von Gotha.
- Baroness Paula Von Gunther, antagonist of Wonder Woman. One of the few comic villains to make the leap to the TV show, in fact.
- Von Bach of DC's Kingdom Come. He's some kind of dictator and only speaks German.
- Baron von Blitzschlag, a Nazi scientist who's a kind of villainous New Old Flame - had offscreen run ins with Captain America and other heroes. Currently acting as a scientific adviser to The Initiative, working on such catastrophes as Cyborg Thor and repeatedly cloning a deceased member.
- Mad Scientist Simon von Simon (and his unseen rival Sigmund von Sigmund) in Little Gloomy.
- Hans von Hammer, protagonist of the DC Comics feature Enemy Ace. He's portrayed more as a Worthy Opponent Red Baron kind of person, though.
- The World War I serial "Golden Eyes" And Her Hero "Bill" has the antagonistic officer Hugo Von Schwatzenburg as the only named German in the entire comic.
Film - Animated
Film - Live Action
- Hunter Van Pelt, the Evil Poacher of Jumanji. While a real name in Dutch, it's an obvious pun on "Pelt".
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show: "Go ahead, Dr. Scott...Or should I say Dr. VON Scott?" The line is indeed used in the stage version to reveal an unaccented Scott's Germanic, likely Nazi history. However, it makes much less sense in the movie where, from the start, he has a Those Wacky Nazis accent.
- One of the Corrupt Corporate Executive types seen in an early scene in Aliens is named Van Leuwen.
- The von Krolock family, of The Fearless Vampire Killers and Tanz der Vampire.
- The name of Frankenstein is Retconned into von Frankenstein in Universal's third Frankenstein film, Son of Frankenstein.
- And since Young Frankenstein is an Affectionate Parody of that film in particular, as well as a pastiche of Frankenstein films in general, it adopts the same naming convention. The coffin seen in the page image belongs to Baron Beaufort von Frankenstein, the last legitimate holder of the title as he disowned his son Victor over the whole "perversion of science/irresponsibly playing God" incident, until his will passed it on to grandson Friedrick Frankenstein in the hopes that he could repair the family name.
- Averted in the original novel as the Frankensteins are Swiss, and in fact express pride in their country being a republic without nobles.
- General von Pinck, the German assassin in The Assassination Bureau.
- Velvet von Ragnar, the Creepy Crossdresser played by Gene Simmons in Never Too Young to Die.
- Captain Friedrich von Hecht - and his superior General von Kleber - in Hornets' Nest.
- Captain von Schoenvorts in The Land That Time Forgot.
- Major von Hapen in Where Eagles Dare.
- Colonel von Luger in The Great Escape.
- The title character played by Frank Sinatra in Von Ryan's Express. He is not a German at all, but an American POW who is apparently too cooperative with the Germans, which earns him the nickname. It turns out to be a subversion, as he was feigning cooperation to prepare for a mass escape.
- Von Bork, the German spy whom Sherlock Holmes captures in His Last Bow.
- Eric and Karl Von Shrakenberg from S.M. Stirling's The Draka series.
- Sepp von Theofels from an Erast Fandorin spinoff series.
- In the James Bond books, we have the Nazi war criminals Graf Hugo von der Drache (aka Hugo Drax) from Moonraker, von Richter from Colonel Sun, von Hammerstein from the short story "For Your Eyes Only", Count von Glöda from Icebreaker and the Hitler-wannabe Max von Tarn from SeaFire.
- Vladimir Von Dread in The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, Prince of Bavaria, President of the Knights of Walpurgis dueling club.
- Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts in The Land That Time Forgot.
- Captain von Brauchitsch in Where Eagles Dare. The name is that of an actual family (one of Hitler's field marshals and a prominent race-car driver of the 1930s belonged to it), originally Slavic (Silesian, to be precise).
- There are many vons among the generals commanding the two Russian armies invading Germany in August, 1914 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, causing the protagonist to wonder whose armies they really are. Ironically, the German army opposing them is led by a Huguenot, with a French name (but also a von): Herman von Francois.
- Eugen von Frenzel in The Pearl and the Carnelian. Given, that the book is set in 1934, it doubles as a Name To Run Away From Really Fast.
Live Action TV
- Blackadder Goes Forth: George's idea for finding the German spy at the field hospital is to look for the guy whose name begins with "Von". It hasn't occurred to him that the spy might be using a pseudonym.
- House refers to the man who ratted him out at college for cheating as "Dr. Von Lieberman" although the man's real surname is "Webber", because it "sounds much eviller". (Ironically, translated back into English the name comes out as "Goodman"...)
- Major-General Erich von Klinkerhoffen of 'Allo 'Allo! certainly falls on the sterner side of Those Wacky Nazis, while Colonel Kurt von Strohm is more jovial. (Which says something when you can say that about someone who threatens to have people shot.)
- Professional wrestlers Baron Von Raschke and Fritz Von Erich, serve as classic examples of the Foreign Wrestling Heel type. The Von Erich Family eventually lost the Teutonic/Nazi gimmick. Fritz's sons were the top Faces of World Class Championship Wrestling (and Kerry would continue the pure face act in the WWF). Kerry's daughter, Lacey, played a Heel in TNA, though without the Nazi overtones; she's blonde, but otherwise not "Germanic." Instead, she was a member of the Beautiful People, a team of Alpha Bitches who thought they were better looking than everyone else.
- Hans von Doering, an evil German who worked in New Star Wrestling and WWC in his efforts to prove the inferiority of the Caribbean people. He's also shown up in All Japan Pro Wrestling.
- Jim Crockett Promotions Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling brought us Nazi Diane von Hoffman. She would even go on tour in Germany, though like the Von Erichs the Nazi part was phased out later in her career.
- Erich and Karl Von Shrakenberg from Tech Infantry, named as a Shout-Out to Stirling's characters.
- Used quite often for characters - especially nobles - from The Empire, which is unsurprising given that The Empire is based heavily on the Holy Roman Empire. Examples include Valmir von Raukov, Elector Count of Ostland, Isabella von Liebewitz, Elector Countess of Wissenland, and the mad engineer Hermann von Meinkopt, who invented the repeater handgun (getting in a bit of the "crazy German inventor" there too).
- A prominent bloodline of Vampires in Warhammer are the Von Carsteins, modelled on the Dracula archetype and living in an analogue for the Black Forest.
- Van examples would include the Chaos Sorcerer Egrimm van Horstmann and the infamous Witch Hunter Johann Van Hal (and his equally infamous ancestors). Van is also used in some Marienburger names to give them a more Dutch feel than the rest of the Empire's German, given that Marienburg is a mercantile free city on the Empire's Northwestern coast very reminiscent of the medieval Netherlands.
- Ravenloft is home to Strahd von Zarovich, D&D's most infamous vampire, as well as other examples such as Dr. Rudolph van Richten and Urik von Kharkov.
- Von Kaiser of Punch-Out!!, a stereotypical World War I-era German aristocrat and apparently a military academy boxing instructor. This still doesn't change the fact that after years of fighting, he has only made it to or has just dropped down to the number two place in the WVBA Minor Circuit. With a record of 23-13. One suspects he's 23-1 against Glass Joe and 0-12 against anyone else.
- Von Bolt from Advance Wars. The series has a habit of the Big Bad having a German name (his predecessor being 'Sturm').
- Ludwig von Koopa from Super Mario Bros. 3 and later games. He even has Beethoven Hair.
- And Magnus Von Grapple from the second Paper Mario game.
- Werner Von Croy of the Tomb Raider series (the old-school games, at least).
- Chancellor Cole from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is known as Minister Von Glaiss in German localisations of the game. Should be easy why he belongs here, he kills Princess Zelda and revives the demon king Malladus using her body.
- Elzam von Branstein, and probably his father Maier von Branstein, from Super Robot Wars. (Both are written as V. Branstein, but Elzam at least is confirmed to be "von".) They're merely Anti Villains, so they don't possess all the dark traits of this trope, but it allows Elzam to be an Expy of both the Red Baron and the Red Comet. Raidiese F. Branstein ditched the "von" to distance himself from his family.
- Baron von Doomkill from MARDEK combines Doomy Dooms of Doom with Large Ham in the best way possible. Though, at one time in the past he was a serious threat to the world.
- Victor von Gerdenheim from Darkstalkers.
- Hans von Groebel and his brother Kurt/Walther of Codename Panzers apply as darker Von Tropes, if only because they're in German uniforms and the setting is WWII.
- Von Frog II from the Something series. He's a Mad Scientist who is the guardian of the Chateau du Eau and attacks the Mountain Bear village in Something Else.
- Belladonna takes place entirely in the home of Doctor Wolfram von Trauerschloss
- Girl Genius
- Von Pinn. First encountered as nanny to the children on Castle Wulfenbach, then later revealed to be an ancient construct created specifically to protect the Heterodyne heirs and "keep them safe". She's The Baroness to anyone who threatens her charges.
- The Wulfenbach family never uses "von" in canon, but a lot of fans seem to use it for them outside the comic, largely due to the existence of this trope. The fact that they don't use it is likely related to the contempt the Baron has for the nobility's "rules". note
- When creating a villain for Starslip Crisis Kris Straub stated he was trying to come up with the most evil-sounding name imaginable. A reader pointed out that "Archcount Obdrath Lucifuge" could benefit from this trope, Straub publicly announced "why didn't I think of that?", and the name was immediately changed (retroactively to Obdrath von Lucifuge's first appearance).
- Gaia Online's Von Helson family, an aristocratic family that happens to consist entirely of vampires. Vladmir (and later Zhivago) are both major antagonists throughout the storyline. The Von Helson were also villainous for a while, but have undergone some Villain Decay in recent years (lampshaded in a recent mini comic). Ian and Louie are subversions. Ian is a lovable goofball who runs a costume shop with his talking cat, and Louie is a nice guy who just happens to be King of the Vampires, hates his dad, and works at the local Formalwear shop.
- Houses Von Jeggett, Von Kruger, and Von Hastur from The Tale Of The Exile.
Lighter Von Trope Examples:
Anime and Manga
- The Ten Noble Families in the anime Kyo Kara Maoh! all have 'von' in their names even if the rest of the name isn't Germanic at all. Von Bielefeld, Von Wincott, etc. etc. This is probably because Shin Makoku was heavily European based.
- Oktavia von Seckendorff, Sayaka's witch form, in Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
- Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach in From Eroica with Love.
- In the "Junk Car" episode of Speed Racer dub, the race is held by a Baron Von Vondevon... who has a long-lost daughter Yvonne Von Vondevon.
- Estonia's human name in Axis Powers Hetalia is Eduard von Bock. This was most likely done solely for the 'funny foreigner/eccentric scientist' angle, as in actuality it's not even Estonian.
- Peanuts featured the Van Pelt siblings, Lucy, Linus and Rerun. (There's no evident relationship to Van Pelt from Jumanji, or Scott Van Pelt of ESPN.) Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was from Minnesota, a U.S. state that has always had large German-American and Dutch-American populations. So Linus and Lucy's last name is probably just meant to mark them as "typical Midwesterners."
- Herr Doktor Bombastus Johannes Theophrastus Almagestus Wernher von Ulm from De cape et de crocs.
- A French translation of a Donald Duck comic has Donald try to call a jeweler by the Punny Name of van der Grosspierr (The French pronunciation of "van" sounds like "sells", making his name "sells big gems").
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- In Young Frankenstein, Frederick's great-grandfather (whose son Victor originally created the Creature) was named Baron Beaufort Von Frankenstein.
- Lily Von Shtupp, in Blazing Saddles.
- In A Knight's Tale, William competes under the name of Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein, which contrasts not a bit with his bearing.
- In Back to the Future Part III, Doc Brown mentions that his ancestors before World War I were the von Brauns. When the USA entered WWI, anti-German sentiment led many families to change their names. Cities with a prominent German heritage like Cincinnati even renamed some of their streets and changed local landmarks.
- Eric Von Zipper, the comical Badass Biker character from the '60s Beach Party movies.
- Long ago, a man approaches a Hollywood agent wanting to break into show business. He can sing. He can dance. He tells jokes. He's fabulous! "Fantastic!" says the agent. "What's your name, kid?" "Penis Van Lesbian," replies the young talent. "That's a terrible name!" exclaims the agent. We'll have to change it. How about we call you, 'Dick Van Dyke'?"
- As a Running Gag, many residents of Uberwald in Discworld have the Von as part of their names, including Moist Von Lipwig, the werewolves Angua and Wolfgang Von Uberwald, and vampire photographer Otto Von Chriek. Justified in that these names are all denominators of origin.
- Ralph von Wau Wau, a talking German Shepherd from Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon stories. The character is originally from the works of Philip Josť Farmer including "A Scarlet in Study" and "The Doge Whose Barque Was Worse Than His Bight".
- Evra Von from Cirque Du Freak. He often corrects people that it's just Von.
- Erast Fandorin's family name is a Russified version of "Von Dorn". Most of Boris Akunin's other novels feature characters who are somehow connected to the same Von Dorn family and have names that are similarly descended from their name (Van Doren, De Dorn, Darnowski, etc.)
- The von Ulrichs, an aristocratic German family in Ken Follett's novel Fall of Giants. Although the story takes place during World War I, Walter von Ulrich, being one of the main protagonists, is portrayed in a quite personable way. Walter (working at that point in time as diplomat in London) points out that the Brits always erroneously capitalize the von, when sending him letters.
- Baron Von Butcher was the head of the evil organization C.H.U.M.P. on Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.
- Nina Van Horn on Just Shoot Me!. It's not her real name (that would be Claire Noodleman); her agent got the last name from a porn star in his building.
- When The Doctor goes to Germany, he usually presents identification that says he is 'Doctor von Wer', literally, 'Doctor of Who'. And no, it makes no more sense in German than it would in English. Pretty much any native speaker would immediately notice and wonder if this was supposed to be some kind of joke. (Germany does feature two or three places called Wehr he could hypothetically claim to be from, but the word isn't particularly related to "wer" and so the pun wouldn't work quite so easily anymore except perhaps as a Genius Bonus.)
- Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl, whose family runs a Dutch shipping company dating back to the 18th century.
- The Two Ronnies gave us Otto van Dancer. Pronounce the v with a German f and you get the joke.
- The protagonist of Van der Valk is quite difficult to place in this list, as while the series spent a lot of time dealing with the less salubrious side of Freestate Amsterdam, Van der Valk himself was unambiguously Lawful Good.
- Grace Van Pelt on The Mentalist.
- Rob Van Dam got his name from wrestler Ron Slinker, because of his resemblance to actor Jean-Claude Van Damme.
- Christina Von Eerie's name isn't meant to invoke a "foreign" theme (though it does many viewers), as she is billed from "Spook City, USA."
- Incongruous would go some way to describing Leah Von Dutch, who does have aspirations, or possibly delusions of nobility, but has a long way to go to get there. And she's Canadian so wrong nationality.
- Count Von Count, Sesame Street's numerically-obsessed vampire.
- In The Jack Benny Program, Jack Benny's valet is Rochester Van Jones.
- Velma Von Tussle from Hairspray.
- Ebenezer von Clutch of Crash Tag Team Racing.
- Almaz Von Almadine Adamant from Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice.
- In the Interactive Fiction game Enlisted, the player character's last name is Van Dussen.
- The VanSalad family from The Curse of Monkey Island, who are described as even homelier than the Goodsoups. Also, Reginald Van Winslow from Tales of Monkey Island.
- Deitmar von Heinrichzimmerschneit from Borderlands 2 is a Nature Documentary director who hires the Vault Hunters to carry out his tasks while he sits back and provides director's commentary as it happens. Most of his tasks are for his own personal gain or amusement. Also, "Heinrichzimmerschneit" isn't his real name. His real name is so long that you'd starve to death before you finished saying it.
- The Skylanders franchise has Baron Von Shellshock, a talking crab with an inexplicable German accent.
- Germanic princess Hildegard von Krone from the Soul Series.
- Edward Chris von Muir from Final Fantasy IV.
- Luke fon Fabre and his family from "Tales of the Abyss", one of the rare times this was used correctly.
- Pink Panther: Passport to Peril has Von Schmarty, a Gadgeteer Genius responsible for most of the inventions at camp Chilly Wa-Wa. He is however a friend of Pink and thus firmly on the side of the good guys.
- Ilyasviel von Einzbern in Fate/stay night starts off as a villain but turns out to be slightly nicer than she looks. The rest of her family, however, may qualify...
- The title character of the webcomic Van Von Hunter.
- Joey Von Krause from Mortifer. Except it turns out not to be his real name...
- Despite his scary name, Moloch Von Zinzer is a pretty normal guy.
- His first name is Biblical, referring to a deity with links to child sacrifice. Apparently his mother wasn't very literary and just picked it out the Bible. There hasn't been an explanation for his apparent noble roots, though.
- There's also been a brief appearance before Martellus shot him in the face, anyway, from a Jaeger named Rerich, with the original last name of Von Billeguether. Perhaps a noble house that ended up under the rule of the Heterodynes?
- Ludwig Von Drake, Donald Duck's uncle, and a goofy Mad Scientist. In German he becomes Primus von Quack.
- The Simpsons has Melvin Van Horne, or Sideshow Mel, and Milhouse Van Houten.
- Scrooge McDuck is known in Danish as Joakim von And and in Swedish as Joakim von Anka, both meaning Joakim von Duck. We guess the translators weren't fluent in German, because it means that he is a duck from Duck. Hm... but then, "McDuck" would mean "son of Duck", so his original name isn't that much better.
- Velvet von Black from The Haunted Worldof El Superbeasto, though it's unclear whether or not this is a stagename being that she's a stripper and all.
- The friendly-bully on Phineas and Ferb is named Buford Van Stomm.
- Jorgen Von Strangle, in The Fairly OddParents!.
- Professor Dinglehopper Von Schlemer, from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.
- Dr. Ludwig von Scientist from Jimmy Two-Shoes.
- Dr. Otto von Scratchansniff from Animaniacs
- Erich von Stroheim, the "Man You Love to Hate" is the Trope Maker and Trope Codifier. He made a name for himself in the early 20th Century playing Prussian villains with a talent for sadism and the riding crop, and posed as a real-life aristocratic in exile in Hollywood. In actual fact, as Orson Welles pointed out, Stroheim was born to a poor Jewish family, his father was a haberdasher and the Stroheims are not listed in the Almanac von Gotha (which is the list of aristocratic families). Stroheim willingly added "von" to his surname to make himself into a fake aristocrat. Indeed, Jean Renoir, the French director who directed him in The Grand Illusion noted that Stroheim spoke very bad German but somehow to American years passed himself off as the real thing.
- Josef von Sternberg was originally Josef Sternberg and like Stroheim born to a Jewish family and needless to say had little hope in actually being the aristocrat he wanted to pass himself off as. But likewise, found it expedient to put on the Prussian-shtick in America.
- Invoked with Lars von Trier. The "von" part was a nickname he got in film school. He ultimately decided to keep the nickname to pay homage to Erich von Stroheim and Josef von Sternberg, who also added their "von" later in life.