This Is My Name on Foreign
"So instead of calling me 'Dragon' in your tongue, you'll call me 'Dragon' in some other tongue?"
A character chooses an alias by translating his name into some foreign language. See also You Are The Translated Foreign Word
If the character's name is changed because the work itself
is being translated into a foreign language, it's a Dub Name Change
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In the anime version of Hayate the Combat Butler, Himegami, a Battle Butler in a Wig, Dress, Accent disguise, insists that he is not Himegami, but in fact "Princess God"... which is a literal translation into English for "Himegami". Nobody is fooled.
- In Busou Renkin, before he became a hommunculus and took on the name Papillon, French for butterfly, the character had the family name of Chouno, which is Japanese for butterfly.
- Main character Jang Gun of the Manhwa Yureka selects "General," the English translation of Jang Gun, as the name for an AI based on himself—he ends up using the moniker instead when the AI isn't as cooperative as he expected.
- The Captain America villain the Red Skull often Anglicizes his birth name, Johann Schmidt, into John Smith as a disguise (though he has used dozens of others). The opposite was done in Alistair MacLean's 1967 WWII thriller novel (and the 1968 film version) Where Eagles Dare, where SOE commando Major John Smith talks his way past his Gestapo captors using his cover identity of Major Johann Schmidt of SS Military Intelligence.
- In Marvel 1602, an Alternate Universe taking place in the year, you guessed it, 1602, Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) is actually from a dystopian future of the normal 616 timeline, but had sent back by the evil "President-For-Life" to get rid of him. He is taken in by a local Native American tribe and takes on the name Rojhaz, which isn't actually a word in any Native American language, but it would sound enough like one to the new European settlers to pass as one. (Of course, these are the same people who manage to Hand Wave the fact that he is apparently a blond-haired, blue-eyed Native American, so perhaps he needn't have tried so hard.) The series also includes characters 'local' to 1602 whose names would be this trope if they were aliases, like Carlos Javier (Charles Xavier), Roberto Trefusis (Bobby Drake), Hal McCoy (Hank McCoy) and Scotius Summerisle (Scott Summers). Magneto's name, "Enrique", is probably the biggest offender. (Although it's not his birth name. It was given to him when he was abducted from the ghetto and forcibly converted to Christianity.)
- Also notable is Peter Parquagh. In Spider-Man 1602, it's revealed that his real name is Peter Parker, but as an apprentice to Queen Elizabeth's agent Nicholas Fury, he was advised to change the spelling so it sounded French because "Parker" is Scottish and Queen Elizabeth had no love of the Scots after dealing with Mary Queen of Scots. Who was also a former queen of France.
- Not to mention that "Parker" is English outside the world of 1602 and Elizabeth had no problems with the Scots after they deposed Mary.
- In G.I. Joe, Storm Shadow's codename comes from his surname Arashikage (嵐影), which literally means "Storm Shadow" in Japanese. An issue of the comic also has Snake-Eyes adopting the alias of Mr. Hebime (蛇眼).
- In Astérix, whenever any Gaul has to disguise himself as a member of another nationality they just replace the -ix in their name with the appropriate suffix.
- In the first story a Roman spy named Caligula Minus disguised himself as a Gaul and called himself Caliguliminix.
- When Asterix and Obelix disguise themselves as Roman legionarii, they use the names "Asterus" and "Obelus"...
- In Asterix and Son, a Roman named Odoriferus infiltrates the Gaulish village under the name Aromatix.
- Spider-Man: India, a four-issue Alternate Universe mini-series, showed how Spider-Man might look if he was born in modern-day India. Character names include Pavitr Prabhakar (Peter Parker), Nalin and Hari Oberoi (Norman and Harry Osborn) and Meera Jain (Mary-Jane).
- In most continuities of The Punisher, Frank Castle changed his name from "Castiglione" to "Castle" when he signed onto his third tour of Vietnam. This would later inform his choice of aliases, most of which are transliterations of his original surname (meaning "Fortification") being rendered into English as "Fort, Rook, Tower, Stronghold" etc.
- Talia from the Batman comics is the daughter of Ra's al Ghul whose name means "The Demon's Head". When she took over Lex Luthor's company, she used the alias 'Talia Head'.
- When one character remarks on the strange name of Doctor Strangelove, it's explained that it was translated from the German "Merkwürdigliebe". A bit of a Bilingual Bonus, since speakers of German would know the name sounds even more unusual in German than its translated counterpart does in English.
- As in the quote above, Bowen in Dragonheart gives the dragon the name "Draco" - Dragon in Latin.
- Interesting in that Draco himself objects rather loudly to being called "dragon", but has no problem with the name "Draco", even feeling honoured by the name, because it is the name of the constellation of stars revered by dragons as their own heaven.
- The main character of Rock-A-Doodle is named Chanticleer-which is the name of a rooster in the Reynard The Fox tales, and has become a French byword for "rooster". Evidently he's supposed to be the same one, but you'd be forgiven for not knowing that from watching the movie.
- Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda. His name is an anglicisation of "Ugui" which is mandarin Chinese for "Tortoise"
- That movie is made of this trope. The Furious Five are all named after the animal they are, which is also the fighting style they use. Shifu means "Teacher", Tai-Lung is "Great Dragon" (great as in huge and terrifying), and Po means "Precious" or "Favourite" (read: chosen).
Live Action TV
- In Terry and the Pirates, the thug Weazel goes by the name Belette (French for 'weasel') while working for Baron de Plexus.
- The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (an old-time radio program) once featured the character of an opera singer named Liza Bordelli. It turned out she was actually American, but used an Italian version of her name on stage... because her real name was Lizzy Borden.
- In The Lives Of Harry Lime, one episode has Harry sent after a con woman whose aliases all mean Brown in various languages (Braun, Brunelle, etc.).
- Vampire: The Masquerade had the Black Hand, an elite subsect of the Sabbat faction of vampires. There was also the Tal'mahe'Ra also known as Manus Nigrum (Arabic and Latinnote for "Black Hand" respectively), an Ancient Conspiracy hidden throughout vampire society as a whole, which claimed to have created the Black Hand of the Sabbat.
- It's common for Dungeons & Dragons characters to have last names with an Adjective-Noun structure (Goldmoon, Brightaxe, etc.), although they tend to be in Common (English) regardless of what language the character speaks natively. Apparently D&D characters translate their names into whatever language they're speaking at the moment.
- In the Metal Gear series, the real name of Gray Fox is Frank Jaeger (or Yeager), but he also uses the alias of Frank Hunter, which is what the name Jaeger means in German. His adoptive sister goes by the convenient alias of Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy, in a Nazi uniform, identifies himself as "Captain Heinrich".
- In the Franchis/Castlevania games: Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow, Alucard shows up under the pseudonym "Genya Arikado". The last name is just altering his name to fit Japanese pronunciation.
- In General Protection Fault, Dr. Not takes on a variety of pseudonyms for her name, some of which are based on foreign words for "Not," such as "Dr. Alexis Nicht" when in Paris.
- When engineer August Horch was kicked out of the auto manufacturer he founded, losing trademark rights to his name, he started a new company called Audi (Horch! and Audi! mean "Listen up!" in German and Latin, respectively).
- Casanova went by the name Newhouse in England, a literal translation of Casa Nova.
- Many immigrants translate their name into the language of their new country—Schmidt becomes Smith, Weiss becomes White. And in 19th-century New York, the captain of industry August Belmont used to be Schönberg (German into French).
- This is also why there are so many more Millers in the U.S. than in Britain — English millers had a reputation for cheating their customers, so "Miller" was an unpopular surname. American Millers were mostly originally Müller, Møller etc.
- In the 20th century, many European Jews changed their last name to make it sound more French/German/Spanish/whatnot to escape persecution or discrimination.
- In an inversion of the above, a man in New York City (I believe - it was a radio story) was the target of anti-Muslim crime. He was an immigrant from the Middle East who'd changed his name to fit in better. In NYC, that means his name was something along the lines of Stanley H. Rosenberg.
- Common in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, people of international fame (like physicians or astronomers) latinized their names or adapted them to host country's language when travelling. The famous Flemish Renaissance anatomist Andreas Witinck went by the name of Andreas Vesal (after the town Wesel where his family was from) which was latinized into Andreas Vesalius. The 11th century Persian physician, philosopher, astronomer and alchemist Abū Alī al-Husayn ibn Abdullāh ibn Sīnā became known in Europe as Avicenna.
- The Swedish Carl von Linné, father of modern taxonomy, known to us as Carolus Linnaeus.
- Philipp Melanchthon is born as Philipp Schwartzerd. His last name means black earth.
- Michel de Nostredame did not try very hard when he called himself Nostradamus.
- This phenomenon was not just restricted to scholars and internationally famous persons, it became quite common to translate family names into Latin or Greek; such names are sometimes called "humanists' names". Some examples from German:
- German to Latin:
- Agricola = Bauer (farmer, peasant)
- Faber, Fabricius = Schmidt, Schmid etc. (smith)
- Miles = Ridder (Low German for "knight")
- Sartorius = Schneider, Schröder (tailor)
- Sutor = Schuhmacher (shoemaker)
- Textor = Weber (weaver)
- German to Greek:
- Chrysander = Goldmann or Goldschmied
- Neander = Neumann (new man)
- Xylander = Holzmann (wood-man)
- In the 19th century there also was a bit of an English fashion in Germany, leading to a spate of children being given English first names, but also to a Hamburg merchant family called Oswald to change the spelling to O'Swald.
- A fictional example of Latinization is Phineas Nigellus in Harry Potter. Niger is Latin for "black". Although in-universe that's not so much Latinisation as Anglicisation, as Phineas Nigellus is an ancestor of the Black family.
- French food conglomerate Danone operates in the US as Dannon, a presumably more English-sounding name. The Danone name change was for phonetic reasons. If an American were to read Danone aloud they'd say Dan-On-Ee or Dan-One or some variation. In French, Danone sounds (almost) exactly like the American pronunciation of Dannon. Hence they maintained the phonetics of their original name by altering the spelling to fit the phonetics of another language, emphasizing the sound of the brand name over its written form. It makes sense, as you can enter a store and ask for Danone/Dannon and be understood, accent or no accent. In theory. Similarly, the Japanese Kashio is Casio in the US. And in fiction, Gojira becomes Godzilla.
- In an obscure and further example of the trope, Danone was originally founded by Isaac Carasso in Barcelona (Spain) in 1919 and was named after his son Daniel, who used the nickname "Danon" (which sounds in Spanish the same as "Danone" sounds in French and "Dannon" in US English). Even before moving to France, the brand used the form Danone because it looked classier.
- Similarly, the food chain Chef Boyardee is owned by the Boiardi family. They changed the spelling to keep the pronunciation clear.
- The Bic brand of ballpoint pen was developed by a Frenchman whose last name was Bich (the problems this would cause when marketed in the Anglosphere should be obvious, Bich). Hence, the brand name was changed so that the pronunciation would stay the same.
- The cleaning product brand previously known as Jif changed its name to Cif, the advertising campaign in Britain at least playfully suggesting because its name was not 'on foreign' enough, with accompanying clips of various Continental Europeans showing themselves as being unable to pronounce the old name. "hif?"
- Ricky Martin's real name is Enrique Martín Morales
- Though Enrique is Spanish for Henry. Yes, Enrique Iglesias means 'Henry Churches'. His father is called July.
- And Charlie Sheen is Carlos Irwin Estevez. The surname comes from the Stage Name of his father, Martin Sheen (Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez).
- Charles Lutwidge Dodgson took a (vague) Latin version of his name (Carolus Ludovicus) as a pen name, reversed it, and there we have it - Lewis Carroll.
- On the Argentine comedy group Les Luthiers, all the illegitimate children of composer Johann Sebastian Mastropiero (that sometimes went along the name Wolfgang Amadeus Mastropiero or Peter Ilich Mastropiero) with the contessa Shortshot were translations of Shortshot in different languages: Patrick McKleinschuss, Giovanni Colpocorto, Rafael Brevetiro, Mario Abraham Kortzclap, Anatole Tirecourt, Johnny Littlebang.
- According to urban legend, in mid-20th century Soviet Union, Physics books by Albert Einstein were signed as (translated to English) Albert Singlestone due to his obviously Jewish last name. While the story is almost certainly falsenote , it jokingly reflects the awkward attempts of the Soviet Union to reconcile widespread antisemitism with an internationalist stance.
- Before the 20th century, it was the norm to translate the given names of rulers into different languages, although these days it only seems to be the case with the popes and in multilingual countries. The retired pope (Josef Ratzinger) for instance is called Benedictus in Latin, Benedict in English, Benoît in French, Benedikt in German, Benedetto in Italian and Benedicto in Spanish. A former King of the Belgians was called Baudoin in French and Boudewijn in Flemish.
- This practice also used to extend to the first names of some famous writers and composers, for instance Bedrich Smetana was first known to Germans as "Friedrich Smetana" and Jules Verne as "Julius Verne".
- Some 20th century rulers also got this treatment. The best example is Joseph Stalin. His Russian name is Iosif (the Russian equivalent of Joseph). His original Georgian name is Ioseb before he adopted the now well-known name. His real name is actually Ioseb Besarionis je J̌uḡavili, which was rendered in Russian as Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. He took the nom de guerre Stalin in 1912, which is from the Russian meaning "man of steel".
- The 16th-century composer Roland de Lassus came from Mons in the Netherlands (now Belgium) but since his time in Italy was usually known by the Italian form of his name, Orlando di Lasso.
- Georg Friedrich Händel became George Frederic Handel after he moved to London.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was christened (in Latin) Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, where it is thought that the Greek "Theophilus" stands for the German name "Gottlieb". However, he preferred the French translation and called himself Wolfgang Amadé, which was later usually rendered in the Latinized form.
- The Austrian noble family of Neipperg changed its name to Montenuovo by translation into Italian.
- Many High School foreign language classes have the students take a name common in the language being studied (assuming the name isn't already). Often the student picks that language's version of their own name, if one exists.
- Chuck Norris' real name is Carlos Norris. Was nicknamed "Chuck" by a fellow airman in Korea.
- Transformers comic artist Pat Lee translated his name into Japanese katakana. However, rather than properly translate it, he used a letter replacement font without knowing how katakana works, resulting in 'Michiyamenotehi Funana'. After the fandom dug up an old website of his featuring the katakana, it became a mocking nickname.
- During the First World War, the English members of the noble family of Battenberg - a side-branch of the ruling house of the Grand Duchy of Hessen in Germany - anglicized their their family name to Mountbatten.
- Funnily enough, Battenberg cake is still called Battenberg cake in Britain.
- Celebrity chef Giada DeLaurentiis named her daughter Jade, which is the English translation of her own first name.
- In Japan you sometimes get a similar effect from alternatively reading a kanji in its Japanese or Chinese pronunciation. Thus the Minamoto clan was also known as the Genji and their mortal enemies the Taira clan as the Heike or Heishi.
- In 1492 who sailed the ocean blue? Definitely not Christopher Columbus, that's the version later given him by the English, but was it Cristoforo Colombo (Italian, for he was born in Genova) or Cristóbal Colón (Spanish, for he was employed by the king and queen of Spain)? Or maybe he preferred the neutral Latin version, Christophorus Columbus?
- The stage name of the singer Music/Gotye (real name Wouter De Backer) is a roundabout example of this. Gotye is a phoentic spelling of the French name Gautier, of which Woter is the Dutch form (and Walter the English form).
- The Russian author Mikhail Lermontov was the descendent of a Scot named Learmont.
- Doing this is very easy for names natively set in Chinese characters, because there are 4 languages that use (or have used) Chinese characters: Chinese (as Hanzi, 汉字), Korean (as Hanja, 한자), Japanese (as Kanji, 漢字) and Vietnamese (as chữ Hán, 𡨸漢).
- Just within Chinese itself there is a lot of this due to all the different pronunciations of the Hanzi in different dialects/languages.
- The grocery store Trader Joe's sells ethnic food under alternate names containing appropriate foreign translations of "Joe" (i.e. Trader Jose's, Trader Giotto's, Trader Jacques', etc.), though there are exceptions like "Trader Ming's" as Chinese does not have a direct translation of "Joe."
- The Corsican family Buonaparte changed its Italian name to French after Corsica became French and the local independence movement was defeated. Father Carlo Buonaparte became Charles Bonaparte, and his sons Giuseppe, Napoleone, Luciano, Luigi, and Girolamo became Joseph, Napoléon, Lucien, Louis, and Jérôme. Joseph, Louis, and Jérôme were later made kings of Spain, Holland, and Westphalia by their brother Napoléon, and were also known to their new subjects as José, Lodewijk, and Hieronymus, respectively.