12 Hours Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

Unfortunate Names

Truly the Butte Monkey of American towns! note 

"Make sure that all the C's are destroyed, so that the rascals can have no further means of abusing my name."
George Cockburn, Royal Navy Rear Admiral, destroying a U.S. newspaper during the burning of Washington, D.C. in War of 1812

An Unfortunate Implication where a name of a character, person, or thing unintentionally offends.

If you ask someone their name, and they give you an answer that fits this trope, chances are you won't take them seriously. You will then find out that yes, that really is their name. No joke. Or it may be a joke, but it still is seriously their name.

Characters under this trope are saddled with a name that realistically, you wouldn't expect a parent to name their kid or, for someone who's of a certain name, they'd choose to go by. This is the kind of name that gets kids made fun of in school — which leads them to snark "Never Heard That One Before" when the jokes continue into adulthood.

Yet, it also happens to be Truth in Television, in many unfortunate cases. Generally, when imposed (fictionally or otherwise) on someone, this will lead to a Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?. Real Joke Name is another possible outcome. If the name is unfortunate because it might accidentally hit an automatic word filter, then it's called the Scunthorpe Problem.

Comes in a variety of forms:
  • Double Entendre — The name is one that fits into the Double Entendre trope. Eg. Pussy Galore
  • Phrase Name — Where the first name and/or last name may sound perfectly normal on its own, but put them together and they make a phrase that sounds like a joke, a trait you wouldn't want to be associated with, or sounds just plain stupid. Eg. Dusty Rhodes
  • Pop Culture Name — An example of this trope being the result of someone being named after a famous pop culture character whose name would ordinarily not enter consideration for use. Examples include Optimus Prime, Kal-El, or ESPN. In this case, the name is already popular, but it isn't something you'd think to call someone under regular circumstances. Can result in an even more unfortunate name if the pop culture source's popularity is not enduring.
  • Rhyming Names — The first and last name rhyme with each other.
  • Unfortunate Coincidences — Regular names that happen to match coincidentally with famous or infamous figures from real life.
  • Unfortunate Meaning — someone thought the name sounded nice, but apparently had no clue that the name they gave their child describes a disease or a woman's genitalia. (Many of these are urban legends or outright deliberately racist comments; usually, the more defensive the teller gets about these, the more likely he knows they're false.)
  • Have a Gay Old Time — Linguistic drift can hit names quicker than some folks would like. If a name later gets adopted for a sexual term, those who had the name before the drift run afoul of this (those named after, however, run into one of the above issues instead). Examples include Dick, Fanny and Gaylord.
  • Gender-Blender Name — Many names (at least, in American English) were once relatively common and unremarkable as names for male children, but in recent years have become more common for girls, sometimes with minor spelling differences. In the real world there are male Stacys, Danas, Courtneys, Kellys, and Ashleys, and yet you only see those names in fiction on women (on the other hand, there are female Chrises, Pats, Lees, and Terrys and yet, they're only male names in fiction). Likewise, Leslie Nielsen was a man. So someone with old-fashioned parents, or simply a desire to name a baby after an ancestor, might wind up with a "girly" name, such as Mary. Conversely, unfortunate women may end up with a "guy" name; though they are mostly more fortunate.
  • Fun with Acronyms — when the initials spell something silly or offensive.
  • Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle — The name is okay, maybe even good and auspicious in its own language, but doesn't travel well. Maybe it sounds like a curse or a pronoun; bonus points if it's shouted dramatically in the work. Eg. Wang - "King" in Chinese, dick jokes galore in English.
  • Ironic Name: The name that specifically means something is the exact opposite of your character.

This only goes for examples where the name is the character or person's legal given name, or the name they most commonly go by. If someone uses it as a temporary alias, that's not this trope.

Will frequently intersect with Punny Name. When those with Unfortunate Names pronounce them counterintuitively (whether in an effort to save themselves the embarrassment or not), they'll feel compelled to inform people that It Is Pronounced Tro PAY.

Given human nature, quite a few fairly common names wind up as slang terms. Simply having one of these isn't really an example of this trope, unless it forms a particularly bad combination with the rest of the name.

If just the first or middle name is unfortunate, then it's an Embarrassing First Name or an Embarrassing Middle Name. If a character chooses this name as a superhero or villain alias, it's Atrocious Alias. There's also Names to Run Away from Really Fast, where your name isn't so much embarrassing as deeply scary.

This trope is the opposite of Awesome McCool Name, while Special Person, Normal Name lies in between these two.

Example subpages:

    open/close all folders 

    Fan Fic 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series has Dr. Brainstorm, whose Obviously Evil name is lampshaded:
    Calvin: That's a dumb name. Why not something interesting? Like Doctor Doom, or Doctor Chaos, or Doctor Chaotic Doom?
  • Ebony Darkness Dementia Raven Way. The author was presumably trying for an Awesome Mccoolname-cum-Darkness von Gothickname, but she ended up with a name which, translated to Layman's Terms, is "Black Black Senility Bird Direction". That's before you take into account the author's apparent inability to spell it the same way twice (to the point she's usually referred to by snarkers as "Enoby").
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse has its main character Trixie Lulamoon, who always wishes to be addressed by her first name (unless she is drunk, then her second name). Apparently, there is a childhood rhyme that is the cause behind the name being unfortunate.
  • In the Fallout: Equestria universe it is something of a tradition for named Steel Rangers to have embarrassing food-based names such as Cottage Cheese and Butterbean.
  • Golden Retriever, Twilight's assistant in The Demesne Of The Reluctant Twilight Sparkle. Twilight eventually grants her a literal license, "as a civil servant of the highest order", to kick the flank of anypony who teases her about her name within the bounds of the demesne.
  • Gensokyo 20XX has Ren's brother Baka and Ren could never really figure out why and always thought it was because he wasn't very bright, though he also did note that, according to his father, that was the name only he responded to and the name stuck. However, true to his name, he isn't really very bright.
  • In A.A. Pessimal's The Big Bang Theory and Discworld crossover The Many Worlds Interpretation, a visiting Assassin from the Discworld encounters members of the Los Angeles Police Department called Krupke, Dibble and Captain Trunk. Apparently there is also an Inspector Columbo in the murder squad, and a mounted policeman called Officer McLeod.

  • A Fine Mess. Dennis' boss is named Mr. Wardell Flecken, a shortened version of Fleckenshicker. Dennis asks, "Is that like Shickenflucker?"
  • Southland Tales The main character from Boxer Santaros' screenplay is called Jericho Cain. Now pronounce that quickly.
  • Poor Lord Gastrous from Barbie: Mariposa was named after his ample stomach.
  • Sherlock Holmes: "Lord Blackwood" is one thing, but if you had to live with a name like "Lord Coward", you might have turned to villainy, too.
  • Emperor Palpatine. A respectable name: imperious, meaningful, and just plain cool. His first name is Sheev. And now you know why he was on Last Name Basis for thirty-seven years.
  • The villain of Red Eye is named "Jackson Rippner." Fitting for Jackson, to be sure, but who in their right mind would inflict such a name on their kid? (Apparently, he expressed similar views to them. Right before he killed them.)
  • The Bell Witch Haunting has the unfortunately named Officer Bungalon, pronounced like "bunglin'". He's actually reasonably competent.
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights has a character named Latrine. Who is revealed to have changed her name to Latrine. Her given name? Shithouse.
  • Drive has the character Shannon, who's described as a man who never got a break. Apparently it started at birth.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Bible
    • To demonstrate His wrath at idolatrous Israel, God has the prophet Hosea give his children symbolic names. The first son, Jezreel, is named for a valley where Israel's evil kings have shed blood, and where God promises they will be punished in turn; his daughter is named Lo-ruhamah, "not pitied," because God is through being merciful; and the youngest son is Lo-ammi, "not my people," to foretell that God will eventually send Israel into exile among the nations.
    • The prophet Isaiah named his younger son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means "spoil quickly, plunder speedily," again to foretell Judah's coming doom. His older brother Shear-Jashub ("a remnant shall return") lucked out and got a happy prophecy.
  • Kopreus was an uncle of king Eurystheus of Mycene, who had the job of delivering Eurystheus' orders about what the next Labour was going to be to Herakles. "Kopreus" means "dung-heap".
  • Also Uranus, father of the Titans, but not in the original language. In Greek, Uranus (or more properly Ouranos) means "sky" or "heaven". Ironically, it was one of his private parts on the opposite side that got abused in a famous myth.
  • The name Nimrod was not an unfortunate name in Bible times, but has become so these days because of its association with dimwittedness from Bugs Bunny. note 
    • May be Older Than Feudalism, actually, since in Dante's Inferno he is shown to be one of several giants guarding the pit of Hell. He can only utter meaningless gibberish, and Virgil taunts him as being stupid.
  • In Chinese Mythology, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea can be transliterated as Dong Hai Long Wang.

    Stand Up Comedy 

  • Genacol is a popular form of arthritis medication worldwide, but in the Philippines, its name is often the subject of derision. That's because Genacol sounds like "jinakol," which is Filipino for "jacked off".
  • The city of Des Moines, Iowa takes its name from the nearby Des Moines River, which was christened by the French explorers Marquette and Joliet specifically because they liked how French the name sounded. Marquette and Joliet encountered the Peoria tribe and asked them what the name of the river was. The Peoria told them "Moingoana," which kind of sounds like "moines," the French word for "monks." "Moingoana" actually means "shitface."

Alternative Title(s): Unfortunate Name