"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 The 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.
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.
- 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). Eg Dick, Fanny, 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.
- 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 Fail O'Suckyname
. 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 McCoolname
, while Special Person, Normal Name
lies in between these two.
open/close all folders
- 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.
Religion and Mythology
- Invoked in 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.
- Similarly, 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.
Stand Up Comedy