Unfortunate Names

aka: Unfortunate Name
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 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. 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 McCoolname, while Special Person, Normal Name lies in between these two.


Example subpages:


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    Fan Fic 

     Film 
  • 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.

    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.
  • The name Nimrod was not an unfortunate name in Bible times, but has become so these days because of its association with dimwittedness.
  • In Chinese Mythology, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea can be transliterated as Dong Hai Long Wang.

    Stand Up Comedy 

    Real Life 
  • Apparently the Lear family (as in "Lear Jet") named one of their daughters Shanda.
  • And then there is the wonderfully named town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania!
  • A more comedic example would be Eromanga, Australia.
  • To avoid a mixture of this trope and Embarrassing Middle name, actress Olivia Jane Cockburn (despite her surname pronounced as "co-burn" ) chose the screen name Olivia Wilde.
  • French long-distance runner Gaylord Silly.
  • Vecna Technologies is a health care IT company. The name comes from the Czech word for "eternal", but those familiar with Dungeons & Dragons will recognize it as the sobriquet of the infamous wizard-king turned lich turned god of secrets and dark magic. Hopefully the company won't get involved in limb or ocular replacement.
  • A small village in Austria has gained considerable popularity in the English-speaking world for its name: Fucking (the German pronounciation rhymes with "booking"). This popularity let to the road sign at the entrance to the village being stolen repeatedly by tourists as souvenirs, which in turn resulted in taxes being raised to pay for replacement signs; Fucking has slighly more than 100 citizens, and each sign costs 300 Euro to replace. It went to far that in 2004, a vote was held on whether or not the village's name should be changed, but the citizens of Fucking voted against it.
  • Imogen Poots, whose full name is Imogen Gay Poots.
  • There's an extremely small company in Australia dealing in printed graphics called Trannys. "Tranny" is a slur for a transgender person, usually a trans woman, and is often used in fetish porn. Their business website at www.trannys.com.au is a perfectly safe and normal website for a perfectly normal small business, but... let's just say you shouldn't remove the Australian country code suffix from it while in company.
  • Baseball player Enrique Hernandez goes by the nickname Kike, which in English is a slur against Jewish people.
  • There was a town in Japan by the name of Kusobakama, literally "shit pants" named so because of this happening to the losing side in the aftermath of a battle. For understandable reasons the town eventually changed its name to Kusuba.
    Also, the soldiers fled in fear, and their feces leaked from their pants, so they removed their armor and fled. But knowing they could not escape, they lowered their heads and said, “Wagi” [please spare me my life]. Therefore, people in those times called the place where they shed their armor, Kawara, and where they voided in their pants, Kusobakama.[1]
  • There is a place in Papua called Fakfak. (pronounced like the f-word repeated.)


Alternative Title(s):

Unfortunate Name