Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names
Stephen: A man with the ridiculous name of "Leland W. Sprinkle"...An American character, if intended to be comic, may be given a particular kind of over-the-top name. The character may well also be subject to the various American National Stereotyping Tropes and, of course, all the tropes to which a comic character would be subject. The name will often include one or more of the following:
Alan: American. He has to be American.
Stephen: American, yes.
Alan: American. He has to be American.
Stephen: American, yes.
- A first name that is very much associated with the United States (e.g. Hank, Dwight, Quincy or Hiram), or a quirky nickname (like "Buzz" or "Chip") that would be unusual in another English-speaking country or is somewhat grandiose. Especially if it's originally a surname, the name of one of the dead presidents (thus often a sign of Patriotic Fervor), or both.
- A middle initial — often an unspecified Mysterious Middle Initial, or one that stands for a name that sounds exotic and/or is overly long.
- A surname which has a Germanic and/or Jewish sound to it, or made of an unusual and sometimes seemingly-random combination of English words, e.g. "Picklehammer".
- If it's a really over-the-top comedy character, the name may end with "Junior", "Senior" or a Roman numeral e.g. "Hank T. Picklehammer III".
- Compound names like Mary-Beth or Bobby Joe. Ironically, if called Mary-Sue, the character will probably not be a Mary Sue. These names are often used as a shorthand to indicate the character hails from the Southern states or at least a rural area, particularly if the compound name is not hyphenated.
- Deep South or rural characters may alternatively get obscure Biblical names—if male, often ending in "-iah" ("Jeremiah," "Obadiah," "Jedediah," that kind of thing)—perhaps reflecting assumptions about the prevalence of religious belief in those areas (which naturally raises the question of why Old Testament "Jewish" names seem to be selected far more often than New Testament "Christian" names).
- Utahns may have first names that look odd even by American standards, even if you ignore the names from Mormon Scripture (which can be pretty odd by any standard, sounding kind of Hebrew-ish but having no direct cognates anywhere elsenote ). Collapsing the names of the parents or grandparents into the name of the child is an Utah tradition (i.e. Renee + Esme = Renesmee) or just making up something completely new.
- Home Town Nickname examples can give an otherwise ordinary name this effect, with "Tex" being relatively common for large, obnoxiously friendly characters in cowboy hats.
- Many Afro-American forenames can sound odd, or forced, or strangely spelt versions of common namesnote , to those who are not of this ethnicity. This appears to be a relatively recent evolution not seen much before the 1980's. Historically, the vast majority of black Americans did not have formal surnames before emancipation in 1865; surnames needed to be assumed quickly, and many former slaves chose to take the names of inspirational presidents, or the kinder slave-owners, or of the Union generals who liberated them. This explains the preponderance of Lincolns, Washingtons, Jeffersons, et c, still seen today.
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Anime and Manga
- All-American Hot-Blooded goofball Badass Chibodee Crocket from Mobile Fighter G Gundam is one of the more outlandish examples.
- Guilty Crown has Colonel Dan Eagleman, a quirky American officer in the service of GHQ.
- The American villain of the Duelist Kingdom arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! is named Pegasus J. Crawford in Japanese, and the slightly more normal but still wacky Maximillion Pegasus in English. All the other American characters have normal names, however.
- Oddly enough, Axis Powers Hetalia gives its anthropomorphic personification of America the rather bland moniker "Alfred Jones," though he does have the Mysterious Middle Initial "F" (speculated to stand for, among other things, "Franklin," "Freedom," and "Fuck").
- The now-defunct British comics Whizzer and Chips and Buster had Junior Rotter, a version of Dallas (see below) with child characters. Unsurprisingly, these followed the names of that series, including Sue Helen, J.R.'s sister. J.R. himself, of course, averted the trope in this version.
- A mention must go to the Stane family from Iron Man, where each generation preserves a biblical name - Obadiah, Jedediah, and Ezekiel.
- Marvel Comics once ran a series called US-1, featuring an all-American trucker main character named Ulysses Solomon Archer, and his older brother Jefferson Hercules Archer. This was made fun of in the comic's review by Linkara.
- Doonesbury is rife with this trope: Michael J. Doonesbury, Mark P. Slackmeyer, Barbara Ann 'Boopsie' Boopstein, Joanie 'J.J.' Caucus, Jr., Zeke Brenner, and Roland Burton Hedley, Jr.
- Brick Eagleburger from the Adrian Mole books.
- Quincey P. Morris from Dracula. Although he isn't exactly comic, he is a rootin', tootin' and shootin' American man of action.
- Jules Verne provides some good examples of this trope, but not all of his American characters follow it:
- In From the Earth to the Moon, there's Impey Barbicane, president of the Baltimore Gun Club, but the names of the other members of the club, e. g. James T. Maston and Tom Hunter, are perfectly ordinary.
- In Around the World in 80 Days, there's Col. Stamp W. Proctor, whom Phileas Fogg challenges to a duel. (On the other hand, "Phileas Fogg" is at least as wacky as "Stamp W. Proctor", if not more so...)
- In Robur the Conqueror, there are some oddball names like Jem Cip and Bat T. Fynn (Bat T. Fynn?), but also perfectly normal ones like William Forbes and Phil Evans.
- Jules Verne had a penchant for using odd-sounding names, which even includes a number of his French characters, perhaps none more so than Zéphyrin Xirdal in The Hunt for the Meteor.
- The characters of Good Omens include a televangelist called Martin O. Bagman.
- The hero of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- To Kill a Mockingbird also naturally has several examples, with the prize going to X Billups, who has no given name other than X.
- Money - A Suicide Note, by Martin Amis features an American actor called Spunk Davis. The book's protagonist tries to explain to him why his name may be a problem for a movie's UK release, but chickens out.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Perseus "Percy" Jackson whose best friends are Grover Underwood (somewhat justified because he's a satyr in disguise), Annabeth Chase, Nico di Angelo (somewhat justified as he was born before World War II), and Thalia Grace. Other characters include Piper McLean, Nyssa, Clovis, Lou Ellen, and Reyna. Even when the completely human Paul Blofis meets Poseidon, Poseidon openly says that is his name, even lampshading it and Paul doesn't bat an eye.
- Aside from the last one, these names may be justified as many were named with the knowledge that they are the children of the Olympic gods and deserve heroic (or at least Greek) names.
- In Auntie Mame, there's a paragraph on the names in Mame's Southern fiance's family (he himself is named after a string of Confederate generals and goes by Beau):
The relatives kept coming. They all had two first names and some of them even had two last names. There were about six men named Moultrie, four named Calhoun, eight called Randolph, and almost everybody had a Lee tucked somewhere into his or her name. To make things even more confusing, about half the women had men's names. There were women called Sarah John, Liza William, Susie Carter, Lizzie Beaufort — pronounced Byew-fert — Mary Arnold, Annie Bryan, Lois Dwight.
- All members of Oscar Wilde's worthy American family in The Canterville Ghost have very American and patriotic names: Mr. Hiram B. Otis is the patriarch of the family and the American Minister, his wife was Miss Lucretia R. Tappan before her wedding, their eldest son was christened Washington, next child is Miss Virginia E. Otis and after her came the twins, who were usually called 'The Stars and Stripes'.
- To the British characters in Derek Robinson's Piece of Cake, the perfectly innocuous Christopher Hart III is a wacky name. Of course, they first mistake "III" (the third) for "ill" (sick). When they eventually figure it out they shorten his name to "CH3".
- The Cruel Sea mentions the appearance (pre-American entry) of "strange-looking destroyers, with long names often beginning with 'Jacob' or 'Ephraim'". American Destroyers were and are named for Naval officers, heroic sailors, and Secretaries of the Navy; British Destroyers for abstract adjectives and nouns (usually with some sort of "theme", or in some classes simple alliteration) and of course the "Flower" class Corvettes were named for Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
Battleaxe: WHAT THE DEVIL IS A REUBEN JAMES?
- This odd convention was also noted by Thomas Pynchon and parodied to the maximum possible extent in Gravitys Rainbow with the gloriously-named USS John E. Badass.
- It also shows up in Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising in a humorous exchange of blinker signals between HMS Battleaxe and USS Reuben James
Reuben James: AT LEAST WE DON'T NAME SHIPS FOR OUR MOTHER-IN-LAW
- In James Baldwin's Another Country, protagonist Rufus has a best friend named Vivaldo Moore. This could also be a Multiethnic Name, although the "Vivaldo" seems more like a nod to composer Antonio Vivaldi than an indicator of Italian heritage.
- In the 18th The Famous Five book by British children's writer Enid Blyton, Five on Finniston Farm, an obnoxious father and son from America, fulfilling some of the most negative stereotypes about Americans, are long-term guests on the eponymous farm in Dorset, where the Five are also staying on holiday, and the farmer and his wife somewhat unwillingly allow the Americans to stay on owing to the much-needed income they bring to the farm. The father is identified as Mr. Henning, and his spoilt brat of a son is identified as nothing more than "Junior" - not only addressed or referred to as such by other characters (including his father), but also called thus in the narrative - exactly as if he had no first name other than "Junior".
- This is Moran's reaction on encountering Elder Enoch J. Drebber of Cleveland, Ohio in The Hound Of The D Urbervilles:
"Enoch J. Drebber — why d'you think Yankees are so keen on those blasted middle initials?"
- Tarzan of the Apes has Absent-Minded Professor Archimedes Q. Porter and his assistant Samuel T. Philander.
- Sinclair Lewis' novel Babbitt, wich satirizes American society and culture has supporting characters with names like Vergil Gunch, Professor Joseph K. Pumphrey, Chester "Chet" Laylock, Mat Penniman, T. Cholmondeley "Chum" Frink, Tanis Judique and Carrie Nork.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald starts a chapter of The Great Gatsby with a list (by no means complete) of high-society people he met at Gatsby's parties. They all have names like Dr. Webster Civet, O.R.P. Schraeder, Stonewall Jackson Abrams (from Georgia), Ripley Snell, Mrs. Ulysses Swett, Maurice A. Flink, Cecil Roebuck, Cecil Schoen, Newton Orchid, James B. "Rotgut" Ferret, and Henry L. Palmetto.
- In P. G. Wodehouse's novel Big Money, an American millionaire is called T. Patterson Frisby. (The T stands for Torquil).
Live Action Film
- The Marx Brothers (specifically Groucho) loved this trope, perhaps enough to make them Trope Codifier if not Ur-Example:-
- Set in Georgia, Smokey and the Bandit centres on the doings of Bo "Bandit" Darville, Cletus "Snowman" Snow and Sheriff Buford T. Justice. Overlaps with code names since "Bandit" and "Snowman" are Citizens' Band (CB) radio 'handles'.
- The Coen Brothers are good for illustrating the different flavors of this trope, because their movies all take place in different, very atmosphere-heavy, uniquely American settings. For example:
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? has the Southern versions. Vernon T. Waldrip and Ulysses Everett McGill come to mind.
- Fargo has the Scandinavian-derived Minnesotan surnames (Gunderson and Lundegaard).
- The Hudsucker Proxy has the Germanic captain-of-industry names (Waring Hudsucker and Sidney J. Mussburger), plus Norville Barnes for the small-town protagonist.
- Ruggles of Red Gap involves Ruggles, a valet who could not be any more The Jeeves if he tried, coming into the employ of a loud and wacky, if well-meaning, Nouveau Riche American named "Egbert Floud".
Live Action TV
- Comedian Lenny Henry's comic character Theophilus P. Wildebeeste, an over-the-top parody of various 1970s soul singers like Barry White.
- In 1992, the British Sketch Comedy show The Mary Whitehouse Experience included a sketch showing what it would look like when the US would be hosting The World Cup in 1994. One of the players is named Barry Spinnaker, and the host is named Dwight Speigelhacker.
- Corrupt Hick Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, from The Dukes of Hazzard, not to mention his superior Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg note , his deputy Cletus Hogg and their rival Beauregard "Bo" Duke.
- The Waltons had a full complement of these under their roof, too, with John-Boy, Jim-Bob, Zebulon (Grandpa), Esther (Grandma) and Mary Ellen.
- In The Beverly Hillbillies, a lot of the humour came from the rural vs. urban culture clash, so unsurprisingly the Clampett family included Daisy May (Grandma) and Elly May.
- Dallas, which centred on the Ewing family, key members of which were J.R. (John Ross) Ewing (Jr.; his father, John Ross, Sr. went by "Jock" and his son John Ross III went by John Ross) and his wife Sue Ellen.
- QI, see above. They also enjoyed a Judge Jack Love and a John "Crazy" Fitch in a way they probably wouldn't have if the owners of those names had been British.
- The West Wing: D. Wire Newman has to be the best name for a fake ex-president ever invented. And grandiose, WASPy names for politicians were especially prevalent in the Aaron Sorkin seasons, from Lilienfield and Claypool to Stackhouse and Sugarbaker.
Josh: Peyton Cabot Harrison the Third. He sounds like he should be a Supreme Court justice.
Donna: It's a good name.
Josh: Phillips Exeter, Princeton, Rhodes Scholar, Harvard Law Review, for which he was, oh yeah, the editor — did I mention he was dean of Harvard Law School? Did I mention that his father was Attorney General to Eisenhower?
Donna: Peyton Cabot Harrison the Third.
Josh: That's right.
Donna: Jewish fella?
- Firefly used some of these to help set the scene, like Rance Burgess, the villain in "Heart of Gold." Among the main cast, the full names of Hoban "Wash" Washburn and Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye also qualify.
- Kramer's alias H.E. Pennypacker on Seinfeld. "I'm a wealthy American industrialist looking to open a silver mine in the mountains of Peru..."
- Doctor Who:
- Canton Everett Delaware the Third. The name is lampshaded a bit by the Doctor: "Now then! Canton Everett Delaware the Third. That was his name, yeah? How many of those can there be? Well... three, I suppose."
- Not to mention Morton Dill from "The Chase".
- When the producer John Nathan-Turner added the first American companion, sketched out as a free-spirited young botany student, he bestowed on her what he thought was the perfectly representative American name of ... Perpugilliam Brown. He said he'd gotten it out of a book.
- The Goodies had Major Charles M. Cheeseburger in one episode.
- Steven Q. Urkel of Family Matters.
- In The Games episode "IOC Man", American Bill Ten Eyck (the eponymous IOC man) mentions his children and remarks his son is named "Bill, Jr.". This causes John to ask about his daughters:
"Or do you not bother giving them names?"
- The Hero on JAG is named Harmon "Harm" Rabb, Jr.
- His associates on the show would include a young officer by the name of Bud Roberts Jr. That's not "Bud", his nickname, that's Bud, the name he inherited from his father.
- On the subject of Mitt Romney: "Mitt? What a stupid name. What the hell is it short for? 'Mitthew'?", said... Marcus Brigstocke.
- Top Gear:
- Hammond's liking for American things sees him referred to by his co-presenters as Richard J. Cheeseburger Hammond, III.
- The first America special credited the presenters as "Cletus Clarkson, Earl Hammond Jr., Ellie May May, and Roscoe P. Stig." All the other names read "Billy Bob (surname)".
- Possibly invoked by English country singer and dentist (yes!) Hank Wangford when he adopted his stage name, especially given the closeness of "Wangford" to the derogatory term "wanker".
- Rich Hall's touring musical persona Otis Lee Crenshaw.
- Dr. Phineas Waldorf Steel isn't just wacky - he's Crazy Awesome.
- In Anna Russell's How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, the wealthy American patriarch is named Parnassus Q. Vanderfeller.
- Patti Smith's protest song Citizen Ship is about the experience of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. During the song she turns to the other band members, adopts the attitude of a bored and disinterested immigration clerk, and rudely demands their names. She makes a point of changing some of the more difficult to Ameericanised names - exactly as it would have been at Ellis Island.
- In the Charles Dickens spoof Bleak Expectations, Philip "Pip" Bin, the (English) protagonist and inventor of the rubbish bin, has his invention stolen by an American industrialist called Harlan J. Trashcan (simultaneously parodying Namesake Gag and justifying a well-known example of Separated by a Common Language). But Harlan quickly turns out to be the series Big Bad.
- Jay Washbourne III in the Absolute Power episode "Mayor of London".
- Yes, Prime Minister on the ZX Spectrum had an American envoy by the name of Hiram P. Goldbladder.
- Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes is a bizarre example - in Japan, his name sounds really awesome, but in the U.S. it sounds over the top and weird.
- Fallout 3 has a robot in the National Archives who is named after (and believes he is) Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence on behalf of Georgia.
- "Brains" in Thunderbirds goes by the names Hiram K. Hackenbacker and Ray Hackenbacker, although his true name is not actually revealed in-universe.
- From Toy Story and its sequels, the all-American astronaut toy Buzz Lightyear.
- A lot of characters in The Simpsons have eccentric names.
- Gravity Falls:
- "Irrational Treasure" brings us President Sir Lord Quentin Trembley, III, Esquire, the 8½th President of the United States and the town's true founder.
- A reoccurring character is self-described "local kook" Fiddleford H. McGucket, otherwise known as "Old Man McGucket".
- Recess had Sue-Bob Murphy.