"I've been giving thought to the idea of naming my child. It's a great responsibility, you know, choosing a right name. If I call him "Zeus"...but that would cause problems of high expectation. Maybe I call him "Offal". That would cause problems of low expectation. Maybe I call him "FIRE!!" That would cause panic whenever someone calls his name; I would like this."
You know those Unfortunate Names - Embarrassing First Names, Embarrassing Middle Names, Gender Blender Names, Tomboyish Names, names nobody can pronounce or spell, or that expose the bearer to ridicule by being punny, if not at home then as soon as they venture abroad and other things that drive people to seek refuge in deed polls or Last Name Basis, or develop a Berserk Button? Let alone names that indicate exactly what the parents hope the child will become ("No, you may not skip your piano lesson, little Wolfgang Amadeus"), or give away their family background (class, parents' embarrassing choice of celebrity idols) in ways that expose them to all sorts of trouble when they venture into the wider world.
Suffice to say, somebody - usually but not invariably the parents - had to name them that way. They may have meant well. They may have done it out of family pride, or cluelessness, or not thinking about the unwanted Bilingual Bonus they're saddling the kid with. They may have named the kid after their favourite fictional character, or politician, or something even goofier. They may think having a bully magnet name will help the tyke build character. They may just hate kids. They may be rock stars, or hippies, or both, with child-naming habits to match. Or they might just have been hit with the fickle finger of fate when something happened after the child's birth to make the choice much less sensible in retrospect. (Being named Adolf is one thing: being named Adolf in 1928 is another.)
At any rate, the effect is usually to make third parties ask the question: "Who calls their child that?", or in the more light-hearted cases, "I hope he inherited his parents' sense of humor." In extreme cases, may function as a Freudian Excuse, or lead to Calling the Old Man Out, or both. May induce a sense of being Cursed with Awesome or Blessed with Suck - let alone a whole bunch of problems if you've been saddled with a name to run away from really fast and it's not by your own choice. Even a name to trust immediately can lead to schoolyard jokes. In extreme cases, this trope may also lead others to decide that There Should Be a Law, which in a number of European countries there is, at least as far as the more obvious Unfortunate Names, names leading to Viewer Gender Confusion, or the use of surnames as first names. May also slightly stack the odds against the child's future success.
This might also extend to cases where the kid, however grown-up they get, are never allowed to shake off a family nickname that would only be cute on a toddler, though probably not to embarrassing nicknames acquired in other settings, such as school. Children with names fitting this trope may also take refuge in nicknames or titles.
Obviously, one person's Awesome McCool Name is another's Fail O'Suckyname, and things can get touchy for those of us who have been blessed with names we took a while to get to terms with, or are still working on it.
Please note this is not just a matter of people/characters having Unfortunate Names - this applies only when there is an In-Universe reaction to the fact.No Real Life examples that do not include some sort of official reaction to the name.
In Naru Taru, there is Shiina, whose name means "a husk" or "a seed that will never flower". For this reason, Shiina always writes her name in katakana, which, unlike the original Chinese characters, don't carry explicit meaning. The name is questioned by other characters throughout the series. It is later revealed that her mother gave her that name because she didn't want Shiina to grow up and leave her like her other daughter did.
In Durarara!!, the not quite main character's parents figured they should give their kid an awesome name should he ever grow up to become famous or important, so they named him Mikado Ryugamine. In English, they named their kid Emperor of Dragon's Peak. This, of course, made him the target of endless jokes and taunting through the majority of his childhood, and nearly everyone feels the need to comment on just how pretentious his name sounds when they meet him.
Izaya (effectively named after the biblical prophet Isiah) expresses similar sentiments about his name.
Izaya: My parents are completely ordinary people. Except for when it comes to the taste in children's names, that is.
An interesting variant of this is the basis of one of the main gags in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. Intensely depressed protagonist Nozomu's family name of Itoshiki is made up of two kanji that, when written too closely together and combined with the kanji for his first name, look an awful lot like the word "despair". The other members of his family are all shown to have similarly easily-mistaken names as well, such as his Doctor brother whose name can be written as "Death". Better yet, it's heavily implied that the family patriarch does this with the sole reason that it amuses him!
In Saiunkoku Monogatari, the thirteenth child of the Ran clan is named Jyuusanhime, which just means "thirteenth princess." She's shown complaining about it in a flashback to her childhood friend Shiba Jin, who responds by giving her the Affectionate Nickname Hotaru ("firefly").
An example of this exists in the anime Soul Eater. This is subverted, however, when it is revealed that students are allowed to register the Death Weapon Meister Academy with any name of their choice. Once a student has changed their name, they are stuck with the same name for a minimum of two years. Examples include Soul Eater (changed from Soul Evans), Death the Kid, and Black*Star (Yeah, it's spelled with a freaking star).
In Rave Master, King Gale Raregroove had...questionable taste in baby names. King's first son got the name Lucia, a Gender-Blender Name that means light-which would be an unremarkable detail if his son hadn't grown up to be the embodiment of evil with a dark themed power. His stepbrother did not have it much easier, being named Deep Snow for how much it was snowing outside at the time of his adoption.
Ranma ½: We know exactly who would name a kid Pantyhose Taro - Panty Thief and all-round Dirty Old Man Happousai, that's who. No wonder Pantyhose swore to kill him. If he had his own choice, his name would be Handsome Taro.
Dragon Ball Z does this when the announcer at the World Martial Arts Tournament asks Android Eighteen if "Number Eighteen" is her real name. In the original, she says it doesn't matter, but in the English dub, she snarks that "My father was pretty dull."
Though this has recently been debunked entirely with Toriyama's reveal that "Android Eighteen" really is just a title. Her real name is Lazuli.
Subverted in a Zatanna special. She wonders how an evil sorceress was able to avoid her spell when Zatanna used what she thought was the sorceress' true name, then suddenly realises that no one is born with a name like "Nimue Ravensong". Zatanna then goes in search of the sorceress' birth name.
The Clark Kents of Earth-Prime and Superman: Secret Identity were both named by parents with a weird sense of humour on worlds where Superman comics existed. The Clark Kent of Secret Identity is shown to be pretty tired of all the jokes. It actually works to his advantage a couple of times: he meets one Lois Chaudhari when friends set them up as a prank and they hit it off and ultimately get married, and the secret government agency searching for a strange flying man dismisses published author Clark Kent because it would just be too ridiculous.
In Knights of the Dinner Table, Johnny Kizinski names his youngest son Frodo after convincing his wife that it was the name of a relative of his from 'the old country' who died fighting the Russians. His wife is not happy when she learns the truth.
In either a Daredevil or Spider-Man comic book, when Foggy Nelson and Flash Thompson's respective girlfriends introduced them at a restaurant, both of them thought of this trope (but didn't say anything), unaware that the other goes by a nickname rather than their real first name:
Foggy NelsonThinking: What kind of name is "Flash?" Flash ThompsonThinking: Who names his son "Foggy?"
In The Desert Peach, the real name of Rosen Kavalier (the lover of the main character) is 'Melvin Gonville Ramsbottom'. His mother was a German prostitute, his father was an English customer. Leads to the following conversation when the big secret is revealed (slightly paraphrased)...
Rosen: It was my father's name! Got a problem with that?
Udo: No no no... But... 'Gonville'
Rosenrolling his eyes: He was a British hero. He killed Zulus. He was deaf.
Udo: 'Ramsbottom'. Does that mean what I think it...?
Rosen: IT'S A PLACE NAME! THE BRITISH HAVE WEIRD PLACE NAMES!
In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, because the Smurfs in that series reproduce physically, it's the parents that give their children such wonderful names based on a profession or a personality, though there are some exceptions like Duncan McSmurf.
In Dirty SympathyKlavier and Apollo have this opinion of their names: Klavier jokes that he's glad that his parents named him in the living room and that they had a piano or he might have been Kaffeemaschine Gavin. Apollo feels that his name is really pretentious and with his name he should at least be taller and better-looking. When they learn each other's name, they both tell the jokes on their names to get over with.
In An Uncommon Witness, many people comment on Duck's unusual name. She says it was idea of her eccentric grandfather and her mom went along to humor him. As she's very clumsy, many consider it a perfect name for her. The truth being, they called her "Duck" in honor of a duck's determination and perseverance in order to overcome life difficulties.
In Meet the Parents, "Greg" is short for "Gaylord," which would have been quite bad enough even if his last name weren't Focker. The question of what kind of parents would saddle a kid with that name comes up at the end of the movie when his brother-in-law asks if his name really is "Gay Focker", and is answered in the sequel — they're hippies. They even call him "Gay" for short. He has cousins called Randy and Horny.
In Get on the Bus, Flip refuses to believe one of his fellow passengers is really named "X" — not that he doubts people give their kids dumb names (he claims to know a guy named Porcupine), but one damn letter? Get real. He's right; X is short for Xavier. This conversation gets X to wondering what kind of mom names her son "Flip", but that's not his real name either; his first name is Phillip, but he's an actor and "Flip" is his stage name.
This is basically Mr. Young's reaction to most of the satanist nurse's name suggestions for the baby Antichrist. The American ambassador, whose wife is giving birth next door, is more receptive (or less attentive), and ends up with a son called Warlock.
Likewise, there's Pepper, whose full name is Pippin Galadriel Moonchild (due to being born during her mother's short-lived "hippie" phase). The narration explains that there are only two ways one can go when saddled with a name like hers, and Pepper went the other way - the first time she introduced herself to the three boys who would become her closest friends, there was a bit of a row, and that's why she only goes by "Pepper" now.
An interesting variant can be found in The Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. One of the patients in the titular cancer ward is a bureaucrat named Pavel Nikolayevich Rusanov. He and his wife chose the name Lavrentiy for their youngest son, so that he should get the same name and Patronymic as Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, the leader of the secret police under Stalin. The book is set in the later fifties, young Lavrentiy Pavlovich Rusanov is in his teens, and the old Stalin regime is nothing to be proud of any more. Pavel Nikolayevich is somewhat uneasy about the whole thing, but finds comfort in the fact that all his son's friends just call him Lavrik.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld is absolutely crammed full of this trope:
After telling the hero her name, Adora Belle Dearheart from Going Postal adds that as a result "I have no sense of humour whatsoever." (Her childhood nickname was "Killer".) Some jokes are also made about the main character's first name: Moist. Who names their kid Moist? Apparently "doting if unwise parents." In combination with his surname, "von Lipwig", it could qualify as Getting Crap Past the Radar. "He was not going to embarrass the name, insofar as that was still possible..."
The siblings from Hogfather, Twyla and Gawain. Death himself remarked that the latter name, if chosen because it sounded like a good name for a fighter, was most likely a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
The "Guards" series of books have a character named "Carrot." According to his adoptive dwarf parents (he's a human), he was named for his shape, not the color of his hair, which happens to be red.
Carrot's dwarf name translates as "Head Banger". He's six feet tall and grew up in a dwarf-scale mine.
Also in the "Guards" series is a dwarf named "Cheery Littlebottom." This is made worse by the fact that male and female dwarfs look exactly alike, so in theory this was meant to be a gender-neutral name (Cheery happens to be female). The character is also acutely aware of how ridiculous her name is. Vimes, upon being introduced, remarks that Cheery's parents must have been "traditionalists", so apparently naming your children after emotional states (e.g. Happy, Sneezy, Grumpy...) is traditional there.
In the same scene, Cheery mentions that her father's name is Jolly, so presumably it runs in the family.
And then there's Corporal Nobby Nobbs, whose full name is 'Cecil Wormsborough St. John "Nobby" Nobbs'. A name made all the more astonishing given that Nobby's family are as working class as it gets, and lived in particularly rough part of the city. Poor kid.
Or Constable Visit, whose full name is 'Visit-the-Infidel-with-Explanatory-Pamphlets'. His fellow Omnians have a tendency towards similarly lengthy and religious names. (This is based on traditional Puritan naming.)
And who can forget Bestiality Carter, or even Legitimate First? The Carter family was under the delusion that, if you name daughters after virtues (Charity, Temperance, and so forth), you name sons after vices. Ironically, both the sons and the daughters are the exact opposite of their names - Chastity Carter is a tramp and Bestiality Carter is very kind to animals.
Magrat Garlick is called that due to an unfortunate christening ceremony. Her attempt to avoid this with her own daughter results in said daughter being named Princess Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre.
Try being James What-The-Hell-Is-That-Cow-Doing-Here Poorchick. (His friends call him "Moocow".)
Or being King Gods He's Heavy the First.
All the Lancre examples involve the local custom that your name is whatever the priest performing the naming ceremony says when they get to the part where they're supposed to say the child's name, and there's no shifting it afterwards (unless you leave Lancre and don't come back, as many do).
There's also One Man Bucket, short for One Man Pouring a Bucket of Water Over Two Dogs, named according to his culture's custom of naming children after the first thing the mother sees after giving birth. He has an older twin brother whose name is hinted to be Two Dogs fucking
From DiscworldThud!, Mr A. E. Pessimal. Who wasn't named at birth, he was initialed.
A character in Catch-22 was secretly named Major Major Major by his father, who kept the fact from his mother. The army computer misinterprets his name and mistakenly assigns him the rank of Major when he enlists, making him Major Major Major Major. Ex-PFC Wintergreen intercepts any attempts to promote or demote him because he thinks it's funny.
In one of the Callahan's Place books, there's a mention of a couple who were both afflicted with punny names by their parents, and decided to swap surnames when they married. Those original names: Les Moore and Merry Glueham (pronounced "gloom"). They now enjoy being Merry Moore and Les Glueham.
There's also passing mention of the child of Star Wars fans named Lahey and Hu, and the report that little three-year-old Yoda Lahey-Hu has already learned how to fight dirty.
In Anne's House of Dreams, Miss Cornelia comments approvingly on Anne's choice of baby name (James Matthew), and mentions in passing that another new mother in the neighborhood has decided to call her baby Bertie Shakespeare.
The poor kid becomes a common fixture in subsequent stories about Anne's children, and is never referred to by anything other than the whole thing: Bertie Shakespeare Drew. And let's not forget Anne's classmate Moody Spurgeon McPherson, who is last heard of at college, studying to be a minister. "He couldn't be anything else with that name." (Moody and Spurgeon were two famous preachers.)
The Namesake features the Indian main character Gogol Ganguli, named for Nikolai Gogol. He hates his name for most of the book, changing it to Nikhil for a while.
In Bruce Coville's Aliens Ate My Homework YA series, the villain is named BKR. Seriously. He's an alien, though it doesn't help that all the numerous other aliens of the series at least have names with vowels in them (Madame Pong, Grakker, Tar Gibbons, and Phil). Even better, when the protagonist asks the aliens for the correct spelling and pronounciation - presumably so he can write the book - it turns out to actually be pronounced Bee-Kay-Are!
The Outsiders: Ponyboy and Sodapop Curtis. The former notes that he likes his name, but has come to expect weird reactions.
Cherry: That's an original and lovely name.
Ponyboy: My dad was an original person.
In Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road the protagonist isn't too thrilled with the name his deceased father gave him, "Evelyn Cyril Gordon". He reflects that he understands his father's attempt to honor their heroic ancestor by naming him that, but he wound up learning to fight before learning to read.
The Native Star has Dreadnought Stanton, whose sisters are named Euphemia, Ophidia, and Hortense. "My father is the fool in question. He is a man who feels the need to publicly memorialize his esoteric and obsessive passions—passions which have included the later history of Rome, reptiles, eighteenth-century Flemish aristocracy, and clipper ships."
In Glen Cook's Instrumentalities of the Night series, a major character frequently complains about his name, but his friend the main character is certain it's an alias.
"I always wished I had one of them names like Dirk or Steele or Rock. Pinkus Ghort. My momma ought to be spanked. What the hell kind of name is Pinkus Ghort?" "You tell me," Hecht had responded. "You made it up." "You want to know the sick, sad truth, my friend? I didn't. It really is the one my momma hung on me. Though nobody never believes me when I tell them." Hecht remained firmly established in that class. He was sure that Pinkus Ghort would be wanted in more than one principality farther north, under other names.
Black Company series: the narrator of "The Silver Spike" got a really short straw:
My name is Case. Philodendron Case. Thanks to my Ma. I've never even told Raven about that. That's why I joined the army. To get away from the kind of potato diggers that would stick a name like that on a kid.
A purely in-universe instance occurs in The Wheel of Time, where Min Farshaw's real first name is Elmindreda, the name of a character from an in-universe story who spent all her time sighing over men and trying to get them to write songs about her. Min, herself, is a highly independent, tomboyish young woman who feels uncomfortable in a dress and is somewhat of a bookworm. No surprise that she would refuse to go by her full first name (or that she would resent her mother over the name).
In the Teenage Worrier series, Letty (Scarlett) and Ashley were named by their mother, a fan of Gone with the Wind. At one point Letty claims they teamed up to stop their brother from being named "Rhett".
In The Hunger Games, at one point Katniss Everdeen, the main character, reflects on how the people from one section of the country call their children odd names, such as "Glimmer".
Inspector Endeavour Morse. To be fair, his mother was a devout Quaker (they have a tradition of "virtue" names) and his father was an admirer of Captain James Cook, whose vessel was HMS Endeavour. He often tells people that his first name is "Inspector".
In the Warrior Cats novel "Crookedstar's Promise", after Stormkit is injured, permanently disfiguring his jaw, Rainflower's decision to rename Stormkit to Crookedkit is met with dismay and anger by Stormkit's father.
In the Xanth series book Ogre Ogre, we get John the fairy, apparently there was a mix-up and she got someone else's name, meaning not only does she have to put up with having a boy's name, but some man has to deal with whatever her true name is. Fairies apparently cannot change thier names in this world.
Actually, just the letters were mixed up, so there was a female fairy named "John" and a male fairy named "Joan." But they met up and exchanged letters so the female was named "Joan" and the male was named "John."
Keys to the Kingdom has a brother and sister example. In his life as an Ordinary High-School Student on Earth, Arthur's best friends have hippie parents who called them Leaf and Branch. Leaf seems pretty happy with her name. Branch has a reaction more similar to the title of this trope, and prefers to be called 'Ed'.
Most of the names in the Gone series are, while diverse, justifiable, as the kids come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. But Duck? Really? And Zil? What kind of parents give their kid a name that means nothing? Used to effect in the case of the island kids, though, whose adoptive parents gave them names like Peace and Virtue and Pixie because they're insensitive. Also, Emily's brother, whose name is Brother, from Lies.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Final Justice introduces a very distinct character named Cosmo Cricket. Ted Robinson asks Lizzie Fox "Who names their kid Cosmo Cricket?" and she responds "His parents did."
In The Vatican Cellars, one character decided to name his girls after plants, and not saints, for the sake of atheism. The firts two have it good - Véronique and Marguerite - but the third one is named Arnica.
The World According To Garp —The main character's name is T.S. Garp. When asked, it doesn't stand for anything, but his father was Technical Sergeant Garp.
In the 87th Precinct mysteries by Ed McBain, one of the protagonists is Detective Meyer Meyer, whose father named him as a big joke. Meyer grew up in a rough neighborhood hearing taunts of "Meyer Meyer, Jew on fire!" He's an incredibly patient man. Who is completely bald at an early age.
Also Draco Malfoy, whose name elicits a snigger from Ron when they first meet. Pretentious names are apparently a family tradition, since we have Abraxas, Lucius, the aforementioned Draco, and Scorpius Hyperion.
In the Malaussène Saga (humoristic novels from French author Daniel Pennac), Benjamin Malaussène (the main character) names his son "Monsieur Malaussène" ("Mister Malaussène") and is occasionally called out because of this. To be more accurate : it is his first name, so his full name is "Monsieur Malaussène Malaussène".
The protagonist of What Happened to Goodbye? is named Mclean after a basketball coach. Her mother even thinks it's a dumb name and gives her the common middle of Elizabeth so she can always go by that or nickname if she needs to.
In Along for the Ride, the protagonist's father pretentiously names his kids after obscure references. If people understand the references, he considers them worthy enough to associate with. As a result his kids are named Hollis, Auden, and Thisbe.
In Life of Pi, the eponymous character's full name is Piscine Molitor Patel. It's bad enough that his parents named him after a swimming pool, but the kids in his class further humiliate him by deliberately mispronouncing his name as something else entirely. (thus he creates the mathematical nickname Pi)
In Texas Teamwork by J.T. Edson, the Sheriff's Department goes looking for a call girl named Lois Lane. The deputies are sure this is an alias, but the madam assures them it is the name of her social security card.
The GONE series has a C plot guest hero named DUCK ZHANG. That breaks the cringe-worthy name scale.
Caine: That's it goose, your doing great.
Duck: It's Duck.
Caine: Can you feel the darkness, goose?
The short story collection Angel Dust Apocalypse features a story about two brothers named Dude and Wolf. It's stated that their parents were hippies and they were allowed to name themselves at a young age.
In the Southern Sisters Mysteries, we have Bo Peep Mitchell, Bonnie Blue Butler, and Joanie Salk. Bonnie Blue is implied to have been conceived during or after a performance of Gone with the Wind (and her father is... eccentric). The other two have no such explanation, and both wonder what their parents were thinking.
In the Acorna Series, Acorna (who was named by a trio of human miners that adopted her when they found her escape pod floating near their ship) is called Khornya by her own race (as they have difficulty pronouncing Acorna), which incidentally means "One Horn" in Linyaari. Needless to say, many are amused and bemused by her name.
The main character of The Dog Lover's Mysteries is named Holly Winter. She claims it's because her parents didn't want her to feel "different" from her siblings. Her parents were dog breeders, and their other "children" were golden retrievers.
The female protagonist of The Raven Cycle is named Blue Sargent. One of the male protagonists, Gansey, thinks Blue is too weird a name and begins calling her Jane instead (much to her annoyance).
In Wayside School is Falling Down, Myron befriends a little bird and decides to name it "Oddly". The narrator pokes fun that he certainly named it oddly.
In John Varley's Thunder And Lightning series, Jubal (short for Jubilation) got off easy. His religious fanatic father named his brothers Veneration, Celebration, Sanctification, Exaltation, Consecration, and Hallelujah. His sisters are Gloria Patri, Gloria Filli, Gloria Spiritusanctu, Gloria Inexcelsis, and Gloria Monday. Hallelujah's name derives from his mother finding out she couldn't have any more children.
Live Action TV
Seinfeld: Kramer's first name remains unknown until the 6th season, more than halfway through the series run. George first learns Kramer's first name, Cosmo, when he meets Kramer's mother, and when he reveals this to Jerry and Elaine, they start laughing uncontrollably. After this incident, Kramer decides he's been running from his name for too long and it's time to embrace it.
Kramer: "All my life I've been running away from that name. That's why I wouldn't tell anybody. But I've been thinking about it. All this time I'm trying not to be me. I'm afraid to face who I was. But I'm Cosmo, Jerry, I'm Cosmo Kramer, and that's who I'm going to be. From now on, I'm Cosmo!"
The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Sarah and John spent a lot of time moving around, so on one occasion they had to switch from a rural pig farm to a hippie commune which could easily be characterised as the place where the kids are named after tree species.
Lampshaded in the Leverage episode "The Fairy Godparents Job", where the team lament their target's choice of "Widmark" for his son's name.
Jimmy Bond of The Lone Gunmen, being a well-meaning if not overly bright guy, doesn't seem to get why anyone thinks there's anything out of the ordinary about his name.
In The 10th Kingdom, Tony has to guess the name of the blind woodsman before he chops Wolf's head off. When the name turns out to be "Juliet", Tony says "No wonder he grew up to be a psychopath."
Stargate Atlantis' Rodney is ashamed of his first name, and goes by his middle. The other characters respect this and continue to use the name after they know it's not his first. Except for his sister who seems to take a kind of joy out of calling him 'Meredith'.
In Bones, Angela changed her name as soon as she turned 18, but it is never revealed what her real name is. Her father suggests she name her son "Staccato Mamba", so it must have been pretty bad. Also, Angela's middle name is "Pearly Gates". Her father is Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, so this makes sense.
A girl on A Different World was teased about being named Cougar, until she revealed that it was the car her father would have been able to buy if she hadn't been born.
In Scrubs, the following exchange takes place when J.D. meets the Janitor's girlfriend:
J.D: Who's called Lady?
Janitor:She is! She has a brother named "Him".
In Rumpole of the Bailey, Wagner buff extraordinaire Claude Erskine-Brown names his son "Tristan" and his daughter "Isolde," to likely eye-rolling by his wife Phyllida.
On Boy Meets World, Cory Matthews actually asks this question when a substitute teacher reads to the class from Beowulf: "Who names their baby Hrothgar?!"
Not to mention one of the main cast, who started out a hippie-ish Cloudcuckoolander before she developed into something more normal:
Topanga: My middle name is totally weird.
Shawn: Your first name is "Topanga"!
Cory himself is in fact named "Cornelius", as revealed by Mr. Feeny.note SSSSSS Ssssssh! Not even Topanga knows that!
The Middle: Frankie regrets naming her youngest son Brick, thinking that an unusual name would make him cool (which Brick is anything but).
In Neighbours, there was the Gottlieb family, whose parents were hippies. Their three grown-up children were:
Cosmic Gottlieb, who renamed himself Mark.
Freedom Gottlieb, who renamed himself Stephen.
Serendipity Gottlieb, who was a bit of a free spirit like her parents and so kept her name but usually shortened it to Ren as it was a bit long.
On M*A*S*H, B.J. Hunnicutt's given name is apparently B.J. Leads to this exchange:
Hawkeye: What kind of parents would name their kid B.J.?
B.J.: My mother...Bea Hunnicutt, and my father...Jay Hunnicutt.
Cerie thinks up some baby names after she gets engaged:
Cerie: If it's a girl, "Bookcase"... or "Sandstorm"... or maybe "Hat", but that's more of a boy's name. Liz: Yeah, I was gonna say.
There is one Kenneth Ellen Parcell.
"Buffy" the Vampire Slayer. Contrary to some fan opinion, it is not a diminutive form of "Elizabeth." That's her name. This is pointed out when Spike asks who calls their kid Buffy (in response to Buffy insulting his name, to be fair...and "Spike" is not his real name). Buffy then gets rather offended at this insult to her mother, so she's probably not bothered by the name.
Chandler Muriel Bing. Boy, your parents never even gave you a chance, did they?
Also on Friends, Ross and Rachel have an on-going debate about what to name their daughter. "Rain" was one of the options, to Ross' consternation ("And my skirt is made of wheat.") Sequoia was another.
Joey remarks of a stripper named Crystal Chandelier: "You name your daughter that, what do you expect her to grow up to be?"
Annie: Of course you think that, Britta. It's obvious from your name that your parents smoked pot.
Weeds: Nancy regards her new neighbor's young son's name, "Rad", with some skepticism.
In the soap opera Las Juanas, there is Doña de Salguero, most usually called "Doña Doña". To wit. in English, the equivalent is naming a girl "Mistress" or "Ma'am".
On Modern Family, all of Mitch and Cam's friends have stereotypical "gay" names. One of them, Longinus, remarks that his mother forced him to become gay with it.
Early in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Past and Present", one of the locals asks Teal'c the following question:
Orner: Who would give you a name like "Teal'c"? Teal'c: It was given by my father. It means "strength".
On NCIS: Los Angeles, Agent Callen's first name actually got lost by the foster system, which is implied to be partly due to being born in Romania. All he knows is his first initial, and he occasionally gets minor grief over his legal first name being "G".
"Their names are Ronmarc and Zalga? Where are they from? Mars?"
In Married... with Children, the Bundy family ended up adopting (read: got ditched with) Peggy's nephew, Seven. Al quite nearly says the trope by name, and the kid replies "Because I'm Seven!" Bonus points for nobody being able to tell whether that meant he was "child number seven" and the parents just ran out of ideas, or if his name changed after every birthday.
In Utopia, various characters express disbelief at Wilson Wilson's name.
Rowan Atkinson makes excellent sport of this trope in his School Master sketch. Such poor pupils in his class include Nancyboy-Potter, Undermanager, Zob and Orifice...!
An example of Calling the Old Man Out on the back of this trope is, of course, the old Johnny Cash song "A Boy Named Sue". Of course, in this case the bad name was intentional — as Dad explained, he gave his son a name that would make his childhood a living hell precisely so the boy would be forced to grow up mean and tough, to compensate for growing up without a father figure. Sue appreciates the logic behind this decision and forgives his father, but makes it clear that he wouldn't dream of doing something like that to his own son. Word of God from songwriter Shel Silverstein is that he got the inspiration for the song after hearing a (male) judge named Sue K. Hicks speak at a judicial conference in Gatlinburg (a town which is also mentioned in the song). Hicks was named after his mother, who died in childbirth.
To top that, Silverstein even wrote a sequel, "The Father Of A Boy Named Sue."
Country music contributes another example in Sammy Kershaw's hit about a love interest with a name better suited to an onion than to a person.
Your dear mama Violet and your proud daddy Dal
I know that when they named you, they surely meant well
Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion has Senator K. Torvaldson. Even calls out this trope in another character's reaction: "Who names their kid 'Senator', anyway?" (Apparently his parents just liked the way it sounded.)
Religion & Mythology
In The Bible, David asks for assistance from Abigail’s husband "Naval" or "crook, villain". He is denied. Upon informing David of this she alludes to the fact that his name is Naval implying that he lives up to it rather well.
Abigail:"Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Naval, for as his name is, so is he. Naval is his name and folly is with him.
There is also a case of this between Jacob and Esau. Upset at the loss of his birthright (or rather his own hasty decision prompted by extreme hunger)and the loss of a blessing that was intended for him due to his brother's and mother's treachery, Esau alludes to the fact that Jacob (Ya‘akov, from ‘akev, ‘heel’, because he was born holding Esau’s heel) is aptly named.
Esau: “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!”
Deadlands: Lost Colony: The narrator is a woman named Debbi Dallas. Apparently, her dad was a marine with an appreciation for... 'classic' films.
This can be done deliberately by the player in any game that allows you to name the main character. There are even some games like this where the player character will be told they have a weird name. Of course if that's the case you'll be told that no matter what name you give your character.
In the video game of the anime series Afro Samurai, Ninja Ninja wonders "What kind of father names their kid 'Afro Samurai' anyway?"
In NationStates, one of the issues revolves around a man who was named an incomprehensible string of characters changing his name to John and campaigning for a law to restrict names. Arguing in favor of this change is a man named Insert Name Here, while the other side is argued by a woman with a rather hippie-ish name who named her baby daughter [expletive deleted].
An unnamed person in Pokémon Colosseum's Pyrite Colosseum in Pokemon XD mentions Miror B and explicitly states that "the name sounds laughably silly".
In the visual novel Lamento -beyond the void-, Bardo suffered so horribly from this he went right ahead and changed it to something less-bad. Not only was it a painful name, it was a girls' name. Literally. His mama called 'im Cheryl. And she's still the only person that does, going by the end of his route.
The Postal series features The Postal Dude.... snippets seen around in Postal 2 reveal that his legal name is actually The Postal Dude, Jr., as it's what's on his driver's license when he goes to pay a parking ticket and his father's grave says "T. Dude, Sr".
Many characters allude to the appropriateness of War's name, but he's certainly not any sort of Anthropomorphic Personification. Apparently War, Fury, Strife and Death are given names.
General Chaos explains in the comic book prologue that the root cause of Chaos and Havoc's endless warfare with each other was that, yes, their parents did give them those names, which would make any two children "not likely to grow up to be tree huggers or flower sellers."
Lilith: Wait, your first name is "Mister Torgue"? [Beat] What's your last name, then?
Mr. Torgue: FLEXINGTON!
In the Wattle Gobbler DLC, Torgue's grandmother states that his middle name is "High-Five", which was taken from his grandfather. This means that Torgue's legal name is "Mister Torgue High-Five Flexington".
Towards the end of Star Stealing Prince, Astra mentions to Snowe that she thinks his parents were awful for giving him that name. He agrees, saying that anytime anyone complained about the snow he'd have to remind himself that they're not referring to him.
A starship version in X Rebirth. Yoolis calls out Ren Otani on giving the Pride of Albion an inferior name, the Albion Skunk, though Otani claims that some other joker renamed it that.
As an Easter Egg, Star Trek Online'sFoundry editor has various funny captions on the premade NPC costumes, apparently because the dev writing the game asset descriptions got bored. The caption for "Cardassian Commander Male 03" has this line:
"His mother named him Kira, after her favorite historical figure. The merciless teasing inspired his military career."
Pyroduck from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures . He was named by phoenixes, a rather eccentric race of oracles who are notorious for answering everything with vague riddles. When he explains his backstory, Alexsi comments that she "always wondered why someone would call their kid Pyroduck".
In Girl Genius, Zeetha's father was named Chump. Since she's from a reclusive warrior culture deep in an unknown jungle, Bilingual Bonus probably wasn't considered during the naming process.
Zeetha: A great warrior. And yes, I know what it means in your language.
The same comic also has Arkady. Her hippie parents decided that she was a child of Arcadia, and decided to name her such, but they were too stoned out of their gourds to write anything correctly on the birth certificate.
Discussed by Jake English and Dirk Strider in Homestuck regarding the last names of the demonic Lord English and the alien Betty Crocker, due to the last names in question being matters of personal selection.
GT: So im named after a demon? What kind of demon is named english anyway? TT: What kind of alien is named Crocker?
French Black Comedy webcomic Ultimex has a strip where a friend of Ultimex (the hero) called his daughter "Bang". Steve (Ultimex's best friend and second main character of the webcomic) asks Ultimex to persuade this man to give another name to his daughter. We eventually learn that Ultimex finally convinced him to call her "Gang Bang"note This seems to be an English pun but isn't part of the joke, as both words are totally different in French instead.
Farmer John from Sheep in the Big City: "His name is Farmer? They must have laughed at him at school." An episode reveals that is name is actually "Far Mer John" (the reason being that his mother wanted him to go "far" and his father wanted to name him after his aunt Mer), which is arguably worse.
Sheriff: Criminitly, now I know why yer momma calls ya "Nutsy".
A Christmas special made by DIC called A Hollywood Hounds Christmas (it appears on Shout Factory's DIC Christmas Blast DVD) in which the main character is actually named "Dude". A running gag in the special is how people are able to (accidentally) guess his name. At one point, he even goes "is there anybody who doesn't know my name?..."
In a Shout-Out to "A Boy Named Sue," there was a one-shot side character named Sioux, pronounced "Sue." Apparently his parents were hippies. Later after his parents pick him up from prison (long story), an officer mutters to himself "A boy named Sue...what were his parents thinking?"
And in another episode, there was a mother who named her son Haggot and dressed him like Little Lord Fauntleroy. Guess what else rhymes with Haggot...
"'Haggot the Maggot' is the best he can hope for!"
Bessie Higgenbottom from The Mighty B! is stuck with the middle name Kajolica, because her mother is the only one in the entire universe who doesn't think it's colossally stupid. Which might explain why her mother is also the only one who is never struck by the curse that comes with mentioning the name.
In the 2012 adaptation of The Lorax, the Once-ler's name actually is Once-ler, despite having two brothers named Brett and Chet. This is in contrast to the original, where Once-ler is hinted to be more of a title/nickname than anything. Though in the film this just shows how he is The Unfavourite.
Used previously in Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf. Upon learning who his new werewolf is, Dracula complains, "What kind of a name is Shah-ghee?" He is never clued in on the fact that it's a nickname.
In the latter seasons of Dexter's Laboratory, we're given the origins of his rival Mandark and learn his current name is a self-given one to fit his scientific motif. His real name is Susan. How'd he get straddled with such an embarrassing name? Why, having hippie parents of course.
Mac's creative young friend from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is named Goo. Her parents reportedly let her pick her own name, but should probably have waited until she was actually capable of talking first.
In an episode of Transformers Animated, a clone of Starscream is adressing the Autobots but forgets Bulkhead's name. Upon being informed of it, the clone expresses sympathy.
In Moville Mysteries, the characters find out that the school PE Teacher, Coach Conkout, is really named Coach. His father was obsessed with his son being a sucessful coach.
An especially early instance comes from 1837, when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom desperately pleaded with the young heiress presumptive to the throne to take a "normal" English regnal name like Elizabeth or Charlotte in preference to her own strange, foreign name of Victoria.note It could have been worse; Victoria was her second name. Her first name was Alexandrina.
This article from Slate details instances where judges or courts blocked certain names, one of which was so bad it was considered an act of child abuse. The beginning of the article refers to a child that was named "Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii". The parents got away with it for most of her childhood, but a judge later ruled that she be made a ward of court so she could change her embarassing name.
Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116. (Pronounced, of course, as "Albin".) Luckily for the kid, the courts blocked the name. Apparently he was given that name specifically to protest the law banning bizarre names. And, when the courts blocked that name, the parents tried naming him "A" (also pronounced Albin). The courts blocked that one too. Poor kid...
Apparently some parents in New Jersey gave their kids "Nazi-inspired" names. Specifically, there was three-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell and his little sisters JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell. The story came to light after a bakery refused to put little Adolf's name on a birthday cake. One can only hope that the parents were making a valiant effort to keep their kids out of politics, otherwise there are some rather Unfortunate Implications.
There was an article from New Zealand about parents wanting to name their kid 4real. The government refuses to let them legally name the child 4real. The government didn't object to 4Real because it was stupid; they objected to it because it contained a numeral. The parents named the kid Superman instead (but they say they're still going to call him 4Real).
Frank Zappa was forbidden by an exasperated nurse from naming his son Dweezil, opting for "Ian Donald Calvin Euclid" instead - names taken from several of his associates. Despite this, the family referred to him exclusively as Dweezil. Dweezil himself, at age five, was quite upset to discover his real name on his birth certificate and demanded it to be legally rectified.
Years earlier, Acclaim tried a similar stunt by offering to pay $10,000 to whoever named their child Turok. No one did.
Parents named their child "like" after the button on Facebook. No, seriously.
This poor Egyptian girl was named Facebook, no kidding.
During the late nineteenth century, two Swedish parents wanted to show their support for the continued union between Sweden and Norway by naming their newborn daughter "Sverige och Norge Förenade" ("Sweden And Norway United"). The priest insisted that the child must have at least one regular name, and the poor girl ended up with the name "Sweden and Norway United Petronella".
A few years ago in Sweden, the parents of a young boy wanted to name him Pripps after the Pripps Brewery because his maternal Grandfather had worked there, the brewery said no.
Naturally, the tabloids make a lot out of celebrity baby names. One example is Gwen Stefani's kid getting named "Zuma".
One countdown of celebrities who gave their kids crazy names had Will Ferrel at one of the top spots for naming his sons Magnus and Matthias - two very common names in Sweden (Ferrel is married to a Swede).
Dale Waddington, an American comedic actress, explains her somewhat unusual (for a female, and especially in modern times) first name being given to her because her mother's room-mate in college had a sister named Dale and she was named after her.
In Denmark, it is not popular to call your children something common anymore. Some parents would almost see it as a disaster to have a kid who is not the only one with his name in his class. So Danish parents are constantly applying for having new names approved so that they legally can call the little apple of their eye something unique and far out. And they seemingly don't care if the name has a rather unfortunate meaning. Here are the most recent names that have been approved (and yes, they are real, and kids are actually going to be named that):
Girl's names: Altan ("Balcony"), Badr (sounds like a Danish expression of disgust; this isn't a case of a new immigrant's name, as although "Badr" is a legitimate Arabic name, it's a boy's name), Cirkel ("Circle"), Dyne ("Duvet"), Gin, Nitte ("Rivet" or, figuratively speaking, something unwanted) and Panda.
Boy's names: Awesome, Blær ("Boasting"), Cello, Cobra, Dreng ("Boy"), Haj ("Shark"), Fru ("Mrs." or "Madam"), Kamel ("Camel") and Tung ("Heavy").
If you want proof that standards for this have changed over time, look no further than the reactions of the media and fandom in 1966 when Ringo Starr named his first son Zak (full name, not short for Zachariah or anything). It was considered incredibly weird at the time, whereas now no one would think twice about a fairly unusual spelling of an uncommon name. (Just to show how quickly this changed, in the late 70s George Harrison named his son Dhani and no one batted an eyelash.)
In Iceland, to avert this trope, names must be approved by an official naming committee that, in addition to rules about the name obeying Icelandic grammar and inflections, also includes the provision that the name must not be unduly embarrassing to its bearer. The quintessential Icelandic names are instead old names that are permitted due to tradition though they might sound ridiculous to modern ears. It isn't as far fetched as it sounds. Thousands of world languages are being lost to globalization as native speakers die out, and Iceland is determined their language is not going to be one of them.
Iceland is really cracking down on this name business. In July 2014, two Icelandic children were turned down for renewal of their passports (which read only "Girl" and "Boy") because their names are Harriet and Duncan. The problem is that unless both of your parents are "foreign", your name must either be on the list or meet the requirements of the Icelandic Name Committee—and although as their surname Cardew indicates, their father is from Britain, probably Wales (he moved to Reykjavík to be a cook), their mother Kristín is an Icelander, so their names have to comply. Unfortunately, "Harriet" can't be conjugated in Icelandic and "Duncan" contains the letter "c", which doesn't exist in Icelandic. For their part, many Icelanders don't see what the fuss is all about, and the Mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr (himself the bearer of an odd name by Icelandic standards) has decried the law as too strict.
In 1993, a Japanese couple applied to have their son named 悪魔, Akuma, meaning "devil". The two characters were on a list of allowed personal name characters, and so the name was entered into the family register. A month later, the Civil Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice had the city contact the couple to tell them the name was inappropriate and to choose a new one. The city also deleted "Akuma" from the family register and instead replaced it with "not yet named". The Family Court ruled that naming a child "Akuma" was an abuse of rights, but since the name had been previously accepted only the parents had the power to change the child's name. Private and public pressure led the father to rename the child 亜駆, Aku, which can be interpreted as "sub-impel".
Established in 1951, the Jinmeiyou Kanji, the list of Chinese characters legally allowed in personal names, has seen a number of parents proposing new additions to the list, among them the characters meaning "cancer", "haemorrhoid", "corpse", and "excrement", as well as parts of compound words "curse", "prostitute", and "rape".
The Dutch radio 3FM holds a yearly search for people with interesting names.
This happening is not all that uncommon in languages with a lot of homonyms, where compound words exist and where every name is a Meaningful Name rather than a patronym. Chinese has all these traits and this situation is especially likely to happen because while it has one written language, it has many spoken dialects. A perfectly innocuous name can sound ludicrous in a different dialect.
Much like the Japanese example, China (well the PRC at least) has a list of approved characters that can be used for names. Partly to avoid this trope but also partly to simplify their computer system inputs given the sheer number of characters in their written language. Has occasionally caused problems with names that use legitimate but obscure characters.
Upon the arrival of Prince William and Lady Katherine's firstborn child, bettings on the name were rife. The slate of possible names included Arthur, George, James, Richard, Henry and Alexander. Paddy Power confirmed that someone had laid down hard cash on Hashtag.
There was a Wisconsin man arrested for drug and weapons possession by the name of Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop. No, really.
A Google search will turn up any number of men named Michael ("Mike") Hunt. Apparently ALL their parents were either cruel or oblivious.
People who name their children "Cellar Door" are not being ignorant. Those two words (never mind their meaning) are widely considered some of the most beautiful in English. It's called phonaesthetics. J.R.R. Tolkien was not alone in his love for the phrase. It has its own entry on The Other Wiki and even on the Urban Dictionary.