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One Steve Limit: Literature
  • An odd aversion in ghostgirl: Petula's Girl Posses are Wendy Thomas and Wendy Anderson. However, this is because of Fridge Logic: they're basically the same person.
  • Averted rather confusingly by Clive Cussler in his recent books, which have two characters named Dirk Pitt, with fairly similar personalities, both on an adventure at the same time, and without any nicknames to tell them apart. It's possible to get half way through a chapter before finding out which character you're reading about, unless you realize that Dirk Pitt Sr. tends to be referred to as Pitt, and Dirk Pitt Jr. tends to be referred to as Dirk. He's also had at least a dozen minor characters named Leigh Hunt (Who fortunately only appear one per book).
  • Andrey Kurkov's Death And The Penguin features two characters named Misha. One is the eponymous penguin. The other is a person, usually referred to as "Misha-non-penguin".
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, being a novel about historical characters, can be pretty bad with this, with many major characters having similar-sounding or almost identical names. See the Chinese Real Life example below.
  • In Goethe's Elective Affinities, the alter ego nature of the two main male characters is signaled by them both being named Otto (although one goes by "Eduard" and the other is referred to as "the Captain" throughout the book); it's also no coincidence that the other two main characters are named CharlOTTe and OTTilie. Given that Goethe wrote that "There is not a line in it I have not lived", you can take it that the four characters with the same name are all author stand-ins. Then there's the baby who's the child of all four of them (it sort of makes sense in context); easy to guess what they named him.
  • In E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Devil's Elixirs" there are four characters named Francesko, as well as two Aurelies (one named after the other). To make matters even more confusing, everybody is related to everyone else, often illegitimately. Needless to say that this prime example of German Dark Romanticism heavily features doppelgangers.
  • Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility has three Johns: Sir John Middleton, usually referred to as "Sir John"; John Dashwood, usually referred to as "Mr. John Dashwood" or "Mr. Dashwood"; and John Willoughby, always referred to as "Willoughby". Willoughby's first name is only revealed in the signature of a letter from him.
  • Pride and Prejudice
    • Mr. Darcy's first name, Fitzwilliam, is almost never used, probably because he shares his first name with his cousin's last name.
    • There are two Catherines as well: Mr. Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine, and Lizzie's sister Catherine, although she almost always goes by "Kitty".
    • All five Bennet sisters can be referred to as "Miss Bennet" and readers who aren't extremely careful to detail will have a hard time knowing which Miss Bennet is being mentioned.
      • "Miss Bennet" (almost?) always refers to Jane, the eldest unmarried daughter of the family, and the same convention holds in Austen's other novels as well.
      • When no other sister is present (or known to the speaker), any of the sisters may be called "Miss Bennet", but when they're together, only the eldest is known as that. The rest are called by their first names, with a "Miss" in front, e.g. "Miss Elizabeth".
  • Austen's Persuasion also includes three characters with the first name "Charles", with a fourth one mentioned in dialogue. There are also two "Walters" in the same book.
  • The title character of Emma also has a baby niece named Emma. In fact, her little nieces and nephews are all named after older family members — their parents, aunt, uncle, and grandfather respectively.
  • In Stephen King's 11/22/63, Jake runs into a phenomenon which he believes is the past 'harmonizing' with itself. One result of this is that he often runs into people who share the same, or very similar, names to people he knows very well. He notes how he has a habit of running into Georges quite frequently (George Amberson is his time-travel nom de guerre).
  • The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan:
    • Averted; though it'd be very hard to confuse, Midas mentions his daughter being named Zoe (not to be confused with the first series' Zoë Nightshade).
    • There's also a Jason at Camp Half-Blood playing Capture the Flag in Titan's Curse.
  • Nikolai Gogol penned a short story titled "The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich", in which the trope is only slightly averted by the fact that the eponymous characters have different patronymics.
    • Gogol's a repeat offender — The Inspector General features two (unrelated) characters named Piotr Ivanovich Bobchevsky and Piotr Ivanovich Dobchevsky.
  • Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. There are a mother and daughter named Catherine (the mother died in childbirth). The daughter Catherine falls in love with and marries her cousin, Linton, whose first name just happens to be her last name. She then goes on to marry her cousin Hareton Earnshaw, which makes her Catherine Earnshaw, just like her mother.
  • There are several "Tom"s in Uncle Tom's Cabin, most of whom are only referred to, and at least two "George"s.
  • The aversion is a big plot point in Wilkie Collins's Armadale, which features four different characters named Allan Armadale (granted, two of them are off the table immediately). Collins simplifies the reader's life by having one of the living Allans take the name Ozias Midwinter.
  • Tolstoy's War and Peace has many characters having some variant of Peter, Andrei, Alexander, Anna or Nikolai somewhere in their names. Luckily, most editions come with a list of the major characters and their relations in the front.
  • Dr. John Seward from Dracula, who is often called Jack by the other characters so as not to be confused with Jonathan Harker. Of course, it doesn't help that Van Helsing still refers to him by his given name.
  • P. G. Wodehouse reused first names quite a bit within his 'verse, but was inclined to change them to enforce the limit within a given work. Rupert Psmith became Ronald Psmith when in the same book as Rupert Baxter, and the valet Brinkley was renamed Bingley when he was needed in a story set at Brinkley Court.
  • Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, Aleksandr Sergeyevich Griboyedov and Aleksandr Sergeyevich the manservant of the latter in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar. But these are historical people.
  • William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury contains two characters (one of whom is female) who are named after their uncles. The male character narrates the first part in a disjointed stream-of-consciousness that cuts between different times, often in mid-sentence, and draws no distinction between references to his being called Maury as a child and that also being the name of Uncle Maury; likewise for Quentin, his brother, and Quentin, his niece. (An appendix lists the previous Quentin and Jason Compsons: ours are III and IV, respectively.)
    • The Sartoris family, important players in many of Faulkner's other works, tear this trope to shreds. There's John Sartoris, who had a son named Bayard Sartoris, who had a son named John Sartoris, who had a son named Bayard Sartoris... yeah. Bring a flowchart.
  • I, Claudius has so many characters with the same or very similar names that the books contain a family tree to help readers work out who's who. This is because real life Romans really hated to be imaginative with names. They tended just to reuse whatever was already in the family, and to distinguish successive generations by nicknames. And that was with sons — daughters were lucky if they've got names at all. In fact, they just had two dozen different first names for males. Making matters worse, many key women in I Claudius have their fathers' names, such as Agrippina and Antonia. Despite being limited by real names, Graves averts the trope by using the name Agrippina only for A. the elder and calling A. the younger "Agrippinilla", a name Graves seems to have made up.
  • In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Sissy decides to call all her husbands and lovers "John" rather than use their real names. Her third husband, who finally asserts himself and insists on her and her sister using his real name, actually is a Steve.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation features an encyclopedist named Jord Fara and a priest named Jord Parma. Fortunately, they appear in two different stories, set roughly a century apart, which minimizes the confusion.
    • The Naked Sun has a scene where a robot is asked whether it's certain it's making a call to the right Gladia, and the robot doesn't understand the question. Apparently, when a planet only has 20 000 people living on it, it can afford to play the trope 100% straight.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Sam names his first three sons Frodo, Merry, and Pippin respectively. He also had a son named Bilbo.
    • Bill the pony, whom the hobbits purchased from Bill Ferny. Apparently, Sam wasn't good at coming up with creative names.
    • There might also have been two Glorfindels, depending on your interpretation.
    • From Tolkien's universe: Two Hador, three Ecthelion, three Beren, two Boromir, two Denethor, six Durin, and two or three Barahir.
      • The Dwarves believe each Durin is a reincarnation of the original Durin, one of the first six Dwarves, so that naming convention makes sense. It also means there should be five other Dwarf leaders somewhere with a similar history.
    • Also, from The Silmarillion, there's Míriel Serindë (Finwë's wife) and Míriel Ar-Zimraphel (last Queen of Númenor). They were separated by several thousand years, though.
      • Note though that no two of the same name are alive at the same time, except Merry, Pippin, and some of the Durins (which may be primarily a regnal title, anyway).
    • Passing fans, or even people who aren’t fans but happen to have seen the films, sometimes confuse Sauron and Saruman, who (as the Big Bad and one-time The Dragon of the book) are remarkably similar in character as well as having similar names.
    • In general, The Lord of the Rings is loaded down with aversions of this trope, especially if you dig into The Silmarillion and the Appendices. This is probably because a lot of Tolkien's names were in his invented languages, whose vocabularies were somewhat limited. So you end up with heaps of names that are both unfamiliar to the modern ear, and sound very similar to each other; a lot of first-time readers struggle with this.
  • In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka stories, the Western-based Hokas are severely limited by the number of names in the source material. There are dozens of Lone Rangers, for instance — and that's just for males. Explaining why female Hokas are still using native names, a Hoka asked how humans managed when all the females were named "Jane".
  • Darkover averts this and repeats the same names over and over and over again throughout the generations. One book has multiple Davids.
  • Hubert Selby inverts this trope by naming all his main male characters Harry. In Requiem for a Dream there is a Tyrone that is a main character, but that's the only exception.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude is the king of averting this. Having in total 22 Aurelianos, 5 Arcadios... You know what? Better just check the family tree.
    • Even worse, they're not throwaway characters— all of the (many) main characters share the same handful of names.
  • The Last Woman in His Life by Ellery Queen: the victim has trouble choosing a dying message because almost any choice would sound similar to another person.
  • Cuando quiero llorar no lloro: the three main characters have the same given name, Victorino, but they are differentiated by their last names... who began with the same letter and sound. They never met, though, since the theme of the novel was the "parallel lives".
  • The Four Johns: Shortly before her disappearance, Mary had mentioned she was going to meet "John". Unfortunately for investigators, she has four close acquaintances named John.
  • In Louis Sachar's Wayside School series, three of the kids in Mrs. Jewls' class are named Eric Fry, Eric Bacon and Eric Ovens. In the story which introduced them, the joke was that if at least one of the Erics possessed a quality then the rest of the kids believed that the other Eric(s) had it as well. This resulted in the thin Eric being nicknamed "Fatso," the athletic Eric being nicknamed "Butterfingers" and the nice Eric being nicknamed "Crabapple."
  • Dennis L. McKiernan's Mithgar series involves two male elves that are almost always mentioned together because the characters themselves go 'wait, what' and need an explanation to clarify. Vanidor and Vanidar (who, if recalled right, are neither related nor the same type of elf) are usually referred to as their translated names of "Silverbranch" and "Silverleaf" after their first introductions in each book.
  • Orson Scott Card considers this trope one of the most important rules to follow for any writer. Even though his most well-known series has unrelated major characters named Peter and Petra. Who end up getting married...
  • In Lawrence Watt-Evans's Ethshar series, there's a closed set of personal names used by Ethsharites, some of which are much more popular than others. So unrelated minor characters with the same name appear in different books, sometimes in the same book. "Kelder" is by far the most common man's name, and there are many minor characters with this name; there are also multiple characters named Kirsha, Felder, Alris, Isia, and so forth. Most people have a cognomen in addition to their name, a profession, the name of one of their parents, the place they're from, or some prominent trait.
  • In the Star Trek EU, there are at least four Vulcans named Solok (the canon captain from Deep Space Nine; an official in the Shatnerverse; a scientist for whom a science vessel is named; and a security officer in the Mirror Universe, who doesn't appear to be a version of any of the above). Maybe "Solok" is the Vulcan equivalent of "John"? To make matters even more confusing, the canon universe also has a Ferengi Solok and a Romulan Solok, the latter of whom is female.
    • The Star Trek Novel Verse averts this several times. Cardassian characters are particularly notable for sharing names - a character in The Never-Ending Sacrifice has the same first name as one of Gul Dukat's sons (Mikor). In the same book, a minor supporting character (Martus Lok) shares a family name with an established major character (Pythas Lok) but is likely not a relative. In Starfleet Corps of Engineers, there's also Winn Mara, a minor supporting character and a Bajoran. She shares one of her names with Kai Winn Adami from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but there's no evidence they're related. Word of God has more or less confirmed the name "Winn" was chosen to deliberately subvert the One Steve Limit rule.
  • There are two Seans in the Maeve Binchy novel Circle of Friends; the one who's pretty much joined at the hip to his girlfriend Carmel is referred to by his friends as "Carmel's Sean."
  • In Jurassic Park, John Hammond and John Arnold share the same name—but in the movie, John Arnold became Ray Arnold.
  • In The Wheel of Time, few characters have the same names but many have very similar names, leading to confusion, especially given the great number of minor characters and the great length of narration the reader must keep in mind. Jordan made one particular effort to avert this trope, with Joiya Byir, a minor villain who shared her name with the child Egwene had had in a vision of a possible future. Since the child never really existed, this is an incredibly tenuous case, except for the fact that it causes Egwene some consternation.
  • Steven Brust hangs a lampshade on the similar names issue in an authorial aside apologising for having characters named Aliera, Adron and Aerych who spend a great deal of time discussing things for a sizeable chunk of "Five Hundred Years After". He explains that he will use descriptions rather than names where possible to avoid confusion.
  • Similar and identical names crop up repeatedly throughout A Song of Ice and Fire. The royal Targaryen line repeats names much like real royals. Noble families often name their children in honor of relatives, allies, or liege lords (most historical Starks mentioned are named "Brandon the X"). Some noble houses have common naming traditions, creating a number of relatives with similar names. For example, many Lannister names begin with Ty-, and many Greyjoy names end with -on. All noble bastards from the same geographic region are given the same ersatz surname referencing the region's terrain, such as Snow or Sand. Peasant names are even less diverse, and are usually limited to a handful of traditional lowborn names such as "Pate" and "Tansy." The culture of Westeros in particular makes heavy use of nicknames to help distinguish between people, which is particular necessary with House Frey, where Walder Frey (over 90 and on his eighth wife) has literally hundreds of descendants, a great many of whom are named Walder or Walda in order to suck up to him. Being able to pick between Black Walder and Bastard Walder among others is much appreciated, as are the extensive family listings in the rear of the books. There are also a lot of Jeynes, and a truly ridiculous number of characters, major and minor, named Jon.
    • HBO are enforcing the one Steve limit for their adaptation, at least for characters who appear alive in the story (there are two Jons, but one is a Posthumous Character). Robert Aryn (who is named after King Robert Baratheon) is being renamed Robin to avoid confusion.
    • Daenerys seems to be determined to name a "child" of hers some variation of her late brother's name, Rhaegar: she names her unborn baby Rhaego, and later names her dragons after the three dead men in her life: Rhaegal, Viserion and Drogon, after Rhaegar, Viserys and Drogo.
    • This is Played for Laughs in the prequel story "The Sworn Sword", where Dunk and Bennis the Brown are recruiting peasants to fight the lady of a nearby castle. Two out of the eight deemed able to fight were named Will, and three were named Wat. Two of the Wats were brothers. This was solved when it turned out the two Wills and the Wat-brothers and the lone Wat came from different villages, and they were given surnames based on the vegetables grown by their village. The remaining problem was the two brothers, but it turned out the younger had once fallen into the village well. He was from then on known as Wet Wat.
  • In Robert Silverberg's The Alien Years, a rugged retired colonel named Anson founds a self-sustaining community of rugged survivors on his ranch near LA. Many of his descendants are named Anson, making it hard to tell them apart. (It doesn't help that they all have the same role in their community, and all act the same.)
  • A series of detective stories set in Wales, written by Rhys Bowen, plays on the supposed tendency of the Welsh to have many people with the same name and deal with it by attaching profession-based nicknames. The hero, Constable Evans, is "Evans the Law"; the gas-station owner is "Evans the Pump." Women go by the first name and a nickname: Constable Evans' schoolteacher ladyfriend is "Bronwen the Book." This practice may be Truth in Television.
  • Harry Potter
    • The books mostly follow the trope, but an exception is that Tom Marvolo Riddle shares most of his name with his father (Tom Riddle) and Tom the barman at the Leaky Cauldron. When Dumbledore tells him he should have no trouble remembering the barman's name because it's the same as his, he gets angry because he doesn't like having such a common name.
    • Harry Potter also demonstrates the reason for this trope: in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry mentions a ten-year-old boy living in his neighborhood named Mark Evans. Later in the story we find out that his mother's maiden name was Lily Evans. Harry gave no indication that Mark was a relative, but the name, along with the fact that this unseen boy was almost old enough for Hogwarts, led to Wild Mass Guessing about his significance. Eventually Rowling confessed that the boy wasn't even meant to be a Red Herring; she just used the same fairly-common surname twice without thinking.
    • In addition, there are two minor characters named Augustus (a Death Eater and a junior Healer). There's also Augusta Longbottom, Neville's grandmother.
    • Voldemort being named after his father caused some readers to be confused by the description of the murder of Voldemort's father and paternal grandparents in Goblet of Fire. The film producers were also apparently confused; an early promotional picture of the Riddles' gravestone gave the husband's full name as Tom Marvolo Riddle, which was Voldemort's name, not his father's.
    • Voldemort's paternal grandfather was also named Thomas Riddle.
    • In the same book, two central characters (Bartemius Crouch Senior and Junior) have the same name, but one of them is using an alias, causing the Marauder's Map to mislead Harry. Justified because, as with Voldemort, they're a father and son.
    • There are also two minor characters named Ernie — one drives the Knight Bus, the other is a Hufflepuff in Harry's year. There's also Hepzibah Smith, one of Riddle's victims who boasts of being directly descended from Helga Hufflepuff, and Zacharias Smith, an arrogant Hufflepuff himself. Some fans have speculated that they're related in some way.
    • There's also Frank Bryce (gardener of the Riddle Family in Goblet of Fire) and Frank Longbottom, Neville's father. To drive it even further the Norwegian translation gives George Weasley the name "Frank Wiltersen".
    • Apparently the name Cassandra is a common one for Seers; we hear of Sybill Trelawney's great great grandmother Cassandra Trelawney as well as the author of Unfogging the Future, Cassandra Vablatsky.
    • Of course, we have the Potter family itself. Harry's parents are named James and Lily Potter. Harry names his oldest son and his only daughter after his parents; making their names....James and Lily Potter!!
      • Likewise Word of God says that Percy named his older daughter Molly, after his mother, and George named his son Fred, after his twin. Thus we have two James Potters, two Lily Potters, two Molly Weasleys and two Fred Weasleys.
    • The official Black Family Tree shows some names repeating. In particular, Harry's godfather would have actually been Sirius Black III, sharing a name with his great-grandfather and great-great-uncle.
    • There are about four or five one-mention characters named Barnabus.
  • A rather amusing subversion because of the irony, in the Discworld book The Last Continent: "Rincewind!" "Yes?" "No, no, I mean the Archchancellor." "But... I'm named Rincewind." "There's a coincidence. So am I." They eventually decide they must be related simply because they share such an uncommon name. Made even more interesting when Archchancellor Ridcully showed up, although each Archchancellor made sure to refer to the other with a lower-case "a" in "archchancellor." Doing nothing to abate the confusion.
    • Additionally, in Eric, Rincewind meets Lavaeolus, whose name translates to "Rinser of winds".
    • And then there's Ridcully, High Priest of Blind Io. It doesn't count, though, because he is Archchancellor Ridcully's brother. Fortunately, they're mostly referred to by their titles, and anyone who's important enough to call them by name knows them well enough to call them "Mustrum" and "Hughnon", respectively.
    • Unseen Academicals introduces us to "Bledlow Nobbs" who is so insulted by being thought to be related to Nobby Nobbs that the second half of the book calls him "Bledlow Nobbs (No Relation)".
    • In Maskerade there's one character called Henry Slugg and another called Henry Lawsy. However, it turns out that Slugg is Lawsy's father, and Lawsy was named after him.
    • Not to mention the multiple Williams in the books. We have William de Worde, William the Gonagle, a dead William in Borogravia, and his son William, a Will in the opera house, and probably more.
    • Pterry also plays with the nicknames that are given to characters of the same name:
      • In Hogfather, one of the thugs hired by Mr. Teatime is called Medium Dave because Ankh-Morpork's underworld already had Big Dave, Fat Dave, Mad Dave, Wee Davey and Lanky Dai.
      • In The Wee Free Men we learn that there are so many Feegles that are called Jock that the Gonnagle in training's name is "Not-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-Than-Wee-Jock Jock". And he insists on the full name every time, because "Not-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-Than-Wee-Jock-Jock" is a time-honored name for the Pictsies.
    • Averting this trope en masse is a big part of the Igor tribe's identity.
  • A joke version shows up in The Dresden Files. When Harry's recovering from his injuries in the care of Michael's family, one of his kids calls Harry "Bill" because "we've already got a Harry" (Michael's youngest, named, in fact, after Harry).
    • Even funnier when you consider that there's already a "Billy," although the girl probably didn't know that.
    • Also in the same series there are two Michaels, the human knight of the cross, and the Archangel... Although the latter is only mentioned in passing it does cause some confusion when another knight of the cross Saya mentions that Michael recruited him... "no not that Michael."
    • There's also three Margarets, though two of them go by nicknames. The first is Harry's mother, Margaret LeFay, who is a Posthumous Character. The second is Margaret "Molly" Carpenter, another one of Michael's kids who Harry takes on as an apprentice after she develops magical abilities. The third is Harry's daughter, Margaret "Maggie" Angelica, who was named after her grandmother.
  • In one of the Thursday Next books, this trope comes up, and it is revealed that one of Hemingway's last novels was never written because he insisted all the characters had the same name. In Thursday's world, since literature is so popular, many people have changed their names to famous authors. New laws were passed forcing a number suffix (normally in subscript) on each name (like: Francis Bacon1231), after a court case where the judge, defendant, and the whole jury had changed their names to Christopher Marlowe.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold:
    • The Quaddies in Diplomatic Immunity have no family names but maintain uniqueness with numbers; a major character, Garnet Five, is almost never just called "Garnet" in either dialog or narration. She says that the last time she checked, there were eight Garnets. It is mentioned that there is a quaddie named Leo Ninety-Nine, although we never meet this character.
    • Also averted en masse by the Vor class of Barrayar, who traditionally name firstborn sons for their grandfathers (paternal, then maternal) and secondborn sons with their grandfathers' middle names (maternal, then paternal), which makes reading Barrayaran history very confusing.
    • In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan is the only Ivan that appears. However, when Tej is searching a database for him, she finds scads of Ivan Vorpatrils. She narrows it down to Ivan Xav Vorpatril, and henceforth, Ivan is always referred to as "Ivan Xav" in her point of view.
    • From the same series, Bujold had initially wanted to name a supporting character "Nile" but was told by her editor that proofreading a book about "Miles" and "Nile" would be a nightmare.
  • Jennifer Government has two John Nikes, although one remains in a coma for most of the book. It also has a Bill NRA and a Billy NRA, and the characters mistake one for the other. Shows what you get when everyone's last name is the same as the company they work for...
  • The Vattas War series has two moderately important characters named Gary. One is only in the first book and the other doesn't show up until the fourth book, but it's still kind of disorienting.
  • In the Betsy the Vampire Queen books by MaryJanice Davidson, the eponymous Betsy has a stepmother named Antonia, spitefully addressed as The Ant by Betsy. Later, a psychic werewolf also named Antonia joins the True Companions. Betsy, horrified by the reminder of her Wicked Stepmother, tries to change her name to Toni, but Antonia won't have it. At one point, Betsy muses on the oddity of meeting two different people with the same unusual name, and for the rest of the next two books the group has to clarify to which Antonia they're referring. (The issue is settled when werewolf!Antonia takes a very high-caliber bullet to the head.)
  • Even similar themed names can be confusing. Some readers kept mixing up Rosie and Daisy in Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys.
  • Averted by Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, where there is an entire sinister organisation of men named Jack.
  • Next by Michael Crichton has two ten-year-old boys named Jamie. You could hardly blame the bad guys when they snatched the wrong kid.
  • The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson has two characters called John — Gless and Moffat.
  • John Green's An Abundance of Katherines has two main characters named Colin, one of whom has dated nineteen girls named Katherine.
    • John Green seems fond of averting this trope. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan has two protagonists, both named Will Grayson.
  • Part of the crux of the concept of My Name Is Will is that both protagonists are named William Shakespeare, one of them being that Shakespeare.
  • The Safehold series by David Weber treats this interestingly. Most names have distorted spellings and sometimes pronunciations. Every once in a while there will be, for instance, two Erics, but they're distorted differently (Erek and Erayk).
  • Averted in The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. The first book, The Way of Shadows, has fairly important characters named Aleine (the king), Elene (the love interest), and Ilena (one of the hero's foster sisters). There's also a pair of (apparently unconnected) villains named Roth and Garoth, but Roth is Garoth's son and was probably named after him. Roth is working on his own to earn his place as Garoth's son.
  • Partial aversion: Stephen King's novel Under the Dome has an Andy (male, short for Andrew) and an Andi (female, short for Andrea).
  • Nick Cave's novel The Death of Bunny Munro has two characters named River. Oh, and three named Bunny Munro (grandfather, father, and son). Just in case you thought the title was a spoiler.
  • A Conspiracy of Kings has two minor characters named Ion. The fact is slightly lampshaded by the subliminal reaction this produces in Costis.
  • Atlanta Nights seems to be a demonstration of why this trope exists. There are three characters named Richard Isaacs, Isaac Stephens, and Stephen Suffern. Isaac Stephens interacts with each of the other two at least once, and both times the characters are referred to by whatever name would cause the most confusion. And, this being Atlanta Nights, the narrator has trouble keeping them straight.
  • In the first book of the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, Kate contemplates naming an orphaned baby girl "Charm", after the King's Wife Charm that protected them both. The Charm protests that they'd never know which of them was being called on, then dubs the baby Matilda instead.
  • Aldous Huxley's Brave New World mentions this problem: Lenina Crowne works with another Lenina, due to an extremely small naming pool and no creativity allowed; it's implied that children are named by bureaucratic fiat, since they're all grown externally. However, none of the main characters have shared names.
  • In Sword of Truth, there are three Saras (including one doll), and two Drefans. However, only one of each group truly has a major role.
  • Life of Pi boasts two unrelated characters named Satish Kumar (who were Adapted Out of the movie). This helps set them off as Pi's Opposed Mentors: one an atheist science teacher, the other an uneducated but devoutly religious shopkeeper.
  • Lampshaded in Who? by Algis Budrys, when Lucas Martino goes off to live with his uncle Lucas Maggiore. His uncle immediately says, "Lucas and Lucas—-that's too many Lucases in one store." Lucas Martino is promptly nicknamed Tedeschino, but the narration continues to use his original name.
  • Steven Pinker discusses names in a chapter of The Stuff of Thought. He opens the chapter talking about the commonness of his own name, joking about the prominence of smart successful people named Steve - Stephen Hawking, Stephen J. Gould, Stephen King, Steven Rose, Steve Jobs, the two authors of Freakonomics, and even includes a cartoon someone drew of a guy looking at a previous Pinker book and buying it deciding "If he's called Steve, he must know what he's talking about!" as he is surrounded by a bookshelf full of many of the aforementioned Steve authors.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • The last name of the Rebel pilot in Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope, the one who was force-garroted by Vader, was Antilles. Wedge, a fighter pilot beloved by the EU, also has the last name Antilles, and isn't related - in one book he meets his new quartermaster, a droid who was on the Tantive IV, who tells him that it's pleased to serve under another Antilles and hopes things will end better this time, to Wedge's discomfort. It's mentioned that this is a common last name - in the comics, a short-lived Jedi character who is of the philosophy that Jedi should own nothing, not even their names, goes by Jon Antilles, and it's mentioned that no one thinks that's what he was born as.
    • In Episode I, the senator from Alderaan is Bail Antilles, and his successor, better known as Leia's adoptive father, is Bail Organa.
    • Mace Towani from Caravan Of Courage and Mace Windu from the prequels.
    • Anakin Skywalker and Anakin Solo. Although the latter is named directly for the former, his grandfather.
    • "Mala" or "Malla" is the short form of Chewbacca's wife's name, the name of Wedge's doomed girlfriend from just before he joined the Rebel Alliance, and the name of a bounty hunter who amused the Emperor with her audacity.
  • An interesting use of this trope comes from Cory Doctorow's novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, in which the main character and his siblings each have a unique starting letter, but may be referred to by any name starting with that letter. All other characters have unique and consistent names, none of which share starting letters with the siblings. It works surprisingly well, and you may not even notice the oddity until halfway through the book.
  • Agatha Christie's Peril at End House averted this; it turns on Magdala "Nick" Buckley and Magdala "Maggie" Buckley.
  • Played with in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, when Gordon talks to his sister Susan's answering machine. Gordon's secretary is also named Susan, and he keeps making asides to clarify which Susan he's referring to.
  • A minor example shows up in Great Expectations. There is Georgiana, as in Pip's mother who he calls "Also Georgiana" early on, and a different Georgiana in the Pocket family. Of course, neither of them have much of an important role, so it's easily overlooked.
  • The Gaunt's Ghosts books have an interesting aversion of this, as there are several minor characters named after the highly-regarded Saint Sabbat. On top of that, Sabbat herself gets reincarnated over the course of the books.
  • In Time Flies with Ms Wiz when Nabila and Ms Wiz are searching for Jack in an Elizabethan village, one of the village girls remarks that there are a couple of Jacks in the village.
  • In Girl Interrupted, a new patient with the name Lisa arrives on the ward. Lisa Rowe becomes competitive with this girl, and makes sure that she is known simply as Lisa, while the new girl is known as Lisa Cody.
  • Played with in a children's book called The Adventures of Ali Baba Bernstein. The protagonist, a kid named David Bernstein, hated how boring and common his name was, and when he looked it up in the phone book he found there were eight other David Bernsteins listed.
  • Averted and lampshaded in Robert Rankin's Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, due to an abundance of nursery-rhyme characters all named Jack: Jack Spratt, Little Jack Horner, Jack-be-Nimble, and Jack of "Jack and Jill". The lead character also happens to be named Jack.
  • Averted in Homer's The Iliad, which features two Greek soldiers named Aias (or Ajax, depending on the translation). Aias, son of Telamon, is often referred to as Telamonian Aias, or Greater Aias, while the other is Lesser Aias. Collectively, they are referred to as the Aiantes.
  • In Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust, one of the main characters is a married woman named Brenda with a young son named John, who begins carrying on an affair with a man who is also named John. About halfway through, Brenda learns that "John" has died in an accident. She's too stunned to grieve until further questions reveal that it's her son, not her lover, at which point she says "oh thank God" and bursts into tears of relief.
  • Warrior Cats, a series with odd naming conventions, averts this. There are at least four Robinwings, three Birchstars, a Mousefur and a Mousewhisker (both in the same Cast Herd no less), as well as two Ashfurs and an Ashfoot. And that's just the beginning. The name prefixes and suffixes are reused many times, so even if there aren't direct duplicates, it's still confusing. For example, the most commonly used prefix is "White" - altogether in the series, you've got Whiteberry, Whiteclaw, Whitefang, Whitestar, Whitestorm, Whitetail, Whitethroat, Whitewater, and Whitewing.
  • In the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery, there are seven unrelated characters with the name "Jim" or some variant of it: James A. Harrison (Marilla and Anne's neighbour), Aunt Jamesina, Jim Wilcox, James Armstrong, James Grand, Captain Jim, and the war baby Jims. Of course, this doesn't count Anne's son Jem, who is named after Captain Jim, or Jem's son Jem, or Jim Anderson, who is Jims' father and namesake, or Aunt Jamesina's father, who is her namesake. Whew.
    • A milder version is Priscilla Andrews and Priscilla Grant. There is no confusion, as they never share a scene and the first is nearly always referred to as Prissy.
    • Anne also has two that aren't namesakes in any way, shape or form: Janet Sweet's sister and Miss Cornelia Bryant's mother were both named Anne. Add this to the fact that Anne has three namesakes: Diana's daughter Anne Cordelia, her own daughter Nan, and her son Jem's daughter Anne. So that makes three characters who can be referred to as Anne Blythe. (Confused yet?)
  • Another example from L. M. Montgomery's books comes from The Story Girl and The Golden Road, in which the main character and one of her friends are both called Sara. There is no confusion between the two, as the former is usually known as "The Story Girl" by her peers, and the latter is usually called by her full name, i.e. Sara Ray.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy plays this surprisingly straight. There seems to be only one "Arthur Phillip Dent" in the entire universe. However, there is an "A-Rth-Urp-Hil-Ipdenu" on the fourth world of the Folfanga system.
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins has an unusual exception, a pair of sisters named Leeg. Katniss refers to them as Leeg 1 and Leeg 2 to differentiate, and there is never an instance of name confusion.
  • In The Queen's Own Fool there are five Marys: the eponymous Mary, Queen of Scots and her four maids-in-waiting. The narrator keeps track of them in her mind by calling them Pious Mary, Pretty Mary, Regal Mary and Jolly Mary.
  • Averted in the Jules Verne novel Master of the World. There are several characters with the first name John. The Hero is John Strock, one of his policemen is John Hart, and lastly The Dragon is John Turner. However since all of the characters are on a Last Name Basis, it never becomes confusing which John is which.
    • It seems as though Turner's first name is an error on either the part of Verne or one of the translators, since, in Robur the Conqueror, the novel Master of the World is a sequel to, Turner's first name is given as "Tom."
  • In Erich Kästner's book Das doppelte Lottchen (a.k.a. "Lotti and Lisa"), on which The Parent Trap is based, the mother is called Luiselotte and her twin daughters Luise and Lotte.
  • Dr. Seuss averted this rule pretty hard in his story Too Many Daves about a mother named Mrs. McCave who named her 23 sons Dave and then regrets it, thinking she should have named each one of them something much more unusual.
  • Because the firstborn daughter of any family in A Brother's Price is given the title/name "Eldest", there are a lot of Eldests around. However, non-family members usually call the Eldest of some other family by her last name. Technically there are three Eldest Whistlers shown, but Jerin only calls one of them by that name - the others he calls Mother Eldest and Cousin Eldest.
  • Frequently disregarded in the Sagas of Icelanders. While epithets and patronymics do a good job at keeping different characters with the same name distinguishable, this requires the reader to pay close attention to these. Some examples:
    • In Grettir's Saga, Grettir's three most important human antagonists are all called Thorbjörn, and there are three more Thorbjörns as bit characters.
    • In "The Saga of Olaf Tryggvason" of Heimskringla, there is an episode where King Harald of Denmark and his accomplices Gold-Harald and Jarl Hakon conspire against King Harald of Norway. Got it?
    • In Gisli's Saga, the villain Thorgrim allies himself with a sorcerer also named Thorgrim.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Regained, when Malagigi speaks sadly of having been betrayed by Theophrastus, he quickly adds that it's not their brother but another man of the same name.
  • Lampshaded in Carl Hiaasen's Striptease where two strippers want to use the name stage name of "Monique". They settle on the older one keeping the name while the younger one calls herself "Monique Jr."
  • In the George Eliot novel Daniel Deronda, the title character is trying to help Mirah find her brother, Ezra Cohen. He finds a character who goes by Ezra Cohen who is a completely different person than the Ezra Cohen, who goes by his middle name Mordecai when he finds him.
  • The novels of J.T. Edson contain both Belle Boyd and Belle Starr, although these are Historical Domain Characters.
  • Very much averted in Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall - being set at the royal court in 16th century England, it has a large cast of which roughly half are named either Thomas, Anne, Henry or John. Frequently lampshaded.
  • 1066 and All That makes a few jokes about figures in British history with similar names:
    • Cardinal Wolsey's successor was "Cromwell (not to be confused with Cromwell)".
    • "Walpole ought never to be confused with Walpole, who was quite different..."
  • Averted by The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, which has a Nicholas (the title character) and a Niccolò, as well as a Billy and a William. The similar names could not really have been avoided, though, except by choosing different historical figures.
  • An aversion sets the plot of Scoop in motion, when nature columnist William Boot is mistaken for aspiring foreign correspondent John Courteney Boot, and so finds himself unwillingly covering a civil war in Bulungi.
  • White Jackson and Black Jackson from Blood Meridian. Neither Jackson is amused by the nickname. Black Jackson eventually decapitates White Jackson, but the nickname sticks
  • The Star Trek Novel Verse averts this several times. Cardassian characters are particularly notable for sharing names - a character in ''The Never-Ending Sacrifice'' has the same first name as one of Gul Dukat's sons (Mikor). In the same book, a minor supporting character (Martus Lok) shares a family name with an established major character (Pythas Lok) but is likely not a relative. In Starfleet Corps of Engineers, there's also Winn Mara, a minor supporting character and a Bajoran. She shares one of her names with Kai Winn Adami from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but there's no evidence they're related. Word of God has more or less confirmed the name "Winn" was chosen to deliberately subvert the One Steve Limit rule. Finally, two unrelated Tellarites with the name Teg have appeared in novels by David Mack, the first in ''A Time to Heal'', the second in ''The Persistence of Memory''
  • Averted in Beauty Queens. Miss Ohio, Miss New Mexico, Miss Arkansas and Miss Montana are all named Caitlin.
  • In The Deed of Paksenarrion it's a minor plot point in the first book that a new recruit shares a name with one of Paksenarrion's original training group, and that Paksenarrion herself has a similar name to Duke Phelan's deceased wife.
  • An aversion of this is heavily played for laughs in a short story by Norwegian author {{Hans E. Kinck}}, set in a secluded valley, on a farm where every single male has the same name (Taddak), and every single female likewise (Gunhild). The farm folk are incredibly lazy, and the naming happens to be "because it`s to stressing" to come up with new ones. Hence, they all go by nicknames: old Taddak, Little Taddak, big Taddak, Taddak from the other Farm and so on.
  • An interesting aversion occurs in "TheTommyknockers". Two characters, Jim Gardener and Bobby Tremain, are having a conversation where main character Bobbi Anderson is mentioned. The audience knows that we're talking about Bobbi and not Bobby, due to the spelling, but Bobby himself thinks he's being referred to in the third person and says "I'm right here."
  • Averted amusingly in John Connolly's Charlie Parker series, where the main character's dog Walter shares his first name with a secondary character who hadn't appeared for a while when the dog was introduced, with no explanation. When the original Walter came back, it's explained away as a case of We Named the Monkey Jack, which the human Walter doesn't find very flattering.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, fairy names are never used twice.
  • In one Fear Street book, one of the main characters, Amy, is playing beach volleyball with a group of strangers and discovers one of them is named Amy. They make a quick joke about it, but the second Amy disappears and has no actual relevance to the plot.
  • The novel Searching for Sky invokes this trope. Sky has lived on an island with three other people all her life; when she's brought to mainland California she tries to find her friend. She's upset and confused when she learns that there is more than one person called Lucas.
  • R.A. Salvatore has created the characters of Cadderly and Catti-Brie, who have crossed paths from time to time. Try reading the names outloud and not mis-pronouncing one for the other.
  • Lampshaded in the Elemental Masters series. Peter Scott and Peter Almsley share the first name, Water Mastery, and temperament, and they're thick as thieves, jokingly referring to each other as "twins" because of the shared name and mastery.


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