Follow TV Tropes


Artifact Name

Go To
He’ll soon be 27 years old.
This is for when something was initially named, and that name made sense, but something about the object has has changed so that the name doesn't make sense anymore.

Like the Chestnut and Elm streets of many United States cities. They had said trees when they were first named but now, they mostly don't, due to diseases wiping out said trees from the area.

Sister trope to Artifact Title, which is this, but for work titles, and this is a subtrope of Non-Indicative Name, which is for when any name not making sense, at least on its face.

One Extra Member is a subtrope, for groups initially named after its number of members, but gets more members and invalidates the name.

Non-Indicative Name is the Super-Trope for names that don't make sense. This trope is for cases of Language Drift or other kinds of change over time, changing things to a name that was accurate, now is not.

This can overlap with Non-Indicative Name in cases where somehow, inaccuracy is not caused by change over time, usually requiring two parts to a name, like if a "green dragon" has its color redefined as "blue" over time, but was initally named knowing that it's not "dragon"-y, such as in cases of Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit".



    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Ghost Rider: Only in Brazil, due to Dub Name Change: It was translated as Motoqueiro Fantasma (Ghost Biker). As Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch versions ride motorcycles, it fits them well. Then came the Robbie Reyes version, riding a muscle car, but the translator kept the "Ghost Biker" name.
  • Iron Man: Tony Stark's armor hasn't had much iron used in its construction for decades, but the name is iconic.

    Fan Works 
  • The Wobbuffet Dojo in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: What Came After was owned by Gallade's grandfather, who was a Wobbuffet, but his will stipulated that the name or appearance (the dojo was built to look like a Wobbuffet) could not be changed after his death, much to the embarrassment of Gallade, who inherited it.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: While it once lived up to its name, Gringy City is now quite a nice place after extensive revitalization.

    Film - Animated 
  • In Up: Kevin the bird is still called thusly even after Dug reveals she's a girl.

    Film - Live Action 
  • In the Iron Man film, the titular character's codename fits his first two armors, Mark I and Mark II. To fix Mark II's issue about freezing in high altitude, Tony Stark built the Mark III armor using a titanium-gold alloy, but he kept the codename Iron Man because he considered it cool.

  • In the children's short story Genius Jones and Fat Cat, this is subverted with the eponymous cat's name. She starts out chubby, and so is named, but then she turns skinny... but then she regains the weight she lost.
  • Giants Series: The names for the Lunarians and Ganymeans are both artifact names based on the place the first specimens of either species were discovered. Either of them could be called Minervans.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • Foundation Series: The Mayor of Terminus was a title for the civilian leader of the town that grew up to support the Encyclopedia Foundation. As Terminus' influence grows, they govern more and more planets, and will eventually be the civilian leader of the Second Galactic Empire. Their title, however, remains "Mayor of Terminus".
    • "Evidence": In-Universe, despite society changing to a single world-wide government, the company Dr Calvin works for is still known as United States Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation. The collection I, Robot explicitly makes the United States of America part of the Northern Region of the world government.
    • "Profession": At the end of the story, George asks about an In-Universe example; Olympics Day. The Olympic Games referred to the Greek city of Olympus, but they're now held yearly and involve demonstrations of Professional skills. Trevelyn and others on Earth use the Olympics to get companies/planets to notice their skills and get more prestigious hiring offers.
    • Words of Science and the History Behind Them:
      • The entry for "Atoms" explains that the word comes from the Greek "atomos", which means "not divisible", based on the idea that these particles could not be broken down into anything smaller. In 1896, this assumption was disproven.
        Now, man's whole future hinges upon the manner in which atoms break up and fuse together and on the behavior of particles smaller than atoms. But still the name is atom—"indivisible".
      • The entry for "Chromatography" explains that the word comes from the Greek "chroma" for colour and "graphein" for writing. It is a method of separating compounds with powders or paper, but is now performed for mostly colourless compounds, making the name no longer indicate the reading of pigments.
      • The entry for "Colloid" explains that the word comes from the Greek for "glue". It was originally a contrast to crystalline compounds, but the substances have been proven to crystallize, making its intended meaning of "not crystals" inaccurate.
  • In the kids' book Mr Cat, the cat still has that name even after she's revealed to be female.

    Live Action TV 
  • Arrow: In season 5, Oliver recruits five new members to his team, they were referred to in-universe as The Recruits and New Team Arrow. In season 6, the remaining recruits, Curtis, Dinah, and Renee, have a major split that puts them in opposition with Original Team Arrow (Oliver, Diggle, Felicity). However, they are often still referred to as New Team Arrow both in-universe and out. Curtis eventually suggests "The Outsiders" but at the end of season 6, it hasn't caught on and they don't seem to have an official name.
  • In Sesame Street, Baby Bear is still named that even though he's no longer a baby. There was actually an episode where he tried to rename himself Not-a-Baby Bear, but it didn't stick.
  • The Zords in Power Rangers were named after The Mentor of the original team, Zordon. Despite his Heroic Sacrifice at the end of Power Rangers in Space, they still call their machines and robots "Zords" for no real reason.

  • “Alternative rock” was originally a category describing rock bands who were outside the commercial mainstream, often releasing albums on independent record labels and getting more airplay on college radio stations than traditional rock and pop radio. The rise of grunge in the early 1990s brought alternative rock bands into the mainstream and eventually to artifact name status as “alternative” became the dominant form of mainstream commercial rock music in the United States, such that by the mid-90s the week-to-week song rankings on Billboard Magazine’s alternative rock chart (called “Modern Rock Tracks” at the time) and its mainstream rock chart were virtually identical.
  • Many British and American post-punk and synthpop bands that originally debuted in the late 70s and early 80s are still labeled as “New Wave” bands, even though none of the groups from that era who are still active are exactly “new” anymore.
  • Electric Light Orchestra was originally conceived in 1970 as a rock band with classical instruments and sounds — an electrified light orchestra, hence its name. The reed and french horn players left the group during the recording of their second album while the role of the string section decreased over the years, rendering the "light orchestra" part of their name more and more moot. By the release of Time in 1981 the string players were also gone, with the four remaining band members playing standard rock instruments and any classical sounds in their new songs being created with synthesizers. It's probably not a coincidence that they were more commonly known by their initials than their full name during this period.
  • The Five Man Electrical Band hasn’t actually had five members since drummer Mike Bell and bassist Brian Rading both left in 1973, reducing the band to only three. The current version of the group has six members who still play a handful of live concerts every year.
  • Even though guitarist J. Geils quit The J. Geils Band following a legal spat in 2012, the rest of the group would continue touring as The J. Geils Band until they retired in 2015, without the person it was literally named after.
  • Pizzicato Five had five members for their debut EP, The Audrey Hepburn Complex. Then one guy left, and they were never again officially a five-piece band. At the time of their greatest international success, they were a trio, then a duo, but their original name stuck.
  • Secret Chiefs 3 was a trio on their first EP and album, with all three members contributing equally to songwriting. Then two of them had to limit their involvement due to other commitments, and the remaining guy, Trey Spruance, basically became the band—though he brought in a rotating cast of musicians to help bring his ideas to life. If the name were supposed to accurately represent the number of permanent band members, then they'd be "Secret Chiefs 1"; if it were supposed to reflect the number of musicians playing on a given album, then it would vary from "Secret Chiefs 5" to "Secret Chiefs 21".

    New Media 
  • The term "New Media" itself was first used in the late 1990s by media companies to describe their then-new divisions producing or repackaging content for the Internet (or in some cases, video games). It's been 20+ years since then, during which time the Internet has for some of them become the dominant or even only medium.
  • TV Tropes itself, as we haven't been strictly about television for years.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The pseudodragon from the 1st edition onwards, isn't, from 3E onward, as a it became a member of the Dragon creature type. A.k.a, not a "false dragon".

    Video Games 
  • Saints Row: The Third Street Saints gang's name in the original Saints Row was a Punny Name referring both to their HQ in an old church of the Stilwater's Saints Row district and to their claim to being the "good guys" in the Stilwater underworld, fighting for the common people against the actual criminal gangs. In the second game, they lose their hold of Saints Row and, after a change in leadership, abandon any pretense of goodness to become just another (albeit extremely persistent) power-hungry gang. The third game takes place in an entirely new city, and the next two leave Earth altogether, so by the time of Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, they aren't really "Saints" in anything but a self-applied moniker.

    Western Animation 
  • In-universe example: In season 13 of South Park Cartman started dressing up as a superhero named "the Coon," and he later assembled a superhero team with the other kids named "Coon and Friends." He’d eventually get kicked out of the group for beating up two of the other members, but they still kept the name even after he left.
    Stan: Mysterion, if Cartman's gone, why are we still calling ourselves "Coon and Friends?"
    Mysterion: Because it pisses Cartman off beyond belief, and I find that (chuckles) extremely funny.

    Real Life 
  • Norway rats, also known as Norwegian brown rats, are so-called because they were believed to have arrived in England on a Norwegian boat. They're still called that, despite the fact that historians have discovered that it was likely a Danish boat.
  • The Spanish Flu is named that because Spain reported the most cases, which led people to believe that the disease came from there. It is now known that the disease was actually spreading in other countries at the same time, but that those countries didn't want to report their cases due to World War I-related reasons.
  • Basketball was named that way because the inventor of the game used peach baskets as makeshift goals. By the early 1900s the "basket" had been replaced with a metal hoop, some netting and a backboard, but the original name stuck.
  • Sports teams that have relocated sometimes don't change their nickname, which made more sense in their previous city:
    • The Los Angeles Lakers were originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota (The Land of 10,000 Lakes).
    • The Utah Jazz came from New Orleans, which is known for its jazz music.
    • The Memphis Grizzlies were based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Not many grizzly bears in Tennessee.
    • The Los Angeles Dodgers moved from Brooklyn, where the term "Dodger" referred to people who would dodge streetcars to get to Ebbets Field.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number was named when all musicals began at 8:30 PM, so the penultimate showcase number would happen around 11:00 PM. Broadway musicals tend to start at 8:00 PM or 7:00 PM, not counting afternoon matinees, which would put that musical number at an earlier time.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: