Follow TV Tropes


Ghetto Name

Go To

"If you watch enough Maury Povich, you're going to run across an episode in which a guest comes on stage whose name is Shaneequa. Or Jamarcus. Or Trevian. I'm not even going to ask you what race you think these three people are, because we all know what everyone else is thinking, and right here is where some people start feeling uncomfortable."

The polar opposite of Preppy Name — but somehow, they're not that different...

Over the last 30 years of the USA's history, a trend has cropped up among the country's poor — many of whom are descended from Africa. Many of the USA's poor now have weird and wonderful names. Many of said names are oddly and perhaps intentionally misspelled, not to mention unusually pronounced, and grandiose. The media finds this endlessly amusing, and names like this are now firmly tied to the USA's stereotypes about its poor.

The USA has several rather exclusive subcultures separated by racial distinctions so expect poor people of white and African-American descent to have rather different names (the USA's white poor tend to have more plain, but no less strange and silly-sounding, names like "Cletus" and "Billy Bob"). If you see anyone with a name like "Sha'quayla Joniqua LeBrontayyy" in a comedy, she's almost automatically an Acceptable Target — quite probably an obese Sassy Black Woman with multiple kids who serves as an attempt at Plucky Comic Reliefand sometimes not even that.


This style of naming is a Truth in Television, as a lot of Americans can attest — but it's not usually as exaggerated as seen in fiction. Different people have different standards — and to some people, a name may seem "ghetto" when really, it's just an unfamiliar name. Names that are explicitly drawn from, say, Arabic (e.g. Jamal, Kareem, Ayesha) or an African tongue (e.g. Kwame, Kwesi) would not count, for instance. But if it's something the parents clearly made up or saddled with an "inventive" spelling, it would. Much the same applies to actually European names (e.g. Schmidt, Ricci, Kerensky) versus customised European names (e.g. Shmitt, Ritchie, Krenzki) or names that merely sound European (e.g. Apple, Bookre, Faramir).

For the USA's darker-skinned citizens, this trend has its origins in the civil rights movement of the '60s, which saw an attempt by some of the country's blacks to 'reclaim' their African names and reject 'white' (European) names and surnames given to and adopted by their ancestors. It must be understood that virtually all of these names were from the (pre-civil rights) days when black citizens were second-class citizens compared to Anglo-Germanic and even Mediterranean-Slavic Europeans. Furthermore, many of their surnames came from an earlier time, when the vast majority of the country's ethnic-African people were legally-sanctioned slaves. Though the result of many African-Americans consciously choosing non-European given names for their children is clear to see (as per this trope), the incidence of 'name reclamation' is harder to judge. It's worth noting that most of the USA's African-Americans did not assume new family names - the admixture of the country's African, as with its European and Latin-American, people means that very few of the country's (African-American) folk can be said to come from any one place or be of any one people other than that of the USA.


Other Anglophone countries also have "ghetto names", particularly among Lower Class Louts like Britain's Chavs and Australia's Bogans. Such ghetto names are either misspelled or brand names, like "Schapelle" or "Mercedes".

A possible subtrope of Who Names Their Kid "Dude"? and Unfortunate Names and Unfortunate Implications, if the name is outlandish enough.


    open/close all folders 

  • Finesse Mitchell has a bit about this, with hypothetical names such as Escalade (pronounced Es-ca-LA-day), Vaseline (VAZ-lin) and Gonorrhea (Go-NOR-ia). In another bit he actually discusses how Finesse is not his stage name, his mom was either going to name him that or Hairdresser.
  • After observing, regarding Our Gang, how he's never run into a black person named Buckwheat, Eddie Murphy riffed on what siblings and cousins might be in that branch of the family, all following the breakfast-cereal theme, down to Trix, who's a prostitute, and the gay brother Lucky Charms.

     Film — Animation 
  • Bébé's Kids has Jamika, Kahlil, LaShawn, Pee Wee and Dorthea. Lampshaded in the scene where Leon, Kahlil and LaShawn are looking for novelty license plates with their names.
    Leon: Found mine!
    Kahill: How come we can't ever find our names?
    LaShawn: Yeah, I know four girls named LaShawn. How come we don't have a license plate?

    Film — Live-Action 
  • LaFawnduh from Napoleon Dynamite.
  • Groans and eye-rolls were to be had when Loretta Divine's character in Crash, whose only trait was being a Sassy Black Woman, said her name is Shaniqua Johnson. Not only was the character annoying, but "Shaniqua" is usually the default stereotypical name when someone invokes this trope. Probably deliberate, as she's introduced talking on the phone to an angry customer who feels her name justifies his negative opinion of her.
  • Dissected and analysed in Freakonomics. A surprising inversion was of two brothers, Winner and Loser Lane. Loser, who now answers to 'Lou', grew up to become a successful police sergeant. His brother Winner, on the other hand, wound up behind bars.
  • Yonica Babyyeah, a Middle Eastern pop idol in War, Inc. Subverted in that she turned out to be not only Caucasian, but the long-lost daughter of John Cusack's character.
  • Rare male examples: main characters Durell (pronounced Darrel) and LeeJohn in First Sunday. The latter was named because his mother was seeing two men, Lee and John, and since she didn't know who the biological father was, called him LeeJohn.
  • Evoked by Upgrayedd and names like Judge Hank BMW in Idiocracy. The two D's in "Upgrayedd" are for a "double dose of pimpin'".
  • In Ted, when John is trying to guess Ted's new girlfriend's name, he runs through a list of stereotypical white trash names with hilarious speed. When he exhausts the list, he asks if it was any of the previous names on the list with Lynn at the end. He doesn't get far before Ted tells him it's "Tammi-Lynn".
  • Bring It On has Isis, Jenelope, Lava and LaFred from rival squad, the East Compton Clovers.
  • DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story gives us Me'Shell (pronounced the same as Michelle), White Goodman's "fitness consigliere".
  • Parodied in Malibu's Most Wanted, where the very white Bradley Gluckman insists on being called "B-Rad G" and acting as if he's gangsta.
  • Parodied in Red when Frank and Sarah are breaking into the CIA Headquarters disguised as a general and his aide. The very-white Sarah (played by Mary-Louise Parker) glances at her cover identity and notices that her name is "Shaniqua Johnson". Frank sheepishly replies that she's adopted.

  • Latawnya, the Naughty Horse, Learns to Say "No" to Drugs.
  • The protagonist of The True Meaning of Smekday is named Gratuity. While she is black, the name was given to her by her white, Italian mother, who was an immigrant and didn't understand what the word meant. Her friends call her Tip.
  • While the villainous philistine Thenardier in Les Misérables has Delusions of Eloquence, his wife demonstrates her stupidity and lack of culture by giving her daughters names from romantic novels.
  • One of the characters in NW by Zadie Smith is a black lawyer called Natalie. Her parents named her Keisha, but she didn't think that it sounded very professional.
  • The Outsiders: The protagonist is named Ponyboy, with another brother named Sodapop. (Eldest son Darry, short for Darrel, is the not-so-Odd Name Out.) When somebody comments, Ponyboy quips that his late father was an "interesting" person. Unlike most examples on this list, they're apparently white, though still lower-class.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angry Boys: The awesomely named Lasquweesha, Shwayne and D'Anthony send this up brilliantly, whilst all still sounding (scarily) believable.
  • Selfie has Charmonique (although averted with her son, Kevin), the receptionist. In the pilot, Henry asks Eliza if she knows Charmonique's name (Charmonique knows hers, and the two see each other every day in the morning). Eliza does not remember, and when Henry tells her, she says "In my defense, that's not a real name." Cue an offended noise from Charmonique.
  • The pilot of UnREAL has Quinn groaning furiously at a contestant named Shamiqua, saying that America would never root for a girl with that name.
  • Mad TV':
  • Reality Television is notorious for these; the more ridiculous name the black contestant has, the grosser the stereotype she will be. Examples are Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth from The Apprentice and NaOnka Mixon from Survivor — and it turned out in the last episode that NaOnka's mother is named Zena.
  • Saturday Night Live: Finesse Mitchell's character Starkisha. He has a whole bit about Ghetto Names here.
  • Shaquan on The Parkers. She turns out to be Asian American.
  • Martin's crass neighbor Shanaenae.
  • Parodied on Mind of Mencia where the concept of Immigrant/Minority baby names are mostly based on Line of Sight Names such as "TopRamenisha," "USNavy"note , and "Shi-thead"note .
  • On 30 Rock in the episodes "Queen of Jordan" and "Queen of Jordan 2: The Mystery of the Phantom Pooper", Angie has a Gay Best Friend named D'Fwan. This proves that the 30 Rock writers are geniuses, because this name manages to sound both ghetto and incredibly Camp (which D'Fwan is). This is used for puns when he makes his own wine, D'Fwine that you should d'fwink responsibly.
  • Jocelyn Jee Esien's sketch show Little Miss Jocelyn featured "Sharonisha", a lower-class "chav" London schoolgirl.
  • Key & Peele:
    • The East/West College Bowl skit and its sequels. The names start out as the normal version of this trope, becoming more and more exaggerated as they go on until they're the most ridiculous names imaginable. Also note D'Jasper Probincrux III, who manages to blend this with Preppy Name.
    • The sketches are an exaggeration of a somewhat recent trend in the names of black football players — many NFL pros, such as Knowshon Moreno, Marshawn Lynch, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, wouldn't be out of place in those lineups. This culminated in a version of the sketch where several such real players (including Ferguson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Frostee Rucker) appeared.
    • In "Substitute Teacher Mr. Garvy", the titular teacher has spent his entire career teaching in the inner city, so he assumes every name is like this, confusing his new class of suburban white kids when he calls out names like "J-Kwellen" (Jacqueline) and "Balakay" (Blake). When the kids correct his pronunciation, he assumes they're trying to play a joke on him because nobody could ever have such silly-sounding names. With each correction, he becomes increasingly enraged and hostile, demanding that the kids stop screwing around and say their names "correctly", and culminating in him sending a kid to the principal's office. Finally, he calls out one last ghetto-fied name... and the only black kid in class responds immediately, because it actually is his name.
      Mr. Garvy: A-A-Ron! Where are you? Where is A-A-Ron right now? No A-A-Ron, huh? Well, you better be sick, dead, or mute, A-A-Ron!
      Student: Here!
      Mr. Garvy: Why didn't you answer me the first time I said it, huh? I'm just— y'know, I'm just askin', y'know. I said it, like, four times, so why didn't you say it the first time I said "A-A-Ron"?
      Student: ...Because it's pronounced "Aaron"?
      Aaron: ...Who?
      Mr. Garvy: O-SHAG-HENNESEY!
      Aaron: ...Principal O'Shaughnessy?
  • Verquonica, the second machine in the SNL sketch parodying Starbucks' ads for its Verismo machines.
  • Orange Is the New Black uses this for characterising several Rounded Characters rather than the expected Acceptable Targets:
    • Subverted by Taystee, a poor black woman with this kind of name - but it's actually a nickname for the more normal "Tasha". This doesn't stop someone comparing her name to a snack cake, though.
    • Subverted in the case of "Crazy-Eyes", who acts like a stereotypical, googly-eyed ghetto criminal and is only known by her nickname. Eventually her real name is revealed as "Suzanne", and it's revealed that she was raised by two white, middle-class adoptive parents.
    • Poussey. She is given the obvious Malicious Misnaming "Pussy", once standing up to someone by reminding them "[Poussey]'s a real place in France where my Dad was stationed and where kings were born and shit".note 
  • Used in passing in Community, when Dean Pelton tries a money-saving scheme that involves texting only black students. He accidentally texts a French student named le Bron.
  • Detective Shakima "Kima" Greggs in The Wire.
  • Invoked in Eastenders when twelve-year-old, white, lower-class Demi Miller gives birth and names her baby Aleesha Beyonce.
  • On The Mindy Project, Tamra's boyfriend is named Ray-Ron. Turns out that Ray-Ron is white.
  • On Dear White People, Coco's real name is revealed to be Colandrea.
  • Played With in Parks and Recreation, where Donna Meagle (who explicitly comes from a wealthy family) has an estranged brother named Lavondrius and a slightly less estranged brother named George.
  • The title character of Moesha has this as well as Deidre, Hakeem, Andell, Quinton, Dorian, and Jovan.

  • According to Word of God, the reason behind the naming of the titular character the very memetic Reggaeton parody "Yasuri Yamileth" was because it was the most stereotypically ghetto name her creator and singer, radio host Katherine Severino could give to her (and it has precedent as one Panamanian reggaeton singer did wrote a song about his girlfriend Yasuri). Severino created the character as a reply to colleagues joking about her preppy looks and tendencies, so when the song got popular and she was offered to film a video she realized she didn't look the part, so a more typically ghetto woman was hired to appear as Yasuri Yamileth.
  • Skee-Lo's "I Wish" contains the line "I would name my kids Ghetto Names Little Mookie, Big Al, Lorraine".

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, the Redguards (Tamriel's dark-skinned human race) get some of these throughout the series, with exactly how many varying from game to game. By the time of Skyrim, this has been dropped almost completely in favor of giving them Arabic-sounding names instead. (Justified, as the medieval Middle East and North Africa are a large part of the Redguard Culture Chop Suey.)
  • LaShawndra from Dead Rising 2, one of the first survivors you can rescue.

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • The Onion once put together a chart (that was Actually Pretty Funny) of the most popular baby names by ethnicity. Among the "black" entries: "Propecia" and "Sinutab".
  • The video sharing website Vine has a video with ghetto names that are actually brand names, like Degree (pronounced De-gree-ay), Polynesian and Lifesavers (pronounced Lifaysaviars).
  • This is parodied and combined with N-Word Privileges on This Is A Commentary, with one of Tré's characters being named "Watermelondrea".
  • In The Tourettes Guy, Danny demonstrates his ignorance of technology when he is told that his birthday presents were bought on Amazon, assuming it to be the name of the black woman from his son's job. Even after he is told "Amazon dot com", he just thinks they're talking about a different black woman.
  • MK of MK Loves took African-American culture to task over this, arguing that "If your name is worth more than 40 points in Scrabble" you should pick a different name for yourself.

    Western Animation 
  • The Proud Family:
  • Leshawna from Total Drama, although her cousin has the more over-the-top name "Leshaniqua".
    • Blaineley (who is white) has a name that manages to sound both like this and Preppy Name at the same time, since while it sounds classy upon first hearing, it also sounds a bit artificial (as a likely overextension of something like "Blake" or "Blaine", which are themselves not-uncommon Preppy Names). Actually kind of befitting a rather vapid celebrity host with an obsession for fame and glamour, especially since the name happens to be as fake as the rest of Blaineley's persona—her real name is the much stuffier-sounding Mildred.
  • In Drawn Together, Foxy Love's overly-elaborate role play identity is named Chocolandra.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: