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Line-of-Sight Name

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Doctor: I'll be keeping my eye on you. What's your name?
Peter Griffin: Uh, m-my name? Uh, uh, uh, uh... [spots pea on plate]... Pea... uh, uh... [sees girl crying]... tear... uh, uh... [sees a griffin fly by]... Griffin. Yeah, yeah, Peter Griffin... ah, crap.

A character needs an alias. They only have a few seconds to think of one and simply saying "John Smith" is out of the question. The camera follows their eyes as they look around the room. They see one common object, and then another, and then another...

Uh, my, er, name is, uh
[sees a pair of jeans]
[an eyeball]
uh, eye...
[a fur coat]... ummm jean-eye..uh, jean-eye-fur
[a green wall] green
Uh, jean-eye-fur- green-uh-flower. Yes. That's it! I'm Jennifer Greenflower.

And assembling the names of the objects in their head, they have an instant pseudonym.

Sometimes they can luck out and see things with writing on them. This sometimes supplies them good names, but just as often is Played for Laughs with them selecting something ridiculous.

Somewhat Truth in Television, as the real-world examples show.


Other ways to invent a quick alias include Character Name Alias, Sdrawkcab Alias and Sue Donym.


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  • A credit card commercial where a man at work is asked by his wife if he made any plans for their anniversary. Naturally he must scramble for an Ass Pull: "Uh, yeah... we're... " * glances at Chinese takeaway box* "taking the Orient Express to..." * glances at stained tie* "a spot in... Thailand!" * glances out window, where a bird lands* "We're going birdwatching!" At the end of the commercial, on the trip that his credit card company was able to drum up on short notice, his wife remarks that "this is such a surprise", and he wholeheartedly agrees.note 
  • A series of advertisements for the Vauxhall Astra featured the irascible executive JD (Nigel Hawthorne) and his put-upon subordinate Percy Atkins. In one advertisement, Atkins realised to his horror that the hitchhiking teenagers he'd picked up were JD's children, who'd heard all about Atkins from their father but had never seen him. Since they were behind a lorry of sheep at the time, he quickly gave his name as Ramsbottom.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In one episode of Burst Angel, Jo must give Takane her full name, so after seeing someone eating some rice with curry, she comes up with "Jo Kareraisu" ("Jo Curry Rice"). This may also happen because Jo has Only One Name.
    • Jo says "Jo Mamma" in the English version instead, quite amusingly.
  • In one episode of Pokémon, when Ash Ketchum needs a fake name, he sees Pikachu with a bottle of ketchup, and comes up with "Tom Ato". Misty then comes up with "Anne Chovie", and Brock follows on the food theme with "Caesar Salad". Ash was going to say "Ash Ketchup" (maybe), but he gets whacked. In the Japanese version, Ash tried to introduce himself as "Napolitan" (as in "napolitan spaghetti") after seeing a plate of spaghetti on the floor (next to Pikachu), and the Yas recruiter asked if he was from Italy. The Japanese version has the trio use the aliases "Omurice Ketchupurou", "Chicken Rice Sauceko", and "Curry Rice Chutney Zaemon", which are actually just the names of Japanese dishes with the last few letters of some traditional Japanese names added at the end.
  • Shinichi Kudo in Detective Conan, transformed into a child, comes up with his alias of "Conan Edogawa" by seeing books of mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle and Edogawa Rampo. He gets called out for his given name not being one that Japanese people commonly have.
  • In Ōban Star Racers, Eva Wei invents her pseudonym Molly in this way. When she sees her father for the first time in years and he doesn't recognize her, she gives the name "Molly" after a pin-up poster in the hangar.
  • Magical Angel Creamy Mami has a "line of hearing name".
  • Dragonaut: The Resonance:
    • Toa got her name from a bracelet belonging to Jin's sister Ai, which was broken in the accident that killed her and the rest of his family (that she caused.) It originally had "To Ai" engraved on it, but read "To A" when she found it.
    • Gio got his name because Kazuki saw his designation number G10 and mistakenly read it as Gio.
  • In Haré+Guu, Haré, while time-traveling, gives his name as "Ame" ("rain" in Japanese):
    Weda: Ame? That's a strange name. Almost like you took it from this rain!
  • Odd variation/subversion: in Here is Greenwood, a few of the main characters are wandering around town when a young woman, clearly on the run from someone, knocks into them. When she's asked her name, she notices the giant poster behind them advertising the album of a singer named Mieko Nitta, so she naturally gives the name "Mieko." The guys help her escape the various people chasing her while trying to guess what her story is, only to finally discover the unlikely truth: she is Mieko Nitta. She ran away from her manager and handlers to try and have a day to herself for once.
  • Non-comedic variation in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. The Mad Scientist that made Fate Testarossa gave her the name of the very Project she used to create her. She did this because she didn't see her as human enough to deserve a proper name.
    • The four Numbers Cyborgs who joined the Nakajima family named their unit "N2R" after the part of the rehabilitation center they stayed in (N block, Room 2)
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, "Audrey Burne" (aka. Princess Mineva Lao Zabi) introduces herself to Banagher while the two of them are walking past a movie theatre with a poster for Roman Holiday out front.
  • In Letter Bee, Lag gives Niche her name because he found her in an alcove of a train station.
  • It's eventually revealed that the titular character of Naruto does in fact have a name someone made up while eating a bowl of ramen (a naruto is the circular fishcake with a red spiral in it you put in it). Jiraiya did it when trying to think up the name for the hero of his (non-pornographic) novel, and Naruto's parents named him after the character.
    • Kabuto turns out to have been named like this too. In his case, he was found wounded and suffering from amnesia after a battle, and he didn't remember his own name. When the people who found him decided to give him a new name, he happened to be wearing a samurai's helmet.note 
  • In CLANNAD, Tomoya is at first impressed when Fuko quickly comes up with Isogai as a fake last name, until he realizes she got that name from seeing it on the nameplate of the neighbors' house.
  • In Dragon Crisis!, Rose's name is chosen by Ryuuji by him thinking the pattern on her hand looks like a rose.
  • Suitengu of Speed Grapher picked his current name after reading it off a sword.
  • A more serious "real name" variation appears in Heartcatch Pretty Cure. The Innocent Flower Girl of a main character Tsubomi ("flower bud") was named after a budding tree that was by the window of the hospital where she was born.
    • Itsuki also chose the name 'Cure Sunshine' because she was also currently looking at the sun. It goes more than that, but the element of the trope is there.
  • In K, Shiro comes up with the name for an ill-sister based on a poster he sees floating around in order for Kuroh to let him go. Later it turns out that's how he came up with the name Isana Yashiro as well
  • In Ravages of Time, a modern reinterpretation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this is how Liaoyuan Huo gets his much better-known name Zhao Yun, after watching some clouds ('yun' in Chinese) go by.
  • In Act 1 of the Sailor Moon manga and Sailor Moon Crystal, newly-minted Magical Girl Warrior Usagi stammers on introducing herself until her cat familiar Luna invokes this by meowing at the moon to prompt her.
  • In One-Punch Man, Saitama's hero name is "Caped Baldy" by the Hero Association due to the fact he's bald guy with a cape.
  • In Kemono Friends, Kaban is named for the bag she's wearing ("kaban" being Japanese for "bag").
  • In one of the Lupin III specials, Travels of Marco Polo, Lupin has to improvise an alias for himself and Jigen. The first thing he sees is a Kentucky Fried Chicken... therefore, he becomes "Detective Colonel" and Jigen is dubbed "Inspector Sanders."
  • Chapter 3 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has a variation when Shirogane is trying to figure out how to make sure he and Kaguya end up sitting next to each other in the movie theater without directly telling her his seat number. He sees a mascot costume of a character named Pen-tan (who is the star of a show called 12 Great Penguins) and chooses seat G-12, subtly trying to pass on the information to Kaguya by pointing out the mascot after he gets his ticket. Unfortunately, her train of logic goes from Pen-tan to Pentane (C5H12), comes to the conclusion that he's sitting at seat H-12, and picks seat H-13.

    Comic Books 
  • The superhero Invincible got his name when, after a fight, his high school principal told him "you aren't invincible, you know". One assumes that this scene would work equally well with the writers' original idea, "Bulletproof".
  • In The Corinthian: Death In Venice, a beggar attests that he named the titular nightmare after the first thing he saw with his new eye— a Corinthian pillar.
  • Loser Ringo Fonebone tried to commit suicide by hanging himself but failed, and ended up falling out his window on top of a robber on the run from the police. The robber blurted out "You klutz!" When the thankful police asks him who they have to thank for catching the crook, the dazed Ringo mumbles "I'm just a klutz, captain..." Since circumstances have meant he is wearing a superhero costume (his long johns, the towel he used as a rope, a hat that got stuck on his head) they assume he is Captain Klutz, the new superhero. The name stuck. (The Captain's adventures were illustrated by Don Martin and published in MAD paperbacks).
  • Nightwing rival/enemy/ally Nite-Wing took his name from a restaurant's neon sign advertising that they had "all nite chicken wings".
  • The Stan Lee version of Superman gets his secret identity this way. Amusingly, from the other names available, he could have gone with Peter Parker.
  • The eponymous hero of Blueberry was named Mike Donovan, but picked "Blueberry" as last name in a hurry because there were some growing where he was looking at the time.
  • In one of the older Batman origin stories, Bruce Wayne is sitting in his study trying to come up with his vigilante name, and contemplating that criminals were a superstitious cowardly lot, when a bat smashes through the window. "That's it, it's like an omen, I shall become a bat". This was expanded nicely in Batman Begins.
    • In Alan Moore's Terra Obscura, the origin of the Black Terror is cribbed specifically from this; Bob Benton based his superhero identity on a book about pirates he had lying around, which prominently featured a skull and crossbones on the cover. Similar in spirit, but not quite the same.
  • A variation of this was used in Booster Gold. In order to distract Sinestro, Booster pretends he's his biggest fan and that his yellow ring is a tribute to him. When asked what corps he belongs to, Booster replies "The...Sinestro Corps". This gets Sinestro thinking...
  • Cerebus has an example of a Line of Hearing Name. Cerebus, using the pseudonym "Fred", comes up with the surname "Hammer" because he hears someone fixing a roof with one.
  • In the version of Paperinik where he starts out as a member of The Guardians of the Galaxy, Donald just makes up the name "Paperinik" from an alien symbol on his shield that looks like the letters P and K entwined when asked who he is during his super hero debut (he has recently been told he must remain anonymous).
  • The amnesiac heroine of Somerset Holmes gets her name from an advertisement for a housing development called Somerset Homes.
  • When asked for his name, The Punisher villain Thorn names himself as such by glancing at a passing road sign. As his near death experience had left him amnesiac, it became his new name.
  • In Fairest #22, one of Cinderella's mouse footmen sneaks into the ball. When asked his name, his eye falls on a tray being carried by one of the servants and he introduces himself as "Champagne. Marcel Champagne".
  • In All Star Western #34, Jonah Hex needs an alias when signing a hotel register. He sees a sack of George Brand Flour being wheeled past in a wheelbarrow, and signs the book 'George Barrow'.
  • In the Cinema Purgatorio story "Modded", Fringe is asked her name while disguised among enemies. She frantically looks around the bar and comes up with "Lady Glasshat Dildobeast." There really was something that could only be called dildobeast present. In any case, Tommy Zero only gets suspicious when Bloody Susan acts familiar with Fringe but doesn't refer to her by name.
  • Batman foe Solomon Grundy is another "Line-of-Hearing" example. He was originally Cyrus Gold, a mobster killed and thrown into Gotham's swamps. Decades later, he comes back from the dead, but has very little recollection of his previous life, including his name. One of the few things he can remember is that he was "born on a Monday," and the people he's come across joke that he might be Solomon Grundy, a character from a nursery rhyme/riddle that begins with those lines ("Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday, christened on Tuesday..."). Gold/Grundy decides to take the name as his new identity.

    Fan Works 
  • When England has to think of a fake name in The Taboo, he comes up with Arthur Kirkland when he glances at a bottled water someone is drinking. Alfred lampshades this when he replies "Like the coffee!", as they had just finished cleaning up some that had spilled.
  • All-American Girl: In chapter 18, this is how Twilight Sunburn comes up with the fake name Tender Care, by reading it off a billboard. However, "Tender Care" is a perfectly realistic name for a pony.
  • How Armani got his name in the Broken Bow series.
    Armani: So let me get this straight; the clothes on your back, and your toothpaste?
    Apollo: Umm, kinda, yeah...
    Armani: With all due respect, uncle, you suck.
  • In REP Is Magic, one of the main characters, Coin, who's struck with amnesia, names himself this after finding a bit with an x engraved in it in his claw.
  • In I Know Your Secret Harry decides to name a charitable corporation he's made up on the spot Fairytale after glancing at a book of wizarding fairy tales in Dumbledore's office.
  • Invoked in Once More with Feeling. The director of JDA intelligence chooses codenames based on nearby items, in order to make his agents harder to find.
  • In Blue Sky, the town of Eaden got its name from a "Dead End" sign that was missing the first and last letters due to age.
  • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, the Boggart-Boy comes up with his first name (Maximilian) more or less on his own, but is still looking for a first name when he happens to visit Professor Dumbledore, who offers him a sherbet lemon. After a bit of refining on this idea, he ends up as Maximilian Candy.
  • Laven in Anonymoose's Monster Girl Saga can't remember his original name, so he takes a new one from a bed of lavender flowers.
  • The Palaververse: In Wedding March, the changeling Thorax ducks out of the pitched battle he finds himself in by disguising himself as a member of the Royal Guard. When he's confronted by the CMC, Spike and Sailears and asked his name, he panics and names himself after the first thing he sees, thus introducing himself as Sir Wall of the Royal Guard. Given the nature of pony names in canon, this still provides him with a perfectly suitable and unremarkable alias.
  • While trying to decide on code names in The Evil Queen, Ann accuses Akira of being a complete bore. When Akira protests that he can be funny, Ann sacastically calls him "a real joker." Karasu jumps on the name "Joker" for Akira's code name.
  • The Tyrant And The Hero: Mary takes on the name "Alicetroemeria" when disguised, this being a portmanteau of "Alice" and "alstroemeria". "Alice" is the name that Mary will eventually take when she becomes Monster Lord, while "alstroemeria" is a type of flower (a bouquet of which is in the room).
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "The Other Smurfette", when Hogatha as a female Smurf first appears unto Clumsy, he says, "By the way, I wonder what I should call you. Do you have a name?" Hogatha replies, "Wonder? Ah, yes, that's what you shall call me. Wonderette Smurfette."
  • In Prospit Nights, Cole Phelps loses his memory in "cowboy times", and calls himself "John Marston" because he landed in a toilet. Later on, he ends up trying to change his name to MasterChef after catching up on all the episodes he had recorded, but accidently spells his name wrong and ends up changing it to Master Chief.
  • Ask Her Lustrousness, Yellow Diamond: Yellow names a newly discovered, first cut of a Gem "Stevensite" after Steven himself (the author's note clarifies this by saying that, yes, Stevensite is in fact an actual kind of mineral).

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Incredibles, according to Dynaguy, one of the heroes killed by their cape, he got his name while eating at a diner and sounding out words.
  • In Rango, the title character gets his alias from a bottle of cactus juice, which has "Hecho en Durango" (Made in Durango) printed on it.
  • Flower the skunk from Bambi actually got his name when Bambi was getting the names of various plants and animals wrong (such as calling a butterfly a "bird" and a flower a "butterfly"), and the reason why Bambi named the skunk "Flower" is because he was first found in a flower patch.
  • Variation in How to Train Your Dragon 2:
    Hiccup: [adding a new location to his map] So bud, what shall we name this? [sees Toothless scratching himself] "Itchy Armpit" it is.
  • In A Monster in Paris, Lucille names the eponymous 'monster' Francœur after a street sign in the alleyway where she first meets him.
  • The Boxtrolls get their names from whatever words and images are depicted on their box, leading to names like Fish, Shoe, Fragile, and Knickers. The protagonist, a human boy raised by the boxtrolls, gets the name "Eggs".
  • The Simpsons Movie: In an attempt to get the dome removed and free Springfield, Homer wears a hotel doorman's outfit and approaches a soldier, claiming to be General Marriott Suites.
  • SCOOB!: When Shaggy first met Scooby-Doo when he was a stray pup, Shaggy tells a cop trying to catch him that the dog belongs to him. He is promptly asked for the dog's name to prove it, so he looks down at a box of Scooby Snacks and says his name is "Scooby". He's then asked for a middle and last name, so he improvises "Dooby" and "Doo".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The '80s Dan Aykroyd comedy Doctor Detroit, this is how the title character is named. A pimp named Smooth Walker is in the office of Mom, a competitor, and he convinces her that he's leaving because "the Doctor" has forced him out.
    Mom: "Doctor"?
    Smooth: Yeah. Doctor... [looks around frantically, spies a travel poster for Detroit behind her head] Detroit.
  • In The Usual Suspects, "Verbal's" entire story was created by piecing together random items from the office he was being interrogated in. Even the bottom of his interrogator's coffee mug was used to name the lawyer, Kobayashi. This example is so famous that many others on this page are references to it.
  • General Aladeen in The Dictator is incapable of coming up with aliases without using this method. Aside from "Allison Burgers", he tries to pass himself off as "Ladis Washruum", "Employce Muswashans", and "Emer Gencyexitonly".
  • Superman: The Movie:
    Lois: [dreamily] What a super man! [beat] Superman!
  • In Supergirl, the titular character's secret identity, Linda Lee, comes from a glance at a picture on the wall of Robert E. Lee.
  • In Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams' character glances at a newspaper headline ("Police Doubt Fire Was Accidental") to come up with the titular name.
  • Robin Williams gets another one in August Rush when he comes up with the titular protagonist's stage, taking a fragment from the slogan on the side of a frozen foods truck.
  • A non-name example: Wayne's World 2 has Wayne come up with the entire plot of the movie (holding a big festival) looking at posters and other stuff in the record studio where he's at (including a gag with an old man fashioning a kayak out of a log).
  • In Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, the male leads are talking about love, when one chimes in with:
    Brick Tamland: I love carpet. I love desk.
    Ron Burgundy: Brick, are you just looking at things in the office and saying that you love them?
    Brick: [whispering] I love lamp.
  • In Wrongfully Accused, Leslie Nielsen's character does this in a sporting goods shop, resulting in a name based on fishing lures ("Buzz N. Frog") and an alleged meeting in a place called "Menzrum". As if this weren't enough, the scene becomes an explicit parody of The Usual Suspects, when Nielsen leaves and his interlocutor begins recognizing the names on the rack behind him.
  • The Wrong Guy: Nelson Hibbert wakes up in a hospital; believing he's a wanted man, he needs a fake name. So he tries "Enemabag Jones". When the doctor isn't convinced he tries again, reading his fake name off her nametag.
  • In the 1987 movie Hiding Out, the main character spots a can of Maxwell House coffee and says, "Maxwell Maxwell Hauser."
  • The mermaid from Splash takes the human name Madison after a street sign on Madison Avenue. Since Splash came out, in Real Life, the name Madison has eclipsed Madeline in popularity.
  • Occurs in The Princess Diaries when the Queen invents the "Genovian Order of the Rose", after spotting a sign for Rose Street, to get Mia out of a spot of trouble with a police officer.
  • In The Muppets Take Manhattan, Kermit the Frog, suffering from amnesia, wanders into an ad agency and when he is asked his name by some frogs who work there, he sees an ad on the wall that says "Fill'er up" and says his name is Phillip — Phil. By an odd coincidence, the names of the other frogs are Gill, Jill and Bill.
  • City of Angels's protagonist, Seth, tries this on his love interest and is immediately shot down when he claims to be called "Seth Plate".
  • In The Associate, Whoopi Goldberg's character needs a name for her mysterious friend and her eyes falls on a bottle of alcohol at the bar: Robert S. Cutty.
  • In Lover Come Back, when Edie Adams's Ms. Fanservice character is threatening to ruin the Madison Avenue career of Rock Hudson's character because her Sex for Product endorsement for one of his clients has been canceled, he offers her the chance to do the commercials for a brand new product. Searching for a name, he picks up a newspaper bearing the headline "VIPS ARRIVE FOR CONVENTION." Soon enough, television commercials are being produced with her as the "Vip" Girl; they generate a good deal of publicity, despite there being no such product as "Vip" - at least, not yet...
  • In Down with Love (largely a Homage to Lover Come Back), Catcher Block, in urgent need of a pseudonym for himself that Barbara Novak won't recognize, takes a look at the dry cleaners' signs saying "Zippers Repaired" and "MARTINIZING® Specialists" and comes up with the name of "Zip Martin."
  • In Shanghai Knights, Roy comes up with the pseudonym "Sherlock Holmes" in this manner. No, not from seeing anything written by Arthur Conan Doyle. In fact, he's the one who inspires Sir Arthur to use that name.
  • Linda Fiorentino's character in The Last Seduction makes up an alias while looking, into a mirror, at a poster for the city of New York, and comes up with "Wen Kroy", with "Wen" later elaborated into "Wendy". And unusually, the man she was running from actually manages to reconstruct her thought process, and finds her under her new name.
  • In Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins: Used by the protagonist's new boss as he recovers in the hospital. The boss says:
    Boss: Your new name is Williams... Remo Williams... We put a lot of thought into that. [... while casually looking at the imprint on the bottom of a bedpan: Williams Hospital Supply, Remo, AK.]
  • The titular character of Hancock is an amnesiac, so when his signature was needed, the taker asked for his "John Hancock".
  • Die Hard
    • A version appears in the first film when Hans Gruber tries to pass himself off as an innocent employee. John McClane surreptitiously checks the building directory while asking Hans' name, but Hans had apparently already seen it and gives the name "Bill Clay", which John spots in the directory.
    • Live Free or Die Hard would revisit this, as Justin Long's character impersonates the real owner of the car McClane is trying to jack.
      Matt Farrell: My name... [rummages through glove compartment] is... [finds something] Frank... and my dad's name is... Dvorak... Tsajinsky...
  • The fortune teller in Pee-wee's Big Adventure tells Pee-wee that his bike is at "The Alamo, in the basement," from signs outside her window.
  • Pineapple Express:
    Dale: Go to the Days Inn downtown. Use a fake name. [looks around garage] "Garagely"!
  • The Hottie & the Nottie features Paris and Nate at a picnic. He stammers over coming up with a name for a fictitious guy for her roommate. He comes up with "Cole Slawsen". Yeah.
  • The ronin from Yojimbo gives his name as "Kuwabatake Sanjuro", meaning "Mulberry Field thirty-ish". Guess what he's looking at (and how old he is) when he was asked. He adds that he's "closer to forty."
    • In the sequel Sanjuro, the ronin gives his family name as Tsubaki (camellia) after the nearest plant life.
  • A bizarre instance of this can be seen in the made-for-TV movie The Pooch and the Pauper when a con artist who specializes in inventing fraudulent dog breeds is asked the name of one of his "exotic" breeds and his eyes fall on an assortment of teas before he responds that the dog is called a Darjeeling Orange Pekoe.
  • When the protagonist of Top Secret!, Nick Rivers, is asked about his name, he says that his father thought of it ("Nick") while shaving.
  • Line of Sound variation in the original The Nutty Professor - when Prof. Kelp's suave cad alter-ego needs to give a name, someone calls him 'buddy', a song about love is cued up...presto, he's Buddy Love. In the 1996 remake, Eddie Murphy as the alter-ego is chatting up the beautiful woman he had always wanted to get with. When a security guard says "Hey, buddy...", he adopts that as his first name; but when she asks his last name, he looks at her wonderingly and says "Love. Buddy Love."
  • In Back to the Future, the 1955 Lorainne calls Marty "Calvin Klein", because it's written on his underwear.
  • In Dr. Jekyll & Ms. Hyde, Hyde's descendant picks the first name Helen for his alter-ego after seeing the headline "Scientists Believe Mt. St-Helens May Blow Again".
  • A Very Brady Sequel parodies a corresponding scene from the TV series by having Jan spot a carton of fruit juice and thereby inventing "George Tropicana."
  • True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet has this exchange:
    Morgan: Insert fake name. Insert fake name!
    Daisy Du— chovny.
    Daisy Duchovny. - Like the guy from X-Files?
    Morgan: No relation. Too bad.
  • The Rocketeer gets his name when airshow promoter Bigelow, having rejected "Rocket boy" and "Rocketman", spots a sign advertising Pioneer fuel.
  • In the Japanese film Welcome Back Mr. McDonald, when the live production of a radio play goes off the rails, one of the actors is forced to come up with an American name on the spot. He glances around the studio and spots a meal from McDonalds, then gives his character's name as "Donald McDonald", which is Ronald McDonald's Japanese name.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Elisabeth Swann doesn't want the attacking pirates to know that she is the Governor's daughter, so she catches herself in mid-name and blurts out the one last name constantly on her mind: that of her secret crush, William Turner. It turns out this choice is way worse than Swann could possibly have been.
  • In Dark Shadows, Maggie Evans is training herself for her governess job interview in the train that drives her to Collinsport. She thinks her real name will not impress the Collins so she looks for another name, sees an advertisement for the "Winter Olympics" (in Victoria) and renames herself "Victoria Winters".
  • Splice combines this with Sdrawkcab Name to get the central creature, Dren.
  • In the Jim Carrey version of Fun with Dick and Jane, while on the phone in an office:
    Dick: Yes, this is Officer...[sees multicolored paper] Red Green of the... [reads off a computer monitor] MVPDL.
  • In a film version of "Puss in Boots" starring William Shatner, Puss (Shatner) comes up with an alias for his master, the "Marquis of Carabas", after seeing a cart loaded with casks of "Carabas Wine" in the marketplace.
  • In Heathers, when a radio host asks Heather McNamara for her name, she struggles to give one. First she gives the name "Madonna" after the full size poster of Madonna on her wall. Then she spots her canary and comes up with "Tweetie".
  • Laura Harring's amnesiac character in Mulholland Dr., when asked what her names was, picks the name "Rita" after seeing a Rita Hayworth poster on the wall across the room.
  • Paddington gets his name from the train station where the Browns meet him. Though in the film it's played for laughs a bit, since the station name isn't the only thing in line-of-sight initially, leading to some confusion:
    Mrs. Brown: Oh Henry, it's perfect!
    Mr. Brown: ... You want to call him "Ketchup"?
    Mrs. Brown: No!
    Mr. Brown: "Ketchup the Bear"?
    Mrs. Brown: Paddington!
  • Seven Samurai had an interesting example. Kikuchiyo got his name from a scroll he mysteriously happened to have with him that clearly wasn't his, and pointed to his name at random.
  • In Deadpool, Wade Wilson and Weasel are brainstorming aliases for the former. They then happen to glance at the blackboard of the latter's Bad-Guy Bar "dead pool" (bets on which merc will be the next to die) which inspires the former to call himself...
    Wade: Captain Deadpool!
    Weasel: [beat] Just "Deadpool".
    Wade: Just "Deadpool".
  • In Around the World in 80 Days (2004), Lau Xing is looking at a passport when Fogg asks him what his name is.
    Fogg: I'm sorry. What was your name?
    Lau Xing: [sees a man with a passport out the window] Passport! [beat] Tou!
    Fogg: "Pass-por-tou"?
    Lau Xing: [nods and smiles]
  • Silkwood includes a telling of the "Two-Dogs" joke below.
  • In the film Mister Buddwing, the titular character wakes up with amnesia and assembles his name from a beer truck (carrying Budweiser beer) and seeing a plane fly overhead. It's later called out by a bartender.
    Bartender: Where'd you come up with that?
    Buddwing: (chuckles) A beer truck.
  • To protect himself from the Government hunting him down and killing him, the protagonist of A Taxi Driver, Kim Man-seob, gives himself an alias to the German reporter he befriends: Kim Sa-bok. He came up with the name after seeing the name on a packet of Sa-bok cigarettes.
  • When Phil Morgan arrives at the hospital in a coma in Crime Doctor, he is a 'John Doe'. The nurses start calling him 'Mr. Ordway' as he is in the Ordway Room. He later adopts it for himself as he is used to it.
  • Captain Marvel (2019):
    • Carol got the name "Vers" (pronounced "Veers") among the Kree after they found half of her broken dogtag only showing the last "Vers" in "Danvers".
    • Nick Fury renames his PROTECTOR Initiative when he sees Carol's callsign on her fighter, "Avenger", to the Avengers Initiative.
  • In Rocketman2019, Reginald Dwight presents "Elton" as his stage name; when asked his last name, he looks at a Beatles poster and chooses "John." (In reality, he was honoring Long John Baldry.)
  • In Avengers: Endgame, when Tony Stark travels back in time to 1970 (it's a very long story), he meets his father's past self, a young Howard Stark. When Howard asks him his name, a stunned Tony blurts out "Howard", which clearly does not bother Howard Stark, who simply says the name will be easy to remember.

  • An old joke tells of a young Native American boy who is curious about his given name. The boy's father explains the longstanding tradition in their tribe that when a baby is born, the father steps out of the tepee to look around, and the first thing he sees, he must select as the name for his child. The punchline: "Why do you ask, Two Dogs Fucking?"

  • Ford Prefect from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a semi-example, as he did do research, and picked the name as it seemed to be common and inconspicuous. The problem is, he initially thought cars were the dominant life form on Earth (the Ford Prefect is a British automobile. Ford is seen trying to "introduce himself" to one of these in The Movie.)
  • In Charles de Lint's Newford books, main character Jilly Coppercorn picked her last name from two advertising billboards she happened to see.
  • Discworld:
    • During his brief layoff in Reaper Man, the Death of Discworld goes through a couple of these before settling on "Bill Door". Discussed with his first choice of surname. "Bill... Sky." "Sky? Nobody's named Sky." By this point the person he's talking to is humouring him and is certain he's a smuggler hiding out from the law trying to come up with an alias.
    • In the same novel, "One-Man-Bucket" got his name the same way; members of his tribe were traditionally named after the first thing the mother saw when looking out of the teepee, and his was a shortened form of "One-Man-Pouring-A-Bucket-Of-Water-Over-Two-Dogs". Reportedly, his twin brother, born and named ten seconds earlier, would have given his right arm to be named "Two-Dogs-Fighting"...
    • A variation in Soul Music; people join the Klatchian Foreign Legion to forget and end up forgetting everything (except sand). The corporal who recruits Death doesn't know his own name, but thinks it might be written on the label of his uniform. Death finds it unlikely that he's "Corporal Medium" or "Corporal Hand-Wash Only", but accepts that "Corporal Cotton" is a possibility. The new recruit is then handed over to Legionary Size 15.
  • In the short story "In the House of the Seven Librarians", the little girl Dinsy names herself from a column of drawers on a card catalog: D, I, N, S, XYZ.
  • Subverted in Utopia. An assassin is sent to kill a man called Warne, but due to a pass card mix-up, he closes in on the wrong man. The victim protests that his name is "Pepper, Norman Pepper", and the assassin is almost ready to realize his mistake. However he then notices the soft drinks can that Norman was drinking from, and with a smile steps forward saying the words "Of course you are...".
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, a set of Charles Dickens' works inspires the name of Mr. Oliver.
  • In Good Omens, the creatively challenged witch-hunter names his imaginary co-workers (invented in order to increase the stipend his threadbare organization receives) after his office furniture.
  • Live Free or Die: "CeeFid" is used as a fake project name used to fool any Horvath listening to a conversation between two human characters, as part of an excuse to go to a secure room. Once they're out of observation, the speaker explains the inspiration: the book C++ for Idiots, a book he saw on the shelf in his office.
  • In the Spy High series, abandoned baby Cally was given the surname "Cross" because she was found with a crucifix necklace on her.
  • In A Yellow Raft In Blue Water, Rayona gets her name from the tag of her mother's hospital gown (made of Rayon) because Christine was originally intending on calling the child Ray if it was a boy, but when it turned out to be a girl and Elgin wanted to call her Diane, Christine insisted on Ray and had to find a good feminine form of the name from somewhere.
  • An unusual form in Alethea Kontis's Enchanted: when a mute girl came to work for the cook, the cook took her into the garden and told her to pick out a plant; they would call her that. Rumbold, hearing it, offers a few jests about her name being Cabbage or the like, and the cook tells him it's Rampion.
  • All of The Wombles are named after places. In the original books by Elisabeth Beresford it's explained that they took their names from an old atlas, but this doesn't seem to get mentioned in the animated version.
  • In Stephen King's novel Dolores Claiborne, the place where Helga Donovan works is called Gaylord Fashion. Dolores finds out at the end that Helga died in 1961 and that Vera most likely made up the name because she had been born in Gaylord, Missouri.
  • Meta example: At Swim-Two-Birds was written on a desk made from a trellis, and one of the characters is named Dermot Trellis. Scholars do not believe this is a coincidence.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, there's the character Ser Rolly Duckfield, who was knighted near, you guessed it, a field with ducks in it. There's also Ser Robert Stone, whom Osmund Kettleblack cites as the man who knighted him, but Jaime believes he made up the name from that of dead King Robert and a stone wall in the room.
  • In Manning Cole's A Toast to Tomorrow one of ex-secret agent Tommy Hambledon's subordinates in the Berlin police force brings in a fellow ex-agent on suspicion of having started the Reichstag fire. The other man gives his name as "Johann Schaffer." Once they're alone Hambledon comments on it.
    Tommy: Next time you are asked for your name, think up a nice one, don't just read one off an advertisement calendar on the wall. It arouses suspicion in the most credulous breast.
  • In the last book of The Tomorrow Series, The Other Side of Dawn, Ellie Linton calls herself "Amber Spaulding" after being captured, taking the name from things she sees around her in the hospital she is being treated in.
  • How Winn-Dixie the dog gets its name in Because of Winn-Dixie. Opal encounters the stray dog at the local Winn-Dixie supermarket, and tries to pretend its hers so that it won't be taken to the pound. It comes to her when she calls: "Here... Winn-Dixie!", so she keeps that as its name.
  • In Lucy and the Big Bad Wolf by Ann Jungman, when Lucy insists on having a name to call the wolf by, he decides he'll take the name of the train on which they're travelling to Lucy's grandmother's house, expecting something dashing like "Flying Scotsman" or "Golden Arrow". Lucy tells him that as far as she knows the train is just called "the 2:15", and 2:15 he remains for the rest of the book.
  • Sunflash the Mace of Outcast of Redwall escapes from captivity with "Scumtripe" as the only name he remembers and is renamed by his new friend Skarlath after his yellow fur-stripe and his favoured weapon. Possible subversion in that naming after physical features is normal in Mossflower, and it's implied that the cruel nickname Swartt gave him was a modification of his birth name Sunstripe, which he later resumes using.
  • In the K. J. Parker novel Savages, one of the main characters is introduced as simply "He" and no name is given, and in the very first chapter, he has his position usurped and his family slaughtered in front of him. After that, he starts wandering, and when a stranger in the forest asks his name, he doesn't know how to answer because of a That Man Is Dead attitude toward his previous life. Then, he sees a raven on a tree and decides to call himself Raffen. The character's real name is revealed late in the novel when his allies restore him to power, but he ends up picking a new name which can be conveniently shortened to Raffen.
  • Joe Pickett: In Cold Wind, a woman needs a spur-of-the-moment alias. Hearing Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight" come on the jukebox, she introduces herself as Patsy.
  • Thomas from The Maze Runner trilogy received his name because a WICKED member who took him from his mother saw a light bulb in his house, and Thomas Edison immediately crossed his mind.
  • According to Star Wars: Kenobi, when Obi-Wan Kenobi arrives on Tatooine to begin his exile and needs an alias, he picks "Ben" off the name of a mesa on a map. Why Ben and not some other named mesa? Because it's also an old nickname that Satine (from Star Wars: The Clone Wars) used to call him.
  • In Warrior Cats, Tribe cats are named for the first thing their mother sees when they are born. Lampshaded by the character Rock in Cats of the Clans, when he wonders why Tribe cats aren't all therefore named "Wall of Cave" or "Roof of Cave" or "Floor of Cave".
  • Shadow Police: Ross picked her new surname from a refrigerated van she saw overturned in a ditch.
  • Hawksmaid: When Matty is choosing an alias to go undercover in Nottingham Castle as a servant, she sees the green leaf tucked into the brim of Robin's cap, and christens herself Marian Greenleaf.
  • The Supernaturalist: This is explicitly the method by which John Does are named. For example, protagonist Cosmo Hill got his name because he was found on Cosmonaut Hill.

    Live Action TV 
  • Boy Meets World
    • Cory named his band "The Exits". This is lampshaded in the season 2 episode ("Band on the Run") because before seeing the Exit sign, Cory glances at better names (like a flier for a 'Blood Drive'.)
    • At one point Eric makes up a fake fraternity so that he can have a fraternity party. When the Dean asks him the name, he sees a kid in a Magnum, P.I. shirt, and thus replies "Magnum Pi".
    • According to Word of God this is how female lead Topanga got her name. One of the writers was on his car phone and drove past a sign for Topanga, California while they were trying to think of a name for the character.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor first acquired their occasional alias of "Doctor John Smith" in "The Wheel In Space", when, prompted for the name of the unconscious Second Doctor, his companion Jamie reads the name from the maker's mark on a piece of hospital equipment.
    • The Doctor's granddaughter, Susan, adopted the false surname "Foreman" after seeing it written on the gates of a junk yard.
  • Saturday Night Live
    • In one sketch, Fred Savage's character must create an imaginary friend for a competition, so as he's speaking into the microphone at a podium, he names his friend "Mike Podium." From "Auditoria".
    • In a sketch which takes place backstage, Andy Samberg tells a story to guest host Kevin Spacey about why he was late, which turns out is a Line Of Sight Story echoing Spacey's The Usual Suspects.
  • The students of Head of the Class named their Earnest "Randy McNally" after a Rand McNally map in the classroom.
    • They also rope Dr. Samuels into performing in the school production of Little Shop of Horrors by claiming that "Dixon Ticonderoga" backed out of the role.
  • When Vala from Stargate SG-1 finds herself in a police station after suffering Laser-Guided Amnesia: asked for her last name, she gives "Valerie ToDad", after a drawing on the officer's bulletin board. It doesn't work.
    • Lieutenant Tyler, an alien impersonating an SGC member, took his name off a label on the team's gear of Tyler, Texas. Fortunately, he managed to work out that Texas was a location; and was able to avoid having to think of a first name.
    • In Atlantis, part of the wraith Michael's phony background was taken from a calendar in Dr. Beckett's lab.
  • On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Titus is being grilled by Ronan Farrow about sexual harassment allegations, so he claims to be getting another call from somebody. Based on the things he sees on the walls (an oar, a VHS copy of Sister Act, a picture of a judge, the oar again) he claims the call is from "row-nun-fair-row. Ronan Farrow." Ronan Farrow makes a confused face.
  • Seen at least five times on Monk:
    • "Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month": Randy claims he has a girlfriend named Crystal, and Sharona, seeing a nearby box, asks, "What's her last name? Glassware?" But it's subverted when she turns out to be real, even though no one actually believes it.
    • "Mr. Monk and the Big Reward": Monk figures out that a woman who has been coming into the police station is connected to the crime when he remembers seeing her name on a plaque and realizes that it's an alias.
    • "Mr. Monk is At Your Service": Monk is in a suspect's house, having been mistaken for the applicant being hired as new butler. Rather than raise suspicion, Monk goes along with it and gives the name "Adrian Melville" after spotting a copy of Moby-Dick on the table.
    • "Mr. Monk Fights City Hall": Harold asks for the name of Monk's new therapist. They're next to the elevators, so Monk makes up the name Dr. Door. Harold calls him out on it, asking that if they were next to the alarm, would Monk have said "Dr. Bell"? This prompts a beautiful Spit Take from Natalie, because Harold might not be aware at this point that he did correctly guess the name.
    • "Mr. Monk Gets Drunk": Monk meets a stranger calling himself Larry Zwibell at an inn who disappears the next day. No-one else seems to remember Zwibell ever being there, and then Monk discovers a painting in the inn signed by a Larry Zwibell, further enforcing the possibility that he just imagined the guy because he'd had too much to drink. However, Monk correctly deduces that the guy was real and used that name because he'd seen it on the painting, not because Monk had seen it. His real name was "Ben Gruber".
  • Col's imaginary girlfriend "Jenny Window" in the first episode of The Adventures of Lano and Woodley .
  • In Alien Nation, the Newcomers were given human names for similar reasons, and you could tell when the bureaucrats were reaching the bottom of the barrel: there were names like Sam Francisco and Dallas Fort Worth, and many more.
  • Sylar on Heroes, who took his alias from a watch he was fixing. This is likely inspired by the real-life Zodiac killer, who is thought to have taken his name and/or logo from a brand of watch.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun:
    • The Solomons are revealed in one episode to have taken their last name off the side of a truck. Harry comments that they could have ended up as the Wal-Marts.
    • Three of the Solomons are named "Tom, Dick, and Harry". When Don lampshades this, Tommy remarks "We didn't purposely pick those names just to sound common!"
  • Happens a few times on Hannah Montana:
    • Oliver needs an excuse for why he can't go on a date and he says he's going to do roadie work for a band called "Restroom's This Way", after seeing it on a sign. Lilly calls him out on it.
      Lilly: "The Restroom's This Way"? Who's their opening act? The "Place Trays Here"?
    • Oliver also gets the name for his alter ego "Mike Stanley III" this way, after seeing a microphone stand backstage at a Hannah concert.
    • Miley is doing a radio interview from her kitchen while eating spaghetti and claims to be speaking from a cafe in Italy. When she is asked where she is, her father passes her the pasta box. She reads the first words she sees and claims to be in the small village of "Sodium Free". She immediately amends this to "Sodium Freme" (said in an Italian accent).
  • Young Indiana Jones: When older Young Indy joins the Belgian Army during World War I, acting on advice never to join the military under his own name because they can't prosecute a nonexistent assumed name for desertion if he later left, joins as Henri Defense (Defense de Fumer = No Smoking). Lampshaded by an officer:
    Recruiting Officer: Your name is Henri ... [looks pointedly at no-smoking sign] ... Defense?
  • Max Headroom names himself after downloading Edison Carter's line of sight in the pilot episode of the Max Headroom TV series (the last thing Edison saw before his accident was a parking-garage sign indicating the "Max(imum) Headroom," i.e. vertical clearance, of an exit).
  • In the Wings episode "Lynch Party," Helen recalls her (failed) attempt to break off her engagement with Davis Lynch so that she could marry Joe: not wanting to tell him the truth, she claimed that she had a disease, which she named "Faulkner's Syndrome" after spotting a Faulkner novel on Davis' table. The trope is compounded when Davis offers to find her a doctor, and she claims to have already seen the "top Faulkner man," named "Dr. Dickens."
  • Laura Holt combined a Remington typewriter and the Pittsburgh Steelers to name her "fictitious" boss Remington Steele.
  • According to the Burn Notice prequel movie Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, Sam originally chose his Go-to Alias "Chuck Finley" on the fly after scanning the room and seeing a sports magazine featuring the famous Angels pitcher of the same name on the cover.
  • In an episode of The Pretender, Jarod is pretending to be a bounty hunter. When he meets a rival, she asks him what his name is. He gets his alias, Jarod Green, from reading a Greenpeace flyer in the background. The rival then says her name is Peace.
  • In an episode of Green Acres, a runaway kid ends up in the Douglas' farm. One of the several false names he makes up for himself is "Paul Frankcan": which he got from looking at a can of "Paul's Canned Franks" on the Douglas' cupboard.
  • In an episode of Taxi, cab driver Elaine Nardo encounters one of her old high school friends as a fare, and impulsively tells her about her boyfriend, who she names "Bill Board" while passing a billboard. She convinces Alex Reiger to pretend to be Bill at a dinner party (during which he reinforces the charade by joking "Yeah, my name really is Bill Board... you should meet my brothers, Clip and Switch...")
  • An episode of That's So Raven has Eddie needing to come up with a name for Raven's latest disguise. He chooses Liz Anya (after seeing a plate of lasagna). Raven's not too pleased, but Eddie points out she could have easily been called "Pork Choppa" instead.
    • Well, much to Raven's surprise in Raven's Home, the person "Liz Anya" actually exists.
  • Done on both versions of Cupid for the title character's human alias, both were taken from the marble quote behind the judges during his court hearing.
  • In the French-Canadian Soap Opera parody Le Cœur a ses Raisons, Brett has to imagine a name for a non-existant colleague in his bedroom to hide the identity of a person who just called him. The result? Dr Bedside-Lamp. And his fiancée keeps asking questions about him. So in the end, Dr. Bedside-Lamp studied at the Texas Bedside-Lamp University and is married to Mrs Bedside-Lamp Bedside-Lamp. He gets away with it.
  • Classic British sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin has Reggie trying to choose a new name after running away from the rat race.
    Reggie: Okay, "Sid" and then the first thing I see when I look over this fence... "Sid Cowpat"... hmmm.
  • One of the most famous examples: Jan Brady's imaginary boyfriend "George Glass." Spoofed on The Simpsons with "George Cauldron". Also, in A Very Brady Sequel, Jan meets a real George Glass.
  • In an episode of The Office (US) when Michael Scott is having trouble getting to talk to boss David Wallace over the phone. Dwight decides to take the phone in his place and tries to give a pseudonym. He uses Michael's real first name and then the last name of the first thing he sees- a roll of scotch tape. Thus, Michael Scotch. Later averted when Micheal winds up being redirected to Charles Miner, the very person he had wanted to complain to David about; when Charles asks who is calling, Michael simply replies "I was never given a name" and hangs up on him.
  • In an episode of How to Be Indie, Marlon has to come with the name of the president for a made-up country (It Makes Sense in Context). He eyes fall on the sugar cellar on the table he declares the president is 'Gary Sugarthing'.
  • Subverted/parodied on an episode of The Sarah Silverman Program. Young Sarah has to give her new imaginary friend Troy a last name, and looks around for inspiration. Spying a television set in her room she settles on Troy Bulletinboard.
  • In the Canadian puppet TV series Bookmice, the cat that had plagued Norbert, Zazi, and Leon (the "mice" in question) decides to give himself the name "Exit" in honor of the first word he learned how to read (which was an "EXIT" sign).
  • Played with in a sketch on SCTV with guest star John Cougar (before he added "Mellencamp" to his name). Character Ed Grimley (Martin Short) accidentally consuming some bubbling flask of stuff in a laboratory, ends up transforming into the good looking, suave guest star. When he walks into a bar, someone asks him his name. The first thing he hears is "Someone left a Cougar in the parking lot with its lights on!" The second thing he hears is "I gotta go to the John."
  • In a sketch from Stella, Michael Ian Black changes his name from Michael Schwartz because he sees a poster of Jesse Jackson and decides that black people are cool, so Black would be a cool last name.
  • Power Rangers Wild Force had an example. Cole met a young boy running from some builders in the street. Asked his name, the boy looked around before answering "Kite." His counterpart in Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger is Futaro, who took his name from "fuusen", the Japanese word for balloon, after seeing one.
  • Buddy Overstreet in the old The Fugitive parody Run Buddy Run did this a lot, for instance he once called himself "Barry Straw" after passing a strawberry farm.
  • How I Met Your Mother
    • In one episode, Robin looks at the bill and the pepper shaker on the restaurant table and claims that the man she slept with was called "Bill Pepper." Lily, not fooled, inquires if Bill knows "Fork Napkin."
    • Ted tries to recall the names of his past dates from photographs by associating them with either the occasion ("Bertha" for a girl he met at a birthday party), or something in the picture. He gets them all wrong.
  • In the Victorious episode "Beck's Big Break", Tori is sneaking onto a movie set and gets stopped by a security guard, who asks her name. She tells him it's "Crystal Waters" after seeing it on a water cooler.
  • In The Day of the Triffids, the villain takes his name from Torrence Lane after the plane he's in crash-lands there.
  • Greg from Yes, Dear does a particularly epic one while at a psychiatrist against his will. He manages to improvise a story about being bullied at summer camp out of things he spots around the psychiatrist's office. The psychiatrist realizes the truth—too late to do anything about it—by looking around his office and observing that Greg got the names of the characters from the names of diplomas on the wall.
  • Eerie, Indiana features an amnesiac kid who sports a mysterious "+" and "-" on the backs of his hands. He eventually decides to name himself after the marks. The main character guesses, "Plus Minus?" but the kid scoffs at the suggestion and corrects him, "Dash Ecks."
  • Full House
    • In one episode DJ says her name is "Janet Abdul" after seeing posters of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. Then Stephanie says "And I'm Barbie Dollenbear" after seeing a Barbie doll and Mr. Bear.
    • In another episode, Jesse and Becky decide to make lists of all the people they dated before they got married, and Becky eventually just starts making up names such as "Larry Couchman" (she was sitting on the couch.)
  • On Young Dracula, when Robin pretending to be a vampire and being questioned by the Westenras, he is asked the name of his parents. Glancing around, his eye falls upon a certain kitchen implement and he says his father is "Count Spatula".
  • Subverted on Still Standing: Brian asks his father for condoms for his friend Dorian. Bill thinks he's lying and the condoms are for Brian because he looked right at the door before naming his friend. It turns out that there is actually a real Dorian, but Bill was right, Brian wanted the condoms for himself.
  • The X-Files
    • In the episode "Unusual Suspects", Suzanne Modeski, being on the run and desperate for information regarding the frame-job her former bosses put on her, spun a Wounded Gazelle Gambit to get Byers involved. He asked her for a name, and she called herself "Holly," after the packet of sugar on the table. Word of God said Byers later paid tribute to that by creating a new identity for her as "Holly Fitzgerald," a combination of the sugar name and his middle name.
    • In the episode "John Doe", John Doggett finds himself in Mexico with no memory of who he is or how he got there; he finds a tattoo on his arm of his old unit in the Marine Corps, so to get more information he calls the Marine Corps public affairs office, claiming to be a detective who found an amnesiac man matching his description. He looks at a sign inside the phone booth and introduces himself as Detective Ladatel.note 
  • In the Charmed episode "She's a Man, Baby, a Man!", Prue is unexpectedly changed into a man as part of a spell to catch a succubus on the loose. She uses the name "Manny Hanks" since she was turned into a man and in order to adequately play a man, should emulate a man that she admires, namely Tom Hanks.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures, "The Curse of Clyde Langer": Clyde is under a curse that makes people hate him when they see his name or hear it spoken. When he ends up sleeping on the street and is found by a homeless girl, he sees a box from Enrico's Pizza and tells her his name is "Enrico Box". She knows he's lying, but doesn't press him for a real name. Later, when trying to find her again, he sees her name on a poster and realizes that she was also using a Line Of Sight Name.
  • In the Unforgettable episode "Lost Things", a suspect trying to throw the detectives off invents a story about the victim using a dating service. He gets the idea of a dating service from the screen of a nearby computer, the names of guys she met through it from wanted posters, and the name of the service from a different poster.
  • One Foot in the Grave: Victor hastily says that his address is "Dunn Hill", taken from a discarded Dunhill cigarette packet on the table.
  • Inverted in Drake & Josh. The leads have been accused of selling stolen goods and try to tell the real criminals' names to the cops. Though they are telling the truth, it looks like they're lying because of this trope.
    Cop 1: Okay, what were the names of these two guys?
    Josh: Um, well, one of their names was, uh… Guy.
    Cop 1: Right. Guy. And what was his buddy’s name?
    Drake: ...Buddy.
    Cop 2: I see, and did they have a third partner with them named Pal?
    Cop 1:' What about Dude, huh? Was Dude in on it with them?
  • In Spellbinder, when Ashka is in our universe, she uses the alias "Mrs. Harley" after the Harley-Davidson motorcycle she stole. Later she changes it to "Anna Harley", after meeting a woman named Anna and realizing that in this universe people have "two names".
  • In the television play The Flip Side Of Dominick Hide, time traveller Dominick Hide takes his new name Gilbey from a bottle of gin. He soon discovers that Gilbey is not a normal first name in this era.
  • In the Japanese TV adaptation of Absolute Boyfriend, Riiko needs to make up a surname for Night to use at work. She chooses "Tenjou" from the front of a nearby travel brochure, but then a co-worker points out that the name of the place is actually pronounced as Amagi.
  • On an episode of 30 Rock Liz's pseudonym while talking to Kenneth in a men's bathroom was Kenneth....Toilethole.
  • Spaced: at a housewarming party, Daisy claims that the title of her new screenplay is Guacamole... Window.
  • Nathan Barley: Dan tells Nathan his accidental hairstyle (cut short on one side and matted with paint on the other) is "Geek Pie" by reading random words off posters on the street
  • On an episode of Pobol y Cwm, Mark calls in to the radio station and disguises his voice in order to vote for something he himself proposed. He's standing in the street, so when he's asked his name, he looks around at the signs and makes one up (Elis Maenan) from the names of local businesses. He then gets asked where he's from, and his eye falls on the sign of the fish (pysgod) and chip shop. So he says he's from a town called Dinbych y Pysgod – which, being in southwest Wales, doesn't match his (fake) North Walian accent.
  • This is the core of a Key & Peele sketch in which a potentially-pardoned prisoner answers all the detective's questions based on what's in the room. Badly. "His name was Baldy Tallman Coffee Coup!" At the end, it turns out that many of the detective's responses, like "I'm getting too old for this," were actually on the posters behind the convict's side of the room.
  • Mel gets Cole's fake last name, Hauser, from someone's parking space in Tracker.
  • In Sleepy Hollow, the Sin Eater gets his primary alias this way, naming himself "Henry Parrish" after the (abandoned) St. Henry's Parish
  • In Boston Common, Cookie De Daren, head of the drama department, is expected to have chosen a play for the revamped college theater.
    Cookie: A play? Of course I've chosen a play! I'm the head of the drama department after all! The play. [picks up an apple] The play is the thing. And the play I've chosen is... [spots Cross' Japanese tea set] The Tea Ceremony.
    Harrison: That's an inspired choice. What other plays were you thinking of? Death of a Stapler, perhaps, or My Fair Paperclip?!
  • This occurs in two scenes in the Friday Night Dinner episode "The Fox":
    • The first is lampshaded:
      Jackie: Have you been lending Jim money?
      Martin: A bit...
      Jackie: What? What for?
      Martin: [looks at the object on the wall next to him] Er... mirrors.
      Jackie: OK, did you say the first thing that you could see?
      Martin: ... possibly.
    • Then later in the episode:
      Martin: We're picking up something special for Jackie, a surprise.
      Val: [...] What is the surprise?
      Martin: It's, er... um... [spots a cyclist] a bicycle.
      Val: A bicycle? [...] Where you getting it from at this time of night?
      Martin: Um... [points at a nearby building] that house there.
  • In one episode of You're the Worst, Gretchen makes up an excuse that way to prevent Jimmy from meeting her parents, as a clear Shout-Out to The Usual Suspects.
  • New Tricks: In "The Rock Part 1", Gerry arrives at a casino and finds Brian undertaking some unauthorised undercover work. Brian introduces Gerry as his business partner "Vince... Table". This provokes an incredulous "Your name's Vince Table?" from the suspect.
  • In the Angel episode "The Ring", Cordelia and Wesley briefly pretend to be cops. Cordelia blanks on a name to call Wesley, then glances at his yellow suit and introduces him as "Detective Yelsue."
  • There was a TV series about a guy named Chance. As it turned out, as a young boy, he was the sole survivor of an airplane crash. His foster parents gave him a new name to symbolize his luck.
  • So Awkward: In "Everybody Loves Clementine", Lily creates a fictional student to avoid getting in trouble with the Scary Librarian. After blurting out the name Clementine, she needs a surname. Looking at the female librarian's upper lip, she goes with 'Clementine Mustache'.
  • Happens in Friends when Chandler wants to help Joey with his rent money and needs to make up a game that Joey will believe is real to 'gamble' over. The first thing he sees upon being asked by what the new game is called is a beer cup, hence "Cups."
  • The Night Of: Subverted when a witness claims that the name of his companion on the night of the murder is "Duane Reade." Stone spots a Duane Reade pharmacy across the street and accuses the witness of lying, but it turns out to be the truth.
  • Two examples from the 2015 version of The Odd Couple:
    • In "The Audit Couple", Felix lets it slip to an IRS agent that Oscar is behind on his taxes and tries to cover his tracks by saying that he moved and became a transsexual by the name of Rhonda... Rhonda Pencilcup.
    • In "The Blind Leading the Blind Date", Felix asks Oscar if he knows his date's last name. When Oscar responds with Kellogg, Felix says "I don't even have to turn around to know there's a cereal box behind me."
  • The Thundermans: In "Exit Stage Theft," Billy tells Nora he is going to his friend's house after she and Chloe forgot about him during their hide and seek game. Nora doesn't believe him and asks which friend. Billy sees a jar of Luigi's pasta sauce and announces "Luigi. Luigi Marinara."
  • Happens in the "Quadfather" episode of ''Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn'. Josie is trying to come up with band name and Ricky and Dicky offer suggestions of "Dirty Sponge" and "Empty Cup". Josie calls them out on this trope.
  • Subverted on Modern Family. Alex is infuriated that her parents think her boyfriend is imaginary, and describes him in detail, while they silently notice suspicious objects around the room: starting with the teddy bear ("His name is Teddy"), and ending with the Martin Luther King Jr. poster ("He works at some mattress place...Mattress King".). But then Teddy shows up at the door, as everything Alex had said was true.
  • On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kimmy comes up with "Kaiser Soze" as a pseudonym for her Amazingly Embarrassing Stepfather, after seeing a bag of Kaiser rolls, a sewing machine, and a copy of "Say Say Say".
  • In The Goldbergs episode "Adam Spielberg", seeing an amateur recreation of Raiders of the Lost Ark inspires Adam to make his own homemade Indiana Jones tribute movie. When his mother asks the title of the script, he quickly looks around his room for inspiration and, after glimpsing a Lion-O toy, his Nintendo Power Glove, his Optimus Prime toy, and some Ninja Turtles action figures, he decides on the name Indiana Jones and the Thunder Glove of the Prime Mutant.
  • Mighty Med: The name of Skylar’s civilian persona, Connie Valentine, came from an advertisement for the upcoming school dance Kaz saw that said “Carnival Time” when trying to come up with a fake girlfriend to take to the dance to make his crush jealous.

  • In the 1893 poem "A Bush Christening" by Banjo Paterson, the priest forgets the name of the recalcitrant child who is to be christened. Seeing an empty bottle of Maginnis' whiskey, he chooses the name Maginnis, much to the later embarrassment of the upstanding citizen he has named.

  • In the Heights: How Usnavi got his name.
    Abuela Claudia: It was engraved on a passing ship the day your family came! Your father said "Usnavi! That's what we'll name the baby!"
    Usnavi: It really said "US Navy," but hey! I worked with what they gave me, okay?
  • Head Over Heels has Musidorus come up with the name Cleophila while talking to.... Philoclea.
  • In Noah Smith's stage version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hyde gets his name this way, from Hyde Park.

    Video Games 
  • In Advance Wars: Days of Ruin the amnesiac Isabella first wanted to be called Cattleya (her name in the Japanese version) after Will gives her a (plastic) cattleya isabella Orchid (a natural hybrid that in real life is only found in Brazil). Will convinces her to go with Isabella instead, because he finds "Cattleya" to have a very awkward pronunciation..
  • In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin you meet a ghost who explains ghosts have no need for names. But then the wind blows, and he decides you can call him "Wind".
  • Common in Massively Multiplayer Online games. Due to the prevalence of extremely uninspired names when there is no disincentive for it, most games have rules and programmed limitations that filter out at least the worst cases of Sony, Millerlite, and Dietmrpibb.
  • Final Fantasy IX: Garnet, the runaway princess, has to go incognito for awhile and needs a fake moniker. Seeing the hero's weapon of choice, she names herself Dagger—assuming the player picks that name, of course. If not, the way she asks about the dagger is vague enough that it could be hand-waved as just a random question rather than one in preparation to create an alias.
  • In Escape from Monkey Island, crazy hermit Herman Toothrot admits that he suffers from Easy Amnesia. When he washed up on the island, he created his name as a backronym from the only legible initials on his last remaining possession.
  • In Beneath a Steel Sky, a boy is given the surname "Foster", ostensibly because he's an orphan that was "fostered", but the fact they're in Australia and the person who named him was holding a popular beer of the nation probably helped in some way. (Due to copyrights and trademark stuff, the name of the beer was changed to a fictional one for many versions of the game (including the freeware one) hence spoiling the joke).
  • A variation occurs in BioShock: in Fort Frolic, you come across posters for a Sander Cohen play called "Patrick and Moira", which are coincidentally the names of Atlas' murdered son and wife, making the posters an early hint that they aren't what they seem. To drive the point home, you can find one of these posters in Atlas's (now deserted) headquarters much later, making it all the more obvious they did this.
  • Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: A puzzle in "Baddest of the Bands" has Homestar attempt to do this to form rhymes when he sings. You must guide Strong Bad to objects that will form an appropriate rhyme when Homestar sings them.
  • In Bedtime Story a father telling his son the story in question can't think of a name for the villain's boss, so he looks around the room for a bit and comes up with the "Great Wizard Kur-Tayn".
  • Minecraft: Story Mode: One of the possible names Jesse can give to his team's Secret Handshake is "Griefer Grab". An announcer was giving the rules for the build-off at the time (which includes "No Griefing"), implying this trope.
  • A meta example is present in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. The victim of the third case is named "Romein LeTouse" because the writer just happened to see romaine lettuce listed in a recipe while trying to come up with a name.
  • The way the creators of the Super Mario Bros. series got Luigi's name was this: The second player's character needed a name, and a nearby pizzeria had the name of Mario & Luigi's.
    • They also got Mario's name in a variation of this, in a sense; their landlord, Mario Segale, got into a heated argument with them for rent, and after he finally left they decided to name the character, previously called "Mr. Video" or "Jump Man", after him.

    Web Comics 
  • The Family Guy example above is parodied (and explicitly referred to) in this 8-Bit Theater strip. Black Mage then looked at his own Most Wanted poster and decided on... "Mos Anted".
  • Flintlocke's Guide to Azeroth, set in the World of Warcraft universe, features a Horde guild called "Desk Chair Lamp", which is said by the orcs to "sound very intimidating when spoken in Common".
  • Corey in Sluggy Freelance.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The prequel graphic novel On the Origin of PCs reveals that the titular adventuring party itself has a Line-of-Sight Name:
      Roy: You might as well call us the Stray Rock Guild, because there's a stray rock over there, or the Order of the Stick, because there's a stick on the ground!
    • The other prequel, Start of Darkness, also has one. The main villain, Xykon, can't be bothered to remember his minions' names (and blasts people when they have names too long to remember), so when the Anti-Villain goblin brothers team up with him, the bearer of the Crimson Mantle introduces himself and his eyepatch-adorned sibling as "Redcloak and Right-Eye". We never do find out their real names, even though Redcloak is a major character in the main comic. Right-Eye, especially, treats the new names as a symbol of subservience to Xykon (ironically never calling Redcloak by his name either, though he uses the more affectionate "brother"), and it becomes obvious he's given up on his brother when he calls him "Redcloak".
    • For further irony, Redcloak later has his right eye cut out by O-Chul. Fellow minion Tsukiko is instructed to use this by calling him "Wrong-Eye" when he gets ethical on her.
  • Line of Sight everything: Alex King from The Wotch has a tendency to create some interesting non sequiturs this way.
  • In Ben Croshaw's webcomic Yahtzee Takes On The World, a variation of this occurs. When the Villain Protagonist was trying to choose a name for himself, he consistently overheard people talking with the name 'Ben' in every other sentence. However, he ignored these, and took the name 'Yahtzee' when the board game was mentioned.
  • In Tempts Fate, the side-comic of Goblins, it is spoofed in this strip. Morpheus Bilbo Kenobi!
  • Greg: "What's your last name Dave?" "Hmm... Tit... leg... bee. Dave Tit-Leg-Bee."
  • In San: Three Kingdoms Comic, Guan Yu chooses his fake name because he saw a door close ("Guan") and a feather "Yu"). Except its an Averted Trope, because he accidentally came up with his real name!
  • Karin-dou 4koma: Seren happened to be eating Ujikintoki (a type of shaved ice) when she needed a surname for Ginka and Kinka and just went with "Ujikintoki".
  • Accursed Dragon has a variant: Coven anagrams the names of the towns he's in for his aliases. Some of these names include "Nigel" (which he used in the town of Elgin) and "Marvy" (which he used in Vamyr).
  • Crunchy Bunches parodies this, with a Shout-Out to Mrs. Doubtfire at that.
  • Darths & Droids: Han (played by Jim) has decided to visit a drunk guy he knows who can verify whether or not the "Dagger Bar" exists.note  When Leia (played by Annie) asks for a name, Han responds, "Orlan... Dough." "Orlando?" the GM asks, leading Han to decide that the name "Lando" is better. Leia then asks where Lando is, Han says that he's on the planet "Orb... o'Spin." The GM asks, "Orbespin?" for verification, and Han once again decides "Bespin" is a better name for the planet.
  • Daughter of the Lilies has a protagonist named Thistle ... or at least that's the name she gives when asked for her name by her new employer, the mercenary Orrig. When she has left, Orrig is shown looking at a thistle that grows nearby. In other places, Thistle is known as Rose.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, when Bugsy is explaining that former fairy students can be rewarded with names, she recalls the time she got her own name. Cue Flash Back of some bored guy (who she doesn't even remember properly) glancing at a shelf of DVDs and telling her "Umm ... your name can be ... Bugsy."
  • Paroded in this comic by Rob Gilliam, where an alien walking down the street is accosted by an FBI agent demanding his name. The alien looks at a sign for "Peter St." and an ad for "Johnson Cola"... and laments "I can't read."
  • Mysterious Monocle Man subverts this in The Free Willies when he's asked his name, looks at three items, and then responds with a name completely unrelated to the three items.

    Web Original 
  • On Neo Pokeforum, this is how the Crow comes up with names for all her pokemon. Zexy's name is a shortened version of nearby printer's brand, while Dirty Harry got his after she spotted dirt on his fur.
  • On The Most Popular Girls in School, Deandra does this when she runs into the Atchison High cheer squad at the Oak Park mall.
    Deandra: I'm... Cinnabon. Juliet Cinnabon.
  • In the first episode of Critical Role, the Dragonborn Sorcerer Tiberius Stormwind uses magic to disguise himself as a dwarf. When asked for his name, he responds "Tiberius Kraghammer". Judging by the way Orion Acaba, the person playing as Tiberius, reacts to the ensuing laughter with confusion, he didn't seem to realize that Kraghammer was the name of the city they were currently in.
  • In this article about high-tech love dolls (you guessed it - a whiff NSFW. But not much) the reporter calls the doll Jackie as he saw a jacket.
  • Subverted in this CollegeHumor sketch. Katie, challenged to pitch an idea for a sketch comes up with one about, uh, a woman... whose name is... and lists and absurd number of things that happen to be in the room. Trapp goes to report her to Sam for not doing her job, but then Katie shows him her notebook where she had alreaady written the sketch. Oh, and Sam loved the idea when she told him earlier.
  • In The Last Podcast on the Left series on Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of the murder of her three year-old daughter, Marcus reveals a little reported fact of the case is that the name of the babysitter Casey provided, Zenaida Gonzalez, or "Zanny the Nanny", was one of these, taken from the names of two of the Anthony family's neighbors. One with the first name of Zenaida, another with the last name of Gonzalez. Henry Zebrowski specifically references The Usual Suspects by stating she Keyser Söze'd the name.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Spike TV adult cartoon Stripperella, the main character used this to come up with aliases. One memorable example was in the episode "Everyone loves Pushy"; she ordered a purse and identified herself by the last name of "Lampchairwalnerstein" after glancing at a lamp, chair, her apartment wall, and an obscured Frankenstein poster respectively.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in a Halloween episode, when a witch gave the name of her boyfriend as "George Cauldron" after doing this. Bart and Lisa both laugh at that... and then, at the end of the segment, George shows up at the door.note 
    • When writing a fake love letter to Miss Krabappel while in detention, Bart sees a picture of US president Woodrow Wilson hanging on the wall and signs the letter "Woodrow", then attaches to the letter a photo of hockey star Gordie Howe.
    • In "Homer to the Max", after Homer is embarrassed at a bumbling TV character sharing his name, he changes it to the decidedly more respectable "Max Power". When complimented on his new name, he replies "Thanks, I got it off a hair dryer."
    • Though not a personal name, Homer, at Moe's Tavern, calls in absent to work because he's observing the "Festival of (sees "Maximum Occupancy" sign behind the counter)...Maximum Occupancy."
    • At one point, Bart pretends his turtle is lost to sneak inside a woman's house. When she asks him what the turtle's name is, he says "Apron Boobs-face" and later gives his own name as "Shoes Butt-back."
    • In "Little Big Girl", when Lisa has to do an essay about her heritage for a class project, she decides to write about Native Americans and chooses a made-up tribe calling it "Hitachi" after her microwave.
    • When Bart is trying to come up with a comic book character. He sees a bat hanging in the window and exclaims "Batman!" before he realizes that it's taken. He looks around a little more and sees a Green Lantern, but realizes it's taken too. He eventually comes up with the character of Angry Dad after watching Homer's buffoonish antics through the window.
    • In one episode, Bart applies for a credit card under the false name "Santa's Little Helper" (the family dog). He has horrible handwriting, though, and the card comes back issued to Santos L. Halper.
    • Parodied again in the episode "Rome-old and Juli-eh". Bart finds out that companies can get free cardboard boxes, so he orders a delivery of them, pretending to be a company. When the delivery man asks for the name of his company, he looks around and sees Santa's Little Helper rummaging in a waste bin with "GENERAL INDUSTRIES" stamped on the bottom. Bart gives the name of his company as... Dog Incorporated.
  • Family Guy:
  • Invoked twice in Gargoyles:
    • Aside from Goliath, most of the titular gargoyles did not use names before their move to New York. On learning that humans insist on them, the others pick names from their surroundings, becoming Hudson, Brooklyn, Broadway, Lexington and Bronx.
      Hudson: You humans have to have a name for everything. Does the sky need a name? The river?
      Eliza: The river's called "The Hudson."
      Hudson: [sighs] Then I shall be "The Hudson" as well.
    • Demona names the gargoyle clones after Californian surroundings—Hollywood, Malibu, Burbank, and Brentwood—specifically to point out how stupid she thought this method of naming was.
  • Subverted in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. While trying to think up a nickname for an aloof new kid who never speaks, Billy sees likely names on all number of things around him, but doesn't choose any of them, and instead goes with "Pif".
  • Spoofed in the Tuff Puppy episode The Wrong Stuff where Dudley and Keswick try to hide their identities from Kitty while spying on her.
    Kitty: Dudley, is that you?
    Dudley: No, my name is Bob. Bob, uh... Men's Room.
    • Later...
      Kitty: You're still spying on me, Dudley?
      Dudley: I'm not spying, and my name is Bob. Bob... Don't Feed The Squirrels.
      Kitty: Is that Keswick in there?
      Keswick: No, my name is Bob. Bob... Stay Off The Grass.
      Dudley: Real smooth, Keswick. Now she's onto us.
  • Parodied in The Emperor's New School, where Kuzco claims his best friend's name is "Brad Bowllama"... and Malina immediately calls his bluff. (It could have been worse. He considered "Bananastaircasehat".)
  • In Transformers Animated the Constructicons picked their own names this way. Mixmaster from a decal that was left on him (or just "Mix" for short) and Scrapper from a pile with a sign that said "Scrap".
  • Used in an episode of Rugrats. In order to con Didi into buying her two toys instead of just one, Angelica claims to have a sister. Seeing a boy playing with a ball across the store, she names her invented sibling "Ballina."
  • Parodied in Johnny Bravo, when Johnny disguises himself as a woman to hide from a murderous mobster. When he's at a hotel and asked for his name he replies "Mitch", then looks around and spots a sign, adding "Mitch Checkouttimeisattwo", and explaining it's a Polish name.
  • Teacher's Pet: Spot comes up with his alias (Scott Leadready II) by first blurting out his real name (the teacher mistakes it as "Scott" instead of "Spot"), and then reading the teacher's pencil (A "Leadready No. 2" pencil).
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In the episode "The Man Who Killed Batman", nobody mob underling Sidney Debris is given the nickname "Sid The Squid" when one of his superiors spots an advertisement for calamari.
    • In the episode "Growing Pains" Tim Drake must think of a name for an amnesiac girl. He looks around and seeing another girl with a Brand X version of a Raggedy Ann doll, concludes that he'll call her Annie.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • When the Flying Dutchman comes for Mr. Krabs' soul in the hospital, Mr. Krabs insists that he is "Harold Flower", after the flower on the end table. In the German dub he calls himself Benjamin Blümchen ("Little Flower") which is another character by the same voice actor. He even changes his voice appropriately.
    • In the episode "Chum Fricassee", Mr. Krabs and SpongeBob disguise themselves to get into the Chum Bucket. When Karen asks for their names, Mr. Krabs is about to say his real name until he sees a wrapper on the floor and introduces himself as "Sir Krumbled O'Wrapper".
  • When Jane becomes angry, and threatens to run away to spite her friends in Jane and the Dragon, she claims that she has been recruited by one King Barrowclaw. Naturally, she was inspired when, under pressure to give the supposed king's name, she looked around and spotted first a wheelbarrow, and then Dragon's foot.
  • The Tick:
    • Parodied in an episode in which the Tick suddenly needs to male up an assumed name when checking into a hotel. In desperation, he picks "Nick Soapdish" as his alias when he sees a soap dish.
      Hotel clerk: Are you sure that's your real name? It sounds more... made up.
    • On a related note, Tick's famous Battlecry of "Spoon!" came about because he was holding a spoon at the time.
  • In one episode of Tiny Toon Adventures Plucky Duck is about to get thrown out of a fancy Hollywood party, and when he is accused of being a duck by the guards, he says "I'm not a duck, I'm a... bush quail!", looking at a nearby newspaper from the early 90s.
  • On Ugly Americans a demon who is posing as a demon baby's father is asked the name of the baby and he responds, "Choking Victim?" This is revealed to be a title on a poster directly in his line-of-sight. It turns out he really is the baby's father. And he decides to keep the baby's name as Choking Victim
  • On Stōked, Reef was dressed as a girl and got asked to enter a female surf contest. When asked for his name, he looked at the sand he was standing on and came up with "Sandy... Beaches".
  • There was a Panamanian cartoon that used this trope: the main character was the product of a country-bumpkin Panamanian woman getting pregnant from a one-night stand with a United States Navy officer who was at one point stationed in the Canal Zone. The mother named the child "Usnavy" (pronounced Oos-nah-vee) because she saw the "word" on a ship (U.S. Navy) and, since she couldn't speak English, had no idea what it meant. Funnily (or sadly?) enough, there are a few Real Life cases of this, though (for some children born in the 70's and 80's), making it Truth in Television and more of a parody of a trend.
  • Denver the Last Dinosaur: How the titular dinosaur gets his name when Shades sees a Denver, Colorado ski resort bus ad.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball.
    • Parodied in "The Dress" when Gumball is forced to wear a dress to school and tries to convince his classmates that he's a new girl in class. When he tries to come up with a name, the first thing he sees is someone chewing gum, and a ball, takes it back then picks some other random things he sees. So he tells them he's Gumballoopseggwobbleunderpants. When asked where he's from, he says Europe. When pressed for specifics, he's forced to come up with a Line-of-Sight Place. He sees a gum truck and a bald head (making Gumbald), takes it back again, then adds some other stuff to end up saying he's from Gumbaldnowigbattle-axeninja.
    • In "The Remote", Nicole asks Anais to tell her what brand their TV remote was, but it turned out Anais told her the name of a garage door opener which she saw an ad for. This was part of the episode ending's homage to The Usual Suspect.
  • American Dad!:
    • In one episode, Roger tries to come up with an excuse for Bullock and attempts to do this.
      Roger: Mug... spoon... stir... counter... glass... George Glass! That was the name of Jan Brady's fake boyfriend!
    • At one point Roger and Steve are playing detective when Roger calls Steve's character "Squirts Cinnabon Wheels". When Steve asks where the name came from, Roger said he "Keyser Söze'd" his name, followed by cut across the room to a bottle of soda labeled "Squirts" and a Cinnabon box.
  • Subverted in the Duckman episode "Joking the Chicken". Duckman has to think of a fake name and tries this, but he's too Genre Blind to spot several perfect fake names (Hanes, Smith, Miller) and instead calls himself Duckman N. Disguise. He then chastises Cornfed's fake name, Pat Corcoran.
  • Cherry Jam does this in her debut episode of Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures when she meets Strawberry for the first time. Since she was invited by Strawberry's friends as a surprise, she introduces herself as Buttercup, after spying some nearby flowers.
  • An episode of Regular Show has Rigby use this method to come up with his new name;note  the first things he sees are a trash can and a painting of a boat, so he goes with Trash Boat.
  • A nickname variant happens in Motorcity: a mysterious figure who's seeking vengeance on Mike Chilton shows up wearing KaneCo armour. While Mike just refers to him at first as "You Again," Texas ends up nicknaming him "Red" due to the red on his clothing.
  • In the Beavis and Butt-Head short "Vidiots," Beavis and Butt-Head are watching an episode of "Geraldo" where the subject is dating services. A psycho on the show says, "My attorney says you shouldn't give your real name, Geraldo." When B & B go to sign up for a dating service, the clerk asks Beavis his name; he remembers back to the show and spits out, "Geraldo."
  • In Ben 10: Omniverse, after Ben sees Kai for the first time in years, he insists the werewolf-like alien he obtained when they last met isn't called "Benwolf" anymore. He then looks at a TV, sees a newsman that anyone who's watched CNN would recognize as Wolf Blitzer, and comes up with the name "Blitzwolfer".
  • The protagonist of Hamilton Mattress, an up-and-coming drummer, takes his stage name from a billboard advertising bedding.
  • After feeling left behind when his friends started dating, Oscar from Fish Hooks invents a girlfriend. When asked about her name he looks to a door, then the floor and names her Doris Floris Gorgeous.
  • In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Date", when Lord Hater becomes angry enough to blow up a planet after being stood up on a dinner date, Sylvia must act as a substitute date to calm his temper. She passes herself off as a woman named "Linguini von Breadstick", based on foods the waiters just happen to be bringing by.
  • In the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Holio", Lilo is telling Mertle and her friends a story about a monster that eats people (and birthday cakes) in an effort to scare them after Mertle didn't invite Lilo to her birthday party. When Lilo gets to the name, she spies a gecko clinging to the post of the hula halau, which then licks its eye, giving her the name "Geckoliki".
  • Spoofed, along with most other things, in Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!. Fred has just announced that the group is a band in order to solve a mystery and help save a theater. When asked for a name, he looks to the street sign and sees that they're on Maroon & 5th. He dismisses that and then sees Tim Beedles Cafe. Then an "Elect Roland Stone" billboard. Finally he settles on his van and declares that they're "The Mystery Machine."
  • In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Fetch", Star tries to find the owner of a strange dog that won't let go of her wand. A crazy old lady named Lydia claims to be the dog's owner and, after seeing a bee fly past a road sign for "Willow St.", claims that the dog's name is "Willoughby".
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Gauntlet of Fire", Spike covers for Princess Ember, who's trying to enter the Gauntlet of Fire incognito, by making up the name "Sandy Rockbeach", based on the rocky shore they're standing on.
    • In "The Times They Are a Changeling", Spike harbors a defector changeling named Thorax while the Crystal Empire is looking for him. When confronted, Spike gives Thorax, using the guise of a random crystal pony, the identity of his new friend by the name of... Crystal Hoof. Everyone buys it. So much so that, when Thorax's identity is revealed, everyone believes that the changeling disguised himself as Crystal Hoof and a search for the missing, fictional pony is called.
  • In the Bojack Horseman episode "Yes And", Diane is on the phone with her husband Mr. Peanutbutter. The latter thinking the former is in a war-torn Ruritania like country aiding wounded civilians but was actually staying at BoJack's house. While in the kitchen she pretends to be a child refugee and when Mr. Peanutbutter asks for a name, Diane glances at several kitchen appliances with exotic names and decides on the name "Coffee Maker" and immediately regrets it. The ditzy Mr. Peanutbutter falls for it anyway and assumes it's a foreign name pronounced "Koffi Makur".
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) Michelangelo needs to distract the recently mutated Ivan Steranko and Anton Zeck in order to rescue hostages, so he fake surrenders and offers to give them 'mutant names'. He then looks at various stalls of the abandoned carnival they're at, and comes up with "Pork Rind and Chili Cheese Fry", "Sprinkles and Hot Sauce", "Royal Weenies" (which goes over so badly they almost attack him right then and there) before seeing "Bebop and Rocksteady". Anton immediately calls him out on his lack of creativity, but Ivan actually likes being called "The Rocksteady".
  • In the Dr. Zitbag's Transylvania Pet Shop episode "Grime Doesn't Pay", a criminal named Fingers Malone is mistakenly phoned by Dr. Zitbag when he tries to hire a cleaning service to clean his castle in time for a visit from the Exorsisters. Fingers Malone gets the idea to impersonate a cleaning lady and steal from Zitbag. When Zitbag asks which cleaning lady will be sent, Fingers Malone looks at the ground and answers "Mrs. Turfhead" before removing a piece of the turf to wear on his head as a disguise.
  • In Carmen Sandiego, Carmen bases her alias on the name of haberdashery who made her trademark hat ("Carmen's") and the city where it's located ("San Diego").
  • The Adventure Time episode "Horse and Ball" reveals that James Baxter the Horse came up with his name from seeing a box labeled "Games" and a sign reading "Bookstore".
  • In Steven Universe: Future, Steven gets annoyed by the fact that Pearl and Pink Pearl both have the same name, and decides Pink Pearl needs a nickname. He dubs her "Volleyball", after one of the Quartzes hits him in the head with a volleyball.
  • In Infinity Train, after escaping the train with Jesse, Mirror Tulip rechristens herself "Lake" after seeing her reflection in a nearby lake, the first reflective surface she's been able to look at without fear of the Flecs chasing her.

    Real Life 
  • Many surnames were originally words derived from a characteristic aspect related to its bearer or whom he was related to. Characteristics could be physiological, psychological, occupational or even merely geographical: "Longfellow", "Goodchild", "Smith" and "Carlisle" are some obvious examples in English language, whereas most patronymics can be reduced to the words with the suffix "-son" such as "Johnson".
    • Personal names might as well be reduced to roots that were related to their owners, "Henry" being an example which would mean "home ruler". Or not at all, as "Carl", which means "guy".
      • In Old Norse society, "Karl" was a title of rank. The highest rank was "Jarl" (pronounced "Yarl" which eventually became "Earl")note  and "Karl" was the rank below that.note 
      • Inverted with "Andrea", which means "virility" or "masculinity", coming from the Greek word for "man", "andros". (It's the feminine version of Andrew or Andreas. In Italy, Andrea is a man's name, pronounced "an-dray-uh".)
    • It Gets Weirder: lots of obvious occupational names come from England like Baker, Tanner, and so on. However, some people had jobs in acting, playing stock parts in the morality plays. Supposedly, this is how so many people came to have names like Bishop, King (and Queen), Prince... and, according to The Other Wiki, Virgo and Death.
    • In some regions folk myth associates redutible surnames as a characteristic of a certain people that supposedly went under forced assimilation.
    • A lot of the Sherpa who live next to Everest actually have the official surname "Sherpa", as surnames weren't much of an issue until westerners came along and asked what family they belonged to, and not really understanding the concept they said they were the Sherpa, the name of their peoples. Of course now due to publicity of Everest climbs, the term is also used wrongly for basically any South Asian who works as a mountain climber, causing confusion.
  • The usual (but now considered apocryphal) anecdote as to how Terry Nation named those most famous of Doctor Who monsters is that, struggling over his script, he looked up to see a volume of the encyclopedia covering subjects from "Dal" to "Lek".
    • This has long since been confirmed an urban legend by Terry Nation, himself. He gave this explanation the first time he was asked where the name comes from, but later on confessed he had made it up, as anyone looking into dictionaries could find out. In fact the name simply came to him out of nowhere. Ironically, the word has meaning in Slavic languages including Serbo-Croatian, meaning something on the line of "far", or "distant". This, however, is purely coincidental.
      • Although at one time the London Telephone Directory did have four volumes that ran: A-D, E-K, L-R and S-Z.... (dalek is an anagram of the first five letters)
  • L. Frank Baum is said to have named his fantasy land Oz by spotting a file box labelled "O-Z".
  • When Larry King began as a DJ in Miami his manager thought his birth name of Zeiger was too ethnic. Minutes before going on air, he saw an ad for King's Wholesale Liquor.
  • One of Jim Henson's Fraggles, Wembley, was named this way. At an early production meeting where potential character names were being tossed around, head writer Jerry Juhl happened to glance at a newspaper article about an event at Wembley Stadium.
  • Canadian Inuit typically used only a single name until the government began delivering services in the 1940s and 1950s, at which point family names and southern-originated names started coming into wider use. In some cases the family names were chosen by this method as a person (or government bureaucrat) had to think of something to put in the blank lines of documents.
    • Many aboriginal people of Canada have a first name doubling as a last name. When asked for a name, they would give one (their given names); when asked for a last name, the concept was somewhat foreign. When asked for their father's name, however, they gave it - their father's first name.
    • Swedish nobility have a certain amount of this trope, as they usually got their names based on the device they bore on their shields. (This started out as a convention used by historians to differentiate all the various people with similar names and patronymics, but was eventually formalized in the 17th century) Case in point: Gustav Eriksson, widely credited as founder of the Swedish nation, is known today as Gustav Vasa, after his family's coat of arms- a vasa being a trap for catching fish.
    • Japanese surnames were also made up like that, as surnames were only legally required after the Meiji Restoration. Extremely common name elements are ta/da "rice paddy", yama "mountain", kawa/gawa "river", mori "forest", mura "village", ue "upper", naka "middle" and shita "lower". You can take almost any combination of two of these and make a common Japanese surname, with the most common names being known as the "Ta-naka-mura" names, which are a combination of any two of those three characters in any order: Tanaka, Nakata, Nakamura, Muranaka, Murata, Tamura.
    • Also, the German Jews. Which is why many German Jewish names have a relatively modern spelling and are not (like most German names) related to profession, location or personal attributes (appearance, temper etc.).
    • Brazilians are told that when Portuguese Jews were forced to convert, they took up names relating to their surrounding or to local vegetation and sometimes the myth tells that all surnames of this kind are New Christian. There no studies that might prove such tale and at least one Portuguese genealogist claimed to almost have a stroke when reading such. Also, having St. Nuno of Portugal been named Nuno Pereira (pear tree) and universally described as an Old Christian already brings down the idea that all of those surnames were Jewish.
      • However in old church registries (prior to etymological spelling or basic schooling) one could tell who was a New Christian to some limited extent because of the outright horrible spelling of their names as most spoke pidgins of Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic.
    • This sort of thing happens a lot when a nation suddenly gains improved infrastructure. Many common English surnames come from middle to modern English descriptions (e.g. Brown, Sharp), jobs (Smith, Reeve), etc as surnames were adopted in England in the 13th-14th centuries. The Scots and Welsh held out until the 17th, hence the stereotype of Scottish names being "Mac" constructs (Mac means "son of", so adopting Mac[Parents name] is an easy way to come up with a surname) and many Welshmen having the same surname.
    • The Welsh prefix ap- means the same as Gaelic mac. This explains why so many Anglicised Welsh names begin with "P": ap richard mutates into Pritchard or even Pratchett; also Prendergast, Price, Pugh, Powell, et c.
    • On the Anglo-Scottish borders, Surnames merit a capital "S". The reason being that these denoted the Chaotic Neutral river clans in a state of permanent feud with each other, who in the absence of effective law imposed by equally distant London or Edinburgh ran the border country exactly how they liked. Names like Charlton, Lowther, Dodds, Maxwell, Fenwick, Elliot, Graham or Murray were respected and feared for the power they represented, and often derived from landscape features at the heart of each extended family's power-base, taken up by followers and family members as a symbol of clan allegiance.
    • Same thing with most Russian surnames. Before nineteenth century, only the Russian nobility, merchants and some richer urban commoners had surnames. The surnames for peasants, priests and various non-Russian ethnicities had to be made on spot. Peasants' names were mostly like this; priests' names were made from some random vaguely Christian concepts, often on Greek and Latin (for example "Benevolensky" from benevolence), or from Biblical character names. Bad students of religious seminaries got names after biblical villains: Saulov, Pharaohnov and so on.
  • British musical hall artiste Nosmo King picked his stage name from some partially ajar stage doors that split the warning "No Smoking" in "No Smo King".
  • In an interview with Wild Cartoon Kingdom #1, John Kricfalusi said that he instantly conceived his character, George Liquor, upon seeing a sign for a (now long gone) liquor store in Van Nuys, California which was named George's Liquor (although the S had fallen off by the time John saw it).
  • Actor Michael Caine chose his stage name after being told on the phone in Leicester Square that his proposed name of "Michael Scott" was taken. Caine then proceeded to glance around the square and saw a sign for The Caine Mutiny, and the rest is history. He has also joked in interviews that if he'd looked the other way he would have ended up as "Michael 101 Dalmatians".
    • Apparently this happens to a LOT of British actors. John Levene, Sergeant Benton of Doctor Who, plucked 'Levene' off a billboard when he learned he couldn't use his real name. Which would have been fine except for YEARS producers looking to fill Jewish Character parts kept calling him. Not only is he not Jewish, he doesn't even LOOK Jewish.
  • When riding home from an audition in need of a stage name, future The Phantom of the Opera star Michael Dumbbell-Smith saw a truck pass by which said "Crawford's Biscuits Are Best". From then on, he was Michael Crawford.
    • Like Caine, he once joked in an interview the it turned out better than it might have — if a different biscuits lorry had gone by he could ended up as "Michael Peek Freans."
  • Tenth Doctor David Tennant (his real name is David McDonald, and there is already an actor with that name) says he got his name from a Smash Hits magazine, taking it from Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant.
  • Ernest Tidyman reportedly came up with the name for Shaft while pitching the character to a publisher. When asked for the character's name, he didn't have one ready, but he happened to look out a window and see a sign reading "fire shaft".
  • Seen in this quote about a baby named Dasani.
  • When Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen was in exile in Japan around the turn of the 20th century, his friend registered him at a hotel as Sho Nakayama. He took this name from a palace near Hibiya Park in Tokyo. In Mandarin, the kanji for Nakayama would be read Zhongshan and it is now the most common name used for him— at least in Chinese.
  • Chris Martin said he named the Coldplay song "Yellow" after a Yellow Pages directory he saw while composing. He also stated: "In an alternate universe, this song could be called 'Playboy.'"
  • In her autobiography Anarquistas, Graças a Deus ("Anarchists, Thank God!"), Brazilian novelist Zelia Gattai tells her childhood neighbour was supposed to name his daughter Haydée, but lost the paper with that written. So, he asked the notary to name her Olga after the brand of cigarettes he smoked.
  • The Rolling Stones got their name when Brian Jones was on the phone trying to get a gig, and the promoter asked for the band's name. Not having one yet, Jones saw a Muddy Waters LP on the floor with the first song entitled "Rollin' Stone Blues".
    • Likewise, AC/DC came from a sewing machine (Alternating Current/Direct Current).
    • In 1966 Neil Young and Stephen Stills decided to call their new band "Buffalo Springfield" after seeing a steamroller manufactured by the Buffalo-Springfield Company resurfacing the street in front of the house they were living in.
    • Depeche Mode got their name from a French fashion magazine because they liked how it sounded. They only found out the meaning (either "fashion review", "hurried fashion" or "fashion dispatch") later but liked it anyway.
    • The Hollies was half this and half Named After Somebody Famous — although they idolized Buddy Holly, as did virtually every other British Beat band at the time, it also happened to be Christmas.
    • The song "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin was named after a black lab that hung around the recording studio, despite having nothing to do with the song.
  • Oasis:
    • The album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants came from an Isaac Newton quote that is on the £2 coin (except that it is "shoulders", but Noel Gallagher was drunk when he wrote the title).
    • Follow-up Heathen Chemistry comes from a T-shirt Noel saw. Lead single "The Hindu Times" was also seen somewhere (it's an actual newspaper), but Noel can't remember where.
    • The band name itself is picked from a poster as well.
  • According to this forum post, the name of ADV Films (originally known as A.D. Vision) was one of these, named after the AD Police from Bubblegum Crisis.
  • Stephen King came up with a last name for his pseudonym while listening to Bachman Turner Overdrive and reading a novel by Richard Stark (pen name of Donald Westlake). Hence, Richard Bachman.
  • As an old local rumor goes, the city of Cocoa, Florida, got its name this way. It was founded as "Indian River City," but that name was too long to fit on a postmark. When the time came to rename the place, the postmaster happened to have a tin of cocoa on his desk. The rest is history.
  • The programming language Java got its name this way. The creators were drinking coffee from Java when they were thinking of a name for their product. Originally, they wanted to name it Oak (because they saw an oak tree through the window), but that name was already trademarked.
    • Similarly, the Code Red computer worm was named after the Code Red Mountain Dew that the people who discovered it had been drinking.
  • Some Berber tribes in North Africa have a tradition of having the women gather and read the Qur'an while a woman is in labor. The word that was being read when the baby was born (how that's defined depends on the tribe) is the name of the child. It helps a bit that there is probably a bit of latitude in terms of which word is chosen (delivering a baby, after all, takes time), and that many Arabic words—and particularly adjectives—have meanings that are suitable as names.
  • The band Mest got their name from a can of Milwaukee's Best beer. More specifically, they started with a Spoonerism, "Bilwaukee's Mest", then shortened it.
  • Ever wondered how Emerald Hill Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 got its name?
    "Visually speaking, through all three games, we always start with an island. At the time, we were developing in San Francisco, and south of there was a town(?) called Emerald Hill. We were doing a location test at a shopping center there when we saw it, and since it was a Green Hill-like name we thought well, let's use it in the game!"
    • Incidentally, the town's name is actually Emerald Hills, but the details are otherwise correct. (Though it would probably be more accurate to describe Emerald Hills as "right next to Redwood City" because it is at least a good half-hour to the south of San Francisco.)
  • The Degrassi franchise began as a short film ("Ida Makes A Movie"), which led to others being commissioned and the need for a blanket series title. One of the houses used for a lot of the filming was on De Grassi Street in Toronto and so the name Degrassi was chosen. The spelling variation is due to technical limits; in 1979 Toronto still used stamped street signs which were in all-caps and had a hard character limit before an expensive longer plate was needed (so it appeared as "DEGRASSI ST"), by the time they went to screened ones that allowed mixed-case and the extra space the franchise had long since committed to "Degrassi" as one word.
  • Apparently how Pauly Montgomery Shore got his name. His mother passed by a Pauly Automotive and a Montgomery Ward on her way to the hospital. Though this could be an urban legend.
  • Luther Ronzoni Vandross was so named because his mother saw a commercial for Ronzoni brand pasta in the hospital.
  • The writers of TRON: Legacy were looking for a good name for Clu's Dragon. One of them had a Star Wars Encyclopedia on the desk, and one of the authors of that book had the surname "Rinzler."
  • The creators of Marble Hornets needed a project name that sounded like something a pretentious, self-absorbed film student would come up with: they picked two words at random off separate advertising signs.
  • Variation: turns out The Gunstringer was a Line of Sight Premise: the creators of the game were forced to scrap their previous idea due to technology issues shortly before the pitch meeting with a Microsoft exec in a Tex-Mex restaurant, forcing them to come up with a completely new game idea while said exec was in the bathroom. They had previously discussed a game involving marionettes and the restaurant had a painting of a skeleton cowboy. And the rest is history.
  • At the end of the US Civil War, many former slaves that had previously been listed with their master's surname or no last name at all made up their own. "Freeman" and "Freedman" were popular choices, for obvious reasons.
  • The most frequent Origin Story behind the hundreds of unfortunate babies with the classical Ghetto Name Usnavy (and its variations) is that the future mothers either saw a boat of the U.S. Navy on the road of the hospital or were attended on Naval installations.
  • This is how the Pink Floyd song "Atom Heart Mother" was named—the co-composer for the piece, Ron Geesin, gave Roger Waters a copy of the Evening Standard and told him to take the song title from within. The song came from the headline "Atom Heart Mother Named". The name "Pink Floyd" counts as well. One of the early names the band used was "The Tea Set", but at a gig they found out another band also using that name was performing before them. They needed a new name on the spot, so Syd Barrett combined the names of two American bluesmen he happened to be reading about earlier that day from the liner notes of an album in his collection: Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
  • An interview with Milk Morinaga reveals the story of how she got her pen-name:
    Milk Morinaga: I was talking with a friend on the phone trying to decide on a pen name. I was eating strawberries at the time and there happened to be some condensed milk made by [the company] Morinaga right in front of me. Looking back, I feel like I should have thought about it more seriously...
  • According to the founders of The Onion, the question how to name their newspaper came up while being in the kitchen. Where one of them happened to be cutting an onion.
  • Douglas Adams was trying to think of a suitably exotic name for a rock star character in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe when he spotted an estate agent's sign in the garden of a house he was driving past. The firm (which still exists) was "Hotblack Desiato" and they went through a phase of people calling them up and accusing them of copying their name from Adams...
  • Tommy James (of Tommy James and the Shondells) came up with the title for his song "Mony Mony" when he saw a MONY sign on a Mutual of New York building.
  • Actress Winona Ryder, born Winona Horowitz, took her stage name from musician Mitch Ryder, as one of his albums was playing when John Hughes had asked her how she wanted her name to appear in the credits for Lucas. And her mother named her Winona for the nearby town of Winona, Minnesota.
  • Born William Jason Reso, pro wrestler Christian Cage, better known simply as Christian, took his name from his two favorite actors, Christian Slater and Nicolas Cage.
  • Australian actress Tabrett Bethell was named after her parents disagreed on what to name her while still at the hospital (her mother wanted "Siobhan," and her father wanted "Murray"). Her father went for a drive, saw the name "Tabrett Street" in Sydney, and returned to the hospital to suggest it to her mother, who said, "Yes, that's it!".
  • Ursula K. Le Guin came up with the titular town name for her short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" after seeing a road sign for "Salem, Oregon" reflected backwards in her car mirror.
  • J. J. Abrams got the name Cloverfield from a freeway exit in Santa Monica.
  • Martin Nodell, the creator of the original Green Lantern, claims that he came up with the superhero's name after he saw an engineer at a train station using a green lantern and a red lantern to signal to trains when to run and when to stop. If he'd arrived at the train station a few minutes later, we may well have ended up with a superhero called Red Lantern.
  • A very common trick at hypnosis shows is for the performer to hypnotize the participants into forgetting their own names. When subsequently asked to identify themselves, many will say the first thing they see written down, so you'll get people saying their name is "Exit," "Staff Only," or similar.
  • Stefani Germanotta's former producer Rob Fusari claims that she came up with the stage name "Lady Gaga" from a botched text message that he sent her. As a private joke, he would frequently sing Queen's song "Radio Ga Ga" to her as she arrived in the studio for recording sessions, calling it her "intro song". One day, he tried to text the words "Radio Ga Ga" to her, but he accidentally misspelled "Radio", and his phone autocorrected it to "Lady". As Germanotta was struggling to come up with a decent stage name at the time, she supposedly looked at the text message and immediately exclaimed "That's it!"
  • According to one teen magazine, actor Penn Badgley was so named because his parents were trying to think up a name for their new baby, while Badgley's mother was bouncing around a Penn tennis ball. It became Hilarious in Hindsight as Badgley (about 8 years prior to his work on Gossip Girl) ended up doing some minor voicework for, of all things, Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64.
  • It is possible to invoke this trope while playing a drama improvisation game, commonly called "The Detective" but does have other names. It can be invoked by the people playing the singular criminal upon being asked "What is your name?"
  • Mary Doria Russell named the protagonist of The Sparrow (Father Emilio Sandoz) after the manufacturer of her son's cold medication.
  • Diablo Cody took her stage name from listening to the Arcadia song "Diablo" in her car while driving through Cody, Wyoming.
  • Italian comic book artist Zerocalcare in his youth needed a handle to register to an Internet forum and he chose this nickname in reference to the ads of a then-popular descaling product. The nickname stuck and became his pen name as a published author years later.
  • Alice in Chains got their name from an episode of The Honeymooners that the band watched one day, where Ralph remarked that he'd like to see his wife (whose name was Alice)... well, in chains.
  • The Flemish satirical consumer affairs show Basta once tried to expose that Belgium's copyright royalty society SABAM had been attempting to collect royalties from non-existent musicians. They literally made up musical acts from the names of items in a kitchen ("Kenwood", "Kimberly Clark", "Mr. Cocktail and the Party Mix", etc.) and recorded songs for them. Then after they received a bill for playing their music at en event, they went to SABAM's office to try and have their "artists" sign up to receive the royalties. Of course, this was when SABAM realized that they had been trolled.
  • A fake ending of Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles has the introduction of a character named Jenkins. Burnie Burns stated the name came from the Jenkins 2.0 font that the show used for its logo and title cards. (And in a Hilarious in Hindsight moment, he'd later be engaged to Ashley Jenkins.)
  • The cult Memphis Power Pop band Big Star took its name from a supermarket across the street from the Ardent recording studio.
  • This is common trend among 2010's Emo-revival bands. Title Fight and Modern Baseball both took their names from random books lying around their home, and other bands such as Citizen and American Football are along similar lines.
  • Stevie Nicks saw a road sign for Silver Spring, Maryland from Fleetwood Mac's tour bus, thought the name was beautiful and later used it to title the song "Silver Springs."
  • Country Music singer Kippi Brannon got her stage name this way: her real last name was Binkley, but she changed it after seeing a store called Brannon Auto Parts.
  • Bono of U2 took his stage name from a hearing aid store called Bono Vox.


Video Example(s):



How a bear from Darkest Peru gains an English name... eventually.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / LineOfSightName

Media sources:

Main / LineOfSightName