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Named by Democracy

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"All students proceed to the Butthead Memorial Auditorium. [turns off mic] Damn it, I wish we hadn’t let the students name that one."
Principal Seymour Skinner, The Simpsons

Perhaps the original is too hard to pronounce, maybe the subject in question simply doesn't have one at all, refuses to tell, or just forgot it. For whatever reason the masses decided on a fitting name for the subject and are sticking to it regardless of any protests. They've been named by democracy. Compare Verbal Tic Name, where the subject will really have a hard time protesting this, and Appropriated Appellation, where someone will adopt their title from someone else's guess or mistake. The naming of the subject has to be depicted or described to be this trope, if we don't know how it came to be it is more likely Known Only by Their Nickname or Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep".



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Scar from Fullmetal Alchemist; his real Ishvalan name was never told and they went with Scar since it was one of the few particular characteristics they could obtain from witnesses at first. He seems to have adopted it to a some degree since he has done many things that go against the Ishval Teachings (mainly murder).
    Scar: Long ago this body did have a holy name given by God, but that person died years ago from a life of sin, malice and retribution.
  • In Azumanga Daioh, Ayumu Kasuga is quickly nicknamed Osaka (after the city she just transferred from) in spite of her protests. By Year Two, this name catches on to the extent that even the teacher forgets her real name. At one point, she even forgets what her real name is.
  • This is basically how 'wolves' are given their nom de guerre in Ben-To; usually as a result of embarrassing situations that the 'wolf' in question is caught in. For instance, Satou ended up becoming known as 'The Freak/Pervert' after being seen in public wearing women's clothing (against his will, yes, but not that that would help him). It later turns out that Shaga got her name 'Beauty by the Lake' after she fell asleep in the park after netting her first half-price meal, and Yarizui became known as the 'Ice Witch' when she unwittingly attempted to purchase a vodka mixer to go with her meal, under the impression at the time that it was a soft drink.
  • In Soul Eater Not!, it's revealed that students at DWMA can have their nickname treated as their official name—even if they don't want to, as happened with "Eternal Feather". And they won't even be allowed to change it for a full semester...

  • DC Comics' Solomon Grundy was named after the nursery rhyme when he told someone he didn't have a name, and had emerged fully grown from the swamp on a Monday.
  • The Incredible Hulk was an example of this trope but it's since been retconned away.
  • The people start calling the thing that claimed to be from the beyond as the "Beyonder" in Secret Wars (1984).
  • Superman villain Doomsday technically doesn't even have a name (the closest thing would be "The Ultimate Lifeform" given to him by his creator). The name came from Booster Gold describing the creature's rampage in his first appearance as being "like the arrival of Doomsday", which then spread through the media and became the creature's name amongst the Justice League.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 3 foe Genocide does not appreciate the name democracy chose for her. She offered no alternative though so people kept calling her Genocide.
  • Numerous people kept calling Anya Corazón as "Spider-Girl" no matter how many times she corrected them. The codename she chose for herself in the web corps was "Araña" and even after she got kicked out it is still the title she prefers but Anya eventually relented and stopped correcting people when she realized it wasn't working.
    • It's her own fault really. The name mixup started when she adopted Julia Carpenter's old costume. People thought she a new young Spider-Woman, hence Spider-Girl.
  • Minor Marvel Comics villainess Crazy Eight left a Calling Card with the mathematical notation for infinity, thereby calling herself Infinity, but an ignorant cop called it "some kind of crazy 8" and the name stuck.

    Fan Works 
  • I am [REDACTED]: This is how Izuku became, well, "Redacted". Thanks to having a Secret Identity, all public records of his hero identity Nimbus have his real name blacked out with the phrase "[REDACTED]". Soon, people started calling him that as a nickname, until they forgot his hero name was "Nimbus" entirely and just called him Redacted instead. Izuku was exasperated about it at first, but by the time the main story starts, he's given up correcting people entirely.
  • Worm Grand Order: When Taylor Hebert starts summoning Servants, the media labels her "Simulacrum", since they think her Servants are projections, beings created from her imagination.

  • Who Am I? (1998): The protagonist is asked who he is in a language he can't understand. As he is amnesiac he demands to know, "Who am I?". The locals just think he's hammy and shout "Who Am I" with equal enthusiasm when they want his attention.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: The mermaid captured by Blackbeard's crew for the Fountain of Youth was named "Syrena" by Phillip in an attempt to prove a point to Blackbeard, since Phillip doesn't know Syrena's real name as it was never revealed.
  • In Tremors, the townspeople have a spirited discussion about what to call the underground monsters menacing them all, finally deciding on "graboids". The person who came up with the name is killed soon after.
  • Saw II. John Kramer introduces himself to Eric Matthews using his real name. When Matthews says he thought John preferred to go by "Jigsaw", he says that's just the name the media stuck him with.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes: Maurice refers to the little girl they had found as "Nova", even though it's not her actual name. This is due to the fact that she is suffering from the Simian Flue that makes her The Speechless and thus cannot tell them her actual name.
  • Birds of Prey (2020): Helena Bertinelli goes around killing anyone connected to the murder of her family with a crossbow. Since no one knows who she is, she is labeled "The Crossbow Killer". She gets annoyed and constantly tries to introduce herself as Huntress.

  • An old joke about Canada goes that when trying to decide on a name for their country, the locals decided to let a few volunteers each pick a letter to spell it out. The choices were "C, eh?", "N, eh?" and "D, eh?"

  • The Black Tower of The Wheel of Time is an example of a place whose name was agreed upon by its residents, to differentiate from the white tower their counterparts work at.
  • The Inscrutable Machine in Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain is the name Penny came up with for herself, but she eventually ended up with Bad Penny, with the trio as a whole as The Inscrutable Machine. Generic Girl didn't pick the name for herself either, as she's all business and doesn't take the time to chat.
  • This, along with Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs, gave secret heir to the throne Tomjon his name in Wyrd Sisters. When Mrs. Vitoller, his to-be adopted mother, asks Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg what his name is, they don't know what the king actually wanted to name him, so they simultaneously say "Tom" and "John," then settle on "Tomjon."
  • Worm:
    • Taylor Hebert gets named Skitter by the Wards because of her bug powers. She doesn't particularly care for it, and later changes it to Weaver.
    • Rachel Lindt gets named Hellhound by the heroes because of her ability to turn dogs and wolves into monsters. She prefers to be called Bitch.
  • Adam's gang in Good Omens has had multiple names depending on what Adam's been reading, but everyone else in Tadfield darkly calls them "Them", so in the end that's what they called themselves too.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: Some aliens have a name that is a thousand letters long and cannot be pronounced by Humans. Then their adherents whine because everyone keeps calling them "The Shadows".
  • In Spartacus: Blood and Sand, after seeing the title character's performance in the arena, the Romans name him "Spartacus" after a legendary Thracian king. He is at first insulted, and tries to introduce himself, but is interrupted each time. He eventually accepts the name.
  • Fez from That '70s Show. His real name, which was never revealed to the audience, is said to be really long and hard to pronounce. Fez is short for Foreign Exchange Student.
    • Interestingly enough, the show's original working title was different; the members of the test audience (focus groups) kept calling it "that 70's show", and the title was changed.
  • In Haven, a Serial Killer who murders people by shooting them in the back of the head with a bolt gun is nicknamed the "Bolt Gun Killer" by the police. In a fight against Duke Crocker, the killer says that nickname is stupid.

    Mythology, Religion and Folklore 
  • The Bible: Obed, son of Ruth and Boaz, was not named by them but by their neighbors.

     Tabletop Games 
  • In Pathfinder the kyton race of fiends know themselves "velstracs". However one of their number, Kaikyton The Stitchweaver, spent thousands of years on the material plane and mortals confused part of her name with that of all their kind. Because Kaikyton is very highly regarded they don't object to being conflated with her (though it's possible some of her fellow demagogues might find it insulting).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The French gave Ed Lewis the Red Baron "Strangler" because that's what they thought he was doing to his opponent when he applied a Sleeper Hold.
  • George "The Animal" Steele was originally George "The Bruiser" Steele but the fans kept calling him "the animal" until it became official.
  • While Tomomi Tsuruta was competing in Amarillo early in his career, a fan contest led to him being renamed "Jumbo".
  • Jerry Lynn debuted in ECW in September 1997 as "Dynamic" Jerry Lynn. During his feud with Rob Van Dam, who uses as one of his Red Barons "The Whole F'n Show," the fans started calling Lynn "The New F'n Show."
  • Fergal Devitt ended up being known as "Prince" Devitt in Japan because hardly anyone could remember how to pronounce "Fergal".
  • After Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston became tag team champions, a poll was held on Twitter to decide on what the new tag team would be called. Air Boom has been derided by some, but democracy had spoken. Earlier in Ring of Honor, Matt Sydal(Bourne) had teamed up with Fast Eddie and were named, "Air Devils" by the fans, so this was not a huge surprise.
  • On their website, WWE asked their fans to vote for names of the various shows their network would air.
  • Cheeseburger got his name after Rhett Titus and Charlie Haas saw him in two separate instances and decided that's what he needed. The latter calling him such during a match lead to the fans cheering it and ROH creating a "Cheeseburger" t-shirt, which became a best seller in New Japan. So Cheeseburger came to embrace the name he initially hated.
  • The team of Kane and Daniel Bryan was bestowed the name Team Hell No by a poll on Raw.
  • Successfully defied by La Sombra and Rush in CMLL, whose trio with La Mascara was originally dubbed "Los Indeseables" based on the fact no one wanted anything to do with them but officially became "Los Ingobernables" thanks to their insistence.
  • "The Punishment Damian Martinez" was almost exclusively billed as "Punisher Martinez" until the full, correct ring name was forced into recognition by Ring Of Honor once they decided to use him regularly.

    Video Games 
  • One Tekken character told the orphans his tag team partner looked after that he didn't have a name they could hope to pronounce. Their response? "You do now!" It was Armor King.
  • Chaos Lord from Digimon World is named by the other Digimon, which is notable because Digimon usually don't give individual names to anyone.
  • Garrus of Mass Effect, when anonymously doing good works around Omega, is called Archangel. When Shepard finds him, he asks you to just call him Garrus.


    Web Original 
  • In Red vs. Blue, Church decides that their new medic's name DuFresne is too hard to say, and dubs him "Doc" instead. Doc protests that he's not a doctor but a medic, but everyone else overrules him and goes with Church's idea. He never bothers protesting again after that, and everyone just continues calling him Doc (though he does always refer to himself as DuFresne whenever the matter comes up).
  • Phelous' unnamed video show was called "Phelous And The Movies" on IMDB. After joking about it for a bit, he eventually decided to adopt the name.

    Western Animation 
  • Samurai Jack: The time displaced hero was called "Jack" by the first friendly people he met in the future, who were using the term "jack" in the same vein as "dude" or "bro." Jack, however, ends up adopting it as his name, never revealing his given name at any point in the show.
  • The titular character of Danny Phantom gets rather annoyed that after The Masquerade is blown everyone around town knows him as "Inviso-Bill" until he sets the record straight in the first Made-for-TV Movie.

    Real Life 
  • Dave Sim (creator of Cerebus the Aardvark) once mentioned how several grown-up members of his family spent several hours naming the new cat, finally settling on "Puss". He took this as a sign that Democracy Is Bad.
  • Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known by the nickname given to him as a child dancing for the armies in Germany in a little soldier's outfit, "Little Boots", ie, Caligula. According to Seneca the Younger, Gaius hated the nickname "Caligula", and punished anyone who used it during his reign...yet he couldn't stop the masses.
    • It didn't really help that his three predecessors as emperrors were called Gaius Julius Caesar (the Caesar), Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Augustus), and Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus (Tiberius). Also, the two men who followed him as Emperor were Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (Claudius) and Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (Nero), making the name stick to him for eternity.
  • In contrast to how military pilots in fiction are pretty much guaranteed to have Awesome Mc Coolname call signs, in real life they're often joking or even insulting because the nicknames are dreamed up by the pilot's fellow students or even the instructors in flight school, hopefully due to an awesome feat but more likely something they consider embarrassing (but which their peers found to be funny). Go into fighter school expecting a name like "Maverick" and you might come out, after an unfortunate incident involving a negative-G maneuver and some bad breakfast, having "Upchuck" stenciled on your cockpit.
    • In fact there are three un-official rules that come with getting call-signs:
      • No. 1: You cannot choose your name.
      • No. 2: You will not like your name.
      • No. 3: If you try to get a better name, you will get a worse name.
    • This works the same way in motorcycle clubs. A member's "road name" is given by the other members, usually because of something embarrassing that happened to them or that they did. Even "badass" names like Joker or Hammer usually have a funny origin known only to the members of the club.
  • In 2016, an Internet poll was held to decide the name of a new research vessel. The Internet, being the Internet, quickly pushed "Boaty McBoatface" as the leading choice. While the ship was named after David Attenborough, Boaty McBoatface was used for one of its unmanned subs.


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