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No Need for Names

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"'What's your name,' Coraline asked the cat. 'Look, I'm Coraline. Okay?'
'Cats don't have names,' it said.
'No?' said Coraline.
'No,' said the cat. 'Now you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names."

This is when a character or group of characters have no names, and don't see the point in having them. This is not merely when their name is never revealed, but when they actually have never been referred to by a name or assigned a name. Such characters are prone to having a Fan Nickname assigned to them, since it's kind of hard to discuss characters without a way to refer to them. If the characters in the show feel compelled to call them something, you may run into Only Known by Their Nickname, Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep", or they might even be referred to by others only by the name of their nation, tribe, or species. But the character themself will not adopt this as a name.

Sometimes the fact that a character has no name is a sign that they are a cardboard-thin stock character. The author only needs these minor characters to play a simple role, so they may be referred to by their role: "The Innkeeper" or "The Farmer's Wife".

Compare Nameless Narrative, No Name Given, Only Known by Their Nickname and Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep". Contrast with Planet of Steves, where all the characters have the same exact names.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Shigure Kosaka's father raised her in isolation and was so obsessed with training her to be a warrior that he never bothered to give her a name. Eventually, her friend Akisame named her.

    Comic Books 
  • In Green Lantern, the Indigo Tribe members do not usually have names, though most take on names to interact with others more easily.
  • The Dominators staunchly refuse to take individual names. Wonder Woman ally Sakritt's decision to take one is just one of the many ways she rebels against the culture.
  • By the 31st century Durlans do not traditionally take names and to adopt one like Reep Daggle/Chameleon of the Legion of Super-Heroes is to functionally exile oneself from the Durlan community with the potential repercussion of execution should they decide to return. This was not always the case, originally those that forswore names were a fringe group of individuals whose genetics were so scrambled in the fallout from the Six-Minute War they lost a stable default form.
  • Another race of shapeshifters, from Marvel comics, the Poppupians are described by their most familiar representative Impossible Man as a hive mind who already know who they are and as such none of them have names.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In the Lilo & Stitch fanfic, Aloha, there is an Insectoid Alien race called the Swarm who believes this due to the fact they value the group as a whole rather than the individual. Lilo disagrees and instantly starts naming them.
  • Worm Grand Order: The Old Man is a god from a long forgotten people and religion. He says that his people did not use names since everyone knew each other.

    Film — Live-Action 

  • Discworld
    • In Moving Pictures, Victor is on the beach talking to the animals that have been given sentience and language by Holy Wood. They don't have have names, and Victor inadvertently insults them when he says the mouse should be named Squeakers and the bunny, Thumper.
    • In Men at Arms, Angua is very explicit about the fact that wolves (unlike either dogs or werewolves) don't have names. Gaspode has trouble wrapping his mind around the concept.
    • The Fifth Elephant: Gaspode explains the same thing to Carrot when they "interrogate" a wolf for information on Angua's wereabouts. The book also features a wolf with a name, Gavin, who is an old friend of Angua. It's not so much his name as the name of somebody he ate, but it will do for human interactions.
    • The Auditors of Reality do not have names, because that suggests individuality, which is lethal to them.
  • With the Grim Up North conditions beyond the wall in A Song of Ice and Fire, the mortality of children is so high that naming one that hasn't yet grown enough to walk is considered Tempting Fate.
  • The cat in Coraline does not have a name, as cats don't use or need them.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold, a female slave is assigned to Hugh Farnham, and she doesn't have a name. He ends up calling her 'kitten' after the cute way she curled up in bed when she was tired.
  • In the Star Trek novel, The Three Minute Universe, the allegedly Always Chaotic Evil "Sackers" have no names. When a human calls them a name, they consider it a compliment and use it as a name, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Super Powereds: Mary Smith is a powerful telepath who, for the first eighteen years of her life, couldn't turn it off. Not only did she spend eight years alone in the woods without anyone to call her by her name, even before that, the fact that she could always sense when someone's thoughts were directed at her meant she didn't need to pay attention to her name, and it never sunk in. When she first meets the other kids, she has to think a few minutes before remembering her name, and it still takes her a minute to react when she's called by it.
  • In Stray. Pufftail tells his grandson Kitchener that cats do not have names. Unlike humans, cats do not name things. Pufftail considers himself nameless, though everyone still calls him "Pufftail" nevertheless. This view is not universal amongst cats because his daughter Tabitha, who lives as a pet, considers it a point of pride and independence that her father refuses a name.
    But Old Father Pufftail was a proud and independent cat who called no man or woman or child his owner. He even resented being called a name, though everyone called him Pufftail; and he was, in fact, a much-loved local "character".
  • In Shakugan no Shana, the title character started out with no name and said she didn't see the point in having one when Yuji asked for her name, though some call her Flame-Haired Blazing-Eyed Hunter. Yuji refused to accept this and started calling her Shana after her sword, Nietono no Shana. Shana eventually accepted it.
  • A rival time-traveler from the future appears in the ninth Haruhi Suzumiya novel who actively shows disdain for even the existence of names, and prefers to not have one at all. But for the sake of reference, he suggests that the others call him Fujiwara. Kyon prefers to just call him The Sneering Bastard.
  • Beesong Chronicles: The giant bees had no names since they were non-sapient, and then they evolve into the apis demihuman race. When Cora encounters an apis worker, it takes a moment for her to even consider the idea that she might want a name; she just shrugs and says they can call her whatever they want. They go with Joy.

    Live-Action TV  
  • In Red Dwarf, the Cat is just called "The Cat", because Cats don't use names. They tell each other apart by their individual scent.
    • According to the novel, the Cat is also so self-absorbed that the idea someone doesn't know who he is is incomprehensible.
  • The Wraith of Stargate Atlantis communicate among each other almost entirely by telepathy, and thus don't seem to need names. A few recurring Wraith are "named" by Colonel Sheppard for the sake of convenience. The Expanded Universe novels subvert this, revealing that Wraith (aside from the nameless drones) actually do have names, based on a combination of their role in the hive and what their mind "feels" like to other Wraith. They just don't normally reveal them to non-Wraith. Some chapters with a Wraith POV character show that they assume human names work on the same premise, with them coming up with amusing "translations" of human names to match up with what they know (or think they know) about those characters' roles in the Atlantis expedition.
  • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the only Changelings who have names are the 100 who were sent out to live among the other races of the universe; the rest reside in the Great Link where their bodies and minds become one. Interestingly in the series finale, the Female Changeling signs (on a piece of paper) the treaty to end the Dominion War. Despite claiming to have no name, she must have written something, unless it was simply "the Dominion".
    Odo: You haven't told me your name.
    Female Changeling: What use would I have for a name?
    Odo: To differentiate yourself from the others.
    Female Changeling: I don't.

  • In BIONICLE, most Warrior-class Skrall are nameless, and are only allowed to have names if they are awarded one by their leader.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Depending on the Writer, this is sometimes true for the evil illithids in Dungeons & Dragons who are psionic, and thus have no spoken language and no names, recognizing other beings via psionic imprints. Some sources where multiple illithids are present assign them names for the sake of identification.
    • In 5e, it's stated that the Firbolg race adheres by this trope as well, instead being identified by simple appearance descriptors. (Although outside of their own societies they do use names.)

    Video Games  
  • Mass Effect:
    • Sovereign seems to have no need for names in Mass Effect (it never states that it is a name, and the word is also a title appropriate to its nature), and dismisses being referred to as "Reaper". Mass Effect 2 reveals that Sovereign did have a name (Nazara), but apparently it didn't feel any need to reveal it to organics. The only other Reaper individually referred to is Harbinger, and that is also pretty clearly just a title, not its real name.
      Sovereign: In the end, what they chose to call us is irrelevant. We simply are.
    • Mass Effect 2: Legion (to Shepard's frustration) didn't have a name until EDI gave him one on the Normandy, due to the fact that Legion isn't 1 person, he's 1183 people inside 1 body. Even so, he rarely refers to himself as Legion, and only adopted the name to help organic creatures identify with him.
  • The Soul Series gives us the Edge Master, who refuses to name his weapons as he believes that only a strong soul makes a strong warrior, not a weapon, so he regards weapons as only tools, their own power and abilities be damned.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Flemeth is dismissive of the numerous titles she's built up over the years.
    Flemeth: Names are pretty, but useless. The Chasind folk call me Flemeth. I suppose it'll do.
  • The Empire in the Exile and Avernum series is only ever referred to in the generic. The official explanation is "there's only one name when there's only one game" — a proper name for their nation would imply that there's any need to distinguish them from another.
  • The same applies to the alien empire in Xenonauts.
  • A variation occurs in the "The Swing King" mission of Hitman: Blood Money, when 47 arrives at the abandoned amusement park, we get this bit of dialogue:
    47: I'm here to see Joseph Clarence.
    Thug: Never heard of him.
    47: The Swing King.
    Thug: Oh yeah, that sorry ass dick-head. What the fuck they call you?
    47: Names are for friends. So I don't need one.
    Reaches through the gates steel bars, grabs the thug and knocks him out cold.
  • The Gorajo in RuneScape refer to each other only by their Fantastic Caste System roles, and wonder if humans aren't confused having to remember so many individual names. The Exile in Player-Owned Ports takes a given name at the end of her individual story, as part of her adjustment to non-Gorajian society.
  • In The Witch's House, the demon Big Bad who raised Ellen is only ever called 'Black Cat' and 'Demon'. He tells Ellen in the prequel novel and manga that, as a demon, he does not really have or need a name.

    Visual Novels 
  • Heart of the Woods: None of the fairies have names, which they claim are "for humans." Maddie mentally assigns the main three she speaks to with the names of Hae, Anan, and Frio. This is also likely the real reason why The Moonsick One, in the body of Evelyn Fischer, never refers to people by name.

  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, the Regional Fairies have no names prior to becoming human, and make quite a big deal of receiving their names — even if it happens by accident. Normally they refer to each other by insults.
  • Estranged, later published as a graphic novel, is a Changeling Tale focusing on both characters who got switched. The human-raised-by-fairies is only known as "the (Human) Childe," because he was basically a pet and there weren't any other humans around to confuse him with. It's something of a Running Gag that his servant Whick, a Golem made out of wax, was deemed name-worthy while he wasn't.
  • Imps in Imp are not given names by the witches that create them. The main character refers to himself as "Celina's imp" and doesn't want a name. When he does meet an imp that has been given a name, his response is, "He's got a name? Why? That's such a human thing!"
  • In Wilde Life, animal people apparently don't bother with them.
    Clifford: So what's your name?
    Raven: Pfft. I'm a raven, silly.
    Clifford: No shit. And I'm a wolf. But my name is Cliff.
    Raven: Okay, then just call me Raven. We'll be like humans and have names!

    Web Original 

    Western Animation  
  • In Gargoyles, the gargoyles traditionally use no names among themselves; Goliath is only called this by the humans. When they arrive in New York the others finally decide to adopt names based on local landmarks and start using them amongst themselves. Most other clans in the world seem to pick up this habit over time as well, presumably because of close contact with humans. (And convenience, according to Word of God.) One of the New York clan is actively offended by the idea he needs a name, demanding to know if the sky or the river need them; when Eliza informs him the river is called the Hudson, he gives up and starts calling himself "Hudson" as well.
  • Rick and Morty: "Mortynight Run" features a gaseous lifeform who claims that his species has no use for names, as they communicate through telepathy. It eventually takes on the name "Fart" after Rick calls it that, apparently not realizing that it was being mocked.
    • According to a Season 5 episode, Birdperson's people don't use names, explaining why he goes by "Birdperson" in the presence of aliens (which, since Earthlings count, is all the time).


Video Example(s):


Does the river need a name

The elderly gargoyle compares the clan's lack of names to sky and rivers. The revelation that humans name rivers causes him to give up the analogy and take the nearby river's name (Hudson) for himself.

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / AnalogyBackfire

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