Batgirl: Yeah, what's yours?
Robin: My name's Dick. Dick Grayson.
Batgirl: And you said my name was old-fashioned.
Names are one of those things that changes often. Popular names, unpopular names, spellings, and the like are constantly changing. What was popular one hundred years ago in an area will likely differ dramatically from what is popular current time.
When a Setting Update occurs, or even when Comic-Book Time happens, certain things will stand out if they're not changed. This includes names. What was a popular name in the 1930s might be old-fashioned or anachronistic come the reboot several decades later. Sometimes an Outdated Name creates the impression that it was invented for the character, since the character themselves remain famous long after the name, when the name was originally chosen to be commonplace and relatable.
Sometimes characters having an outdated name is unintentional. The writers use names from their youth, however the names have since become unpopular, leading to characters with old-fashioned names. It's also possible that the character became so famous that you can't name another character with the same name due to associations with that famous character.
This can also occur in-universe if a character points out how a name seems old-fashioned or specifically finds their own name embarrassing because of this.
Some Gender Blender Names are this. For example, traditionally "Ashley", "Leslie", and "Whitney" were male names; however, in the past several decades they have become particularly feminine. This can also be something of a Cyclical Trope—parents tend to name their kids after older or deceased relatives, which can lead to names abruptly coming back into vogue, and famous fictional characters with old-fashioned names can bring those names back into prominence in real life as well.
- "Zelda". Contrary to popular belief, it is actually a real name and not made up for The Legend of Zelda. In English it's a rare nickname for Griselda, in Yiddish it's the female version of Selig. However, it was pretty much completely forgotten before the games came out.
- According to Hyrule Historia, the developers of the games got the name from Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott's wife. Zelda's name works in the scheme of most of the games, however, because none are set in the modern day (with even the most technologically advanced games like Spirit Tracks and Breath of the Wild being set in an old-fashioned fantasy world with a mix of eras).
- In a classic case of Life Imitates Art, now the name is becoming more common due to the games. One of the most famous examples is Zelda Williams, daughter of Robin Williams, who was explicitly named after the princess.
- Warriors features a cat named "Zelda". Many fans thought it was a Legend of Zelda Shout-Out, unaware that the name is a pre-existing, out-of-vogue name.
- Fans of Stephen King may have known Zelda Goldman from Pet Sematary, who suffered from a horrific body degeneration disease. The novel is three years older than the games.
- The other fictional Zelda that precedes the games is Sabrina the Teenage Witch's aunt (created in 1968).
- In Princess Jellyfish, Kuranosuke makes a spur of the moment decision to be called "Kurako" when crossdressing around Tsumiki's man-hating friends in order to hide his gender. It's mentioned that "Kurako" is a rather retro sounding name.
- Claire Stanfield of Baccano! is a man and named after his grandfather, since Claire was a masculine name prior to the 1900s. After faking his death he starts going by the comparatively-modern-sounding "Felix", with only his wife Chane (who doesn't talk anyway) having permission to call him Claire.
- Attack on Titan features a variety of both outdated and modern European names for both its Eldian and Marleyan characters. Somewhat Justified considering Eldia is stuck in an early 1800s stasis and Marley is at most in the early Inter-war period.
- Archie Comics:
- It's mentioned in Archie Comics (2015) that other girls don't like Betty's nickname. Her full name is "Elizabeth" but they'd rather call her something like "Lizzie" or "Liz". Betty likes her nickname as it is but the others find it old fashioned and consider it an Embarrassing First Name. Betty was introduced in Archie Comics in the 1940s, where it was a common shortening for "Elizabeth" back then.
- A lot of the characters' names in Archie Comics fall under this trope, either because they were created in the '40s or, in some cases, because they were always meant to sound weird or exotic. "Archie" (Archibald), "Betty", "Reggie" (Reginald), "Josie", "Ethel", "Cheryl", "Midge", "Dilton", "Sabrina", "Harvey", and Jughead's real Embarrassing First Name "Forsythe"... all unlikely names for modern teens. A case that already was outdated in the 40s was Veronica's mother Hermione - before it saw a resurgence (see the Literature folder).
- Richard "Dick" Grayson, aka Nightwing and the original Robin, has one of these. It was once common to call men named Richard "Dick" but it has fallen out of fashion due to slang meanings for the word (though the trend still exists). Dick's nickname has stayed the same since the 1940s. It works well enough in Gotham due to the frequent Anachronism Stew of the setting but it comes off as unusual in other comics. His name has been poked fun at, such as when Beast Boy (whose own name "Garfield" has been written as embarrassing due to Garfield) finds out about it in Young Justice.
- Eugene "Flash" Thompson from Spider-Man usually goes by his nickname for this reason. The character first debuted in 1962 where the name Eugene was already starting to seem old fashioned since its popularity peaked in the 1930s and the name seeming out of place has only increased in the decades since.
- The titular protagonist of Black Canary dates back to 1947. Her name, "Dinah", wasn't as rare in The '40s as it's since become. It's probably why when she appears in Arrow, she goes by Middle Name Basis; "Laurel" is not terribly common, but it's not as unknown as "Dinah" today.
- Mary Jane Watson's name wasn't so out of place when she was created in the 1960s but that was before it caught on as a slang term for marijuana (even though it goes back as far as the 1890s). Nowadays her name is still legally "Mary Jane" but she's usually just called "MJ". Her equivalent from Marvel Cinematic Universe who's essentially if she were a teenager today rather than in the 60s is named "Michelle Jones".
- Cletus Kasady aka Carnage debuted in the comics in the 90s, long after the name had fallen out of fashion.
- Superman and Batman's mothers' shared name of Martha would have been a stereotypical mom's name in the 1930s. The name was the 29th most popular for women in the 1900 census. The name has never gotten below the top 1000 but isn't nearly as popular as it was back then. They would have been born in the 1950s in today's comics and the name had dropped out of the top 50 by then.
- Lois Lane. In The Roaring '20s, "Lois" was one of the top 20 names for girls. When the character was introduced in 1938, the name had begun declining in popularity, but was still commonly encountered. It died out around The '80s and is exclusively associated with Superman's love interest today.
- The first Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, adopted the civilian name Linda upon settling on Earth. Kara was introduced during The '50s -in The Supergirl From Krypton (1959)-, when the name Linda was among the most popular name for American girls (it was the most popular baby girls' name from 1947 to 1952), while Kara was virtually unknown. When she was reintroduced in The Supergirl from Krypton (2004) however, Kara had outranked Linda in terms of popularity, so modern Supergirl adaptations (e.g. Smallville and Supergirl (2015)) tend to keep her name as it is.
- Basil Karlo, better known as Clayface, debuted in the 1940s. The name was already pretty dated back then, and likely intentionally, given that he was middle-aged—nowadays, it's almost unheard of.
- One decade after the X-Men started, Jean Grey's name was decaying in popularity.
- Patsy Walker still has the nickname even if it fell out of vogue as a reductive for Patricia. The Netflix show Jessica Jones (2015) has her preferring to be called by the more contemporary "Trish", while "Patsy" was the name of her character in a show.
- In Tangled, this is part of why Flynn Rider adopted his alias, since his real name is Eugene Fitzherbert (with the bonus of his last name implying he's illegitimate). Eugene as a name has gone up and down in popularity but was rare in the time period of the film. In Tangled: The Series he eventually learns his birth name, Horace which is another example that he finds even worse.
- The LEGO Batman Movie pokes fun at Robin's outdated name. When he introduces himself to Batman, he says that his name is Richard but everyone at the orphanage calls him "Dick". This causes Batman to note how Kids Are Cruel, misunderstanding that it's just a nickname for "Richard".
- Along with just about everything else about her, including her clothes and ethnicity, the name of the titular Marnie from When Marnie Was There sticks out quite a bit even with the movie's Ambiguous Time Period. This makes sense as she's a ghost, specifically Anna's grandmother, and her form is her childhood self from the mid-20th century.
- In the Despicable Me series, originating in the 2010's, Gru's daughters have the three very old-fashioned names of Margo, Edith, and Agnes, which sound more like they came from the 1930's.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire the fact that one of the Freys is named Rhaegar (after the crown prince of the fallen Targaryen dynasty, who's been dead for around 20 years by the time of the story) is met with some derision from other characters. The Targaryens were still around when Rhaegar Frey would have been named, but by the time of the story it's become this, including Wyman Manderly calling him "That smirking worm who wears a dragon's name" as he is about as far from the charismatic, attractive Targaryen prince as possible. His father and brother respectively are named after other members of the dynasty, Aenys and Aegon, and this hints at the Freys' wider ambitions.
- Bugs Meany in Encyclopedia Brown is similar to the Bugs Bunny example listed below. He is from about the mid-twentieth century.
- There's an in-universe example in Midnight Tides, book five of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: the slave Feather Witch, named thus due to her talent in casting the tiles. Seren Pedac wonders who named her such because the name is so old, she hasn't heard it in a long time, and even then only in connection to histories. It's no longer in use among the Letherii but seems to have been kept somewhat alive among the Letherii slaves living outside the kingdom's borders.
- Hastings notes that Hercule Poirot and his fake brother Achille's mother must have had very outdated tastes to give her children (who are nothing like the brawny heroes of Greek myth) such names.
- Leslie's name in Bridge to Terabithia was a Tomboyish Name in the 1970s because it was mostly used for boys. This, combined with her androgynous looks, was why Jess couldn't tell her gender at first. By the 2000s, however, it became rare for boys to be named "Leslie". The 2007 film ended up giving Leslie a Girliness Upgrade instead.
- Lampshaded in Twilight, where Bella notes that the Cullens' old-fashioned names are unusual (and, eventually, learns that it's because they're Really 700 Years Old). That said, some of them, like "Edward" and "Alice," really aren't out of place in modern times.
- Ethel Brown, the glamorous older sister of the eleven year old protagonist of the Just William stories by Richmal Crompton. When the earliest stories were written in the late 1910s and early 1920s Ethel was a perfectly fine name for a popular teenage girl. However Crompton kept writing the stories until her death in the late 1960s without advancing the ages of the characters leaving the still teenage Ethel with an ever increasingly old fashioned name.
- Harry Potter:
- J.K. Rowling did this intentionally, with "Ron," "Hermione," "Ginny," "Neville," "Dudley," and other names that few real '90s kids would have, because she didn't want her young readers to be teased at school for having the same names as the characters. Of course, the opposite happened, as her books caused renewed popularity for all those names (except for "Dudley").
- Minor characters in the series often have even more outdated names: Bartemius, Cornelius, Dedalus... This has not led to a revival of any of these names.
- As a result of running on Comic-Book Time for fifty years, some of the child characters' names in Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby books now sound old for their ages, such as "Beatrice", "Henry" (though recently this name has regained popularity), "Howie", "Willa Jean" and "Mary Jane". In the early book Beezus and Ramona, Beezus wishes she had a normal nickname like "Betty" or "Patsy": nowadays "Betty" and "Patsy" are almost as rare for 9-year-old girls as "Beezus".
- Vyvyan from The Young Ones has this in every way. Vyvyan is very much an upper-class name and very old-fashioned. Put simply, it's the kind of name you'd expect a retired colonel in a Genteel Interbellum Setting to have, not a psychotic Quincy Punk in the late '80s. Moreover, Vyvyan is an exclusively male name, but commonly confused with homophones Vivian, which is unisex only in the most technical sense, and Vivianne, which is exclusively female.
- Both Sherlock and Elementary, since they don't change the name of Sherlock Holmes. Then again, it was an uncommon name even when the stories were written, but by now has acquired even more of a "Wacky Victorian Name" feel, probably because of Holmes.
- In the Friends episode "The One Where Chandler Takes a Bath", when Rachel and Ross are unable to decide on a name for their unborn baby, Rachel vetoes "Ruth", asking if Ross thinks she's giving birth to an old lady.
- Mr. Mayor has an inversion Played for Laughs with 40-year-old Jayden Kwapis.
Neil: Aren't you a little old for the name "Jayden"?Jayden: I'm the oldest Jayden you'll ever meet. I think I'm the original Jayden. I was named after my father, Jamie, and his best friend, Dennis.
- Sesame Street: The series started in 1969 and is still ongoing with characters named Grover, Bert, Ernie, and Elmo. Grover was actually named after Grover Cleveland. 'Elmo' is a relatively rare Italian name, and while it used to have some prominence (Elmo & Patsy, St. Elmo's fire), you won't find anyone named that anymore, for it's become synonymous with a little red monster.
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt had Titus really bothered that his date had a baby named Linda, which he automatically ties to a middle-aged woman working in Human Relations - to the point he goes to a company, asks for "Linda in HR" and turns out there are four of them.
- In Old Harry's Game, Satan is very amused to meet someone called Edith, claiming it's a name that died out years ago, "probably from embarrassment."
- In Undone, the narrator/protagonist Edna Turner lampshades how unusual it is for a 20-something woman in The 2000s to be named Edna and jokingly claims to be "the youngest Edna ever!".
- Arthur has old-fashioned names such as Arthur, Buster, Francine, Muffy, Dora Winifred, Shelley, Fern, and Sue Ellen.
- Twink is renamed in most updates of Rainbow Brite likely due to his name bringing to mind different things than it did in the early 1980s. It's slang for a young, androgynous gay man, but this wasn't mainstream knowledge at the time of release.
- Looney Tunes:
- Bugs Bunny. "Bugs" or "Bugsy" was a reasonably common nickname in the '30s for someone known to be a little crazy, especially if their given name started with B. The slang and nickname (not the literal word usage referring to insects note ), however, fell out of usage and now the cartoon rabbit is just about the only well-known Bugs in popular culture.
- Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production, now known as New Looney Tunes has Leslie P. Lilylegs, who is a male (not female) antagonist of Bugs Bunny. Leslie was originally a male name, but its modern usage is a female name.
- One episode of Care Bears (1980s) had a girl named Gay. Yes, really. Gay is now an adjective universally used to describe a homosexual person, not a proper noun.
- Classic Disney Shorts: To an extent, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse themselves; though they're just short for Michael and Wilhelmina respectively, the former of which is not outdated, few people actually go by Mickey or Minnie any more, in part because the name has become so associated with the Disney characters.
- Gravity Falls:
Mabel: I'll take that as a compliment!
- Mabel's name was popular during the late 19th century and early-to-mid 20th century, but is now largely considered to be old-fashioned. Lampshaded when Pacifica comments that her name "sounds like a fat old lady's name".
- Alex Hirsch meant Dipper's real name, Mason, to be similarly outdated. Amusingly, the show started and is canonically set in 2012, when that was the second most popular boy's name in the United States. Dipper would have been born in 1999, when it was a respectable #71. In contrast, Mabel was out of the Top 1000 until the show itself gave it a bump.
- The kids on Hey Arnold! tend to have rather old-fashioned names like Arnold, Helga, Gerald, Harold, Eugene, Rhonda, Nadine, Sid, Olga, etc. This adds to the Retro Universe aesthetic of the show.
- The Powerpuff Girls:
- The girls live in a Retro Universe patterned after the mid-20th century despite taking place in the 2000s. When the Professor imagines that his girls are normal kids instead of superpowered ones, it's shown that he gave them old-fashioned names to fit with the aesthetic of the show: Bertha, Beatrice, and Betty.
- Professor Utonium's Jerkass college roommate is called "Dick".
- Beast Boy from Teen Titans finds his given name, "Garfield", to be an Embarrassing First Name. This is most likely due to its association with Garfield. Beast Boy, however, predates the cat by several years.
- The main kid cast of Recess has "Gretchen," "Theodore Jasper" (T.J.'s full name) and "Gustav" (Gus's full name). The supporting cast includes "Randall," "Menlo," "Jerome," Lawson's first name "Erwin," and Mundy's first name "Conrad." The show has a pattern of using these names either for nerds, for obnoxious Yes-Men to the school's authority figures, or as rarely-mentioned Embarrassing First Names.
- To go along with the Two Decades Behind aesthetic, The Simpsons characters originally had slightly outdated names like Marjorie (Marge) and Bartholomew (Bart). With the series entering its fifth decade as of this writing, it might be hard for modern-day viewers to grasp that their names were outdated even at the time, and (with the exception of Bart) were based off Matt Groening's real life family.
- Thomas & Friends: Owing to the original books being published in the mid-1940s, names like Edward and Gordon are old-fashioned and less common nowadays unless if you're a sparkly vampire or an angry chef.
- Zig-zagged thoroughly in real life - popular names go through often erratic cycles, and one generation's hip names become the next's outdated names, who usually either come up with their own names or revive others from older generations. The name "Amy", for instance, was very popular in the mid-19th century (like Amy March) before slipping in the early 20th century. Then, around The '50s, the now uncommon name quickly caught on again, becoming a top-ten name in The '70s. Then, as those Amys started having their own kids around The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium, the name fell again, which it continues to do to this day. This article delves further into the phenomenon.
- There's also a lot of it that's dependent on country - for instance, in the US, some Victorian style names like Alfie and Florence are thought of as thoroughly outdated, while they're very popular for babies in the UK.
- Most of the causes of Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names is a result of this trope being in force. Because of the huge multicultural nature of the United States, its not uncommon for immigrant parents to name their born in the USA children after traditional names from the home country, or traditional American names (or what they think are Traditional American Names), then the child giving their kids more "normal names" and then the kids giving their children "traditional cultural names". Not to mention the country's propensity for "Pop Cultural Naming" as a trend in names may come from a name used in a popular work of fiction or famous actor. Popular boys' names are also generally less prone to changes than popular girls' names. In some cases, given the person's age and their name, you can guess what their parents enjoyed. Kids named "Shane" (a variant of Sean) are often the children of fans of Cowboy films, "Clark" might be related to comic fans, and "Megan" saw a spike after the name was used in Mr. Mom.
- "Karen", popular during the 1950s and 1960s, became shorthand for busybody middle-aged women "demanding to speak to the manager" following a series of incidents caught on phone camera during the late 2010s. "Chad" has become associated with the Jerk Jock stereotype, while "Becky" is slang for an Alpha Bitch.
- "Tiffany" is something of a subversion. It derives from the Ancient Greek name "Theophania" (literally "manifestation of God" or "apparition of God"; its the feminine form of "Theophanes", the name of two early medieval Greek saints), was quite common in medieval times, but it fell out of use in the West in the Early Modern period (the Greeks and Eastern Europeans kept on using the original form "Theophania"). It didnt really revive in the English-speaking world until the 20th century (probably by its has association with the luxury crafts of Tiffany & Co.), and thus got a reputation as being much more modern than it actually is. This makes it impossible for writers to use it in fantasy and medieval stories without breaking Willing Suspension of Disbelief, even though it's accurate. This is referred to as "the Tiffany Problem."
- Terry Pratchett, possibly assisted by his colloborator on British Isles Folklore, Dr Jacqueline Simpson, takes the name in a different direction. When a young Witch called Tiffany Aching is introduced to the Discworld, her name is interpreted according to the Scots/Irish Gaelic meaning of Tir-far-thóinn - which is pronounced "Tiffany" and means "Land Under Wave" in an ancient Discworld language.
- CGP Grey did a whole video on this very subject.