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Rapid-Fire Name Guessing

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When suddenly a guy behind me in the back seat popped right up and cupped his hands across my eyes
I guessed, "Is it Uncle Frank or Cousin Louie? Is it Bob or Joe or Walter? Could it be Bill or Jim or Ed or Bernie or Steve?"
I probably would have kept on guessing but about that time we crashed into the truck.
— "Everything You Know Is Wrong", "Weird Al" Yankovic

When there are multiple characters in a certain group (usually members of a family) and one of them must be summoned, it is a fairly common occurrence that whoever is calling them will get distracted and start calling out the wrong names. Or, they might just forget who's called what. First the mother will try Tom, then Dick, and so on and so forth... until finally realizing that the son she wants is the one named Harry.

In extreme cases, they may try names which belong to the other sex. Or to distant relatives. Or family pets.

This is most definitely Truth in Television.

See also Accidental Misnaming.


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  • In Fairy Tail, when Cana tells Gildarts that she is his daughter, he gets completely shocked, and he falls to the ground, rambling off a list of women he's been with who could potentially be her mother. However, when he comes back to his senses, he can instantly tell who Cana's mother actually is, meaning that he just didn't think clearly out of surprise.

     Fan Works 

     Film — Animated 
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Prince Eric tries to guess Ariel's name, with mixed results ("Mildred?" "Rachel?"). Sebastian the crab has to prompt him.

     Film — Live-Action 
  • Played with in The Movie of The Importance of Being Earnest: Jack calls out for Algy, but Algy is currently pretending to be Ernest. Jack is very miffed that he must call out "Ernest" in order to get a response.
  • Played with in Being John Malkovich. John Cusack's nerdy puppeteer Craig tries to pick up an attractive woman by guessing her name within three guesses. He then proceeds to mouth the first few sounds in many female names, using the woman's reaction to home in on the right name. He "guesses" tons of names (via eliminating anything that doesn't have the right sounds) before managing to stammer out "Mar....Mah....x....Maxine?!" She reacts by being surprised and dubious, but agrees to meet him in a bar.
  • In Ted, John guesses the "white trash name" of the cashier Ted met.
    John: Brandy, Heather, Channing, Brianna, Amber, Serena, Melody, Dakota, Sierra, Bambi, Crystal, Samantha, Autumn, Ruby, Taylor, Tara, Tammy, Lauren, Charlene, Chantelle, Courtney, Misty, Jenny, Krista, Mindy, Noel, Shelby, Trina, Reba, Cassandra, Nikki, Kelsey, Shawna, Jolene, Urleen, Claudia, Savannah, Casey, Dolly, Kendra, Kylie, Chloe, Devon, Emmalou, fuckin' Becky?
    Ted: No.
    John: Wait, was it any one of those names with a "Lynn" after it?
    Ted: Yes!
    John: Oh, I got you, motherfucker! I got you! Alright, Brandi-Lynn, Heather-Lynn, Channi�
    Ted: Tammi-Lynn!
    John: FUCK!!!

  • In Blood of the Zombies, you earn the trust of the intern, Amy Fletcher, by revealing you knew her name. Problem is, you're attempting to converse with her while she's pointing a gun on your face. The book gives you a chance to guess her name (your only clue being that it starts with an "A"), so you can try calling her "Amelia? Amanda?" until you get it right.

  • Zinny's parents in Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech have this problem — there are seven children in the family. Some of the children propose color-coding their clothing to avoid this.

     Live Action Television  
  • Friends:
    • Joey is confused whether he's about to go out with Angela or Andrea. Chandler gives the identifier for each, and Joey remembers that he's going out with Julie.
    • Rachel's sister seems unable to remember Emma's name (thinking that Phoebe's name is Emma), and uses every rhyming variation.
  • In Black Books, a drunk Bernard tries to guess Manny's name.
    • "Well, Gerald... Samantha..."
  • In the Father Ted Christmas special, Ted gets Mrs Doyle to try and guess the name of their new house guest. She spends several hours guessing before hitting on the right name. The reason? Ted doesn't know who the mysterious but over-friendly guest is, and is too embarrassed to admit it.
  • In Monty Python's Flying Circus, "An Appeal on Behalf of the National Truss" has a Cloudcuckoolander presenter who immediately derails whatever subject she was supposed to introduce by repeatedly getting her own name wrong. Not only do her confused guesses include a wide range of celebrity names, but some of them clearly aren't names at all.

  • Spike Jones' rendition of "My Old Flame":
    My old flame
    I, I can't even think of her name!

    Wh-wh-wh-WHAT WAS HER NAME?
    Doris, Laura, Chloe, Manny, Moe, Jack?
    No, it couldn't have been Moe...
  • In the verse of an extended duet version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" recorded for a 1952 Christmas broadcast of The Bing Crosby Show for General Electric, Ella Fitzgerald makes several unsuccessful guesses at the name of "the most famous reindeer of all":
    "Is it Herman? Is it Sherman? Is it Hart, is it Schaffner, is it Marx perhaps?"

     Stand Up Comedy  
  • Bill Cosby, in Bill Cosby: Himself: "Sometimes your parents get so mad at you they forget your name. 'Come here, Ralph — Roquefort — Rutabaga — what is your name, boy?! And don't you lie to me, because you live here and I'll find out who you are!"
  • Peter Kay mentions this trope in his routine, and in particular about how alarming it was when his mum started going through the names of female relations before reaching his.

  • In the video game version of Spider-Man: The Movie, when Spidey first confronts Shocker, he attempts to guess the villain's name, throwing out "Quilt-man," "Padded Pete," "Mr. Triple Ply" and "The Cushion."

  • Freddy Fox: In "What Was Her Name Again?" Bea the Australian flying fox recalls seeing a "priddy powerful pomeranian" at the last Psycon, who she thinks might have some golden unicorn roots. She attempts to think about what the latter's name is, but fails and ultimately gives up on doing so.
    Bea: Hmmm, oi met a priddy powerful pomeranian at the last Psycon. Maybe oi could ask her if she 'as any... Hmmm, what wazzer name again? Harot? No... Sharot? Nah... Carrot? Ah, stuff it... Oi suck at names...

     Western Animation  
  • There's a bizarre version in Family Guy, where he seems to have actually forgotten Meg's name. He keeps running through the entire family's names until Brian tells him "It's your son." "Meg!"
    • Another variation:
    Brian: Peter, the final plague is the death of the firstborn son!
    Peter: Oh no, Stewie!
    Brian: Your firstborn son.
    Peter: Meg!
    Brian: (deadpan) Your wife.
    Peter: Chris!
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Pinkie Pie does this shortly after Nightmare Moon appears.
    Nightmare Moon: Why, am I not royal enough for you? Don't you know who I am?
    Pinkie Pie: Ooh! Ooh! More guessing games! Um . . . Hokey Smokes! How about Queen Meanie? No! Black Snooty! Black Snooty!
    • Pinkie also does this in "A Friend in Deed", trying to guess what Cranky Doodle Donkey's first initial stands for.

     Real Life  
  • One of Erma Bombeck's articles (published in If Life is a Bowl of Cherries -- What Am I Doing in the Pits?) centers on the embarrassment of forgetting your children's names, which also plagued her mother. Ironically, her mother named her Erma because it was short and easy to remember — and still couldn't remember it. This is even more embarrassing/hilarious when you remember that Erma Bombeck was named after her mother.
  • "Psychics" like John Edward do something very similar to this, asking the audience leading questions (usually in the form of an "I'm feeling a..." statement) until someone hears something familiar-sounding and speaks up. This is known as Cold Reading, and predicated on the idea that in any decently large group, someone is going to have (for example) a female relative named something that sounds kind of like Mary, or maybe Megan or Molly or some other M name...

Alternative Title(s): Name Guessing Roll Call, Tom Dick My Name Is Harry