This trope describes characters whose names are almost never spelled consistently, usually because of transliteration issues. This tends to happen in Anime and Japanese video games that haven't been officially translated into English, although it also crops up in other languages that don't use the Latin alphabet. Situations include anything from drama between vowel additions to unique-cipher dropping, due to phoneme sets and writing systems. English, for example, is famous for many ways and rules of spelling (e.g., Americans generally dropping extra vowels such as in the word color, as compared with its British spelling colour), despite having far fewer actual sounds they represent. Japanese has separate vowel-heavy syllabic and ideographic writing systems; since the latter overlaps with Chinese, sometimes there is a question of whether a name should be transliterated from the Japanese or the Chinese reading. Spanish has several familiar looking letter combinations intended to be pronounced in specific ways. Complicating the issue is that some names simply become popular enough in other languages that they're modified to fit them better, and you can't be sure if it's actually intended to be meaningful. Another complication is when the name is only ever shown in modified form, meaning we simply have to guess.
Assuming an official release settles the issue, some fans deliberately use one of the alternate spellings to establish their "credibility" as fans. In true fan fashion, this often persists even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, such as Theme Naming, Meaningful Names, Prophetic Names, and direct proclamations by the work's creator. Eventually, this stops being cool and just starts making people angry, and the self-righteous morons have brought up a Fandom-Enraging Misconception.
In some cases, official translated versions will adopt bizarre transliterations for the sake of Writing Around Trademarks and/or establishing new ones because, when a Cash Cow Franchise gets imported, it's more useful to have character names that can be trademarked for the sake of selling licensed merchandise.
This trope is omnipresent with Greek. The convention in English is not to transliterate, but instead to Latinize, Greek nouns and names. Hence nigh unpronounceable Latinizations like "Cynoscephalae" instead of "Kynoskefali" for Greek Κυνὸςκεφαλαη, "dog's head".
This can also occur in translations of ancient texts written in outdated forms of modern scripts. For example, early Latin had no "J", but, as English has no consonantal "I", "J" is often used to signify such (notwithstanding that Y is actually the closest equivalent to a consonantal I in English). To a lesser extent, this can occur when transliterating words that contain a thorn (þ), which is already well represented by "TH". In point of fact, it can even be seen in many English texts from before standardized spelling (yes, there was such a time), won ecksampel beeing þis frais. And anoþre beeing þis sentans. Þis won heer is a partickularlie gud ecksampel.
The trope's name comes from an Isaac Asimov short story, "Spell My Name With An S", in which a pair of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens use The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday to stop The End of the World as We Know It—by persuading an obscure scientist to change one letter of his name from Z to S, and watching Hilarity Ensue (until they realize that The Watcher will know that there was supposed to be an Earth-Shattering Kaboom, and so are forced to come up with an equally subtle Reset Button). Asimov was inspired to write the story after having his name misspelled Azimov, or even Asenion once one time too many. Incidentally, Isaac Asimov's original name in the Cyrillic alphabet was "Исаак Озимов" (Isaak Ozimov, with the initial "I" pronounced like "ee") and pronounced quite differently from how the American public and he himself pronounced it during his lifetime. Now in Russia, translations of his works use the spelling of "Айзек Азимов" Aizek Azimov) to better convey the American English phonetics, out of respect for the author.
While it may apply to some folders this trope shows up on, this page MAY NOT include minor differences in romanization systems, such as the various methods of indicating long vowels in Japanese, or the use of the apostrophe to indicate syllabic nasals. VERY FEW EXAMPLES WILL BE MENTIONED AS THERE ARE TOO MANY TO LIST.
Contrast My Nayme Is, which is the intentional misspelling of one's name.
The opposite of No Pronunciation Guide, which is when the spelling/writing of the name is unequivocal but people can't agree on how it's supposed to sound. The tlopes can ovelrap, howevel, if a celtain sound does not exist in a a palticural ranguage.
May lead to a Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?.
Related to Adaptation Dye-Job (and/or other Adaptation Tropes, as the case may be). Compare with Rouge Angles of Satin, when a word or name is spelled incorrectly in a way that it is confused with another existent word.
Examples with their own subpages
- Anime & Manga
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Myth and Religion
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- In The Dolls of New Albion, Annabel McAllistair's surname is spelt multiple different ways within the lyrics of the album, and there's not much fan consensus on which spelling is the definite one. Furthermore, even her first name changes significantly, being spelt alternately Annabel and Annabelle at the beginning (though Annabel seems to be more definitive, as that's the spelling used in the song titles) and later in the album changing to Annabella.
Narrator: And Annabelle Mc Alistair who's raising up the dead
Narrator: So Annabella destroys her doll, her beloved toy boy
- In Over the Hedge, the name of Verne's nephew constantly alternated between Plushie and Plushy.
- In Garfield, Pooky the teddy bear's name was misspelled "Pookie" at least once.
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron: The various weird spellings of Klivian, lampshaded by the man himself.
- Spider-Man features some:
- Writer J.M. DeMatteis, who wrote Kraven's Last Hunt and introduced Alyosha (Kraven's second son and the second Kraven), writes Kraven's surname as "Kravinov" rather than "Kravinoff".
- Overlapping with Adaptation Name Change, when Brian Bendis brought Jean DeWolff and Curt Connors (The Lizard) into Ultimate Spider-Man, he spelt their names "Jeanne DeWolfe" and "Curt Conners".
- The original Bat-Girl, currently known as Flamebird, was originally Elizabeth "Betty" Kane. Starting post-Crisis her name has been written as "Bette" instead.
- The third (or second, it really depends who you ask) Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, was given the name Black Bat after she gave up the Batgirl name. Some writers, however, spelled it Blackbat instead.
- Some writers change how you spell the name of Dinah Drake, the original Black Canary, because she shares her name with her daughter (Dinah Lance). At least one writer has tried to rename her "Diana Drake".
- In one panel of Jem and the Holograms Eric's name is written as "Erik" on his coffee cup. This is possibly an in-series version of this.
- In one issue of Werewolf by Night, Buck Cowan's last name is misspelled as Cohen. The spelling of Jack's father's first name also alternates between Philip and Phillip.
- The name of Diabolik's character Elisabeth Gay has been misspelled as Elizabeth, Elisabet, and even Elisabetta (the Italian equivalent).
- Amazing-Man, the character, was usually spelled with a hyphen, but not always. The series he starred in was apparently formally titled Amazing Man Comics, although the cover title did use the hyphen until it was redone two years in (and shortly after that, Centaur went out of business).
- Motu Patlu has this sometimes. It's either Motu or Moto, and it's either Dr. Jhatka or Dr. Ghatka.
- Wonder Woman:
- Is Diana's mother's name spelled Hippolyta or Hippolyte? Both have been used in canon, but the first is more common.
- In the Golden Age the Heyday gals were triplets and their names were spelt Tillie, Millie and Lillie. The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016) reduces the Holliday Girls siblings to twins, and spells their names as Tilly and Milly.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage), Michaelangelo. Spelled that way because Eastman and Laird didn't look up how to spell "Michelangelo."
- Magneto. People are often confused as to the spelling of his preferred civilian name. Erik is sometimes written as Eric, and Lehnsherr is written as Lensherr as often as not.
- In Pre-Crisis Superman comics, the name of Supergirl's mother was Allura In-Ze. In later continuities, though, most of writers spell it Alura.
- When the Sabrina the Teenage Witch comic came out it was "Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch". Over time the spelling of "teenage" changed and with it the series' title.
- Fievel in An American Tail, who is listed as "Feivel" in the beginning credits of the first movie, which is the actual Yiddish spelling. The spelling was changed to "Fievel" to avoid confusing American audiences who might otherwise pronounce it as "Fay-vel", but in other countries where the movie was released the "Feivel" spelling was left intact. Ironic because that's actually how it's pronounced in Yiddish too.
- Frozen: Supplementary material isn't consistent on how to spell the names of Elsa and Anna's parents. "Agnarr" or "Agdar"? "Idun", "Idunn", or "Iduna"? By Frozen II, they settled on "Agnarr" and "Iduna".
- One of the first examples may be the Sorcerer from Fantasia, all due to his name having been only a code-name between animators for decades, and popping up for the first time to the public in a Japanese video game. Is his real name Yen Sid, or Yensid?
- In Despicable Me, when Gru's profile is shown on Miss Hattie's computer, his first name is spelled as "Felonious," and in the Gru Family Tree, it's spelled as "Felonius."
- Godzilla: In almost all English versions except Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), the monster Radon (from "pteranodon") is called Rodan. Speculation as to why it was changed includes confusion with the element radon and a conflict with the name of a British brand of soap; nobody's exactly sure why.
- In Animal Crackers, Captain Spaulding has the first name of "Jeffrey" in the film credits and in the script of the play, but "Geoffrey" in a newspaper headline also displayed at the start of the film. (Spaulding's name originally lacked the U, but was changed to avoid coincidental resemblance to persons living or dead.)
- Depending on the source, the heroine of King Kong spells her name as either Ann or Anne.
- Same goes for the heroine of Legend (1985)—her name is either spelled Lili or Lily, and not even the film's own fandom is sure which is correct.
- The tablet owner from Night at the Museum's name is popularly spelled Ahkmenrah, but other spellings exists as well. In the Nintendo DS Licensed Game of the movie's sequel, they added the spelling "Akmenrah" and "Akhmenrah", which was mentioned during the beginning, when Jedediah called Larry on the phone.
- The Hangover: Is it rufilin or roofalin?
- Qo'noS is titled "Kronos" in Star Trek Into Darkness. The script for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had used the "Kronos" spelling, and background references mention that it is the anglicanized version of the Klingon word.
- The Japanese band Bow Wow later switched the Latin spelling of their name to Vow Wow. This might have been to avoid confusion with another band named Bow Wow Wow.
- Most of her CDs Romanize her name "Shéna Ringö", but she's gone through plenty of other Romanizations, so almost nobody humors her and instead goes for the literal Romanization, Shiina Ringo.
- Florence and the Machine, or Florence + the Machine, or even Florence + the machine? Nobody can decide.
- Woven Hand or Wovenhand? He's released albums as both.
- Country Music singer Janie Fricke couldn't seem to make up her mind as to whether her last name was spelled "Fricke" or "Frickie". Her albums used both spellings.
- K. T. Oslin's 1990 single "Mary and Willie" is sometimes missing its final E. The album spells it "Willi", but Joel Whitburn's Hot Country Songs book spells it "Willie".
- Invoked by Country Music singer Neal McCoy. His real last name is McGaughey, which he changed to the phonetic spelling of McGoy early in his career. He ultimately changed to the more common McCoy due to people constantly getting "McGoy" wrong.
- beatMARIO's Touhou arrange track ナイト・オブ・ナイツ can be read as "Night of Nights", "Knight of Nights," "Night of Knights", or "Knight of Knights". The artist has stated that all four readings are correct. Thus, things get awkward when the title has to officially appear in Roman script; the English-language versions of maimai and Groove Coaster in particular write out "Night of Knights / Knight of Nights" as if the developers narrowed it down to two choices but couldn't decide further.
- The name of Lovers & Liars is spelled both "Lovers And Liars" and "Lovers & Liars".
- The latter is more commonly used by Spanish sources themselves, yet English sources seem to be divided on whether it should be written technico or técnico...
- Shawn Michaels's group of friends either goes by The Kliq or The Clique.
- Most lucha libre enterprises tend to spell their names Faby and Mary likely because the latter is a very common name and it goes with their mother Lady Apache, yet it is very common to see the Apache sisters spelled Fabi and Mari instead online and in publications, likely because their full names are Fabiola and Mariela.
- While most official sources seemed to agree the wrestler's name is El Texano Jr, it is not uncommon to find the name written as Tejano Jr with a j instead, a j making a completely different sound than the one that then follows. This is confusing because Texano and Tejano were two completely different wrestlers, thus the son's lineage would suggest x.
- Candice Michelle was infamous for accepting both Candace and Candice without preference, though the latter is most often accepted as the proper spelling.
- CMLL has always used Ephesto for the former Hombre Sin Nombre but Hefesto is sometimes used by others having the Greek god in mind.
- The Merchant of Venice contains a character called, depending on the editor, "Launcelot" or "Lancelot". This doesn't seem so bad... except that the folios call him "Launcelet" or "Lancelet", and spell his last name, Gobbo, alternately as "Jobbe" or "Job".
- Cats: Rumpleteazer. Spelled Rumpelteazer in the original poems and on the official website, but credited as Rumpleteazer in the 1998 movie version. The -le spelling is now more common. The z is also occasionally replaced with an s.
- Higurashi: When They Cry: "Onikakushi" (Demoned Away) is the first arc. "Onigafuchi" (Demon's Abyss) is what Hinamizawa used to be known as. As well as confusion between the two, the latter is sometimes spelled with a double C; this is wrong as it would imply a doubled consonant in pronunciation that's not there.
- The Sunrider games and their official website seem to be in disagreement over how certain characters names should be spelt. Is Solas full name Sola di Ryuvia, or Sola vi Ryuvia? Is it Claude Trilleo, or Claude Triello? The games consistently use the former spellings, while the website and promotional materials use the latter.
- Saber from Fate/stay night is identified in Character Material IV as "Altria," but the most commonly-used spelling according to Google is "Arturia," followed by "Artoria." Both have their logical points: Saber is, in fact, King Arthur. "Arturia" could be a plausible feminization of Arturus, while "Artoria" IS the feminine of Artorius, a Roman family name some historians have connected to the Arthur legend. Some fans argue that "Altria" is canon, while others say that it should be given no more credence than El-Melloi II being styled "Load" instead of "Lord."
- Other Type-Moon examples: Is Ilyasviel's Servant Herakles, Heracles or Hercules? Is Ilyasviel herself spelled with one or two L's in the first syllable?
- Fate/Grand Order threw the fandom a curveball by apparently romanizing Mashu's name as "Matthew." For the moment it seems she's been canonized as just "Mash."
- Homestar Runner: Doreauxgard. The only source for the spelling of his name is an XML file.
- Some senders of Strong Bad Emails misspell Strong Bad's name as Strongbad, which he often mocks and corrects.
Strong Bad: (reading "Hey Strongbad" in an email) Hey two words. Two different words. That are not one word. That are "Strong" and "Bad".
- Peasant's Quest also does this - if you type "make friends with Kerrek", the game responds "Look, it didn't work for Strongbad and it's not gonna work for you either."
- Some senders of Strong Bad Emails misspell Strong Bad's name as Strongbad, which he often mocks and corrects.
- Albi and Azul. Is it spelled "Abbi" or "Albi"? The video titles spell it "Abbi", but the series intro spells it "Albi".
- RWBY: Neo's full name is spelled "Neo Politan" in RWBY: Amity Arenanote and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, but "Neopolitan" in the show's subtitles and all other media. The single-word spelling came from the series' creator Monty Oum and is considered canonical.
- The subs for Vaguely Recalling JoJo series spell Avdol as Abdul. According to the rules of Arabic, both spellings are correct.
- On the "Sunnie the Pikachu" blog, Sunflower's nickname is either spelled "Sunnie" or "Sunni", though the former is the most consistent spelling.
- Is Brittani's name spelled "Brittanie", "Brittani", "Britni", or "Britani"? So far the most constant spelling seems to be "Brittani".
- From Killerbunnies (the wiki), Oleander's nickname on her official image is spelled "Imogen", whereas here and her profile it's spelled "Imogene". Then again, it is possible it couldn't be spelled that way because of the character limit in the name boxes on DeviantArt.