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Squat's In A Name

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"A ɴᴀᴍᴇ ɪꜱ ᴀ ᴄʟᴏᴀᴋ ᴏꜰ ʟᴇᴛᴛᴇʀꜱ ᴛʜʀᴏᴡɴ ᴜᴘᴏɴ ᴀ ᴍᴀɴ. Iᴛ ᴍᴇᴀɴꜱ ɴᴏᴛʜɪɴɢ."
The Transcendent One, Planescape: Torment

Someone or something is given a fancy name taken from mythology, religious lore or history, laden with implications for the educated audience — but never turns out to actually have a Meaningful Name. Maybe the writer just needed an Awesome McCoolname for their plucky protagonist or a name to run away from really fast for their Big Bad and didn't bother about any specific connotations, or they hoped their MacGuffin would seem more important with a sufficiently cabbalistic name — in any case, it turns out that no one's Jesus in Purgatory.

A subtrope of Faux Symbolism (applied to names). Can overlap with Religious and Mythological Theme Naming. Contrast Nonindicative Name, Ironic Name (both of which are inaccurate about what the person/thing is like, not just meaningless.)

Be warned that the below examples may contain spoilers in the form of The Unreveal!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Earth Maiden Arjuna has an archer heroine named after the Hindu hero of the Baghavad Gita, but the series is a Taoist tract and the heroine's journey is completely different to that of her mythical namesake.
  • Everything biblical in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Word of God states that it was used because there are almost no Christians in Japan, so the imagery would seem exotic and foreign, like how westerners view ninjas, samurai, etc., etc.
  • Lampshaded in Accel World, where many powerful Enemies are based on religious or mythological figures. After the protagonists defeat Inti (an Incan sun god), only for it to be replaced by Tezcatlipoca, a Super-Class Enemy Deity of Demise from Aztec mythology, the following exchange occurs.
    Aster Vine: Enough of your lies, Cosmos! Inti is a god from Incan mythology! It doesn't make sense that an Aztec god would come out!
    White Cosmos: Hee-hee, I suppose not. But, you see, Aster, hun. There's no real meaning to the names used in this world. The majority of proper names are things the system just scooped up and embedded somewhere. Even my name and yours, hmmm?

    Comic Books 
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo. Some continuities say that pre-mutated Splinter was an ordinary pet rat owned by an art lover, which is where he got the names when he and the four young turtles were exposed to the mutagenic goop.
  • The X-Men went through a phase in the Dark Age when a lot of new characters had Biblical or religious names, sometimes appropriately (Apocalypse, Nimrod), vaguely appropriately (Babel spires), or for no particular reason at all (Bishop, Gideon). Ahab would count, except that he's an obvious reference to Moby-Dick.
  • The trope is parodied in Preacher when someone pointed out that Jesse Custer's name has "J.C." for initials and Jesse says it's a ridiculous idea. He insists on it even after he heals the sick, or rather, uses the Word of God to order a mentally-tortured man to forget about his ordeal (which Jesse was responsible for in the first place).
  • Spider-Man clone Kaine seems to have been given this name simply to allow him to have a power called "the Mark of Kaine" (burning the his hand print on to his victim's faces) rather than for any Biblical connotations.

  • Tam Lin in House of the Scorpion. Why is he named "Tam Lin"? Well, because he's Scottish... and because the author named him that.
  • In the first Redwall book, the abbey is under attack by a large rat named Cluny. There is a Cluny Abbey in France, although the author said he was unaware of the fact at the time.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Moon, the four harvesters are named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — the names of the four gospels. Screenwriter Nathan Parker insists that these were simply the first set of four names that came to mind, and that he could have just as easily named them John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

    Live-Action TV 
  • "Scylla" from Prison Break has neither a "Charybdis" counterpart nor does it share any other characteristics with the sea monster of the same name (aside from having six "heads").

    Tabletop Games 
  • Yoshitaka Amano once bragged in an interview that the common Japanese pop cultural portrayal of Bahamut as being the King of the Dragons was invented by him, because he thought dragons were cool. Amano was referring to the Final Fantasy series — but he was in fact wrong, as Final Fantasy stole the concept from Dungeons & Dragons, where Bahamut was known as the Platinum Dragon. The mythological Bahamut is actually a fish/whale hybrid supporting a bull, which supports the world. Similarly, D&D also has a dragon named Tiamat, who is Bahamut's opposite number. The mythological Tiamat hails from Mesopatamian mythology, and is a literal-ocean monster.

    Video Games 
  • Many of the characters in Sacrifice have names from mythology, but none of them seem to have any meaningful connection with the relevant myth.
  • All the bosses in the House of the Dead series are named after the Major Arcana of the standard Tarot deck. Sometimes, the names very vaguely describe the enemy (e.g. the multi-headed hydra dubbed "Tower" is pretty tall and the batlike "Hanged Man" is suspended in the air), but they're mostly just there to be cool.
  • In any given Fire Emblem game, there's often a few people with names taken from Mythology (e.g. Cain and Abel, Minerva, Percieval, etc.), who seem to have been named at random without much consideration.
  • Metal Gear Ac!d 2 names the Test Subjects (Golab, Harab Serap, Chagadiel) after four of the ten Kabbalist Qliphoth for no good reason.
  • Tales of Symphonia has a lot of mythological names for things, particularly places given names from Norse mythology, most of which have little or no connection to the things they're named for. There are a couple of exceptions, though.
    • This is because Tales of Symphonia is a distant prequel to Tales of Phantasia, which was far more directly inspired by Norse mythology.
    • Tales of the Abyss carries it to a whole new extreme. Nearly all the towns' names, the "Qlipoth" underworld, and even the title — all drawn directly from the Qabalah in ways that make it clear there was absolutely no understanding of the original material.
  • Cave Story has minor NPCs named Cthulhu and Santa. The latter is an ordinary Mimiga who looks almost entirely unlike Santa Claus. Funnily enough though, when Cave Story+ added Holiday Modes, Santa is dressed like Santa Claus on Christmas and the Cthulhu actually look like their namesake on Halloween.
  • A lot of the monsters in the Final Fantasy series are given names of creatures and heroes from various different myths, but many seem like an excuse to give mooks an awesome name.
    • Gilgamesh, in Sumerian mythology, was a great hero and king. The recurring Gilgamesh in Final Fantasy is a silly Minion with an F in Evil with a kabuki/classical Japanese aesthetic.
    • Shiva. In Hindu mythology, a male god of destruction. In FF, a sexy female 'ice queen'. Some theorise that this was punning off 'shiver'.
    • The writers of Final Fantasy VI actually got asked a lot by nerds why they used the name Orthros, a Greek dog monster, for a purple octopus character. It was eventually revealed to have been inspired by a purple octopus toy called Orthros that Hironobu Sakaguchi had as a child. (The English localisation changed his name to Ultros, avoiding the embarrassment.)
  • The four enemy Mega Men in Mega Man ZX Advent. They all have names taken from mythology; and while some of them do match up in terms of powers (Aeolus is the Wind Mega Man with electrical powers and the god of winds of Greek mythology; Thetis is the Ice Mega Man with ties to water and a Greek sea goddess), three of the four are opposite genders. For example, the male Shadow Mega Man Siarnaq is named after a Inuit goddess of ice. There is a bit more to the Theme Naming, however, in that three out of four— along with another pair of characters, Prometheus and Pandora— share their names with moons orbiting Saturn (Aeolus is the only exception, though he was known as Helios in the original Japanese version, which is a moon).
    • Nor was this the first time it happened - predecessor series Mega Man Zero had its Four Guardians named after mythological beasts - Harpuia from harpies (despite being male), Leviathan from the biblical monster of the same name, Fefnir from the norse dragon/dwarf Fafnir and Phantom from... phantoms. They have virtually nothing in common with their namesakes aside from elemental associations and the fact that Harpuia flies and Leviathan swims, though Phantom's name becomes very appropriate after he is Killed Off for Real and becomes a ghost inhabiting cyberspace.
  • A lot of characters in the Boktai series are named after figures from Norse mythology, yet have absolutely nothing to do with said mythology and are in a Gunslingers... IN SPACE type setting that features vampires. Makes sense. The closest one to its namesake is Boktai 2's final boss Jormungand, who is a nightmarish Beast of the Apocalypse in the shape of an eldritch-looking serpent. There are a few exceptions to the Theme Naming but they generally end up fitting this trope as well (compare Django and Sabata to their Spaghetti Western namesakes, for instance, or the banshee Carmilla to the literary Carmilla.)
  • Dawn of War: The Blood Ravens don't have as well-defined a theme as other Space Marine chapters (who are space Vikings/Mongols/Romans/Renaissance Italians...), so their names can go from Greek myth (Endymion, Apollo Diomedes) to referencing the North (Davian Thule, Indrick Boreale), Abrahamic religion (Gabriel Angelos, Thaddeus), both (Jonah Orion) and sometimes, High Gothic (Martellus, Avitus).

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive has Immortals (who regularly wipe most of their memory anyway) randomly taking grand names from some or other mythology. As one of them said, there's nothing as funny as a hissy fit happening whenever two "Zeus"-es meet. Which is one of reasons why he prefers "Jerry". This makes his next incarnation's choice for a name something of a Ironic Brick Joke.
  • The protagonist of Inverloch is named Acheron not after the river of death in Greek Mythology, but a town in Australia near the author's home.