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The Trope Formerly Known as X

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"As you know, the entertainer once known as Prince has decided to be known only by this symbol, which combines the symbol of man and woman. I guess he's just as confused as we are."
Julene Renee, Roundhouse

A type of Stock Shout-Out and parody of an event from the '90s.

In 1993, Warner (Bros.) Records legally prevented the musician Prince Rogers Nelson from releasing music under a different label using his legal first name "Prince", as they owned a trademark on it. As part of a Take That!, he changed his name to an unpronounceable, and then-untypeable "love symbol", which resembles a modified transgender symbol, oriented in the same direction as the female symbol and given a second, longer, and more stylized bar at the base of the shaft.note  In response, the phrase "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" was coined by a public that had no idea what else to call him, and quickly became a very popular target for parody thanks to its obtuseness. His contract with Warner expired three years later, but Warner still owned the trademark on the name "Prince" until 2000, after which the musician went back to his given name. Once he did, it effectively made him the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, if you're being technical.

Not to be confused with Renamed Tropes.


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  • From Digimon: The Movie:
    Kari: [narrating] ... And Matt's trying to make it as a rock star! His stage name is the Digidestined Formerly Known as Matt.

  • A stand-up comic once joked that if Prince could change his name to an unpronounceable symbol, then he could change his name to a scent, so that if people wanted to talk about him they'd have to carry around perfume bottles to spray on each other.

    Comic Books 
  • Used in Gold Digger, though it might have been topical when it was printed. Galford, a member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad, after getting some augmentations, changes his name to "大死". His boss's reaction:
    Lord Talon: So now you're "The ninja formerly known as Galford?"
Averted — his new name, Daishi, stuck once it was actually pronounced/written in Roman characters!

    Comic Strips 
  • Used in the Knights of the Dinner Table strip "A Character with No Name" where Dave refuses to name his new character, and eventually ends up creating an unpronounceable symbol to designate the character. B.A. eventually tires of the whole thing and has the character smote by the gods.
    "Will 'The Character Formerly Known as the Man with No Name' and now associated with this symbol please be advised that he has inexplicably attracted the unbridled wrath of the Gawds and has just been turned into a newt!!"
  • Non Sequitur has referenced "the Prince formerly known as Charming."

    Fan Works 
  • One Aladdin fanfic featured several Princes. One was called "The Prince Formerly Known as Artist", probably referencing the theater adaptation mentioned below.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series : "I have had many names. Once I was known as Pharaoh. Then I was the artist formerly known as Pharaoh."

    Films — Animation 
  • In Shrek 2, during the Far Far Away Idol bonus film, Prince Charming sings "I'm Too Sexy" which is a performance so bad the group of judges ejects him off stage leading to a remark from Simon.
    Simon: That was The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Charming!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th:
    "Dawson, let me introduce you to the principal. Sorry, The Administrator-Formerly-Known-as-Principal."
  • Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties:
    McBunny: Well, obviously, that feline is not Prince, you idiots!
    Preston: He's not even a cat formerly known as Prince.
  • Cindrella The Sillicious Musical: The Artist Formerly Known as The Prince. TAFKATP
  • In An Inconvenient Truth, a slowly-melting glacier park is referred to as "The Park Formerly Known as Glacier".
  • Long before the Prince situation, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Knights Who Say Ni demand... a shrubbery! When King Arthur and co. bring a shrubbery back...
    Head Knight: We are now... no longer The Knights Who Say Ni.
    Random Knight: Ni!
    Head Knight: Shh. We are now The Knights Who Say... Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-pikang-zoom-Boing-z'nourrrwringmm.
    Random Knight: Ni!
    Head Knight: Therefore, we must give you a test.
    King Arthur: What is this test, O Knights of — Knights Who Till Recently Said Ni?
  • In a promotional spot for Good Burger, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell talked about how they're becoming big stars and that they'd like to known as "The artists formerly known as Kenan and Kel". Kel then shows their symbol: a white card with a black circle on it. Kenan takes a look and says "It's upside down." They then try to correct it.

  • In the Star Trek novels The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonian Singh, Roberta Lincoln calls Khan "The Artist Formerly Known As Noon."
  • Animorphs:
    • Ax always calls the leader of the group Prince Jake. (Ax is an Andalite, and 'Prince' is a military title.) During one issue where only the pair of them were left, Jake tells Ax that there aren't enough people around, so he should be called The Jake Formerly Known As Prince. Later, when the group is back together, the two go through their Running Gag ("Don't call me Prince." "Yes, Prince Jake") and Ax says, instead, "I will call you The Jake Formerly Known As Prince."
      Marco: Now he's telling jokes. Bad, bad jokes.
    • When Rachel tests Marco by saying "You know you're a toad, right?" his answer is:
      Marco: "Kiss me and I'll become a prince. I'll be the Prince Formerly Known As Toad. You know you want me. You can't help it. After all, you're female, and I'm... well, I'm me."
  • In the 1632 series, Don Fernando, the Spanish king's younger brother, was in holy orders as the "cardinal-infante" ("infante" is Spanish for "prince who's not heir to the throne"). Then he got a dispensation to give up being a cardinal. From that point on, there are occasional references to him as "the prince formerly known as cardinal-infante."
  • In Dave Barry in Cyberspace, an increasingly silly list of various versions of Microsoft Windows ends with "The Artist Formerly Known As Windows®."
  • By the Discworld novel Unseen Academicals the Dean of Unseen University has moved on to become the Archchancellor of competing Brazeneck University in Pseudopolis between books. Early in the book members of UU faculty and even the narration itself struggle with how to refer to him in a manner that both reflects his current title and specifies they do not mean their own Archancellor Ridcully. Then in a gathering with the wizards Patrician Vetinari repeatedly calls him "The Archchancellor formerly known as Dean", which seems to stick.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Show Formerly Known as the Martin Short Show
  • On Lost, in between the point where Ben went by Henry Gale and where people started using his real name, Sawyer referred to him as "The Artist Formerly Known As Henry Gale".
  • Roundhouse:
    • A Cinderella parody with TAFKAP as the Prince Charming. His name was announced as holding a cardboard sign with the symbol up and the sound effect of the first electronic riff plus 'uhn' in Prince's "Kiss". They started off calling him "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince And Now Represented By This Symbol" (holds sign up with riff playing) but skipped straight to holding up the sign with the riff.
    • Back in season 2, when Prince's name-change was still recent, an Entertainment Tonight parody reported on this and said that several other celebrities followed suit, such as Steven Spielberg (a combination of the symbols for money and bad taste; Jurassic Park was also recent at this time as well) and Sylvester Stallone (the periodic symbol for iridium - the densest of the elements). This segment also provided the page quote.
  • On an episode of The Drew Carey Show Ryan Stiles was pretending to be a frog: "The frog formerly known as Prince."
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Colin Mochrie used this gag as the "top story" on Weird Newscasters.
    Colin: Rock star Prince has changed his name once again. After changing long-distance carriers, Prince, the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, will now be the artist who formerly phoned with Sprint.
  • On 30 Rock, one of Tracy Jordan's antics was to declare that he was now to be addressed as "the gentleman formerly known as Rectum".
  • Prince appeared on Muppets Tonight during his 'Formerly Known As' phase. When introducing himself this way to Bobo the security bear during the Not on the List schtick, Bobo snarkily replies, "And I'm the bear currently known as unamused." Similarly, when he guested on The Late Show with David Letterman, Paul Shaffer introduces Dave as "The Artist currently known as Pinhead!". Cue Spit Take.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • Naturally: the joke was played with in the Russo-Finnish movie The Sword and the Dragon:
      Subject: Oh radiant prince!
      Servo: That's "The Artist Formerly Known as Radiant Prince".
    • They also used this joke in Prince of Space ("Please, call me 'The Artist'"), and also in the short What About Juvenile Delinquency?:
      [a question mark floats toward the audience at the end of the short]
      Servo: It's Prince's new name, isn't it?
      Crow: Naw, more like Frank Gorshin's new name.
  • In a Key & Peele sketch, which features a list of players for the East/West Collegiate Bowl, the second to last one is "The Player Formerly Known As Mousecop", complete with a symbol.
  • MadTV parodied this along with The Prince of Egypt in a sketch called, appropriately enough, "The Artist Formerly Known as The Prince of Egypt".
  • Addressed on The Hollywood Squares:
    Tom Bergeron: First he was Prince, then he was The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, then he was just The Artist. What is he known as now?
    Simon Cowell: The Artist who Formerly Sold Records.
  • Castle: When they find a strange symbol among the evidence at a crime scene (part of a "th" that had snapped off a keychain), Castle suggests that it means the killer is The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, despite it not directly resembling his symbol.

  • Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain was called "TAFKAL80ETC" ("The Artists Formerly Known as Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain") during the Cataclysm expansion of World of Warcraft. During this time, they used a symbol that resembled Prince's glyph. For Mists of Pandaria, they returned to their previous naming scheme (which included the maximum possible player level in WoW).
  • Cafe Tacuba released a record called "The Object Formerly Known as Recordnote ".
  • Dangerous Toys' The R*tist 4*merly Known As Dangerous Toys - The title also parodies Prince's penchant for Letters 2 Numbers, while the cover art is a parody of Prince's Lovesexy album, featuring their Metal Band Mascot Bill Z. Bubb in place of Prince himself. This was apparently also something of a Development Gag — two of the original members had left the group, and it was something of a New Sound Album, so they had contemplated changing the band name before ultimately reconsidering.
  • FKA twigs' stage name was born from this. It was originally just Twigs, but after a complaint from the pop duo The Twigs, she added a "Formerly Known As" in front of it.
  • Phoebe Bridgers has "The artist currently known as Phoebe Bridgers" as her bio on social media.
  • MOD, Demoscene and game musician Frédéric Motte originally used the artist name Moby, before Richard Melville snapped up the rights to that name. Since then, Motte has gone by either Elmobo or The Artist Formerly Known as Moby.
  • Following a lawsuit by EMI Records, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing retitled their album Now That's What I Call Steampunk! as The Steampunk Album That Cannot Be Named for Legal Reasons.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • WCW, near the end, had The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukaea, which was former island boy Prince Iaukea now doing a parody Prince gimmick. An angle that was dropped once the real Prince dropped the unpronounceable symbol shortly after the gimmick started. This led to a mock press conference to announce that "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukaea" was changing his name to "The Artist." For the record, no one really cared about Iaukea, real name Mike Haynor and no relation to King Curtis Iaukea, during either gimmick.
  • Meanwhile, after Goldust's Heel–Face Turn didn't go so well, WWF had him turn back heel, trade his black and gold for a red, black, and green outfit, and dub himself The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust.

  • The subject of a game of 'Limerick' on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (where the contestants are given an opening line and have to complete a limerick by supplying one line each in turn):
    The artist formerly known as Prince,
    On stage he would posture and mince,
    Then just for a giggle,
    He changed his name to a squiggle,
    And nobody's heard of him since.
  • At the time when Prince was "the Artist Formerly Known as Prince", Tony Martin and Mick Molloy did a bit on the Martin/Molloy radio show about how his close friends get to call him 'Formerly'. It was later included on one of their albums.
  • In Mitch Benn's Crimes Against Music, a song about people refused entrance to the US refers to Yusuf Islam as "the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens".


    Video Games 
  • Fallen London occasionally mentions The Magazine Formerly Known as the London Magazine: apparently after London fell, the Masters of the Bazaar demanded that the London Magazine change its name, but the editors were not in a cooperative mood.

    Web Animation 
  • In Homestar Runner, when Marzipan is dressed as Prince for Halloween:
    Homestar Runner: Hey, the girlfriend formerly known as Marzipan. I think you missed a little bit when you were shaving. Right there, about the sideburns area.
    Marzipan: More like the former girlfriend known as Marzipan.
    Homestar Runner: Sounds like a plan!


    Web Original 
  • In Neopets, there's the "Weapon Formerly Known As Desert Axe Weapon", with a Monty Python reference in its Flavor Text.
  • An episode of The Nostalgia Critic has the titular critic wonder why King Koopa from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! isn't simply called "Bowser", or at least "The Artist Formerly Known as Bowser", cutting to a Koopa-fied Prince symbol.
  • In the "Ray's Heist" episode of Achievement Hunter's Let's Play Grand Theft Auto V, Ray Narvaez Jr used the Fake AH Crew's actual middle names (or in the case of Ryan Haywood, first name) as their code names. However, the mastermind himself doesn't have a middle name, so he went as "The Artist Formerly Known as Ray" (or "TAFKAR" for short).
  • The archives for the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban were originally made available via FTP from When the archives moved to a new domain on the web, the new site was referred to as TAFKAC (The Archives Formerly Known As Cathouse).
  • In this Not Always Healthy, a family is unanimous about wanting to change their pet's name from the one given to her by the animal shelter but disagrees over the new name, causing her to be entered into the vet's records as "the dog formerly known as Princess."
  • In his annotations for X-Force (2019) #34, Paul O'Brien refers to one Krakoan glyph as "the symbol that was used in Excalibur to represent The Artist Formerly Known As Apocalypse".

    Western Animation 
  • Used twice by The Simpsons; one of the puppies in the 101 Dalmatians parody is called "The Puppy Formerly Known as Prince", while "Lisa's Wedding" shows a list of arrested celebrities that includes "The Artist formerly known as *unpronounceable symbol*" and "The Artist formerly known as Buddy Hackett." One of the flashback episodes ("Lisa's Sax") is set during a time when "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince was currently known as Prince."
  • In an episode of House of Mouse Donald Duck tries to become a celebrity and changes his name to the "Duck Formerly Known as Donald." Mickey ended the episode by calling himself "The Mouse Currently Known As Mickey".
  • Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales For Every Child:
    • In one episode, Mother Goose's decision to fly the coop leaves all the nursery rhyme characters in a muddle, and Humpty Dumpty starts referring to himself as "the egg formerly known as Dumpty."
    • In another episode, "The Frog Princess," the title character entreats the prince to help her cook, and when he refuses on the grounds that he is a prince and thus can't cook, she sings him a song that includes the lyrics, "You could be the prince formerly known as helpless."
  • "The Artist Formerly Known as Spot" from 101 Dalmatians: The Series.
  • In one episode of Johnny Bravo, Johnny accidentally becomes a famous artist, all the fame drives him nuts and at some point he makes a quick doodle and claims that's how his new artistic name is pronounced.
  • On The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius episode "Battle of the Bands" the group is nearly separated by a series of disagreements. At one point Carl begins to speak with a British accent and tells Jimmy and Sheen to refer to him as "The Artist Formerly Known as Carl".
  • In Rick and Morty episode "Close Rick Counters of the Rick Kind", during the rundown of the unprecedented 'rick-icidal epidemic,' Rick questions the Rick known as "The scientist formerly known as Rick."
  • On Doug during the Disney years, Connie starts to become famous for her music talents and having Roger become her manager. During her transition to becoming a rock star, Roger says "Her name is this" holding up a key chain that somewhat mimics the Prince symbol.
  • In the Recess episode "Yope From Norway", one of the suggestions for Gus's new alias is "The Kid Formerly Known As The New Kid".

    Real Life 
  • The artist formerly known as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" is obviously the Trope Namer.
    • Music website Rhapsody used a subversion of this trope as a Take That! against Prince in one instance, referring to him as "The Artist Never Known as Tall".
    • From a certain perspective, Prince's decision to rename himself makes perfect sense: "Prince" was a trademarked identity that was actually owned by his record company of the time. By legally changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, he was able to release material, and tour, when said record company did not approve — until their ownership of the "Prince" name lapsed and he was able to reclaim it.
    • After Prince's death in 2016, some twisted individuals on the web began referring to him as "The Artist Formerly Known as Alive". Or "The Artist Formerly Known as The Artist Formerly Known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince." Others considered him as "The Artist Forever Known as Prince".
  • After Microsoft abandoned the name "Metro" for its Windows 8 UI system, some referred to it as the UI Formerly Known as Metro. Or TIFKAM, "The Interface Formerly Known as Metro".
  • As a compromise with Greece, the United Nations in the 1990s admitted a new member country using the name "the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia" (FYROM), alphabetized under "the". The country eventually named itself North Macedonia.
  • Alan Moore is credited as "The Original Writer" on the 2010s Marvel reprint collections of his Miracleman run, due to his generally strained relationship with Marvel, and retrospective belief that he shouldn't morally have used the character because the original creator Mick Anglo had been cheated out of his rights.
  • In 2020, Aunt Jemima syrup changed its name and logo after complaints that the woman on the front was a Mammy stereotype. The renamed product, Pearl Milling Company, still had "Same Great Taste as Aunt Jemima" printed on the bottle.
  • Uncle Ben's Converted Rice followed suit by changing its product name to "Ben's Original" while removing the image of the elderly man on the label. Commercials after the change was announced also touted a new look with the same taste.
  • In 2015, students at the University of Rhodes in South Africa protested the college's name, which derived from British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, whose policies in South Africa were credited by some as a major factor in the creation of The Apartheid Era (which was still in living memory for most of the country's population). As part of the protests, some students and news outlets started mockingly referring to the university as "the University Currently Known as Rhodes."
  • In July 2023, the microblogging site Twitter was rebranded as X. Since this was a new and somewhat vague replacement for what had been a globally-recognized household name, news reports, websites (this one included) and other documents which mentioned the site generally began referring to it as "X (the social media site formerly known as Twitter)", or something along similar lines.

Alternative Title(s): The X Formerly Known As Y