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Unfortunate Names

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Truly the Butte Monkey of American towns! note 

"Make sure that all the C's are destroyed, so that the rascals can have no further means of abusing my name."
George Cockburnnote , Royal Navy Rear Admiral, destroying a U.S. newspaper during the burning of Washington, D.C. in War of 1812.

An Unfortunate Implication where a name of a character, person, or thing unintentionally offends.

If you ask someone their name, and they give you an answer that fits this trope, chances are you won't take them seriously. You will then find out that yes, that really is their name. No joke. Or it may be a joke, but it still is seriously their name.

Characters under this trope are saddled with a name that realistically, you wouldn't expect a parent to name their kid or, for someone who's of a certain name, they'd choose to go by. This is the kind of name that gets kids made fun of in school — which leads them to snark "Never Heard That One Before" when the jokes continue into adulthood.

Yet, it also happens to be Truth in Television, in many unfortunate cases. Generally, when imposed (fictionally or otherwise) on someone, this will lead to a Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?. Real Joke Name is another possible outcome. If the name is unfortunate because it might accidentally hit an automatic word filter, then it's called the Scunthorpe Problem.


Comes in a variety of forms:

  • Double Entendre — The name is one that fits into the Double Entendre trope. Eg. Pussy Galore
  • Phrase Name — Where the first name and/or last name may sound perfectly normal on its own, but put them together and they make a phrase that sounds like a joke, a trait you wouldn't want to be associated with, or sounds just plain stupid. Eg. Dusty Rhodes
  • Pop Culture Name — An example of this trope being the result of someone being named after a famous pop culture character whose name would ordinarily not enter consideration for use. Examples include Optimus Prime, Kal-El, or ESPN. In this case, the name is already popular, but it isn't something you'd think to call someone under regular circumstances. Can result in an even more unfortunate name if the pop culture source's popularity is not enduring.
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  • Rhyming Names — The first and last name rhyme with each other.
  • Unfortunate Coincidences — Regular names that happen to match coincidentally with famous or infamous figures from real life.
  • Unfortunate Meaning — someone thought the name sounded nice, but apparently had no clue that the name they gave their child describes a disease or a woman's genitalia. (The vast majority of these are either urban legends or outright maliciously racist lies; usually, the more defensive the teller gets about these, the more likely he knows they're lies.)
  • Have a Gay Old Time — Linguistic drift can hit names quicker than some folks would like. If a name later gets adopted for a sexual or offensive term, those who had the name before the drift run afoul of this (those named after, however, run into one of the above issues instead). Examples include Dick, Fanny, Nimrod and Gaylord.
  • Gender-Blender Name — Many names (at least, in American English) were once relatively common and unremarkable as names for male children, but in recent years have become more common for girls, sometimes with minor spelling differences. In the real world there are male Stacys, Danas, Courtneys, Kellys, and Ashleys, and yet you only see those names in fiction on women (on the other hand, there are female Chrises, Pats, Lees, and Terrys and yet, they're only male names in fiction). Likewise, Leslie Nielsen was a man. So someone with old-fashioned parents, or simply a desire to name a baby after an ancestor, might wind up with a "girly" name, such as Mary. Conversely, unfortunate women may end up with a "guy" name; though they are mostly more fortunate. A custom in France, francophone countries, and Catholic Germany is to give children a second "saint's name" drawn from the hagiography. This can be given regardless of matching the gender of child and patron saint, so that a man might be named, for instance, Erich Maria Remarque. This can sound odd outside these areas.
  • Fun with Acronyms — when the initials spell something silly or offensive.
  • Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle — The name is okay, maybe even good and auspicious in its own language, but doesn't travel well. Maybe it sounds like a curse or a pronoun; bonus points if it's shouted dramatically in the work. Eg. Wang - "King" in Chinese, dick jokes galore in English.
  • Ironic Name: The name that specifically means something is the exact opposite of your character.

This only goes for examples where the name is the character or person's legal given name, or the name they most commonly go by. If someone uses it as a temporary alias, that's not this trope.

Will frequently intersect with Punny Name. When those with Unfortunate Names pronounce them counterintuitively (whether in an effort to save themselves the embarrassment or not), they'll feel compelled to inform people that It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY".

Given human nature, quite a few fairly common names wind up as slang terms. Simply having one of these isn't really an example of this trope, unless it forms a particularly bad combination with the rest of the name.

If just the first or middle name is unfortunate, then it's an Embarrassing First Name or an Embarrassing Middle Name. If a character chooses this name as a superhero or villain alias, it's Atrocious Alias. There's also Names to Run Away from Really Fast, where your name isn't so much embarrassing as deeply scary.

This trope is the opposite of Awesome Mc Coolname, while Special Person, Normal Name lies in between these two.

Example subpages:

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    Fan Fic 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series has Dr. Brainstorm, whose Obviously Evil name is lampshaded:
    Calvin: That's a dumb name. Why not something interesting? Like Doctor Doom, or Doctor Chaos, or Doctor Chaotic Doom?
  • Mi Tru Lov has two major antagonists called Vommy and Snoteleks.
  • Ebony Darkness Dementia Raven Way. The author was presumably trying for an Awesome Mccoolname-cum-"Darkness von Gothick" Name, but she ended up with a name which, translated to Layman's Terms, is "Black Black Senility Bird Direction". That's before you take into account the author's apparent inability to spell it the same way twice (to the point she's usually referred to by snarkers as "Enoby").
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse has its main character Trixie Lulamoon, who always wishes to be addressed by her first name (unless she is drunk, then her second name). Apparently, there is a childhood rhyme that is the cause behind the name being unfortunate.
  • In the Fallout: Equestria universe it is something of a tradition for named Steel Rangers to have embarrassing food-based names such as Cottage Cheese and Butterbean.
  • Golden Retriever, Twilight's assistant in The Demesne Of The Reluctant Twilight Sparkle. Twilight eventually grants her a literal license, "as a civil servant of the highest order", to kick the flank of anypony who teases her about her name within the bounds of the demesne.
  • Gensokyo 20XX has Ren's brother Baka and Ren could never really figure out why and always thought it was because he wasn't very bright, though he also did note that, according to his father, that was the name only he responded to and the name stuck. However, true to his name, he isn't really very bright.
  • In A.A. Pessimal's The Big Bang Theory and Discworld crossover The Many Worlds Interpretation, a visiting Assassin from the Discworld encounters members of the Los Angeles Police Department called Krupke, Dibble and Captain Trunk. Apparently there is also an Inspector Columbo in the murder squad, and a mounted policeman called Officer McLeod.
    • In a different fic, Vetinari has to reassign a diplomat sent to Far Überwald with the unfortunate name of Mr Goughnow. He discovers there is also a Mr Fafunckelloe in Brindisi and a Mr Footsack in Rimwards Howondaland. The unfortunately named diplomats are recalled and re-assigned to other countries, and the part of the Palace Secretariat dealing with diplomatic postings receives a stern note and a helpful dictionary of international profanity to guide their thought processes.
  • A young girl called Emma Roydes has passed selection exams to the Assassins' Guild School with flying colours. The Guild believes at the age of ten years and nine months, she has already had ample cause to display commendable fighting skills and an admirable aptitude for applied aggression. Seen as a new first year student, she has a best friend who affectionately nicknames her "Piles". And gets away with it.
  • Saetwo's Story: Just like in the game, one of the cave guardians is named Ignorameous, which all the Zoombinis find hilarious.
    Ignorameous: Why does everybody always laugh when I say that?!

  • The Bell Witch Haunting has the unfortunately named Officer Bungalon, pronounced like "bunglin'". He's actually reasonably competent.
  • The eponymous car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Seriously, who in their right mind decided to come up with a name that sounds like something far more appropriate as a sexual innuendo slang? Ian Fleming, that's who — he actually wrote the novel that the movie was based on, and he's the guy who gave us names like Pussy Galore. Also of note is that Roald Dahl (Fleming's spy buddy from World War II) wrote the screenplay to this movie, and Dahl is also known for punny names and dirty jokes.
  • Drive has the character Shannon, who's described as a man who never got a break. Apparently it started at birth.
  • A Fine Mess. Dennis' boss is named Mr. Wardell Flecken, a shortened version of Fleckenshicker. Dennis asks, "Is that like Shickenflucker?"
  • Meet The Hitlers is a documentary about people who happen to be have the surname "Hitler". Most of them faced bullying growing up due to their name.
  • Extremely Played for Laughs in Monty Python's Life of Brian. Pontius Pilate has a great personal friend whose name is... Biggus Dickus. He has a wife, you know? You know what she's called? Incontinentia. Incontinentia Buttocks.
  • The villain of Red Eye is named "Jackson Rippner." Fitting for Jackson, to be sure, but who in their right mind would inflict such a name on their kid? (Apparently, he expressed similar views to them. Right before he killed them.)
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights has a character named Latrine. Who is revealed to have changed her name to Latrine. Her given name? Shithouse.
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009): "Lord Blackwood" is one thing, but if you had to live with a name like "Lord Coward," you might have turned to villainy, too.
  • Southland Tales The main character from Boxer Santaros' screenplay is called Jericho Cain. Now pronounce that quickly.
  • Poor Lord Gastrous from Barbie: Mariposa was named after his ample stomach.
  • Star Wars:
    • Emperor Palpatine. A respectable name: imperious, meaningful, and just plain cool. His first name is Sheev. And now you know why he was on Last-Name Basis for thirty-seven years.
      • Considering his original name was supposed to be Cos Dashit, well, Sheev suddenly doesn't seem so bad.
    • The Phantom Menace has a background member of the Jedi Council named Yarael Poof. In Britain, "poof" is a derogatory term for "gay man". It's unlikely that George Lucas knew, however.
    • Kit Fisto, appearing most significantly in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but also in the live-action entries of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith (though never really speaking in them). Because of that, casual fans are probably only really know of his name because this trope - and the unfortunate part of his name is obvious, the fisting jokes just write themselves after seeing it.
    • What, no mention of Darth Tyranus, aka Count Dooku? Many a Toilet Humor joke has spawned from that name.
  • Drew Barrymore has a great scene in The Wedding Singer where she's trying out her married name in front of a mirror and realizes she's about to become "Mrs. Julia Gulia".
  • The Big Hit: The title of the In-Universe Vanity Project (and Box Office Bomb) that bankrupted Mr. Nishi (which provides a pretty big complication to the titular kidnapping scheme) was "Taste The Golden Spray".
  • Michael Bolton from Office Space absolutely hates that singer by the same name who became famous at about the time the character hit puberty. And hates being asked "is that your real name?"

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Bible
    • To demonstrate His wrath at idolatrous Israel, God has the prophet Hosea give his children symbolic names. The first son, Jezreel, is named for a valley where Israel's evil kings have shed blood, and where God promises they will be punished in turn; his daughter is named Lo-ruhamah, "not pitied," because God is through being merciful; and the youngest son is Lo-ammi, "not my people," to foretell that God will eventually send Israel into exile among the nations.
    • The prophet Isaiah named his younger son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means "spoil quickly, plunder speedily," again to foretell Judah's coming doom. His older brother Shear-Jashub ("a remnant shall return") lucked out and got a happy prophecy.
    • Ishbosheth's name means 'from the mouth of shame'. A very early translator had changed it from Ishbaal ('from the mouth of God') due to concern about Baal worship.
  • Kopreus was an uncle of king Eurystheus of Mycene, who had the job of delivering Eurystheus' orders about what the next Labour was going to be to Herakles. "Kopreus" means "dung-heap".
  • Also Uranus, father of the Titans, although not in the original language. In Greek, Uranus (or more properly Ouranos) means "sky" or "heaven", and pronunciation is more like "ooh-rah-nos". Ironically, it was one of his private parts on the opposite side that got abused in a famous myth.
  • The name Nimrod was not an unfortunate name in Bible times, but has become so these days because of its association with dimwittedness from Bugs Bunny. note 
    • May be Older Than Print, actually, since in Dante's Inferno he is shown to be one of several giants guarding the pit of Hell. He can only utter meaningless gibberish, and Virgil taunts him as being stupid.
  • In Chinese Mythology, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea can be transliterated as Dong Hai Long Wang.
  • Aversion with Lot. Lot (spelling varies) who preaches in the Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah where the citizens are violent, lustful, and where homosexuality is rampant. The last part is the reason you don't find anyone named Lot (spelling varies) in any Abrahamic religions. Doubles with What Did You Expect When You Named It ____?.

    Stand Up Comedy 

  • The (Eurasian) Blackbird (to Americans: not to be confused with American Blackbirds, which aren't related to the thrush family but rather to the crow family) is a bird that is not only the most ubiquitous one of many European countries, but also, when humans are voting for "best singing bird" it is almost always unanimously voted as "best singer" (this is a Dutch example). Its Latin name is Turdus merula, and considering the unfortunate implications the word "turd" has in English, that's very unfortunate in English. And then there's the cousin of this bird, the Thrush - which is itself also always highly regarded in song-bird rankings, but, yeah, in English its name is equivalent with "vaginal yeast infection"...
  • English-born Diana Dors, Richard Dawson's first wife from 1959-1966, was born Diana Mary Fluck. She changed her contractual surname to her grandmother's maiden name, because if her real surname was in lights and the "L" went out...
    • And to make matters worse, she had starred in quite a number of sexual comedy films and risqué modeling jobs.
  • Vuk is a Serbian / Slavic male name; consider the word this most sounds like in English... This was an almost Exploited Trope in Dutch 2005 movie Vet Hard, which featured a character called Vuk that was played as an extreme Butt-Monkey, and all other characters consistently referred to him as "fuck" (which in Dutch is the same swearword as in English).
  • Similarly, Isis is a feminine given name derived from the Egyptian goddess of fertility, motherhood and magic. The unfortunate aspect comes in at around 2014, when the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria was becoming something of a household name. Since then, the name has severely declined in popularity in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Genacol is a popular form of arthritis medication worldwide, but in the Philippines, its name is often the subject of derision. That's because Genacol sounds like "jinakol," which is Filipino for "jacked off".
  • The city of Des Moines, Iowa takes its name from the nearby Des Moines River, which was christened by the French explorers Marquette and Joliet specifically because they liked how French the name sounded. Marquette and Joliet encountered the Peoria tribe and asked them what the name of the river was. The Peoria told them "Moingoana," which kind of sounds like "moines," the French word for "monks." "Moingoana" actually means "shitface."
  • In the late 1970s and early 80s, The Campana Company had candy with appetite-suppressants in them. And they were called Ayds. It should come as no surprise that sales plummeted right around the time AIDS awareness was growing.
    The appetite suppressant in Ayds is not a stimulant.
  • The poor ice giant planet Uranus. note 
  • Homo Erectus (Upright Man), is an early species of Human notable for its straight (erect) posture. These days, say the words Homo Erectus to someone and they'll be thinking of another form of erect altogether.
  • In the Washington, D.C. area, there is a local slang term, "DMV", which is shorthand for... well, the Washington, D.C. area, and stands for "D.C., Maryland, note  and Virginia. note  Nationwide, "DMV" conjures... less flattering imagery.
  • My Little Pony has included many... fascinatingly-named ponies over time. These include a yellow pony named Trickles, as well as ponies named Whizzer, Steamer, Floater, Pillow Talk, Swinger, and Player. Baby Surprise sounds a little too much like an unexpected pregnancy, rather than a baby version of a Pegasus called Surprise. Others, such as Tink-a-Tink-a-Too and Gigglebean, are merely silly.
  • Microsoft's search engine Bing. They apparently were not aware that 病 (bìng) translates to "disease."
  • The increasing popularity of Asian skincare in Western markets leads to some Cross Cultural Kerfuffle at times.
    • A popular Korean anti-aging, brightening and moisturising essence used to be called Cosrx Galactomyces 95 White Power Essence. Western Asian beauty enthusiasts gave it the Fan Nickname 'Racism Essence'. The beauty blogger Holy Snails emailed the Cosrx marketing team to explain what the name meant in English, and the product was changed to 'Whitening Power Essence'.
    • Cosrx also does a product called 'Skin Returning A-Sol'.
    • Dr. Jart do a sheet mask called Rubber Mask Firming Lover.
    • There's a popular brand of Taiwanese sheet masks called "My Scheming".
    • Many products have names that just sound absurd to English speakers, like Elizavecca Milky Piggy Silky Creamy Donkey Steam Cream Mask Pack. (Yes, it contains donkey milk.)
    • A Korean-influenced indie beauty product is called Shark Sauce. It does not contain shark (or sauce), but its inventor Chel Cortes often gets hate mail from people accusing her of cruelty to sharks. She also claims people sometimes drizzle their friend's bottles on fish or salads.
  • The sports teams of South Carolina University, AKA the Gamecocks. Many a mocking has been made of their ill-sounding moniker. The signs don't help.
  • The Great Tit, subject of more puns on its name than there are stars in the sky.
  • The Great Tit has nothing on the Agile Tit Tyrant, which sounds less like a name for a bird and more like a Boss Subtitle for a Hyrulean sexual predator or introduction for a stripper.
  • Enforced aversion: Craig Venter, genome entrepreneur, renamed his Institute for Genome Research (IGOR) to The Institute for Genome Research (TIGR) for obvious reasons.
  • Butt Valley, CA, totally a real place. And unlike the page illustration, there's no E on the end and it actually is pronounced "butt".
  • The Embriaco noble family, originally from Genoa, was active in Italian and Crusader state politics in the 11th-13th centuries. It was named after its founder Guglielmo Embriaco, whose name was derived from the Latin for "William the Drunkard". In other words, the Embriaco family is the "drunkard dynasty".
  • During the assassination attempt on former President Ronald Reagan, Agent Robert Wanko pulled an Uzi out of his briefcase in order to cover the President's evacuation to the hospital moments after the President had been shot.
  • The name for the mountain range "The Grand Tetons" sounds majestic... until you realize that the name is French for "Giant Breasts", which is what the mountains reminded early French explorers of.
  • Interstate Highway 69, one of the most recent interstate highways to be established.
  • The Richard Bong State Recreation Area was named after a decorated pilot from World War II. Unfortunately, the "Bong Recreation Area" sign is frequently stolen because of its accidental allusions to marijuana.

Alternative Title(s): Unfortunate Name