Alan: American. He has to be American.
Stephen: American, yes.
An American character, if intended to be comic, may be given a particular kind of over-the-top name. The character may well also be subject to the various American National Stereotypes and, of course, all the tropes to which a comic character would be subject. The name will often include one or more of the following:
- A first name that is very much associated with the United States (e.g. Hank, Dwight, Quincy or Hiram), or a quirky nickname (like "Buzz" or "Chip") that would be unusual in another English-speaking country or is somewhat grandiose. Especially if it's originally a surname, the name of one of the dead presidents (thus often a sign of Patriotic Fervor), or both.
- A middle initial — often an unspecified Mysterious Middle Initial, or one that stands for a name that sounds exotic and/or is overly long.
- A surname which has a Germanic and/or Jewish sound to it, or made of an unusual and sometimes seemingly-random combination of English words, e.g. "Picklehammer".
- If it's a really over-the-top comedy character, the name may end with "Junior", "Senior" or a Roman numeral e.g. "Hank T. Picklehammer III".
- Hayseed Name:
- Compound names like Mary-Beth or Bobby Joe. Ironically, if called Mary-Sue, the character will probably not be such a character. These names are often used as a shorthand to indicate the character hails from the Southern states or at least a rural area, particularly if the compound name is not hyphenated.
- Deep South or rural characters may alternatively get obscure Biblical names—if male, often ending in "-iah" ("Jeremiah," "Obadiah," "Jedediah," that kind of thing)—perhaps reflecting assumptions about the prevalence of religious belief in those areas (which naturally raises the question of why Old Testament "Jewish" names seem to be selected far more often than New Testament "Christian" names). French-derived names are also common to indicate an "aristocratic" background (e.g. "Beauregard"), as are names in some way associated with the American Civil War (e.g. "Beauregard" again).
- Utahns may have first names that look odd even by American standards, even if you ignore the names from Mormon Scripture (which can be pretty odd by any standard, sounding kind of Hebrew-ish but having no direct cognates anywhere elsenote ). Collapsing the names of the parents or grandparents into the name of the child is another Utah tradition (e.g. Renee + Esme = Renesmee).
- Home Town Nickname examples can give an otherwise ordinary name this effect, with "Tex" being relatively common for large, obnoxiously friendly characters in cowboy hats.
- Many African-American forenames can sound odd to those who are not of this ethnicity. This is a relatively recent evolution not seen much before the 1980s. Historically, the vast majority of black Americans did not have formal surnames before emancipation in 1865. Surnames needed to be assumed quickly, and many former enslaved people took the names of presidents, slave-owners, or Union generals, e.g. Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, etc. "Freeman" was another popular choice, for obvious reasons.
Some of the grander names have a ring of the Old West about them, perhaps because Americans Are Cowboys. If in non-U.S. media, such characters may well be Hawaiian Shirted Tourists. If so, at some point they will call a foreign location "quaint", even if it's a nuclear power station.
The kernel of truth behind this mostly stems from the New World's origins as a multi-ethnic society. A Celtic given name combined with a Slavic family name (e.g. "Kevin Zagorski") doesn't sound particularly odd to someone with Celtic and Slavic parents (or even just Slavic parents, but they've lived in Chicago for so long they just think of "Kevin" as a normal name for a boy). Each society coming to America brought their own naming conventions and the extent to which they kept those traditions depended upon the extent to which they intermingled with others, hence the survival of patrician names like 'Prescott Worthington Cabot III' alongside more exotic combinations. Some did not come voluntarily and had no choice in what name they received when they got there. Americans do tend to have middle names and traditionally use those initials in formal signatures. Add in the tendency of new immigrants to 'americanize' their names (along with the second or third generation's desire to 'reconnect') with a general American tendency to choose names for sound rather than meaning (to the point of inventing new names when an old one simply just won't do) and names like 'Dirk Pulaski O'Leary' or 'Midori Goldberg' don't seem like much of a stretch. This is also an effect of the American cultural emphasis on personal freedom and self-expression. Unlike other countries, the U.S. doesn't force parents to choose from lists of "approved" names, so they can name their kids anything they want.note
No Real Life Examples, Please!. This is considered a stereotype.
- A Certain Magical Index:
- Rockstar Douglas Hardbell
- Media Queen Olay Blueshake
- CIA Official George Kingdom
- Film Director Beverly Seethrough
- Presidential Aide Rosaline Krackhart
- Air Force Base Commander Alfred Thirdman
- Guilty Crown has Colonel Dan Eagleman, a quirky American officer in the service of GHQ.
- All-American Hot-Blooded goofball badass Chibodee Crocket from Mobile Fighter G Gundam is one of the more outlandish examples.
- Oddly enough, Hetalia: Axis Powers gives its anthropomorphic personification of America the rather bland moniker "Alfred Jones," though he does have the Mysterious Middle Initial "F" (speculated to stand for, among other things, "Franklin," "Freedom," and "Fucking").
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run: The story takes place in late 19th century America, but as usual with JoJo, many characters' names are references to musicians or bands like Hot Pants, Benjamin Boom Boom, and Pork Pie Hat Kid (Pork Pie Hat is considered his first name). The most striking, however, has to be the US President, Funny Valentine. No initials, no clear statement that it might be just a nickname, he is and always is called Funny Valentine. In a non-canon novel, it's even revealed that he has relatives named Funnier and The Funniest.
- The American villain of the Duelist Kingdom arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! is named Pegasus J. Crawford in Japanese, and the slightly more normal but still wacky Maximillion Pegasus in English. All the other American characters have normal names, however.
- A mention must go to the Stane family from Iron Man, where each generation preserves a biblical name - Obadiah, Jedediah, and Ezekiel.
- Marvel Comics once ran a series called US-1, featuring an all-American trucker main character named Ulysses Solomon Archer, and his older brother Jefferson Hercules Archer. This was made fun of in the comic's review by Linkara.
- The now-defunct British comics Whizzer and Chips and Buster had Junior Rotter, a version of Dallas with child characters. Unsurprisingly, these followed the names of that series, including Sue Helen, J.R.'s sister. J.R. himself, of course, averted the trope in this version.
- Doonesbury is rife with this trope: Michael J. Doonesbury, Mark P. Slackmeyer, Barbara Ann 'Boopsie' Boopstein, Joanie 'J.J.' Caucus, Jr., Zeke Brenner, and Roland Burton Hedley, Jr.
- From Toy Story and its sequels, the all-American astronaut toy Buzz Lightyear.
- The Coen Brothers are good for illustrating the different flavors of this trope, because their movies all take place in different, very atmosphere-heavy, uniquely American settings. For example:
- Fargo has the Scandinavian-derived Minnesotan surnames (Gunderson and Lundegaard).
- The Hudsucker Proxy has the Germanic captain-of-industry names (Waring Hudsucker and Sidney J. Mussburger), plus Norville Barnes for the small-town protagonist.
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? has the Southern versions. Vernon T. Waldrip and Ulysses Everett McGill come to mind.
- The Marx Brothers (specifically Groucho) loved this trope, perhaps enough to make them Trope Codifier if not Ur-Example:-
- Beyond the Poseidon Adventure features Slim Pickens as a colorful, big-talking alcoholic Texan named Dewey Hopkins, whom the British protagonist (played by Michael Caine) derisively calls "Tex". The cliche of Slim Pickens playing a character called Tex was lampshaded by Roger Ebert in his one-star review.
- Ruggles of Red Gap involves Ruggles, a valet who could not be any more The Jeeves if he tried, coming into the employ of a loud and wacky, if well-meaning, Nouveau Riche American named "Egbert Floud".
- Set in Georgia, Smokey and the Bandit centres on the doings of Bo "Bandit" Darville, Cletus "Snowman" Snow and Sheriff Buford T. Justice. Overlaps with code names since "Bandit" and "Snowman" are Citizens' Band (CB) radio 'handles'.
- It might be easier to list the characters in John Bellairs' books who don't fit this trope. Lewis Barnavelt wouldn't raise any eyebrows, but Roderick Childermass? H. Bagwell Glomus? ...Alpheus Winterborn?
- Bellairs' villains typically have Wacky But Obviously Evil Names: Isaac and Selenna Izard, Eliphaz Moss, Remigius Baart, Esdrias Blackleach, etc etc.
- Agatha Christie seemed to find Americans inherently funny. Besides usually rendering them with Funetik Aksents she was prone to give them wacky names. The Secret of Chimneys has an American skulking around the Chimneys mansion, obviously up to something, named Hiram P. Fish. The Thirteen Problems has an American Phony Psychic con artist named Eurydice Spragg.
- Sinclair Lewis' novel Babbitt, which satirizes American society and culture has supporting characters with names like Vergil Gunch, Professor Joseph K. Pumphrey, Chester "Chet" Laylock, Mat Penniman, T. Cholmondeley "Chum" Frink, Tanis Judique and Carrie Nork.
- Jules Verne provides some good examples of this trope, but not all of his American characters follow it:
- In From the Earth to the Moon, there's Impey Barbicane, president of the Baltimore Gun Club, but the names of the other members of the club, e. g. James T. Maston and Tom Hunter, are perfectly ordinary (and Maston is a wackier character than Barbicane).
- In Around the World in Eighty Days, there's Col. Stamp W. Proctor, whom Phileas Fogg challenges to a duel. (On the other hand, "Phileas Fogg" is at least as wacky as "Stamp W. Proctor", if not more so...)
- In Robur the Conqueror, there are some oddball names like Jem Cip and Bat T. Fynn (Bat T. Fynn?), but also perfectly normal ones like William Forbes and Phil Evans.
- The main characters of The Mysterious Island are Cyrus Smith, Gideon Spilett, Harbert Smith, Bonadventure Pencroff and Nebuchadnezzar.
- Jules Verne had a penchant for using odd-sounding names, which even includes a number of his French characters, perhaps none more so than Zéphyrin Xirdal in The Hunt for the Meteor.note
- P. G. Wodehouse often indulged in this trope, though his Americans' names tended to sound no more or less absurd than his British gentry.
- The hero of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- Brick Eagleburger from the Adrian Mole books.
- In James Baldwin's Another Country, protagonist Rufus has a best friend named Vivaldo Moore. This could also be two names of different ethnicities, although the "Vivaldo" seems more like a nod to composer Antonio Vivaldi than an indicator of Italian heritage.
- In Auntie Mame, there's a paragraph on the names in Mame's Southern fiance's family (he himself is named after a string of Confederate generals and goes by Beau):
The relatives kept coming. They all had two first names and some of them even had two last names. There were about six men named Moultrie, four named Calhoun, eight called Randolph, and almost everybody had a Lee tucked somewhere into his or her name. To make things even more confusing, about half the women had men's names. There were women called Sarah John, Liza William, Susie Carter, Lizzie Beaufort — pronounced Byew-fert — Mary Arnold, Annie Bryan, Lois Dwight.
- All members of Oscar Wilde's worthy American family in The Canterville Ghost have very American and patriotic names: Mr. Hiram B. Otis is the patriarch of the family and the American Minister, his wife was Miss Lucretia R. Tappan before her wedding, their eldest son was christened Washington, next child is Miss Virginia E. Otis and after her came the twins, who were usually called 'The Stars and Stripes'.
- Captains Courageous: Diskobolus Troop, captain of the fishing schooner "We're Here".
- Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator features President Lancelot R. Gilligrass.
- The Cruel Sea mentions the appearance (pre-American entry) of "strange-looking destroyers, with long names often beginning with 'Jacob' or 'Ephraim'". American Destroyers were and are named for Naval officers, heroic sailors, and Secretaries of the Navy; British Destroyers for abstract adjectives and nouns (usually with some sort of "theme", or in some classes simple alliteration) and of course the "Flower" class Corvettes were named for Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Quincey P. Morris from Dracula. Although he isn't exactly comic, he is a rootin', tootin' and shootin' American man of action.
- Encryption Straffe's protagonist Clint Eastwood Newton was the only American in his entire Private Military Contractor corporation. He preferred to go with his nickname "Genie". Other Americans are more conventionally named, like Mitch Parkson and Percival McBride.
- However, Mitch Parkson's son is named Dodge.
- In the 18th The Famous Five book by British children's writer Enid Blyton, Five on Finniston Farm, an obnoxious father and son from America, fulfilling some of the most negative stereotypes about Americans, are long-term guests on the eponymous farm in Dorset, where the Five are also staying on holiday, and the farmer and his wife somewhat unwillingly allow the Americans to stay on owing to the much-needed income they bring to the farm. The father is identified as Mr. Henning, and his spoilt brat of a son is identified as nothing more than "Junior" - not only addressed or referred to as such by other characters (including his father), but also called thus in the narrative - exactly as if he had no first name other than "Junior".
- The characters of Good Omens include a televangelist called Marvin O. Bagman.
- This odd convention was also noted by Thomas Pynchon and parodied to the maximum possible extent in Gravity's Rainbow with the gloriously-named USS John E. Badass.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald starts a chapter of The Great Gatsby with a list (by no means complete) of high-society people he met at Gatsby's parties. They all have names like Dr. Webster Civet, O.R.P. Schraeder, Stonewall Jackson Abrams (from Georgia), Ripley Snell, Mrs. Ulysses Swett, Maurice A. Flink, Cecil Roebuck, Cecil Schoen, Newton Orchid, James B. "Rotgut" Ferret, and Henry L. Palmetto.
- The second of John Buchan's Richard Hannay novels, Greenmantle, introduces as a supporting character an American businessman named John S. Blenkiron. He has the kind of amusing mannerisms you would expect to come packaged with a name like that, but proves to be a man of courage and resource when the chips are down. On his final appearance, in The Courts of the Morning, the S is revealed to stand for "Scantlebury".
- Conversational Troping in Douglas Adams's travelogue Last Chance to See: while bemoaning that the Germanic Efficiency of the students in the next camp makes accurately describing them look like perpetuating a stereotype, he compares it to meeting an American billionaire who actually has a name like this, and is always smoking a cigar.
- Money A Suicide Note, by Martin Amis features an American actor called Spunk Davis. The book's protagonist tries to explain to him why his name may be a problem for a movie's UK release, but chickens out.
- To the British characters in Derek Robinson's Piece of Cake, the perfectly innocuous Christopher Hart III is a wacky name. Of course, they first mistake "III" (the third) for "ill" (sick). When they eventually figure it out they shorten his name to "CH3".
- It also shows up in Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising in a humorous exchange of blinker signals between HMS Battleaxe and USS Reuben James.
Battleaxe: WHAT THE DEVIL IS A REUBEN JAMES?
Reuben James: AT LEAST WE DON'T NAME SHIPS FOR OUR MOTHER-IN-LAW
- A Study in Scarlet has Enoch J. Drebber of Cleveland, Ohio. Lampshaded in the pastiche The Hound Of The D Urbervilles:
"Enoch J. Drebber — why d'you think Yankees are so keen on those blasted middle initials?"
- Tarzan of the Apes has Absent-Minded Professor Archimedes Q. Porter and his Beleaguered Assistant, Samuel T. Philander.
- To Kill a Mockingbird also naturally has several examples, with the prize going to X Billups, who has no given name other than X.
- In The Beverly Hillbillies, a lot of the humour came from the rural vs. urban culture clash, so unsurprisingly the Clampett family included Daisy May (Grandma) and Elly May.
- B-Fighter Kabuto introduces 4 additional heroes from around the world, with the first to appear being an American named Mac Windy.
- Burnistoun: Exaggerated with a pair of American GIs named Brocca Bronk and Honk Hucklehanka, who both come from hometowns that sound very similar to their ridiculous names.
- A specially-made sketch for Comic Relief was set in an international disarmament conference. The American delegate introduced his aide as "Major-General Julius T. Hackenpacker III". And then shot him.
- Dallas, which centred on the Ewing family, key members of which were J.R. (John Ross) Ewing (Jr.; his father, John Ross, Sr. went by "Jock" and his son John Ross III went by John Ross) and his wife Sue Ellen.
- Doctor Who:
- Canton Everett Delaware the Third. The name is lampshaded a bit by the Doctor: "Now then! Canton Everett Delaware the Third. That was his name, yeah? How many of those can there be? Well... three, I suppose."
- Not to mention Morton Dill from "The Chase".
- When the producer John Nathan-Turner added the first American companion, sketched out as a free-spirited young botany student, he bestowed on her what he thought was the perfectly representative American name of ... Perpugilliam Brown. He said he'd gotten it out of a book.
- Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, from The Dukes of Hazzard, not to mention his superior Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg note , his deputy Cletus Hogg and their rival Beauregard "Bo" Duke.
- Not to mention Luke and Bo's replacements for a single season, the cousins Coy and Vance Duke.
- Steven Q. Urkel of Family Matters.
- Firefly used some of these to help set the scene, like Rance Burgess, the villain in "Heart of Gold." Among the main cast, the full names of Hoban "Wash" Washburn and Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye also qualify.
- In The Games episode "IOC Man", American Bill Ten Eyck (the eponymous IOC man) mentions his children and remarks his son is named "Bill, Jr.". This causes John to ask about his daughters:
"Or do you not bother giving them names?"
- The Goodies had Major Charles M. Cheeseburger in one episode.
- The Hero on JAG is named Harmon "Harm" Rabb, Jr.
- His associates on the show would include a young officer by the name of Bud Roberts Jr. That's not "Bud", his nickname, that's Bud, the name he inherited from his father.
- In 1992, the British Sketch Comedy show The Mary Whitehouse Experience included a sketch showing what it would look like when the US would be hosting The World Cup in 1994. One of the players is named Barry Spinnaker, and the host is named Dwight Speigelhacker.
- John Oliver compares Thomas Muscatello (an American commentator on the British Royal Family) calling himself “Thomas J. Mace-Archer-Mills, Esq." to a British person calling themselves “Jefferson Budweiser McNuggets Jr."
- Outnumbered: Auntie Angela's new American husband is called...Brick. It's short for Brick.
- QI, see above. They also enjoyed a Judge Jack Love and a John "Crazy" Fitch in a way they probably wouldn't have if the owners of those names had been British.
- Kramer's alias H.E. Pennypacker on Seinfeld. "I'm a wealthy American industrialist looking to open a silver mine in the mountains of Peru..."
- Star Trek: Captain James T. (for Tiberius) Kirk of the USS Enterprise.
- "Brains" in Thunderbirds goes by the names Hiram K. Hackenbacker and Ray Hackenbacker, although his true name is not actually revealed in-universe.
- Top Gear:
- Hammond's liking for American things sees him referred to by his co-presenters as Richard J. Cheeseburger Hammond, III.
- The first America special credited the presenters as "Cletus Clarkson, Earl Hammond Jr., Ellie May May, and Roscoe P. Stig." All the other names read "Billy Bob (surname)".
- Torchwood: Miracle Day, which took place in both the U.K. and the U.S., introduced us to American characters Rex Matheson and Esther Drummond.
- The Waltons had a full complement of these under their roof, too, with John-Boy, Jim-Bob, Zebulon (Grandpa), Esther (Grandma) and Mary Ellen.
- The West Wing: D. Wire Newman has to be the best name for a fake ex-president ever invented. And grandiose, WASPy names for politicians were especially prevalent in the Aaron Sorkin seasons, from Lilienfield and Claypool to Stackhouse and Sugarbaker.
Josh: Peyton Cabot Harrison the Third. He sounds like he should be a Supreme Court justice.
Donna: It's a good name.
Josh: Phillips Exeter, Princeton, Rhodes Scholar, Harvard Law Review, for which he was, oh yeah, the editor — did I mention he was dean of Harvard Law School? Did I mention that his father was Attorney General to Eisenhower?
Donna: Peyton Cabot Harrison the Third.
Josh: That's right.
Donna: Jewish fella?
- Dr. Phineas Waldorf Steel.
- Rich Hall's touring musical persona Otis Lee Crenshaw.
- In Anna Russell's How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, the wealthy American patriarch is named Parnassus Q. Vanderfeller. His lovely daughter is named Pneumonia.
- Edward Louis Severson III
- Patti Smith's protest song Citizen Ship is about the experience of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. During the song she turns to the other band members, adopts the attitude of a bored and disinterested immigration clerk, and rudely demands their names. She makes a point of changing some of the more difficult to Americanised names - exactly as it would have been at Ellis Island.
- Possibly invoked by English country singer and dentist (yes!) Hank Wangford when he adopted his stage name, especially given the closeness of "Wangford" to the derogatory term "wanker".
- Jay Washbourne III in the Absolute Power (BBC) episode "Mayor of London".
- In the Charles Dickens spoof Bleak Expectations, Philip "Pip" Bin, the (English) protagonist and inventor of the rubbish bin, has his invention stolen by an American industrialist called Harlan J. Trashcan (simultaneously parodying Namesake Gag and justifying a well-known example of Separated by a Common Language). But Harlan quickly turns out to be the series Big Bad.
- The radio play The Vicious Vikings in the Horrible Histories audio tape series features an American tourist being shown around a Viking neighbourhood full of slaves. The slaves that are interviewed talk about their names, as well as the names of their family members; much of the names being negative adjectives (such as "Smelly" and "Lumpy"). The American tourist is horrified.
American tourist: Oh my! Aren't you glad you don't have a name like that, Elmer Rubenstone the Third?Elmer Rubenstone, III: Yeah, ma!
- In the Sound Charades round on Season 70 Episode 2 of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue has Tony Hawks playing an American tourist called Clint Pennybacker.
- Comedian Lenny Henry's comic character Theophilus P. Wildebeeste, an over-the-top parody of various 1970s soul singers like Barry White.
- After the End: A Post-Apocalyptic America has a lot of fun with this in post-apocalyptic America, especially the former United States. Every region has fallen back to its most stereotypical names (things like "Augustus" in the South, "Thorestein" in Minnesota, or "Wentworth" in New England), although those dominated by resurgent Native American tribes use the naming conventions of said tribes instead.
- Fallout 3 has a robot in the National Archives who is named after (and believes he is) Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence on behalf of Georgia.
- The 1994 Super Famicom game Fighting Baseball didn't have the rights to use actual MLB players' names, so they used made-up names: Sleve McDichael, Bobson Dugnutt, Mike Truk, and Todd Bonzalez are a few.
- Goldlewis Dickinson from Guilty Gear -Strive-, the United States' Secretary of Absolute Defense whose weapon is a reinforced coffin containing an alien from Area 51. It's not out-of-character for the series, though.
- Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes is a bizarre example - in Japan, his name sounds really awesome, but in the U.S. it sounds over the top and weird.
- The Excuse Plot of Olli and Lissa is that the castle where they live has been bought by a wealthy American named Eugene Portcullis III, who intends to dismantle it and ship it to America.
- Being set in 1899 when such names were slightly more common, Red Dead Redemption II gets a little mileage out of this. The Van Der Linde Gang's troubles begin when they incur the wrath of the industrialist robber baron Leviticus Cornwall, and one minor character Arthur can meet is an avid collector of cigarette cards named Phineas T. Ramsbottom.
- Yes, Prime Minister on the ZX Spectrum had an American envoy by the name of Hiram P. Goldbladder.
- Your Turn to Die has a lot of relatively normal names for its predominantly Japanese cast: Sara Chidouin, Joe Tazuna, Keiji Shinogi, Gin Ibushi, et cetera. So who is the man heavily implied to have some American heritage called? Q-taro Burgerberg.
- Gravity Falls:
- "Irrational Treasure" brings us President Sir Lord Quentin Trembley, III, Esquire, the 8½th President of the United States and the town's true founder.
- A reoccurring character is self-described "local kook" Fiddleford H. McGucket, otherwise known as "Old Man McGucket".
- The Tobin family in The Great North goes in for this on the male side with patriarch Beef having sons named Wolf, Ham and Moon. The one daughter is named Judy, Honeybee having married into the family.
- Recess had Sue-Bob Murphy.
- A lot of characters in The Simpsons have eccentric names.
- Zig-zagged in Wordgirl. Theodore "Tobey" McCallister III is an American Fake Brit, but he has at least one British parent.