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When suddenly a guy behind me in the back seat popped right up and cupped his hands across my eyes

I guessed, "Is it Uncle Frank or Cousin Louie? Is it Bob or Joe or Walter? Could it be Bill or Jim or Ed or Bernie or Steve?"

I probably would have kept on guessing but about that time we crashed into the truck.
—"Everything You Know Is Wrong", "Weird Al" Yankovic

When there are multiple characters in a certain group (usually members of a family) and one of them must be summoned, it is a fairly common occurrence that whoever is calling them will get distracted and start calling out the wrong names. Or, they might just forget who's called what. First the mother will try Tom, then Dick, and so on and so forth... until finally realizing that the son she wants is the one named Harry.

In extreme cases, they may try names which belong to the other sex. Or to distant relatives. Or family pets.

This is most definitely Truth in Television.

See also My Name Is Not Durwood.

Examples of Rapid Fire Name Guessing include:


  • Played with in The Movie of The Importance of Being Earnest: Jack calls out for Algy, but Algy is currently pretending to be Ernest. Jack is very miffed that he must call out "Ernest" in order to get a response.


  • Zinny's parents in Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech have this problem -- there are seven children in the family. Some of the children propose color-coding their clothing to avoid this.

Live Action Television

  • From Friends: Joey is confused whether he's about to go out with Angela or Andrea. Chandler gives the identifier for each, and Joey remembers that he's going out with Julie.
    • Also, Rachel's sister seems unable to remember Emma's name (thinking that Phoebe's name is Emma), and uses every rhyming variation.
  • In Black Books, a drunk Bernard tries to guess Manny's name.
    • "Well, Gerald... Samantha..."

Stand Up Comedy

  • "Sometimes your parents get so mad at you they forget your name. 'Come here, Ralph -- Roquefort -- Rutabaga -- what is your name, boy?! And don't you lie to me, because you live here and I'll find out who you are!"
  • Peter Kay mentions this trope in his routine, and in particular about how alarming it was when his mum started going through the names of female relations before reaching his.

Western Animation

  • There's a bizarre version in Family Guy, where he seems to have actually forgotten Meg's name. He keeps running through the entire family's names until Brian tells him 'it's your son.' "Meg!"
    • Another variation:

 Brian: Peter, the final plague is the death of the firstborn son!

Peter: Oh no, Stewie!

Brian: Your firstborn son.

Peter: Meg!

Brian: (deadpan) Your wife.

Peter: Chris!

  • Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid tries to guess Ariel's name, with mixed results ("Mildred?" "Rachel?"). Sebastian the crab has to prompt him.

Real Life

  • One of Erma Bombeck's articles centers on the embarrassment of forgetting your children's names, which also plagued her mother. Ironically, her mother named her Erma because it was short and easy to remember -- and still couldn't remember it. This is even more embarrassing/hilarious when you remember that Erma Bombeck was named after her mother.
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