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A character chooses an alias by translating his name into some foreign language. See also You Are the Translated Foreign Word.
If the character's name is changed because the work itself is being translated into a foreign language, it's a Dub Name Change.
Anime and Manga
- In the anime version of Hayate the Combat Butler, Himegami, a Battle Butler in a Wig, Dress, Accent disguise, insists that he is not Himegami, but in fact "Princess God"... which is a literal translation into English for "Himegami". Nobody is fooled.
- In Busou Renkin, before he became a hommunculus and took on the name Papillon, French for butterfly, the character had the family name of Chouno, which is Japanese for butterfly.
- Main character Jang Gun of the manhwa Yureka selects "General," the English translation of Jang Gun, as the name for an AI based on himself--he ends up using the moniker instead when the AI isn't as cooperative as he expected.
- The Captain America villain the Red Skull often Anglicizes his birth name, Johann Schmidt, into John Smith as a disguise (though he has used dozens of others). The opposite was done in Alistair MacLean's 1967 WWII thriller novel (and the 1968 film version) Where Eagles Dare, where SOE commando Major John Smith talks his way past his Gestapo captors using his cover identity of Major Johann Schmidt of SS Military Intelligence.
- In Marvel 1602, an Alternate Universe taking place in the year, you guessed it, 1602, Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) is actually from a dystopian future of the normal 616 timeline, but had sent back by the evil "President-For-Life" to get rid of him. He is taken in by a local Native American tribe and takes on the name Rojhaz, which isn't actually a word in any Native American language, but it would sound enough like one to the new European settlers to pass as one. (Of course, these are the same people who manage to Hand Wave the fact that he is apparently a blond-haired, blue-eyed Native American, so perhaps he needn't have tried so hard.) The series also includes characters 'local' to 1602 whose names would be this trope if they were aliases, like Carlos Javier (Charles Xavier), Roberto Trefusis (Bobby Drake), Hal McCoy (Hank McCoy) and Scotius Summerisle (Scott Summers). Magneto's name, "Enrique", is probably the biggest offender. (Although it's not his birth name. It was given to him when he was abducted from the ghetto and forcibly converted to Christianity.)
- Also notable is Peter Parquagh. In Spider-Man 1602, it's revealed that his real name is Peter Parker, but as an apprentice to Queen Elizabeth's agent Nicholas Fury, he was advised to change the spelling so it sounded French because "Parker" is Scottish and Queen Elizabeth had no love of the Scots after dealing with Mary Queen of Scots. Who was also queen of France.
- In G.I. Joe, Storm Shadow's codename comes from his surname Arashikage (嵐影), which literally means "Storm Shadow" in Japanese. An issue of the comic also has Snake-Eyes adopting the alias of Mr. Hebime (蛇眼).
- In Asterix, whenever any Gaul has to disguise himself as a member of another race they just replace the -ix in their name with the appropriate suffix.
- In the first story a Roman spy named Caligula Minus disguised himself as a Gaul and called himself Caliguliminix.
- When Asterix and Obelix disguise themselves as Roman legionarii, they use the names "Asterus" and "Obelus"...
- Spider-Man: India, a four-issue Alternate Universe mini-series, showed how Spider-Man might look if he was born in modern-day India. Character names include Pavitr Prabhakar (Peter Parker), Nalin and Hari Oberoi (Norman and Harry Osborn) and Meera Jain (Mary-Jane).
- In most continuities of The Punisher, Frank Castle changed his name from "Castiglione" to "Castle" when he signed onto his third tour of Vietnam. This would later informed his choice of aliases, most of which are transliterations of his original surname (meaning "Fortification), being rendered into English as "Fort, Rook, Tower, Stronghold" etc.
- When one character remarks on the strange name of Doctor Strangelove, it's explained that it was translated from the German "Merkwürdigliebe". A bit of a Bilingual Bonus, since speakers of German would know the name sounds even more unusual in German than its translated counterpart does in English.
- As in the quote above, Bowen in Dragonheart gives the dragon the name "Draco" - Dragon in Latin.
- Interesting in that Draco himself objects rather loudly to being called "dragon", but has no problem with the name "Draco", even feeling honoured by the name, because it is the name of the constellation of stars revered by dragons as their own heaven.
- The main character of Rock-a-Doodle is named Chanticleer-which is the name of a rooster in the Reynard The Fox tales, and has become a French byword for "rooster". Evidently he's supposed to be the same one, but you'd be forgiven for not knowing that from watching the movie.
- Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda. His name is a romanisation of "Ugui" which is mandarin Chinese for "Tortoise"
- That movie is made of this trope. The Furious Five are all named after the animal they are, which is also the fighting style they use. Shifu means "Teacher", Tai-Lung is "Great Dragon" (great as in huge and terrifying), and Po means "Precious" or "Favourite" (read: chosen).
- In the James Bond novel Casino Royale, it's mentioned that Le Chiffre's aliases are the word "cypher" in various languages.
- Lily Weatherwax in Witches Abroad went by the name of Lillith Tempscire (a literal translation of weatherwax in French).
- In Maskerade, Henry Slugg goes by the name Enrico Basilica.
- In The Colour of Magic, an alternate-universe version of Twoflower was named "Zweiblumen". Rincewind was changed to "Rjinswan", but that apparently isn't an actual translation of anything. There is, however, Rincewind's possible Ephebian ancestor Lavaeolus, which is pseudo-Latin for... 'rincer' of wind.
- This gets flipped in the German version, where Twoflower's name is Zweiblum. The alternate-universe Zweiblum is named Twoflower.
- "Rijn" (not Rjin) is Dutch for Rhine, and "swan" means, well, swan. This name having a "real" meaning is most likely coincidence.
- "The Deaf Man" is a recurring character in the ~87th Precinct~ novels by Ed McBain, and he always uses aliases that are some play on 'deaf' in a foreign language. These have included Mort Orrechio (Italian for "dead ear"), L. Sordo ('el sordo') and Herr Taubmann. And he likes to call Detective Steve Carella and say something like "You'll have to speak up. I'm a little hard of hearing." Even though he's worn a hearing aid in public, it's anyone's guess whether he really has a hearing problem.
- In War and Peace, Pierre Bezukhov, as part of calculating the Number of the Beast, uses the name l'Russe Besuhof, which is just "the Russian Bezukhov." Please note, even "Pierre Bezukhov" is an example of this trope - his Russian first name is Pyotr. At the time Tolstoy was writing most business in the Russian court was conducted in French as a result of their national Western European Fandom, so the first names of his higher-class characters get translated back and forth a lot, depending upon who's speaking.
- In Rafael Sabatini's novel Captain Blood: His Odyssey (though not in the film based on it), the title character Peter Blood uses the aliases Don Pedro Sangre and Le Sang when dealing with the Spanish and French respectively.
- The title character of Ella Enchanted once pretends to be Ayorthian to disguise herself. 'Elle' is apparently 'Ella' in Ayorthian, a language where words seem to all begin with a vowel and end with the same vowel.
- The title character of Marjorie Morningstar was born Morgenstern, one of those immigrants who translated her name.
- In Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novel Debt of Honor, John Clark attempts to pass himself off as a Russian using the name "Ivan Klerk". When it's pointed out to him that "Klerk" is an extremely uncommon name in Russia, he rationalizes that his grandfather was an Englishman who emigrated to Russia in the '20s and Russified his name.
- Earlier than that, in The Cardinal of the Kremlin, a Russian official gives Jack Ryan the nickname Ivan Emmetovich, based on his father's name and his full name, John Patrick Ryan. (This is not an alias, though, just a cultural translation of his actual name.)
- In the Dracula novel, the title character poses as a Count de Ville (Dracula = "son of the
DevilDragon", de Ville = Devil - get it?) which comes across rather narmy, given the now more famous Cruella de Ville.
- Another Real Life example: The many foreign translations of Warrior Cats. Since most of the characters names are collections of nouns and verbs, they all have to be translated for foreign audiences to understand their significance (the exception being the Japanese translation, which uses the original English names, leading to a lot of Gratuitous English).
- Ripped from the Headlines Roman à Clef example: when Edgar Allan Poe relocated the murder of Mary Rogers from New York to Paris so Auguste Dupin could investigate it, he renamed her Marie Roget.
- In the book The Bean Trees, Esteban and Esperanza introduce themselves as "Steven" and "Hope" to someone who might be racist towards latinos.
- In Salvage For The Saint, Charles Tatenor's real name is revealed to be Schwarzkopf. As literally translating his surname into English would have sounded ridiculous ('blackhead'), he went for something that sounded like blackhead in French (tête noire).
- In The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), the characters deduce a connection between the horse Christmas Bells and Mrs. Carillon's missing husband Noel:
"You see, the French word for Christmas is 'Noël,' and 'Carillon' means 'bells.'"
- In the Ben Snow short story "The Trail of the Golden Cross" by Edward D. Hoch, the Mexican Bandito Zanja turns out to really be a white man named Cole Fosse; Zanja and Fosse being the Spanish and French, respectively, for 'ditch'.
- Old Shatterhand, the fictional avatar of writer Karl May, is always called "Charlie" by his good friend, the Apache chief Winnetou.
- The Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan is the word for lion in Turkish.
Live Action TV
- The original Master from Doctor Who used "Reverend Magister" in "The Daemons" and "Professor Thasacles" in "The Time Monster". His later incarnations preferred Significant Anagrams.
- In the Spin-Off novels the Master uses more translations, including "Inspector LeMaitre" (Last of the Gaderene) and "Duke Dominus" (the short story The Duke of Dominoes). In The Quantum Archangel, the Master poses as a Serbian businessman called "Gospodar", prompting the Sixth Doctor to wonder if he's "running out of languages".
- The Doctor himself has used the names "Doctor von Wer" ("The Highlanders") and "the Great Wizard Quiquaequod" ("The Daemons" again) although this is clearly a coincidence since his name isn't "Who".
- 'Quiquaequod' was a name given to him by another character, which definitely makes that one a coincidence (it's the masculine, feminine, and neuter forms of the word 'who' in Latin combined).
- More likely "von Wer" is intentional on the Doctor's part, given he uses 'WHO' on his car's registration plates. Why he does it is anyone's guess.
- Until he gives us this gem to question if that really is his name...
Person: Doctor who?
- In the New Adventures novel Timewyrm: Exodus, he translates his occasional makeshift identity of "Dr John Smith" into German, presenting himself as "Dr Johann Schmidt". The Dr Johann Schmidt from the Big Finish Seventh Doctor audios "Colditz" and "Klein's Story", meanwhile, turns out to be an Alternate Universe Eighth Doctor.
- Played for a dramatic reveal in "A Good Man Goes to War", when it turns out that River Song's name is actually the closest approximation, in the language of the Forest People, of Melody Pond. See, it's a pretty simple language, so obviously 'Melody' becomes 'Song', and they don't quite have a word that means 'Pond' because "The only water in the forest is the river..."
- Not a person's name, but Robin from How I Met Your Mother has read the news for both Metro News One to Tokyo Ichi Action News.
- There's also Barney's Swedish cousin, Bjorney. Like 83% of everything about Barney, the cousin is fictional.
- Not exactly an alias, but on The Colbert Report, Stephen is occasionally visited by his Hispanic counterpart, Esteban Colberto.
- Meta example in the Galton and Simpson sitcom Casanova '73 - the would-be Casanova is named Newhouse.
- In Terry and the Pirates, the thug Weazel goes by the name Belette (French for 'weasel') while working for Baron de Plexus.
- The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (an old-time radio program) once featured the character of an opera singer named Liza Bordelli. It turned out she was actually American, but used an Italian version of her name on stage... because her real name was Lizzy Borden.
- In The Lives of Harry Lime, one episode has Harry sent after a con woman whose aliases are all mean Brown in various languages (Braun, Brunelle, etc.).
- Vampire: The Masquerade had the Black Hand, an elite subsect of the Sabbat faction of vampires. There was also the Tal'mahe'Ra also known as Manus Nigrum (Arabic and Latin for "Black Hand" respectively), an Ancient Conspiracy hidden throughout vampire society as a whole, which claimed to have created the Black Hand of the Sabbat.
- In the Metal Gear series, the real name of Gray Fox is Frank Jaeger (or Yeager), but he also uses the alias of Frank Hunter, which is what the name Jaeger means in German. His adoptive sister goes by the convenient alias of Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid.
- When engineer August Horch was kicked out of the auto manufacturer he founded, losing trademark rights to his name, he started a new company called Audi (Horch! and Audi! mean "Listen up!" in German and Latin, respectively).
- Casanova went by the name Newhouse in England, a literal translation of Casa Nova.
- Many immigrants translate their name into the language of their new country--Schmidt becomes Smith, Weiss becomes White. And in 19th-century New York, the captain of industry August Belmont used to be Schönberg (German into French).
- This is also why there are so many more Millers in the U.S. than in Britain -- English millers had a reputation for cheating their customers, so "Miller" was an unpopular surname. American Millers were mostly originally Müller, Møller etc.
- In the 20th century, many European Jews changed their last name to make it sound more French/German/Spanish/whatnot to escape persecution or discrimination.
- In an inversion of the above, a man in New York City (I believe - it was a radio story) was the target of anti-Muslim crime. He was an immigrant from the Middle East who'd changed his name to fit in better. In NYC, that means his name was something along the lines of Stanley H. Rosenberg.
- Common in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, people of international fame (like physicians or astronomers) latinized their names or adapted them to host country's language when travelling. The famous Flemish Renaissance anatomist Andreas Witinck went by the name of Andreas Vesal (after the town Wesel where his family was from) which was latinized into Andreas Vesalius. The 11th century Persian physician, philosopher, astronomer and alchemist Abū Alī al-Husayn ibn Abdullāh ibn Sīnā became known in Europe as Avicenna.
- The Swedish Carl von Linné, father of modern taxonomy, known to us as Carolus Linnaeus.
- Philipp Melanchthon is born as Philipp Schwartzerd. His last name means black earth.
- This phenomenon was not just restricted to scholars and internationally famous persons, it became quite common to translate family names into Latin or Greek; such names are sometimes called "humanists' names". Some examples from German:
- German to Latin:
- Agricola = Bauer (farmer, peasant)
- Faber, Fabricius = Schmidt, Schmid etc. (smith)
- Miles = Ridder (Low German for "knight")
- Sartorius = Schneider, Schröder (tailor)
- Sutor = Schuhmacher (shoemaker)
- Textor = Weber (weaver)
- German to Greek:
- Chrysander = Goldmann or Goldschmied
- Neander = Neumann (new man)
- Xylander = Holzmann (wood-man)
- In the 19th century there also was a bit of an English fashion in Germany, leading to a spate of children being given English first names, but also to a Hamburg merchant family called Oswald to change the spelling to O'Swald.
- A fictional example of Latinization is Phineas Nigellus in Harry Potter. Niger is Latin for "black". Although in-universe that's not so much Latinisation as Anglicisation, as Phineas Nigellus is an ancestor of the Black family.
- French food conglomerate Danone operates in the US as Dannon, a presumably more English-sounding name. The Danone name change was for phonetic reasons. If an American were to read Danone aloud they'd say Dan-On-Ee or Dan-One or some variation. In French, Danone sounds (almost) exactly like the American pronunciation of Dannon. Hence they maintained the phonetics of their original name by altering the spelling to fit the phonetics of another language, emphasizing the sound of the brand name over its written form. It makes sense, as you can enter a store and ask for Danone/Dannon and be understood, accent or no accent. In theory. Similarly, the Japanese Kashio is Casio in the US. And in fiction, Gojira becomes Godzilla.
- In an obscure and further example of the trope, Danone was originally founded by Isaac Carasso in Barcelona (Spain) in 1919 and was named after his son Daniel, who used the nickname "Danon" (which sounds in Spanish the same as "Danone" sounds in French and "Dannon" in English). Even before moving to France, the brand used the form Danone because it looked classier.
- Similarly, the food chain Chef Boyardee is owned by the Boiardi family. They changed the spelling to keep the pronunciation clear.
- The Bic brand of ballpoint pen was developed by a Frenchman whose last name was Bich (the problems this would cause when marketed in the Anglosphere should be obvious). Hence, the brand name was changed so that the pronunciation would stay the same.
- The cleaning product brand previously known as Jif changed its name to Cif, the advertising campaign in Britain at least playfully suggesting because its name was not 'on foreign' enough, with accompanying clips of various Continental Europeans showing themselves as being unable to pronounce the old name. "hif?"
- Ricky Martin's real name is Enrique Martín Morales
- And Charlie Sheen is Carlos Irwin Estevez.
- And Martin Sheen is Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez.
- And Charlie Sheen is Carlos Irwin Estevez.
- Charles Lutwidge Dodgson took a (vague) Latin version of his name (Carolus Ludovicus) as a pen name, reversed it, and there we have it - Lewis Carroll.
- On the Argentine comedy group Les Luthiers, all the illegitimate children of composer Johann Sebastian Mastropiero (that sometimes went along the name Wolfgang Amadeus Mastropiero or Peter Ilich Mastropiero) with the contessa Shortshot were translations of Shortshot in different languages: Patrick McKleinschuss, Giovanni Colpocorto, Rafael Brevetiro, Mario Abraham Kortzclap, Anatole Tirecourt, Johnny Littlebang.
- That theory has a little flaw: Johnny Littlebang is black. Hilarious in Hindsight
- According to urban legend, in mid-20th century Soviet Union, Physics books by Albert Einstein were signed as (translated to English) Albert Singlestone due to his obviously Jewish last name. While the story is almost certainly false, it jokingly reflects the awkward attempts of the Soviet Union to reconcile widespread antisemitism with an internationalist stance.
- Before the 20th century, it was the norm to translate the given names of rulers into different languages, although these days it only seems to be the case with the popes and in multilingual countries. The current pope for instance is called Benedictus in Latin, Benedict in English, Benoît in French, Benedikt in German, Benedetto in Italian and Benito in Spanish. The predecessor of the current King of the Belgians was called Baudoin in French and Boudewijn in Flemish.
- This practice also used to extend to the first names of some famous writers and composers, for instance Bedrich Smetana was first known to Germans as "Friedrich Smetana" and Jules Verne as "Julius Verne".
- The 16th-century composer Roland de Lassus came from Mons in the Netherlands (now Belgium) but since his time in Italy was usually known by the Italian form of his name, Orlando di Lasso.
- Georg Friedrich Händel became George Frederic Handel after he moved to London.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was christened (in Latin) Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, where it is thought that the Greek "Theophilus" stands for the German name "Gottlieb". However, he preferred the French translation and called himself Wolfgang Amadé, which was later usually rendered in the Latinized form.
- The Austrian noble family of Neipperg changed its name to Montenuovo by translation into Italian.
- Many High School foreign language classes have the students take a name common in the language being studied (assuming the name isn't already). Often the student picks that language's version of their own name, if one exists.
- Chuck Norris' real name is Carlos Norris. Was nicknamed "Chuck" by a fellow soldier in Korea.
- The infamous Transformers comic artist Pat Lee translated his name into Japanese katakana. However, rather than properly translate it, he used a letter replacement font without knowing how katakana works, resulting in 'Michiyamenotehi Funana'. After the fandom dug up an old website of his featuring the katakana, it became a mocking nickname.
- After the First World War, several members of the noble family of Battenberg - who had been the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Hessen in Germany - renounced their titles and their family names and moved to England, and took English titles along with anglicising their family name to Mountbatten.