FANDOM


WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

Stephen: A man with the ridiculous name of Leland W. Sprinkle...

Alan: American. He has to be American.

Stephen: American, yes....
QI (on the subject of the Great Stalacpipe Organ)

A trope whereby American characters, if intended to be comic, will be given a particular kind of over-the-top name for comedy effect. A character with this kind of name, may well also be subject to the various tropes often applied to American characters (see under "Americans" on National Stereotyping Tropes for some examples) 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, and would be unusual in another English-speaking country (e.g. Hank, Dwight, Quincy or Hiram) or is somewhat grandiose.
  • A middle initial (the actual middle name is rarely specified, making it a Mysterious Middle Initial).
  • The character may have a quirky "American" nickname, such as "Buzz" or "Chip", especially if they are a heroic figure.
  • A surname which has a Germanic and/or Jewish sound to it.
  • If the character is a really over-the-top comedy character, the name may end with "Junior", "Senior" or a Roman numeral e.g. "Hank T. Picklehammer III".
  • Women subjected to this trope will often be given a hyphenated name like "Mary-Sue" or "Mary-Beth", with the ironic result that anyone subject to this trope called Mary-Sue is probably not going to be a Mary Sue. She's far more likely to be the butt of the joke. The hyphenated name may crop up for men, too, with characters from the Southern states or rural parts of the United States particularly likely to get this kind of moniker.
  • Deep South or rural characters may alternatively get obscure Biblical names, perhaps reflecting assumptions about the prevalence of religious belief in those areas.

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, they will comment at some point that wherever they are is "quaint", even if "wherever they are" is next to a nuclear power station.

The kernel of truth behind this comes from a number of areas - the baby-name Popularity Polynomial runs independently in different countries within the same language group, people from Old World countries are more likely to expect given names' ethnic origins to match the family name while nobody in the New World sees anything odd about a Celtic first name with a Slavic last name (for instance), and some names just don't translate well.

Compare Gunman with Three Names, Preppy Name, and Sesquipedalian Smith.

Examples of Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names include:


Anime and Manga

  • In Axis Powers Hetalia, there is a character named Alfred F. Jones, who is the personification of America.

Comics

  • The now-defunct British comics Whizzer and Chips and Buster had Junior Rotter, a version of Dallas (see below) 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.

Literature

  • Quincey P. Morris from Dracula. Although he isn't exactly comic, he is a rootin', tootin' and shootin' American man of action.
  • Jules Verne was another Victorian novelist all over this trope like a cheap suit:
  • The characters of Good Omens include a televangelist called Martin O. Bagman
  • Huckleberry Finn.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird also naturally has several examples, with the prize going to X Billups, who has no given name other than X.
  • 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.
  • Percy Jackson and The Olympians: Perseus "Percy" Jackson whose best friends are Grover Underwood (somewhat justified because he's a saytr), Annabeth Chase, Nico di Angelo, and Thalia Grace. Other charicters Piper McLean, Nyssa, Clovis, Lou Ellen, and Reyna. Even when the completly human Paul Blofis meets Poseidon, Poseidon openly says that is his name, even lampshading it and Paul doesn't bat an eye.

Live Action Film

Live Action TV

  • Comedian Lenny Henry's comic character Theophilus P. Wildebeeste, an over-the-top parody of various 1970s soul singers like Barry White.
  • The early 1990s comedy show The Mary Whitehouse Experience included a sketch showing what might happen if English football was run by Americans. The results included cheerleaders chanting, "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough," commentators who mispronounce English place names and a player called Dwight Speigelhacker. Several major English football teams now actually have U.S. owners, who it's fair to say haven't gone for any of these "innovations".
  • Corrupt Hick Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, from The Dukes of Hazzard, not to mention his superior J.D. "Boss" Hogg, Cletus Hogg and their rival Beauregard "Bo" Duke.
  • The Waltons had a full complement of these under their roof, too, with John-Boy, Jim-Bob, Zebulon (Grandpa), Esther (Grandma) and Mary Ellen.
  • 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.
  • Dallas, which centred on the Ewing family, key members of which were J.R. (John Ross) Ewing and his wife Sue Ellen.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus gave us a sketch with a movie mogul by the name of Irving C. Saltzberg Jnr. This was the last sketch in the episode; in the credits that followed, the cast were named as Graham C. Chapmanberg, John C. Cleeseberg, Terry C. Jonesberg and so on.
  • 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.
  • 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?

[The person they end up appointing is named Carlos Mendoza.]

  • 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.
  • 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..."
  • Doctor Who had 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".
  • The Goodies had Major Charles M. Cheeseburger in one episode.
  • Steven Q. Urkel of Family Matters.
  • 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?"

Music

  • 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".
  • Rich Hall's touring musical persona Otis Lee Crenshaw.
  • Dr. Phineas Waldorf Steel isn't just wacky - he's Crazy Awesome.

Radio

Video Games

Web Original

Western Animation

  • "Brains" in Thunderbirds goes by the names Hiram K. Hackenbacker and Ray Hackenbacker, although his true name is not actually revealed in-universe.
  • From Toy Story and its sequels, the all-American astronaut toy Buzz Lightyear.

Real Life

  • There have been several American presidents whose names qualify, especially Ulysses S Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but the Congressman who nominated him to West Point forgot the "Hiram" on the paperwork) and some of the subsequent Gilded Age "what did he do again?" presidents (Rutherford B Hayes, Grover Cleveland), and of course Dwight D Eisenhower.
    • Zachary Taylor would've been on this list 30 years ago but the name caught on big time with new parents in the '80s and '90s.
  • He was never President, but Hubert Horatio Humphrey cannot be overlooked.
  • Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist shares a first name with one of those Gilded Age presidents (Grover Cleveland).
  • Not one but two astronauts nicknamed "Buzz", which is why Buzz Lightyear and countless others have that name...
  • Really, the US doesn't help itself escape this portrayal when Brits find out that Randy is a first name.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.