I have this peculiarity where the more ridiculous the name, the more likely it is that I’m going to like the series. It is sad, but true. There is just something about them that makes me sit down and listen. And love. I have the most ridiculous amounts of fun bringing out some of these names to the horror of others, for example. But mostly I just enjoy reading them.
Honestly, I sometimes wonder if I even know what a real name sounds like anymore. Elena Michaels sounds like it could be real. But does Nevada Baylor? I guess someone could be called that.
But no, those could all be given the benefit of the doubt besides. Some of these, cannot.
There are, in my estimation, five stages of Bad Names. There is The Obvious Name, The Fantasy Name, The Groan Worthy Name, The Stripper Name and the WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING Name. I’m sure you can tell already that this is going to be fun.
What are some of your favourite Bad Names?
Stage 1: The Obvious Name
Either this or The Fantasy Name are the most common stage I come across. These are the names that make you roll your eyes just because of how completely obvious they are. There are two categories to The Obvious Name.
Category A: The “Of Course You Did”
There are two names I see again, and again, and again. Does the author have a lot of vampires in their series? You’re probably going to run into a Vlad at some point. I’d think it were a rule to include one, but that might just make me angry instead of amused. Bonus points if it is the real Vlad the Impaler! Because if you’re going to have a Vlad, might as well go all out, right? The second name is Cassandra. Because every single seer in existence is named Cassandra, apparently. Thankfully, most of these Cassandras tend to be listened to, instead of ignored.
Category B: The “I Named Them For What They Are”
The next category is the ones where the character’s name is what they are. Luna for a werewolf. Danny Phantom, because he’s a ghost! You’re probably unsurprised this is a category, because you’ve probably read Harry Potter. Don’t worry, that comes later! There are also the less obvious examples. The Dresden Files is good for this. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is named after a bunch of magicians, and he is a wizard, and Michael Carpenter is literally a Paladin of God. Then there is Pyrgus Malvae, Holly Blue and Culmella Chrysoteuchia who are all named after butterflies, when they can turn into little fairies in the series.
Stage 2. The Fantasy Name
If you’ve read fantasy at all, you know this was coming. Fantasy is notorious for their names being just completely weird. If there was anything I learned from this post, it is that fantasy authors have to be stopped from naming their own characters, at all costs. I have four categories for The Fantasy Name.
Category 1: The “Highly Weird”
This is probably the least objectionable category in this whole list, simply because it is so common. Drizzt almost seems normal nowadays, as does Raoden (or as I call him, Raobae). Names like Anaander Mianaai or Seivarden Vendaai are much less normal. Some of my all time favourites are names like Thirty-Six All Terrain Tundra Vehicle, She-Commands-Me-and-I-Obey, Her-Breath-Contains-The-Universe, and Seven-Brilliant-Truths-Shine-Like-Suns. Those are always fun.
Category 2: The “Unpronounceable”
Right off the bat, we have Numuhukumakiaki’aialunamor, who knows that no one is ever going to be able to pronounce his name, so he calls himself Rock. Then there is are names that have a pronunciation, you just won’t believe it if anyone told you. Names like Chaol (pronounced Kale, but you won’t), and Feyre (pronounced fey-rah, but good luck telling your brain that). Then there are the names that everyone has a different pronunciation for, like Nynaeve. Honorable Mention: all the names in desperate need of vowels: Ghisteslwcholhm, Klbkchhezeim, Ksmvr.
Category 3: The “Apostrophe”
You knew this was coming. Everyone knew this was coming. Authors, please put away the apostrophe. It is tempting, I know, hanging out there on your keyboard screaming “USE MEEE, USE MEEEEE”. Don’t ignore that screaming in your head, because that is your fans, screaming out in horror every time they see another apostrophe. Onos T’oolan, T’amber, K’rul, Bhan’sheen, Dha’vol, Dhai’mon, Dhjin’nen, Ghar’gheal, Ghob’hlin, Gho’hlem, Ghraem’lan, Ko’bal, Kno’mon. You can name them all day.
Category 4: The “Confusing”
In this category we have Maia Drazhar AKA Edrehasivar the Seventh is the first son of Chenelo Drazharan, daughter of the Great Avar, Maru. He is also the unloved fourth son of Emperor Varenechibel IV. Say that five times fast! In Malazan, we have names like Galak, Galar and Galas, and Finarra and Feren, and Sevegg and Serap all close together. The Dragonriders of Pern have an interesting naming convention with F’ followed by random letters: F’lan, F’nor, F’lessen, and F’lon.
And you couldn’t possibly mention confusing without mentioning Tolkien. Aragorn, son of Arathorn the last descendant of Andor who married Arwen. He was fostered by Elrond son of Eärendil and Elwing, twin to Elros, married to Celebrían (daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn) and sired Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen. And that is just one family line. God help you if you try and look deeper.
Stage 3: The Groan-Worthy Name
Yep, we’ve reached the category where, when you come across it in a book, you’re probably going to groan just a little bit. It may be inside, where it is hurting you. But you may not be able to contain your inner pain and let it leak out into the world. There are three categories to The Groan-Worthy Name.
Category A: The “Alliteration”
Comic books are the bigger offender of this category. Peter Parker, Lois Lane, Bucky Barnes, Bruce Banner, Pepper Potts. I could probably go on all day. Comic books aren’t the only ones that do this, though. Oh, no indeed! It is quite common. An author just certainly can’t resist putting in some alliteration into their work! Others I have seen in books include Suze Simon, Victory Vaughn, Katherine “Kitty” Katt, Sydney Sage, and Maggie MacKay. I wouldn’t be lying if I said that the only reason I read the Katherine “Kitty” Katt and Maggie MacKay series were because of their names.
Category B: The “Why Would You Do That?”
Sometimes, you just have to be amused by a set of names, otherwise you’ll never get through a series even if you like it. Such is the case with Saetan SaDiablo, the ruler of Hayll, and his two sons Daemon Sadi, and Lucivar Yaslana, who has a son named Luthivar. Oh and don’t forget that the person that every single one of those three family members love dearly, and who saves them all from themselves, is named Jaenelle Angelline.
In another series, the names are all German words. One character is named Important (Wichtig), another Unpredictable, and King Forever (König Furimmer), and To Steal (Stehlen). As if the author google translated his names. You…probably shouldn’t do that.
Category C: The “Hah! I Fooled You!”
Lastly, we have the author who thinks they’re clever by subverting expectations. I love you Mercedes Thompson, but do you really have to be a Volkswagon mechanic? Really? And I know Kitty Norville’s parents didn’t expect her to become a werewolf, since they didn’t know they existed when they named her. That doesn’t mean I don’t still groan at her name!
Stage 4. The Stripper Name
This stage is pretty much self explanatory. If you’ve never come across this stage before, well, I’m happy for you. Enjoy my pain as you should. If you have come across it before, you understand my pain.
John Charming is from a family of monster hunters and other things thought myth by regular humans, all named Charming. Which would fall under The Obvious Stage, if it weren’t for the fact that his name conjures up images of Prince Charming from shrek in a jockstrap dancing in front of a hoard of screaming girls.
Try as I might, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about the name Secret McQueen. Yes, this is the name of a real character in a real book series. I’m very sorry you had to learn about this fact. She may be a dhampir who has a very impressive kill record against full vampires, but her name is terrible. The only thing that makes it worse is knowing that she has a sister named Genie McQueen.
Stage 5. The WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING Name
Lastly, the stage everyone has been waiting for. These are the ones that someone really should have spoken to the author about before they went off with this idea of theirs. Just gently set them down on the couch, handed them a nice drink, and yelled at them “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!”
Renesme from Twilight. Enough said.
Black Dagger Brotherhood’s characters names are best viewed in list form: Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Phury, Butch/Dhestroyer, Vishous, Rehvenge, Therror, Xhex, Tohrment, No’One, Qhuinn, Blaylock, Trez, iAm, Xcor, Paradise, Axe, and Ruhn. And a handful of lesser offenses. Yes, those are all real names. I’m very sorry for doing this to you. It was like J.R. Ward perfectly crafted a series where I would enjoy it despite anything else, simply for the names she gave her characters.
J.K. Rowling gets a special mention here, because she hits almost every one of the categories above. It may be entirely unsurprising that Harry Potter is one of my favourite series of all time.
-She hits the “I Named Them For What They Are” with Remus Lupin, the werewolf (who’s parents couldn’t possibly have been damning their child with that kind of name, now could they have?) as well as names such as Pomona Sprout and Newt Scamander.
-She has “Alliteration” down pat with names like Luna Lovegood, Padma and Pavarti Patil, Quirinus Quirrell, Poppy Pomfrey, and so, so many others.
-She even gets a mention with the “Why Would You Do That” category, because why would you name someone Cho Chang, which is stereotypical as everything, but also wrong because it is from two different cultures!
-Even has the “Hah! I Fooled You!” with Oliver Wood, and Harry thinking it was going to be a punishment for him.
-You even have the strippers with the Lovegoods and Longbottoms, plus Susan Bones and Nymphadora
-Plus everything to do with Voldemort’s name. Voldemort is in a category all his own.
Series named in this post*: Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, Danny Phantom, The Faerie Wars Chronicles by Herbie Brennan, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, Sarah J. Maas, Malazan by Steven Erikson, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Entirety of Marvel, The Mediator by Meg Cabot, Deadtown by Nancy Holzner, Katherine “Kitty” Katt by Gini Koch, Bloodlines by Richelle Mead, Maggie MacKay Magical Tracker by Kate Danley, The Black Jewels by Anne Bishop, Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, Kitty Norville by Carrie Vaughn, Pax Arcana by Elliott James, Secret McQueen by Sierre Dean, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward, and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.
*Note: I’m not listing all the series with Vlad as a vampire or Cassandra as a Seer. I don’t have eternity to post this.