Fitting characters' names in tv, literature and movies

I just thought of this while watching a classic Doctor Who the other day: “Dodo Chaplet. A stupid bird who who walks right up to dangerous people and acts like they’re her best friends. Huh.”

It was a common feature in early literature.

Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan’s The Rivals, who is known for using the wrong word in her speech, has a her named derived from “mal” (bad) "aprop(riate).

Just about every character in The Pilgrim’s Progress is named to describe their character.

In a more modern example, in House of Cards Frank Underwood (in the US version) and Francis Urquhart (the UK version) were named so that their initials were “FU.”

So, what do we make of Felix Unger?

I thought the Hannibal was obvious, but the Lecter/Lektor more subtly referred to his “teaching” of Clarice Starling.

“It took me three hours to figure out that F.U. was Felix Unger!”

Neil Simon has said that being able to make that joke was not the reason for Felix’s name, but I’ve always had my lingering doubts.


I don’t have a cite for this, but I believe “Scrooge” comes from screw - An extortioner; a sharp bargainer; a skinflint. In the 1951 “Christmas Carol,” Mrs. Dilber says that about ES when she’s trying to sell his belongings post-mortem.

Every other action hero is named “Jake Striker” or “Rick Hunter” or “Max Power”. Wikipedia has a helpful list of real-life examples:

^ “Nobody snuggles with Max Power, Marge. You strap yourself in and feel the Gs.”

That list is missing the first real-life example I thought of: poet William Wordsworth.

The main character of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash is named Hiro Protagonist. I guess Neal didn’t really have the creative juices flowing that day…

I think Pierce is a pretty fitting name for a surgeon.

He was referred to as “Hannibal the Cannibal” Lecter from the beginning. Here is a NY Times book review from Nov 10, 1981 that refers to him as such. (“Manhunter” came out in 1986.)

Similarly, I assume Remus Lupin’s parents deliberately let him get bit by a werewolf and had planned to since he was born. For Harry Potter characters it might be easier to list the ones that aren’t deliberately named to fit the character.

Following on from Mr Atoz in the original Star Trek, there was also Edith Keeler (Joan Collins) in “City on the Edge of Forever”. Her death (or lack of it) was the focus point for a divergent timeline. A ships keel keeps the ship stable.

James Joyce’s alter ego, Stephen Dedalus (protagonist of both Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), is an allusion to the ancient Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, who tried to build wings and fly away from the island (in their case Crete, in Joyce’s case Ireland) that was their prison.

On Big Bang Theory, the two male leads were named after renowned TV producer Sheldon Leonard.

On Gilligan’s Island, the boat was named after FCC Chairman Newton Minnow, famous for referring to TV as a “vast wasteland.”

Rex Stout, best known as creator of private investigator Nero Wolfe, created another fictional sleuth named Tecumseh Fox.

As crossword addicts (and almost nobody else) can tell you, in the 1940s, “tec” was a slang word used for detectives. Stout gave his character the name “Tecumseh” almost solely so that he could be called “Tec” for short.

Not being subtle; one of radio’s longest running comedies, “Fibber Magee and Molly,” hit the nail on the head with the male main character.

I always thought the main character Sam Spade was an especially good name for a detective who dug up dirt in the “Maltese Falcon.” And the main bad guy, Casper Guttman for a gasping fat man…

Of course, there is Major, Major Major Major in “Catch 22.”

On the other hand, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Well, before his fall from grace, didn’t “Lance Armstrong” sound just TOO perfect as the name of a noble, heroic sports champion?