Appropriated Appellation

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"Given in scorn, adopted in pride."


When a person, (often a superhero, villain or more grounded criminal) takes his name from a nickname, an insult, or a botched pronunciation, spoken or spread in print by someone else.

In real life, this could extend to criminals who adopt the moniker given them in the press. A subversion could be a criminal corresponding with the press to "correct" the error like Son of Sam or Jack the Ripper.

Can be a form of Insult Backfire when the name was meant to be derogatory. (And when applied to a group, can lead to N-Word Privileges.) Arguably a form of in-universe Ascended Fanon.

Compare: Line-of-Sight Name, NameDar, Title Drop, Ascended Meme. Compare and contrast Named by Democracy where someone is often forced to accept the name others use instead of willfully adopting it.

Examples of Appropriated Appellation include:

Anime and Manga

  • "Chad" of Bleach got his name when Ichigo met him, and mispronounced his real name "Sado" (the Japanese dub uses "Chado").
  • In Rave Master, the name of the Demon Card was originally supposed to be Demon Guard instead (as they were an anti-demon security force before their Start of Darkness), but the original founder painted it the wrong way and failed to notice it in time. However, the name stuck.
  • In Death Note, Light is quickly dubbed Kira ("killer" approximated in Japanese) by the media, and decides to use that name in his dealings with others. He's not a big fan of the name (he'd rather be hailed as a savior), but it's what the world already knows him as, so he might as well go along with it.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew got their name from reporters mishearing Ichigo's introduction of "Uh, we're from Cafe Mew Mew in Tokyo...", partially thanks to Minto, who, having some sense, muffled her to protect their secret identities.
  • Played straight in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 with Patrick Colasaur. He survives getting his ass kicked by the Gundams enough that he earns the nickname "Colasaur The Indestructible". He seems oblivious they're disparaging him.
    • Kati Mannequin tries to explain it to him once; apparently, he doesn't know what "disparage" means.
  • In One Piece, Zoro was frequently called the Pirate Hunter, as he was a bounty hunter, and pirates were the most likely people to hold bounties. But the reality was that Zoro needed their bounty money to pay for food and to repair his swords. Also, this could have easily been the epithet for any other bounty hunter.
    • Even now that he's one of the most wanted pirates in the world, he's STILL called "Pirate Hunter Zoro". But the vast majority of his opponents are pirates, so the name Pirate Hunter is still accurate, regardless of whether or not he is one himself.
  • Jeremiah Gottwald of Code Geass lands the nickname Orange in association with the scandal to which he was linked by Zero. Eventually he takes it as a symbol of loyalty once he learns of Zero's identity and motives.
  • Gon names his Rock-Paper-Scissor (Janken) move Jajanken after he stutters on the first syllable and his opponent thinks he called it Jajanken on purpose (Jajan! as a surprise, and Janken for the rock-paper-scissors)
  • In the backstory of Saiunkoku Monogatari, Ko Houju was called "kijin (weirdo)" as an insult. After he was rejected by a woman for being too much more beautiful than herself, he began wearing masks constantly and calling himself Ko Kijin, which is the name that most of the other characters of the series know him by.

Comic Books

  • In DC Comics, Booster Gold got his strange name when he flubbed his own intended name, "Gold Star", along with his college football nickname "Booster", when asked by Ronald Reagan.
  • Modern age Plastic Man got his name from flubbing "Elastic Man", also when asked by a reporter.
    • There is a song by The Fall called, "How I wrote Elastic man"; In one verse it says "How I wrote elastic man" and ends with "How I wrote Plastic man" Coincidence?
  • In at least one version of his origin, Batman villain, Jonathan Crane was called nasty names, one of them being "Scarecrow".
  • Invincible got his name from someone saying to him "What do you think you are, invincible?"
  • The Heroes Reborn Continuity Reboot attempt had the Hulk and Iron Man do this to each other when their origins were mashed up into a single storyline. (Tony used the H-word when he first saw the mutated Banner, and the Hulk liked the sound of it; the other side was just applied Hulk Speak.)
    • Similarly, when Betty Ross first saw the Gamma-transformed Emil Blonsky, she described him as "some kind of... abomination!" Guess what his supervillain name became...
  • Justice Society of America's "Atom" got this name for his short stature. He kept it after he became a vigilante.
  • Daredevil was a mocking name Matt Murdock received back in school for not playing sports. Later parodied in the comic strip "Bullpen Bits".
  • This has become the default way of explaining why superheroes have their superhero names: somebody in the media giving it to them. The 80s reboots of both Superman and Wonder Woman have them get their names this way.
  • Hollis Mason of Watchmen was given the sarcastic nickname "Nite Owl" by a co-worker irritated by Mason's early bedtime. At the same time, he was looking to become a "costumed adventurer," but was stuck for a name...

"'Nite Owl.' I liked it. Now all I had to come up with was the costume."


"'But you can keep calling me Mysterio. I like that. I would have never come up with that name myself but it's out there now... and I like it.'"

  • Transmetropolitan: The term "The New Scum" was coined by presidential candidate Gary "The Smiler" Callahan as an insulting reference to Spider Jerusalem's audience; the term was appropriated to a degree during the scandal that broke out after Spider leaked that outburst to the public.
    • "Because of you, everyone calls me 'The Beast' now. The press, my staff, my own fucking children."
  • Marvel's adhesives-based villain The Trapster started out calling himself Paste-Pot Pete! He's regretted it ever since.
  • In PS238, the Most Common Superpower isn't big boobs, it's "F.I.S.S.". Cute Bruiser Julie is the eighty-fourth of these documented and as such feels a little inferior until she gains some confidence. Tthen she takes "84" as her official hero name and wears it openly. After the news spread, Julie was quite surprised to discover the reaction of some other FISS metahumans.
  • Mad artist Don Martin created Captain Klutz, whose name derived from the insult ("You Klutz!") of a robber he captured by accident. (Young Ringo Fonebone had actually been attempting suicide when he landed on top of the fleeing crook.) When a police Captain asked for his name, the dazed Fonebone replied, "I'm a Klutz, Captain." Perhaps not a pure example, as Fonebone was briefly amnesiac, and actually thought it was his real name, at least at first.
  • The New Warriors got named when a random reporter referred to them that way, and Night Thrasher hurriedly announced they'd be sticking with that before any of his team could come up with anything more embarrassing.
  • It's often said that Batman gave Bart the codename "Impulse" as a warning. This is actually a Retcon; he created it himself during Zero Hour (though all-but-confirmed in his second appearance a month before and reinforced a few issues later in the main Flash ongoing), a fact even his creator forgot.
  • In Batman: The Man Who Laughs, Brubaker and Mahnke's re-interpretation of the Joker's first appearance, he is actually given the name "Joker" by the press. He claims it's "funny [he] didn't think of it."
    • Also, the Penguin. Oswald Cobblepot was mercilessly teased as a child, and "penguin" was a common insult. Eventually, as a villain, he dressed like a penguin and started using the name.
  • Spider-Man's enemy Doctor Octopus. Before he was a villain, he was a Doctor Jerk, and his colleges called him "Doctor Octopus" behind his back. He heard them, but he barely cared. Upon becoming a villain, he adopted the insult as his nom de plume.
  • In Chapter 2 of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, we see the Beagle Boys evolving from river pirates to who they are today, except they had a bit of trouble naming their group—throughout the comic they considered naming themselves "the Mardi Gras Gang" (their employer, Porker Hogg, got their masks from said event), "the Dirty Double-Crossing Dogs", and "the Masked Marauders". Eventually, when Scrooge tricked the gang and saved the day, he announced to the nearby government ship, who came to investigate, "These are the awful Beagle Boys!"

Beagle Boy 1: "The Beagle Boys"! Catchy! Simple, yet elegant!
Beagle Boy 2: Not bad! Rolls off the tongue!

  • Corrupt Corporate Executive Krösus Sork ("Croesus Vole") apparently adopted "Krösus" as his given name based on an ironic derogatory nickname in school (as The Unfavourite, he never had any money). AFAIK, we have never seen his real name - but an earlier version of him was called "Sigge", so presumably he was Sigmund Sork or something.
  • Arseface from Preacher, after hearing Cassidy say he has "a face like an arse" and then seeing his father shoot himself. He takes up his new moniker in a straight send-up of many classic scenes:

- "Uh wuh huh vuhhyuh uh Juhh Cuhh! Vuhhyuh fuh uh bluh uh muh fuhh! Uh uh uh huh uh fuh luh uh uhh -- suh buh uh! Uh wuh becuhh Uhhfuhh!" (I will have vengeance on Jesse Custer! Vengeance for the blood of my father! And if I have a face like an arse -- so be it! I will become Arseface!)

  • In Punisher Noir, Detective Martin Soap nicknames the mysterious vigilante who's been wreaking havoc on the Manhattan underworld "The Punisher", after a popular radio drama he theorizes inspired the man. He's partially correct—Frank Castelione, Jr. took a few pages from his favorite radio show when he started his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, but he never really had a name for himself before he heard the one Soap gave him.
  • Captain Mar-Vell made his debut when he stopped a killer robot sent by his own superiors in the Kree army that was sent to Kill All Humans. During the battle the robot kept addressing him by his rank and name "Captain Mar-Vell". Bystanders misheard and assumed that Mar-Vell was a new superhero named "Captain Marvel". Mar-Vell decided to go along with it.
  • According to The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, X-Men enemy Mr. Sinister got his name from the curses of his dying wife. Appropriately enough for a guy who became a supervillain in the 1800s, you don't get more gothic than that.
  • Stretched to the breaking point for the Impossible Man. The Thing, amazed by the new alien's metamorphic powers and glib attitude, says the alien is "impossible", as in exasperating. The narration automatically claims it as a moniker, calling the alien the Impossible Man.
  • Astro City: Infidel took his name from the insult his enemies had hurled at him countless times across the centuries.
  • In the John Bryne Superman reboot immediately after the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, Lex Luther referred to a failed, white-skinned semicrystalline clone of Superman as "that bizarre... oh!" before storming off in anger.



Elijah Price: In a comic, you know how you can tell who the arch-villain's going to be? He's the exact opposite of the hero, and most time's they're friends, like you and me! I should've known way back when. You know why, David? Because of the kids! They called me Mr. Glass.

  • In The Incredible Hulk, a student on the news says "It was like some kind of... Hulk!" Also, when Blonsky is forcing Stearns to give him Hulk powers, Stearns warns him that the combination of the Super Serum and Gamma Radiation might result in "An Abomination". Both of these are straight out of the comics.
    • Iron Man has a case similar to the latter, where Stane uses the name of his comicverse alter ego, "Iron Monger", in casual conversation with Tony.
  • Played straight in Superman, when Lois Lane decides to call the guy in a cape flying around "Superman".
  • Similar to the animated example below, Meredith Dimly accidentally gives the Bratz their name in the live movie.
  • In Spider-Man, when Peter Parker tried out at an underground fight club just after he gained his super powers, he called himself "The Human Spider". The fight announcer thought that was a stupid name and instead introduced him as "The Amazing Spider-Man". The rest is history.
    • Green Goblin was also named by the press, as was Dr. Octopus in the sequel.
  • Rain Man was named by his little brother, who couldn't pronounce "Raymond."
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, the name "Captain America (comics)" was given to Steve during the USO tours, but he would use that name during his first military mission. The soldiers he rescued would also use that name without any sarcasm.
  • Subverted Trope in Mystery Men. The protagonists spend most of the film without having thought of a name for their team. After saving the day at the end:

Reporter: Well, whatever you call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these mystery men.
The Sphinx: Wait! Wait, that's it! We are... The Super Squad!

  • Idiocracy: Time-travelling Cpl. Joe Bauers is re-named Not Sure by the bar code machine as he tries to explain that he doesn't understand how it's supposed to work.


  • Bane from the Star Wars Expanded Universe. To put this in perspective: the first person to call him this was his father, who was physically and emotionally abusive, calling his son the "bane of his existence." When he joined the Sith, he became Darth Bane.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is full of nicknames, some of them falling into this trope:
    • Tyrion Lannister actually tells Jon Snow to use this trope.

Tyrion: Let me give you some advice, bastard: never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.

    • Sandor Clegane is known as the Hound due to the hounds on his coat of arms and his perceived total lack of ethical concerns interfering with his loyalty to his master. The self-loathing Sandor wears a helm crafted into a horrible dog-face.
    • The ex-smuggler Davos Seaworth was knighted for delivering food to a besieged city. The other nobility look at him as a common thug who bought his knighthood with onions, dubbing him the Onion Knight, but Davos proudly put the onion on his coat of arms.
    • Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish is lord of a tiny tract of worthless land on a group of peninsulas called the Fingers, and is also physically short. He goes by the name as part of his scheme to get people to underestimate him.
    • Jaime "Kingslayer" Lannister got his name for murdering Aerys Targaryen, who he had previously sworn to protect. He uses the name and the reputation that comes with it to get away with a lot.
    • Brienne is often referred to as "Brienne the Beauty" but not for the reason you'd think—Brienne is large, mannish, and ugly, and very self-conscious about it, and the name is used more or less solely by people mocking her. Jaime Lannister gives her a new appellation while they're travelling together—Brienne, the Maid of Tarth, which she uses almost exclusively afterwards.
  • Galinda in Wicked (both the musical and the book) is called "Glinda" (notice the lack of an A) by her talking Goat teacher. When he is killed, she changes her name to Glinda in his memory.
  • In Ender's Shadow, Bean gets his name when some other street children are taunting him that he isn't worth a bean. He then immediately lampshades that the name sucks, but the mere fact that he has a name at all is enough of a sign of status that he'll take it.
    • Ender himself gains his nickname because his older sister couldn't pronounce "Andrew."
      • He drops it for the sequels, though, after "Ender" becomes anathema.
  • Midas Mulligan in Atlas Shrugged.
  • Stereth Tarkrim (it means "rice thief") in the Ivory trilogy by Doris Egan.
  • The Forsaken in The Wheel of Time were mostly given nicknames by people in the Age of Legends to reflect their deeds, such as Ishamael (The Betrayer of Hope), Sammael (The Destroyer of Hope), Moghedian (The Spider) and so on, and by the time of the series have embraces their names to the point of almost forgetting their original names, and certainly the names of most of their fellows. The exception would be Lanfaer (the Daughter of the night), who coined her new name herself.
    • "Yes, Betrayer of Hope. So men have named me, just as they named you the Dragon. When they gave me that name they intended to revile me, but I will yet make them kneel and worship it. What will you do with your name? After this day they will call you the Kinslayer, what will you do with that?"
  • In Harry Potter, the Gryffindors' eventual adoption of "Weasley Is Our King" after Ron's first successful turn as Keeper could count as a version of this, similar to the American adoption of "Yankee Doodle." Though, they changed the lyrics to praise Ron and his Quidditch skills rather than keeping the insulting ones.
    • In the same book, the Ministry attempts to restrict the amount of defensive magic students can learn out of fear Dumbledore wants to turn them into his own private army. Since the Big Bad is out there building up his power base, the students form a secret Defense group and name it "Dumbledore's Army". When they're discovered, Dumbledore goes along with the idea in order to prevent any blame falling on the students. He notes it's "Dumbledore's Army", not "Potter's Army."
    • In Harry Potter, Hermione is the first known character to utilize this trope in the series for the term "mudblood."

Hermione: I’m hunted quite as much as any goblin or elf, Griphook! I’m a Mudblood!
Ron: Don't call yourself--
Hermione: Why shouldn’t I? Mudblood, and proud of it!

  • In the Codex Alera, it's a joke among veterans that new recruits are "fish," since their flailing around is more reminiscent of a landed fish than a legionnaire. The legion Tavi was assigned to happened to have an outsized regiment of Knights Aeris: namely, ones who were powerful enough to qualify but so short on practice that they couldn't fly (which is the entire point of Knights Aeris). Tavi dubbed them "Knights Pisces." It stuck. Then the battle of the Elinarch rolled around, when Tavi stopped the enemy army from sneaking across the river by having butchers and the like dump buckets of blood and offal in the river to attract sharks. Next time we see the Knights, they've chosen a certain fish as their new insignia. They keep the name for the rest of the series.
  • In the Discworld book Jingo, 71-Hour Ahmed might qualify. His tribe called him 71-Hour Ahmed because he had killed a man one hour before it was acceptable (his tribe offers everyone hospitality for three days, i.e. 72 hours.) He explains to Vimes that the man was a mass-murderer, and that once all the evidence was in, why wait even a single hour? While clearly not meant to be complimentary, he lets people refer to him by that title because its meaning is known and frightening to Klatchians. He doesn't let custom get in the way of doing what's necessary.
    • Also applies to his tribe, the D'regs. The name is Klatchian for "enemy". It's noted that it's "not the name they chose for themselves, but they adopted it out of pride".
  • In Robert Asprin's Phule's Company series, the Legionaire who had chosen the name "Rose" for herself was usually called "Violet" (from "Shrinking Violet") by the others due to her crippling shyness in face-to-face contact. But when it's discovered that over the radio, she's phenomenally good as a communications officer (If she can't see the person she's talking to, she's fine) and very motherly to everyone in the company, everyone starts calling her "Mother" and she adopts it herself.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn's alias Strider is initially a derogatory nickname given to him by the people of Bree, who see the Rangers as mysterious, dangerous ruffians. When he becomes king of Gondor, he translates the name into Quenya and uses it as his family name.
  • In Tales of the Magic Land, the wooden soldiers are called Deadwood Oaks, after their creator's constant insults about their learning abilities. In the end, one of the soldiers called himself that, and Urfin Jus decided this is the perfect name.

Live Action TV

  • Beaver from Leave It to Beaver got his nickname from his brother, Wally, not being able to pronounce "Theodore" [his given name].
  • Richard Hammond of Top Gear was nicknamed "Hamster" by Jeremy Clarkson and eventually came to like the name. He even refers to it with his production company, "Hamster's Wheel".
  • Several times on Smallville , as a Mythology Gag. When Clark Kent joins an underground fight club, the manager calls him "The Man Of Steel" because he earlier demonstrated he was bullet proof. Green Arrow called him "Boy Scout" because of his simple-minded idealism. When he becomes an active superhero, the media calls him "The Good Samaritan" (because he helps people in trouble for no reason), "The Red-Blue Blur" (named for the only thing visible when he uses Super Speed), and finally, "The Blur". Also, when he reveals his secret to Jimmy Olsen, Jimmy goes, "Wow! You're some kind of Super... Super... Guy."
    • Much like the movie and animated TV show, in The Adventures of Superman (from the 1950s), Superman gets his name from the Daily Planet. His first public heroic was rescuing a man who had fallen off of an airship, and the man later described him as "some sort of... Super-guy...", and shortly afterwards Lois calls him Superman.
    • In Lois and Clark, Lois names him after the "S" insignia, which is supposed to be in an alien language.
  • Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was known as "William the Bloody" during life, because his poetry was bloody awful, and one critic said that he'd rather have a railroad spike driven through his head than listen to it. Upon becoming a vampire, he took up those insults and "granted the critic's wish".
  • Shotaro Hidari and Philip received the name "Kamen Rider" from the citizens of Fuuto, which they use with pride. Interestingly, it's the villains that refer to them as "Kamen Rider Double".
  • On the self-titled sitcom Roseanne, one episode has her mother explaining that Jackie's name isn't really Jackie, but Marjorie. Roseanne couldn't properly pronounce her name as a child and it always sounded like she was calling her "My Jackie", and after a while, the name stuck.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati: Radio DJ Gordon Sims initially wanted his Stage Name to be Venus Rising, but due to a slip-up when he first came on the air, he was introduced as Venus Flytrap, and the name stuck.
  • A flashback in Have Gun — Will Travel shows that the hero, Paladin, got the name in this manner. A villainous employer falsely made him believe that a gunfighter calling himself Smoke was a villain terrorizing a town. The dying Smoke revealed the truth and sarcastically referred to his killer as a "paladin". His killer adopted that name and to atone, becoming a hero while wearing Smoke's costume.
  • Holby City: Percival Durant, a wildly anti-authoritarian surgeon working in a Ghanaian clinic at the time of his introduction on the show, earned the nickname "Abra" from his colleagues and patients, which he wears with pride. It roughly translates to "troublemaker".
  • Wonder Woman TV Series: At the pilot:

Queen Hippolyte: Go in peace my daughter. And remember that, in a world of ordinary mortals, you are a Wonder Woman.
Princess Diana: I will may you proud of me... and of Wonder Woman.

  • While everybody in Stargate SG-1 initially calls him "shol'va" (traitor) as an insult (practically spitting out the curse), Teal'c pretty quickly warms up to the "title" and a few times even smiles proudly when being called that. Later on, the other rebel Jaffa treat the term the same way.


  • Daft Punk named themselves after a review of their first musical attempt (a punk rock band, Darlin'), that a British music magazine dismissed as "a bunch of daft punk".
  • The Residents got their name from a rejection letter they received after sending a demo tape to Warner Brothers Records: because they didn't include a name in the return address, the letter was simply addressed to "Residents".
  • Shortly after deciding to form a band together, Al Jourgensen, Richard 23 and Luc Van Acker went out to a bar and eventually found themselves kicked out for starting a brawl. The bartender called them "a bunch of revolting cocks", and sure enough, the band was newly christened The Revolting Cocks.
    • Jourgensen is particularly fond of this trope. Jourgensen's project 1,000 Homo DJs was similarly named after a comment from Wax Trax! owner Jim Nash, who said of the group's demo, "No one's gonna play this. It's gonna take a thousand homo DJs to play this for anyone to buy it." The title of Ministry's album Filth Pig is also lifted from a derogatory reference to Jourgensen, this time from a speech by a British MP.
  • When Butch Vig showed some new songs, someone reacted saying it was garbage. Guess how he named the band who played said songs?
  • When Stan Ridgway played a friend some music he and Mark Moreland were working on for a film soundtrack, he jokingly compared the layered production to Phil Spector's "Wall Of Sound". Because of how unnerving the music was, said friend quipped that it was more like a "Wall of Voodoo".
  • When the Yardbirds collapsed, leaving Jimmy Page as sole remaining member, he recruited three unknown musicians (they knew each other through session work) and carried on. Legal uncertainties caused them to become the New Yardbirds. Then The Who's Keith Moon and John Entwistle made a remark about them going down "like a lead zeppelin". They adopted this name, changing the spelling to the familiar Led Zeppelin at the suggestion of their US distributor, who thought people might mispronounce (and misconstrue) "Lead" as if it were "lead a horse to water".

Professional Wrestling

  • Tully Blanchard, the Anderson Brothers and Ric Flair were thrown together at the last minute to fill up the NWA's tv time. The segment was well received and even compared to the Four Horsemen in the Bible, so the fans began calling them The Four Horsemen of Wrestling, which the group then adopted themselves. Being a carbon copy, Evolution tried to invoke the same thing but it was only in story, the fans didn't jump on them name that time.


  • From Australian Rules Football: In their early days, Richmond Football Club didn't have an official nickname. However, their colors of yellow and black inspired fan cries of "Eat 'em alive, Tigers!", and eventually the club adopted "Tigers" as their nickname.
    • The "Yellow and black!" interjection in Richmond's theme song was also created by the fans.
    • Geelong's nickname of the Cats comes from a story about a black cat crossing the ground and Geelong winning the match.
  • In the late 1800s, fans of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (seriously), were derisively referred to as Trolley Dodgers by the pre-dominantly more well-to-do fans of the archrival New York Giants, due to the fact that in order to reach Bridegrooms' ballpark, it was necessary to cross a series of perilous trolley tracks. The Brooklyn fans took it as a badge of honor in a way, as did the team, adopting it as an unofficial nickname until they officially changed it to the Trolley Dodgers in 1911, then shortened it just to the Dodgers. Which makes this trope Older Than Television.
    • Both teams relocated to California in 1958, with the Dodgers, ironically, moving to a city with no trollies (Los Angeles), and the Giants, even more ironically, to a city famous for its trollies (San Francisco).


Video Games

  • Thrall in the Warcraft universe was raised by a sadistic human as a slave pit fighter. He kept his name even after regaining his freedom and eventually rising to the position of Warchief of the entire Orcish Horde. This only became an issue when his fiancee decided he should use a proper orcish name instead.
    • Of course, Thrall doesn't have an orcish name. His parents were assassinated when he was only a toddler. Orcs don't name their children until later.
  • The English-language localizations of the Sonic the Hedgehog games introduced the name "Eggman" for Dr. Robotnik this way; in Sonic Adventure, it was an insult used against him by the heroes, but in all later games he used it himself.
    • That's actually because his name in Japan is Eggman; early games, realizing that wasn't the imposing name of a robot-themed supervision, named him Dr. Robotnik and kept Eggman as an insult. Later games retconned it as Robotnik being his family name and Eggman being the name he normally uses.
  • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation refers to the assault on the White Star as "Operation SRW". While an official meaning for the acronym is never given, Ascended Fanboy Ryusei announces that it must mean - you guessed it - "Super Robot Wars!"
    • There's also Ibis Douglas, whose partner/rival dubbed her "Shooting Star" because of her tendency to get shot down during training exercises. When her boss finds out, he mentions that it's a great name for someone who dreams of exploring space. She finally accepts the nickname during her World of Cardboard Speech, which is accompanied by a theme song of the same name.
  • The Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2. He derives his name from a vitriolic response from an Alliance official to a manifesto he anonymously wrote ("survivalist rhetoric written by an illusive man"). The version of Illusive he uses means deceptive. It also sounds like Elusive, which might be the point, or not.
    • Legion also has an Appropriated Appellation, given to him by EDI.
    • Partial example: when Tali gets tried for treason during her loyalty mission, the Admiralty Board legally has her ship name changed to "vas Normandy," believing that being associated with a human ship (and having a human captain represent her instead of a quarian) would hurt her chances of avoiding exile. Whether it works, backfires, or leads in an unexpected direction is up to the player. Later on, if you earn Tali's loyalty, she lets the name stick.
  • The term "glorious PC master race" was originally used sarcastically to poke fun at PC gaming elitists. PC gaming elitists took it and ran with it, now proudly using the term as they berate "console gaming peasants".
  • The Stormcloak faction in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was derisively referred as such for following Ulfric Stormcloak's beliefs. They took that name in pride.

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In Batman the Animated Series, Harleen Quinzel is jokingly addressed as Harley Quinn before becoming a villain.
    • The Creeper gets the idea for his nickname from being called "creep", which he finds catchy but a little lacking.
    • Before that he tried for "Yellow-skinned Wacky Man!", before switching.
    • Sid the Squid was given this nickname as a mocking joke by his buddies who thought he was worthless as a crook. It became a badge of honor after he almost killed Batman and made a fool of the Joker.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, a degraded Superman clone gets his name when Lex Luthor's henchwoman describes him as being "Bizarro!".
    • Lois Lane also names Superman in The Animated Series. After discussing the new hero at the Daily Planet, Lois sums up with "A regular superman," referring to him metaphorically as being the embodiment of the Nietzschen ideal. Perry quickly agrees that this is what they should call him. Clark, who is in the room, is surprised at first, but likes the name by the time everyone leaves.
  • At least four villains from The Spectacular Spider-Man get their names in this manner.
    • Adrian Toomes points out to potential victim Norman Osborn, that he's "not Toombes now, I'm what you called me, the Vulture!" Osborn sneeringly replies that he called Toomes a buzzard, and that Toomes can't even get the name right.
    • Max Dillon, super-powered accident victim, is nicknamed Electro in the course of Spider-Man's battle banter. Later, Dillon rants that since there is no cure for his condition, he is no longer Max Dillon. "I'm... what'd you call me? I'm Electro!"
    • Meek, submissive Otto Octavius is bullied by his boss Norman Osborn, who adds insult to injury by calling him "Doctor Octopus", a name Otto considers demeaning. One high-voltage Freak Out later, he is demanding to be called the same, after delivering a ranting smackdown to both his boss and Spider-Man.
    • "I have been called many names in my life. My favorite is Tombstone..."
      • "Big Man" may or may not be one of them.
  • In Transformers Animated, Nino Sexton adopted the name Nanosec after a throwaway comment from a bank teller after his first heist.
    • Slight subversion: Grimlock named himself after Megatron bemoans his "prospects are grim, locked in this prison of a lab."
    • Wreck-Gar gets his name from Angry Archer's abbreviating what he previously called himself, "worthless-wreck-walking-pile-of-garbage".
  • Crash Nebula in the Show Within a Show on The Fairly OddParents. The students at his school insulted him by saying he "crashed the Nebula", the Nebula being an experimental weapon/spacesuit. Sprig Speevak decided to make this his superhero name, Crash Nebula.
  • The band "U Stink" from Arthur got their name like this.
  • Robin from The Batman took his alias from a nickname his mother gave him, which he initially resented.
  • Invisibo is named by Freakazoid! himself.
  • The Bratz get their name from Kirstee and Kaycee in Bratz: Rock Angelz.
  • Samurai Jack "Jack" is not his name, but rather a slang term much like "Man", "Guy", or "Dude" that he is called repeatedly by the first people he meets in the future during the pilot, and later... "They call me Jack."
  • "Titan?" "That's what the Earth people call us!" "I like it! Engage... Sym-Bionic Titan"
  • Defied Trope in Danny Phantom. The press calls Danny "Inviso-Bill" and Danny hates it. He does everything he can to get people to call him "Danny Phantom" instead, finally succeeding in the first movie.
  • In the season 2 premiere of Transformers Prime, Megatron claims to Orion Pax that the term "Decepticon" was meant as a demonizing insult by the Autobots, which they took for their own.

Real Life

  • In Dutch, a name that has been 'appropriated' in this manner is called a geuzennaam, after the most famous example in Dutch history: the confederacy of Calvinist Dutch nobles and other malcontents, who from 1566 opposed Spanish rule in the Netherlands, called themselves Geuzen (singular Geus). This was derived from Gueux, French for 'beggars'. Berlaymont, one of the councilors of Margaret, Duchess of Parma, referred to the nobles as such when they came to plead with her for more religious freedom.
  • The British referred to American colonists as "Yankees" as an insult. The name stuck.
    • As did the song, originally used as a marching song by the British Army.
    • Although one theory has it that the name was actually originally a Dutch insult, the settlers in New Amsterdam calling their British neighbors in Connecticut Jan Kees, the "s" then getting mistaken for a plural. According to Webster Jan Kees means "Jack Cheese", but this is quite far off the mark; Jan is the Dutch version of John, and Kees is a shortened form of Cornelis, the Dutch version of Cornelius. It is not uncommon for Dutch men to be named Jan Kees or Jan-Kees; in fact, as of January 2012, the Dutch minister of finance is called Jan Kees de Jager ('John Cornelius the Hunter').
  • Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr. picked up his (nick)name from when his sister was a toddler and called him "buzzer" as a mispronunciation of "brother". This was shortened to "Buzz", which he later made his legal first name. He is known for walking on the Moon (then, in his seventies, he punched a guy in the face for saying he hadn't really been there) and being the source of the name Buzz Lightyear.
  • That's how the followers of popular Anti-Mary Sue LiveJournal Pottersues got their Fan Group Nickname: one troll with a grudge against Pottersues included the readers and fans among her insults, calling them "Lesbian Minions". They immediately reacted by calling themselves exactly that.
    • Similarly, members of Fandom Wank, a community devoted to the mocking of Serious Business, thrived off of insults, referring to themselves and each other as "she-wolves" and "raised by hyenas"
  • Musiú Lacavalerie, late Venezuelan TV and radio personality, was born as Marco Antonio Lacavalerie, but because of his obviously non-Hispanic last name he was jokingly called "musiú", an affectionate (and then popular) term toward immigrants and foreign-looking people. Lacavalerie decided that he liked how the combination sounded, so he took it as his professional name.
  • Quite common for religious movements:
    • The term "Christian" was originally an insult. Christians used to call themselves "followers of the way" but called themselves Christians after being called that consistently as an insult.
    • Mormons, originally derogatory nickname for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has passed into common usage, including among church members.
    • Ditto for Quakers (the Society of Friends) and Santeria (Lukumi).
    • Members of the Churches of Christ have consistently refused the appellation "Campbellites", but frequently accept other epithets thrown at them. One author's tract semi-famously declared "I Have A Closed Mind".
    • A bit obscure, but the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing were 1) an offshoot of a Quaker group and 2) known for their use of dance during worship. They were given the nickname "Shaking Quakers", which then got abbreviated again into "Shakers". (This troper can't find any record of sect members calling themselves Shakers, they seem to have preferred the term "Believers".)
      • This troper has sung a Shaker song in a choir that includes the lyric "I'm glad I am a Shaker." So, there's that.
    • Likewise Methodism, which started as a Bible study/spiritual formation group led by John and Charles Wesley at Oxford and were called "Methodists" and "The Holy Club" by their fellow students.
    • Adherents of Germanic reconstructionist Neo-Paganism often identify as "Heathens", while adherents of some neo-pagan traditions such as Wicca and Stregheria self-identify as "Witches".
    • Far older than all of these is one of the original names for the Israelites: Hebrews. The word for "a Hebrew" in Hebrew is "Ivri", and one of the first times this word appears in the The Bible is when the Pharaoh's wine steward is telling the Pharaoh about this boy Joseph that can interpret dreams. He's concerned that Pharaoh might raise him too highly, so he calls him a "na'ar eved ivri" - a boy, a slave, and an "ivri", which literally means a descendant of Eber, but in this case is used in the context of "across", as in "across the border", as in "foreigner". The intended insult would become one of the common names for the Israelites.
    • Not an insult but the Persians called the people from Judah "Jews". Today Jew has completely displaced "Hewbrew".
    • Jesus Freaks, originally applied to Christians Hippies.
    • Non-religious and anti-religious types occasionally (and more commonly in recent years) adapt the title Infidels.
  • Back before the fork, on the TV Tropes forum, someone dropped in on a thread and prefaced their remarks with the following. Take a look at the alt title on Troper.
  • When Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition was newly announced, a number of angry gamers weren't just satisfied with expressing their unhappiness and spent a lot of time spreading unfounded rumors on the Wizards of the Coast boards. Other posters went out of their way to correct them and one frustrated rumormonger angrily denounced his being 'oppressed' by what he called the '4e Avengers'. within a week, dozens of posters had that name in their sig with Superhero names like '4e Batman'.
  • As a joke on his strained relationship with the press, then-Minnesota governor (sigh) Jesse Ventura issued media credential badges to his press corps labeled something along the lines of "Press Jackal." The issue-ees were none too pleased, but the badges soon became collectors' items among the better-humored.
    • This is how Minnesota got the nickname 'The Gopher State'. A political cartoon called Minnesotan legislators a bunch of gophers and for some reason it stuck.
  • Fans of the erotic artist Julius Zimmerman are known as the Flaming Horde after an incident in 2003. An inker was discovered to be tracing Julius' art and auctioning it as his own and fans of Julius filled his inbox full of complaints. When Julius e-mailed his image host asking who it was, the response was something like: "No one you or your horde of flaming fans need to worry about any more" and he ceased hosting the tracings. Though Flaming Horde was intended as an insult, the group embraced the novel designation.
  • The astronomer Fred Hoyle, a proponent of the Steady State model of the Universe, coined the term "Big Bang" as a dismissive term for the rival model. The name was taken on by proponents of the theory, at first ironically but later in all seriousness.
    • Similarly, when the idea of a number line at right angles to the reals was first proposed, many mathematicians considered it to be ridiculous and called them "Imaginary Numbers".
      • To be fair, it wasn't because they were at "right angles to the reals" that they were considered ridiculous but because they were square roots of negative numbers, which seemed impossible at the time.
    • The term "survival of the fittest" was originally used by a writer dismayed at the perceived coldness of the theory of evolution by natural selection. He meant "physically fittest", which is still a common misunderstanding today, but it was appropriated on the understanding of fittest meaning "best at its job".
  • The reason why members of the Something Awful forums are collectively referred to as "goons" by themselves and other internet denizens.
  • In terms of minorities and such, it's called reclaiming; it's why a good handful of gay people will call themselves faggots, transgendered people will call themselves trannies, both of the above will call themselves queer, black people have N-Word Privileges, et cetera.
  • The "Star Wars" missile defense system was originally called that in mockery of its implausibility.
  • As noted on the People's Republic of Tyranny page, a number of left-leaning localities have been given derisive nicknames of this type, but have ended up wearing them proudly.
  • The term "Marxist" was invented by a French conservative in the late 1800s as an insult. The communists of the time quickly started referring to themselves as Marxists and their ideology as Marxism, despite Karl Marx himself detesting the term and going so far as to insist that he was not a Marxist.
    • On a similar note, Marx himself invented the word "capitalism", appropriated by free market supporters - problem is, most people tend to have a very nebulous understanding of the term and tend to use it mean corporatism (which is actually what Marx was attacking) a lot of the time.
      • So Marx's capitalism was appropriated by the capitalists, who filed the word off Capital and replaced it with corporatist, whilst Marx's Marxists themselves appropriated the word Marxist even though Marx was no Marxist? Simple.
  • The Rats of Tobruk, the Allied defenders of the besieged WW 2 garrison who proudly took their name from Nazi propaganda. Likewise the Scrap Iron Flotilla that supplied them.
  • The Impressionists got their name from a satirical journalist, who derived it from Monet's Impression, Sunrise.
  • In The American Civil War, Northerners took to calling Southerners "Johnny Reb" and Southerners took to calling Northerners "Billy Yank". They took to calling themselves that in jest.
  • Eastern and Central European literature theorists who were developing theories set forth by Ferdinand de Saussure and Nikolai Trubietskoy were called 'structuralists' by their opponents who scorned their overly scientific methods. Later the name stuck and now the movement is officially known as structuralism.
  • The terms Whig (Liberal) and Tory (Conservative), used by various British and British-derived (American, Canadian etc) political parties through the ages, both started out as fairly insulting terms in Irish Gaelic (whiggamore 'horse thief' and toraidh 'outlaw'). "Whig" fell out of use in the UK in the early 1900s, but "Tory" is still current.
  • Chicago is well known as "The Windy City." The nickname was around before the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 (See the article at The Other Wiki), but it was pushed into popular culture when it was used as an insult by the New York Sun editors to refer to the hot air being created by Chicago politicians as they tried to get the World's Fair to come to Chicago. The name stuck.
  • Façade, Edith Sitwell's suite of poems set to music by William Walton, originally started out as a personal, technical exercise. She wanted to see if, by a careful arrangement of words, she could cause people to recite them in a particular rhythm (waltz, foxtrot, etc.). Then someone remarked that it was "very clever, but just a façade" - and she decided to let the name stick.
  • Doyle Brunson, poker player, got his nickname "Texas Dolly" by Jimmy Snyder misreading "Texas Doyle". It stuck, and got shortened to "Dolly".
  • Bill O'Reilly, talking to Jon Stewart, made a disparaging remark to the effect that Jon's viewers were "stoned slackers". Jon had adopted it by the end of the interview.
  • After reclaiming the title of World Chess Champion, Mikhail Botvinnik was being fawned upon by his fans. He tried to keep the celebration restrained by telling the well-wishers, "No, no, I am not a patriarch, you know." Guess what his nickname was after that.
  • This is how pilots get their callsigns.
  • During World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm referred to the British Expeditionary Force as a "contemptible little army." Immediately British army regulars started referring to themselves as the Old Contemptibles.
    • However, the quote from which the appellation was taken was fabricated by British propaganda.
  • Indo-Caribbean people (Caribbean nationals who are descended from indentured servants brought from India to the Caribbean), particularly those from Guyana or Trinidad & Tobago, are known as "Coolies." This started out as an insult by their former masters (the British plantation owners), as the original meaning was that a person being called a Coolie was a low-class worker. However, in recent decades, Indo-Caribbean people adopted it as an affectionate nickname for themselves. An Indo-Caribbean politician in Trinidad famously made a speech declaring himself to be "Coolie to the bone" to emphasize his heritage. Also, New York City's sizable Indo-Caribbean community also generally uses the word Coolie to describe themselves.
  • Members of the online celebrity news community Oh No They Didn't! proudly call themselves "jackals" after being referred to as such by an online columnist.
  • In the same vein, the word Stan, once used on the site as a derogatory term for overly-obsessed fans of any given subject, has now been adopted by said fans and is even used as a verb ("Who do you/I stan for _____"). This is mostly in female fanbases, popular shows, and mainstream american culture.
    • Some Britney Spears fans who actually like her, and support her accept being called a "Britard".
    • Lady Gaga calling her fans Monsters is a double subversion, they had this name before, but due to the more questionable things they have said and done (like all fan bases, mind you) they are called "Real Monsters" to thoses who really don't like or get them and how they deal.
  • The Crystal Palace was the purpose-built venue for London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 and a wonder of the Victorian Age, being the product of a brilliant and innovative design. Its iconic name, however, was originally coined by a writer for Punch magazine, as a backhanded euphemism for the proposed structure in one of their typically flippant comment pieces.
  • The Chamber of Horrors in Madame Tussaud's Waxwork Museum in London acquired its name in the same manner. A Punch writer coined the term while commenting on the newly opened "separate room" (as it was originally referred to) in 1846.
  • The term "badger" for a Wisconsin resident originated as a derogatory name for the copper and iron miners in the western part of the state who, due to poverty, would sleep in holes they dug in the ground. Today, Wisconsin is officially nicknamed "The Badger State" and the athletic teams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are known as the Badgers.
  • The group of related Native American cultures called the Apache are an inversion, since they do not and never have used the term themselves. The name is the Pima word for "enemy". The real name is usually given as Inde, which translates roughly as "person".
  • Jack Thompson came up with the term "pixelante," a mix of pixel and (for some reason) vigilante to describe video game players. The GamePolitics forum wasted no time in appropriating the name for themselves, much to Thompson's annoyance.
    • Similarly, "pixel-stained technopeasant" was coined by Howard Hendrix as an insult to his fellow science-fiction writers who were demeaning "the noble calling of Writer" by posting their work on the net for free (*gasp*). They now have their own holiday.
  • Both Michigander and Hoosier started as pejoratives.
  • The Space Opera genre was originally called that as an insult- the term opera was used along the same lines as Soap Opera and Horse Opera to connote that a work was filled with unbelievable characters, plots, and settings. Now, the term Space Opera is value neutral and just means a work with "grand themes" that's probably on the softer end of the Mohs Scale of Sci Fi Hardness.
  • Fans of Atlus games, particularly the Shin Megami Tensei series, like using the term Fatlus to refer to themselves, despite its origins as a derogatory term.
  • "Stilyagi" was the insult in the Soviet Union for youth who rebelled by dressing in wild styles and listening to Rock and Roll. They later used this name as a point of pride.
  • Many people with the nickname "Bubba" got it because a sibling couldn't properly pronounce the word "brother."
    • Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr.'s sister pronunced it "buzzer". As of 1988, Buzz Aldrin has been his legal name.
  • Basically every name for every artistic movement ever was found this way. The Impressionists are so called because a critic said that "they can't draw anything other than an impression", the Fauves (which translates as 'beasts') are so called because a critic called them beasts... and the list goes on.
  • The sports teams of Ohio State University named themselves buckeyes after many a comment made by visiting teams about the large number of buckeye trees on campus.
  • The title Jack the Ripper was actually given by the media around the time of the murders, the original murderer never left behind any such Calling Card. However, as soon as the newspapers were published, cue hundreds of fake notes sent to the police station claiming to be from Jack the Ripper himself, at least one of which even says how he enjoys his new nickname.
  • Margaret Thatcher was nicknamed "Iron Lady" accidentally, by the Soviet newspaper Red Star. They tried to use already existing less than complimentary moniker "Iron Maiden", but it was lost in two mistranslations, from and then to English. Thatcher's response: "They are right, I am an iron lady, Britain 'needs' an iron lady."
  • In a slightly more scary example, the pink triangle often used as a symbol for gay pride was originally used by the Nazis as the symbol the gays were required to wear.
  • After a Rhode Island teenager called Jessica Ahlquist got an illegal prayer banner removed from her school one of the many negative reactions she suffered was a Rhode Island representative dubbing her "an evil little thing" during a radio interview. This is her You Tube channel
  • Outlaw motorcycle clubs have appropriated the "1%er" appellation from an apocryphal story about how the American Motorcyclist Association or another body said something along the lines of "1% of motorcyclists are the problem." They take it as a badge of honor, as in they are the most hard-case 1% and everyone else on two wheels is really just a Rule-Abiding Rebel or a wuss. These are the guys who put the grain of Truth in Television in All Bikers Are Hells Angels.
    • Which might've inspired the "Ninty-nine percenters" to name themselves such, since allegedly 50% of the world's wealth belongs to 1% of the population.
  • The N-word, which was (and still is) used as a racial slur against Black people, is now used by many within the Black community themselves. However, there are also plenty of Blacks who strongly oppose the use of the word due to its extremely negative original meaning.
  • In the early 2000s, Ben "Gryphon" Hutchins of Eyrie Productions, Unlimited made an incautious comment about how fans of Symphony of the Sword had the patience of "rabid crack weasels". Naturally the fans embraced the term, with one even going so far as to set up a CafePress site selling Rabid Crack Weasel merch. It eventually fell out of use again, after ten years or so.