The Trope Formerly Known as X

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

In 1993, the musician Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol (roughly Ƭ̵̬̊) as part of a Take That to Warner Bros. legally preventing him from recording under the name "Prince", which is his legal given name. The phrase "the artist formerly known as Prince" was coined by a public that had no idea what else to call him. Seven years later, his contract with that recording company expired and he went back to being known as simply Prince, making him the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, if you're being technical.

However, the media loves to parody this moniker even to this day, although as time goes on the joke gets less and less topical.

Not to be confused with Renamed Tropes.

Examples of The Trope Formerly Known as X include:

Comic Books

  • Used in the Knights of the Dinner Table strip "A Character With No Name" where Dave refuses to name his new character, and eventually ends up creating an unpronounceable symbol to designate the character. B.A. eventually tires of the whole thing and has the character smote by the gods.

"Will 'The Character Formerly Known as the Man With No Name' and now associated with this symbol please be advised that he has inexplicably attracted the unbridled wrath of the Gawds and has just been turned into a newt!!"

  • Also used in Gold Digger, though it might have been topical when it was printed. Galford, a member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad, after getting some augmentations, changes his name to "大死". His boss's reaction:

Lord Talon: So now you're "The ninja formerly known as Galford?"

    • Averted—his new name, Daishi, stuck once it was actually pronounced/written in Roman characters!
  • The Superbuddies - Formerly Known As Justice League America.

Fan Works

  • One Aladdin fanfic featured several Princes. One was called "The Prince Formerly Known as Artist", probably referencing the theatre adaptation mentioned below.


"Dawson, let me introduce you to the principal. Sorry, The Administrator-Formerly-Known-as-Principal."

  • Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties: "I'm not Prince. I'm not even the cat formerly known as Prince".
  • Cindrella: The Sillicious Musical: The Artist Formerly Known as The Prince. TAFKATP
  • In An Inconvenient Truth, a slowly-melting glacier park is referred to as 'The Park Formerly Known as Glacier.'
  • Long before the Prince situation, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Knights Who Say Ni demand... a shrubbery! When King Arthur and co. bring a shrubbery back...

Head Knight: We are now... no longer The Knights Who Say Ni.
Random Knight: Ni!
Head Knight: Shh. We are now The Knights Who Say... Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-pikang-zoom-Boing-z'nourrrwringmm.
Random Knight: Ni!
Head Knight:Therefore, we must give you a test.
King Arthur:What is this test, O Knights Of - Knights Who Till Recently Said Ni?

Kari: (narrating) ...And Matt's trying to make it as a rock star! His stage name is the Digidestined Formerly Known As Matt.


  • In the Star Trek novels The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonian Singh, Roberta Lincoln calls Khan "The Artist Formerly Known As Noon."
  • In Animorphs, Ax always calls the leader of the group Prince Jake. During one issue where only the pair of them were left, Jake tells Ax that there aren't enough people around, so he should be called The Jake Formerly Known As Prince. Later, when the group is back together, the two go through their Running Gag ("Don't call me Prince." "Yes, Prince Jake") and Ax says, instead, "I will call you The Jake Formerly Known As Prince."

Marco: Now he's telling jokes. Bad, bad jokes.

    • Marco can't really talk. When Rachel tests him by saying "You know you're a toad, right?" his answer is:

Marco: "Kiss me and I'll become a prince. I'll be the Prince Formerly Known As Toad. You know you want me. You can't help it. After all, you're female, and I'm... well, I'm me."

  • In the 1632 series, Don Fernando, the Spanish king's younger brother, was in holy orders as the "cardinal-infante" ("infante" is Spanish for "prince who's not heir to the throne"). Then he got a dispensation to give up being a cardinal. From that point on, there're occasional references to him as "the prince formerly known as cardinal-infante."

Live-Action TV

  • The Show Formerly Known as The Martin Short Show
  • On Lost, in between the point where Ben went by Henry Gale and where people started using his real name, Sawyer referred to him as "The Artist Formerly Known As Henry Gale".
  • Roundhouse had a Cinderella parody with TAFKAP as the Prince. His name was announced as holding a cardboard sign with the symbol up and the sound effect of the first electronic riff plus 'uhn' in Prince's "Kiss".
  • On an episode of The Drew Carey Show Ryan Stiles was pretending to be a frog: "The frog formerly known as Prince."
  • On 30 Rock, one of Tracy Jordan's antics was to declare that he was now to be addressed as "the gentleman formerly known as Rectum".

Newspaper Comics


  • A stand-up comic once joked that if Prince could change his name to an unpronounceable symbol, then he could change his name to a scent, so that if people wanted to talk about him they'd have to carry around perfume bottles to spray on each other.
  • In a promotional spot for Good Burger, Keenan and Kel talked about how they're becoming big stars and that they'd like to known as "The artists formerly known as Keenan And Kel". Kel then shows their symbol: a white card with a black circle on it. Keenan takes a look and says "It's upside down." They then try to correct it.

Professional Wrestling

  • WCW, near the end, had The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukaea, which was former island boy Prince Iaukaea now doing a parody Prince gimmick.
    • An angle that was dropped once the real Prince dropped the unpronounceable symbol shortly after the gimmick started. This led to a mock press conference to announce that "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukaea" was changing his name to "The Artist."
  • Meanwhile, after Goldust's Heel Face Turn didn't go so well, WWF had him turn back heel, trade his black and gold for a red, black, and green outfit, and dub himself The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust. While still going by that same name, he spent several months dressed as a Marilyn Manson clone.


  • The subject of a game of 'Limerick' on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (where the contestants are given an opening line and have to complete a limerick by supplying one line each in turn):

The artist formerly known as Prince,
On stage he would posture and mince,
Then just for a giggle,
He changed his name to a squiggle,
And nobody's heard of him since.

  • At the time when Prince was 'the Artist Formerly Known as Prince', Tony Martin and Mick Molloy did a bit on the Martin Molloy radio show about how his close friends get to call him 'Formerly'. It was later included on one of their albums.
  • In Mitch Benn's Crimes Against Music, a song about people refused entrance to the US refers to Yusuf Islam as "the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens".


  • From Spamalot: "the artists formerly known as the Knights Who Say Ni".
  • In a stage adaptation of Aladdin, one prince vying for Jasmine's affection is "The Prince formerly known as The Artist"

Video Games

  • Echo Bazaar occasionally mentions The Magazine Formerly Known as the London Magazine: apparently after London fell, the Masters of the Bazaar demanded that the London Magazine change its name, but the editors were not in a cooperative mood.

Web Comics

Fighter: Wait, Let Me Get This Straight... So Thief is the elf formerly known as prince?
Black Mage: Killing you is going to be the greatest moment of my life.

Web Original

Homestar Runner: Hey, the girlfriend formerly known as Marzipan. I think you missed a little bit when you were shaving. Right there, about the sideburns area.
Marzipan: More like the former girlfriend known as Marzipan.
Homestar Runner: Sounds like a plan!

Western Animation

  • Used twice by The Simpsons; one of the puppies in the 101 Dalmatians parody is called "The Puppy Formerly Known as Prince", while "Lisa's Wedding" calls him "The Artist formerly known as *unpronounceable symbol*".
    • There's also one of the flashback episodes (possibly "Lisa's First Word"),[please verify] set during a time when "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince was currently known as Prince."
  • In an episode of House of Mouse Donald Duck tries to become a celebrity and changes his name to the "Artist Formerly Known as Donald."
    • And Mickey ended the episode by calling himself "The Mouse Currently Known As Mickey".
  • In one episode of Happily Ever After Fairy Tales for Every Child, Mother Goose's decision to fly the coop leaves all the nursery rhyme characters in a muddle, and Humpty Dumpty starts referring to himself as "the egg formerly known as Dumpty."
    • In another episode, "The Frog Princess," the title character entreats the prince to help her cook, and when he refuses on the grounds that he is a prince and thus can't cook, she sings him a song that includes the lyrics, "You could be the prince formerly known as helpless."
  • "The Artist Formerly Known as Spot" from 101 Dalmatians: The Series.

Real Life