Total Nerd
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Characters Whose Real Names You Never Actually Knew

June 22, 2020 18.6k votes 2.4k voters 111.2k views18 items

List RulesVote up the characters you're surprised to learn have different 'real' names.

Nicknames are a tricky thing. Past a certain point, they become so well-known and widely used that it scarcely seems fair to refer to them as anything other than a real name - despite what any birth certificate or driver’s license might say. Would it really make sense to refer to Jughead, Shaggy, E.T., or Master Chief as anything other than those names, just because it's not the one they were fictionally born with?

Names, after all, are often more important than most people realize. Revelations like Wolverine's birth name or Indiana Jones's true first name aren't just interesting trivia items; they’re important components in those characters’ personal histories that speak volumes about their nature - origin stories in and of themselves.

  • Photo: A Goofy Movie / Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

    Goofy may be goofy, but he’s not actually "Goofy." Or, at least, he didn’t used to be. Back in the '50s, Walt Disney wanted to reinvent the character, so Goofy started appearing in more domestic cartoons that saw him working ordinary jobs and then coming home to his wife and child. In those days, “Goofy” was more of a nickname, and his paychecks were made out to George Geef - which is apparently his actual name.

    The modern incarnation of the character has dropped the "Geef" motif, and now uses Goof as a surname - as evidenced by his son, Max Goof. It’s unclear if George is still his first name or not, just like it’s unclear what exactly happened to the now mysteriously absent Mrs. Geef.

  • Photo: Sesame Street / Sesame Workshop

    The Cookie Monster Is Actually A Sidney

    Even monsters have names. Even... Cookie Monsters. But for decades, no one thought twice about the fact that other Sesame Street stars like Oscar, Bert, and Elmo got regular people names - and Cookie Monster was only ever referred to in terms of his gluttonous appetite.

    It wasn't until 2004 that Cookie Monster first revealed that, before he developed his dietary compulsion, he was named Sid. Six years later, Cookie Monster tweeted the full truth: "Me wasn't born with name 'Cookie Monster.' It just nickname dat stuck. Me don't remember me real name... maybe it was Sidney?"

    It's nice to have confirmation, but the tweet also seems to suggest that Cookie Monster is so lost within the throes of his baked-goods habit that he no longer recalls his own name - and that's pretty tragic by Sesame Street standards.

  • Photo: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial / Universal Pictures

    E.T.’s Real Name Is Zrek

    Everyone in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial refers to the central alien figure as just “E.T.” - that’s even what he calls himself when he infamously insists, "E.T. phone home." But that’s just an acronym for extraterrestrial, which is what he is, and surely he had some other moniker before he made his journey to Earth.

    According to an unused script treatment for an E.T. sequel written by Steven Spielberg, the alien’s actual name is Zrek. That’s something Elliott would have found out when evil albino versions of E.T.’s race came looking for him with ill intentions - so, perhaps he’s better off having never found out.

  • Photo: Sonic the Hedgehog / Paramount Pictures

    Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most recognizable protagonists in all of video games, and his name is a rather self-descriptive one - he is, after all, a hedgehog who travels at sonic speeds. As it turns out, however, "Sonic" is not the moniker he was born with.

    A series of Sonic the Hedgehog adventures published by Archie Comics revealed that Sonic considers his real name embarrassing. His friends were able to discover, via a relative, that the middle portion is "Maurice," but his true first name remains hidden to this day. According to the writer of that series, Ken Penders, it was going to be "Ogilvie."