What’s in a name? TV’s most clever character names

Yahoo Contributor Network

There's a theory called "nominative determinism." It's a big term for a relatively simple idea: that a person's name determines what they do in life, from their career to their personality.

That theory is clearly at work on TV, where nearly every character name has meaning. Sometimes, those meanings are obvious, but the ones that really resonate with fans are the clever ones. Here are some of the most entertaining and revealing character names out there.

Dexter Morgan, "Dexter"

"Dexter" is all about a secretly sinister guy who uses a fake personality to mask his nocturnal activities. Some viewers argue that Dexter is actually a pretty dorky name for such a hunky leading man, but there's a good reason for that. Dexter is a name that conjures images of a nice (but geeky) guy -- exactly how Dexter wants to portray himself publicly. In reality, his activities are quite sinister. And if you look at the roots of the word sinister, you'll learn that the opposite of sinister is "dexter," which is perfectly in step with the idea of a sinister guy trying to hide his true nature.

Edwin Jenner, "The Walking Dead"

Toward the end of Season 1, Rick and his gang of survivors meet up with Dr. Edwin Jenner at the CDC. He's the last doctor working to find a cure for the outbreak, but he had no leads. It's ironic, since the character is named after the historic figure Edward Jenner, who found a way to inoculate people against smallpox.

The Doctor, "Doctor Who"

The Doctor is a title, not a given name. But the title says a lot about the man. In the third season episode, "The Sound of Drums," one character notes that The Doctor is the perfect name for "the man who makes people better," even if it is a bit sanctimonious. For a man who has spent centuries intervening in the events of mankind to help humanity grow and prosper, it's a very apt title indeed.

Richard Brook, "Sherlock"

Fans of "Sherlock" are eagerly awaiting the show's third season. The second season ended on a huge cliffhanger that has fans wondering how Sherlock could have possibly survived a very big fall. The name of that episode was "The Reichenbach Fall." Sherlock's nemesis Moriarty took on the fake name Richard Brook, an English translation of "Reichenbach."

Some fans contend that there is a clue in the title of the episode that explains how Sherlock survived. The word "fall" in German translates to "case" in English: In other words, the episode title might translate to either "The Case of Richard Brook" or "The Fall of Richard Brook," depending on how much of the title is translated. If it turns out that it was Moriarty who fell off that roof in the finale, then the title of the episode was a clue all along.

Most of the cast of "Battlestar Galactica"

The re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica" had a large cast of colorfully named characters. Many of the characters (including Kara Thrace and Chief Tyrol) were named after geographic locations, a clever way to indicate that the character was from a wide variety of geographic locations.

Other characters had names that subtly reflected their appearance or role. For example, Karl Agathon shares a last name with a noted Greek poet, famous in his time for his stunning good looks. Felix Gaeta's last name comes from a small Italian town that has played a historic role in military history: fitting for a gifted military mind.

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