Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How I named a pony

Friday, May 6, 2011 marked the season finale of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I've become quite taken with the show. I could probably make a whole post about why I love it so much, but that's not what I'm here to talk about.

During the episode, we see a a fancy band playing for the Grand Galloping Gala...

One of these ponies really stood out to me for some reason...

There she was. Playing the cello. Or is that a double bass? She's playing it while standing, which seems to suggest that it's a bass. Hey, I played one of those back in elementary school. I was never very good at it. It was hard to move around and I didn't practice as much as I should have. But maybe it's a cello, and ponies just need to stand up to play. I'm thinking too hard about this.

Without getting too Freudian about things, her character design is just very appealing. The hair style, the eyes, the color scheme. For a background pony with no lines, she's very well done and stands out from the rest of the band.

One thing that following the fandom of MLP has taught me, is that EVERY pony will get a name from the community, regardless of their actual importance to the show. Following this, people will create stories that make up personalities and behaviors of these ponies from the smallest of details. Which in turn fuels more fanfic and fanart that play off of these traits.

For example, two ponies are often seen together in the background of several episodes:

Because of their cutie marks, they were named Lyra and Bon-Bon. Naturally, because these two are often seen next to each other, they've generally been accepted by the community to be a couple. Which isn't too surprising, since you can't throw a cat without hitting a F/F pairing of just about any character combination you could imagine, provided that they've shared at least 5 seconds of screen time.

For some reason, I was compelled to leave some kind of mark with the cello pony. I spent more time than I'm proud of thinking of a name. She has a treble clef cutie mark (shouldn't it be a bass clef?), so I was thinking of some kind of pun regarding clefs. Clef Hoof came to mind, which doesn't make much sense even as a pun, since horses don't have cleft hooves. Thinking of music terms, I eventually came up with using the word "octave." Octavio, I thought. That's a real name. But that's a male name. WAIT! That's a Spanish name! I can just change the O into an A.


And so I fell in love with that name. Simple. Elegant. Punny. She even looks like she could be Spanish, in a way. But it was all in my head. And pretty soon, someone else would come up with a different name. How would I make the name stick? How do they normally stick? I figure that among imageboards and other community sites, one person comes up with a suggestion and others roll with it. How would I do something like that? I have no talent when it comes to drawing, and I have no interest in attempting to write fanfiction. In discussing this with a friend of mine, he came up with a suggestion.

"Maybe if you posted a pic and tagged her on Ponibooru you could actually get that name to stick... Wait, I know. Get a high quality screencap and shop/MS Paint in some dialog where Pinkie is asking if she wants to go backstage and fuck."

Hah. Yeah right, I thought. Like I would stoop to that level.

The next day, I created this and posted it to Ponibooru:

I added tags for everything applicable to the image: cello, bowtie, gala, innuendo, lesbian, Pinkie_Pie and finally Octavia. I had created something that referred to her by name. But would it stick? The comments would be my gauge. The first comment:

Anonymous: Rubbing underwear? Surely you could have thought of something better.
Fair enough. It was the only sexual pun I could come up with regarding stringed instruments. But it got the job done.

Chipotle: The name of the cello pony it's Octavia??? WTF?! That name it's awful!!! Her name must be Clarisse or Maria Joaquina or "Mi culo sabe a pollo"!
Ouch. Someone's not a fan. Though suggesting "My ass tastes like chicken" as an alternate name questions the validity of the poster's opinion.

Over the next few days:

Anonymous: Awww. I like "Octavia." But that's just me I s'pose. :/
Anonymous: Octavia is one classy pony. I can see why she's getting noticed more than the average non-Ponyville BG character.
StarshineSprint: Octavia is my new favorite background pony. Sorry, Lyra/Bon-Bon, you guys have had your position usurped.

Around this time, I also added Octavia to the MLP wikia. I figured that I would try to make it as official as I could. To be honest, the whole thing felt a little underhanded. Sure, it's not a big deal on any level, but who was I to just decide on this name? I didn't have any part in designing this character. I didn't suggest a name that others in the community thought was good and kept using it. I just decided.

But maybe no one really cares about what I called her. Maybe someone else would make a good piece of fan art and choose a different name for the character. Maybe that name would stick better, and someone would go in and change the wiki page.

But that didn't happen. Other people started creating pictures with that pony, and tagging them "Octavia." Then, someone made a fanfic about her. The only real split that people had with the name was that some people believed that she looked close enough to one of Pinkie Pie's sister that she could be related:

So some people started calling her Octavia Pie. More fanfic. More art. This does however, add a new layer of awkward to the original picture I made, since now Pinkie could be hitting on her own sister.

So people are using the name now. It's hard to describe how that makes me feel. On one hand, I feel proud of myself. I wanted to get that name out there and I did. On the other hand, who really cares? I didn't draw the original character. I didn't make any of the art, or write any of the fiction. All I did was use roflbot to add a lame sex pun to a screencap of a cartoon about talking horses.

And does it matter? Would any of the art or fanfic be any different if someone else had tagged a picture naming her Cello Shots? Well, I know one thing: we wouldn't have as much fanart that refer to yogurt or Spider-Man villains.

-Alex McG


  1. So that's how memes start.

    Dude, I'ma have to try that once Season 2 comes out.

  2. Ha ha! Congrats, man. I'd be beside myself if I got to name such an amazingly designed character.

  3. I'm Starshine Sprint! I commented on your picture!
    Great job naming her, I couldn't have done better myself. And she still is my favorite background pony. Possibly even my favorite pony in general.

  4. I commend your efforts. Maybe someday I will be able to do what you've done. :)


  5. Would you like to know how far this reached?

    I am pregnant, and naming my eighth child Octavia!


  6. That was... interesting. You know, somethymes the internet is a hive mind, and sometimes people game it. And I'm somehow not surprised the most effective way to game it was a bad sex joke.
    Anyway, I think Octavia is a great name. Good work.

  7. Octavia is really a nice name but you are right:

    "On the other hand, who really cares? I didn't draw the original character. I didn't make any of the art, or write any of the fiction. All I did was use roflbot to add a lame sex pun to a screencap of a cartoon about talking horses."

    Who cares? Its just a name...... you didnt found a cure for aids ;)

  8. Bon Bon is a G2 character, actually. Well, she looks a lot like the Bon Bon in the G2 series anyway. I always assumed that was intentional. :)

  9. In the fan-fiction "Vinyl and Octavia: University Days" there is a scene where Vinyl tries to think of a nickname for Octavia. But she finds she can't. Because she feels nothing does her better justice than her own name. To her "Octavia" embodies her beauty, her grace, and her talent.

    And I agree with Vinyl in that scene. No other name would have made this scene quite so believable or quite so touching.

    I don't think "Octavia" stuck because you tagged a underwear-pun pic. It stuck because it is the perfect name for a beautiful character!

    - Pete Bagheera

  10. Isnt her full official name Octavia Melody now? Cause Octavia Pie seems.. awkward i guess. Vinyl calls her Tavi. Great job i never knew. Hmm Should i ever make a new oc i could talk to you about names.