If You See Dances with Wolves, characters have funny names like Stands With A Fist, Kicking Bird and Wind In His Hair .

The same thing is repeated in Apocalypto (2006), characters have funny names like Jaguar Paw, Wife, Smoke Frog, Snake Ink.

Why do they put funny names for tribal people in movies?

  • 4
    Maybe it's just me, but I don't see anything funny in these names. This is primarily opinion-based to me. Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 7:25
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    Because that's the kind of names those tribes actually gave their people? Or am I missing something that makes those names not appropriate for those specific tribes? In that case you might want to elaborate in which way they are "funny" in the context of those tribes.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 8:10
  • I find this question highly offensive. But I'm guessing the OP is just highly ignorant.
    – user25738
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 14:19
  • I wonder if the asker meant "funny" as in "strange" instead of "funny" as in "humorous". What's humorous about "Stands with a Fist" or "Jaguar Paw"? Pretty badass imho. Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 5:19

1 Answer 1


Because they're actual names fitting the setting? It sometimes is just odd to see them translated, so you only notice their actual meaning. You might perceive them as funny, but that's just because for most modern western cultures most names lost their origin or are no longer perceived as having a deeper meaning.

All cultures had (and still have) names based on a person's looks or profession - or sometimes just what the parents wanted their child to become.

Just thought about modern examples people can relate with:

  • John Smith, this is probably one of the most common names in English countries. I bet you've heard it at least several times in your life so far and you didn't waste a second thought about it. But where did that name originate? I'm pretty sure one of his ancestors was simply called "… the Smith", e.g. Henry the Smith. Later generations simply dropped the "the" similar to other families dropping the "of", "van", "von", etc. Same goes for other classic professions hidden in modern English surnames: Baker, Fisher, Builder, Gates (possibly someone in charge of a town gate), Miller, etc.

  • Modern pop-culture/videogames: Ryū is one of the classic Street Fighter characters. People know him as "Ryu" and that's it. Right? No! For people knowing Japanese his name actually translates to "Dragon". That's not far off from your Jaguar, right?

  • 1
    In occident, family names are based on a situation of an ancestor (living location, job, etc.). Names have various origins (Look, at the origin of "Theodore", the one who worships god in greek). In orient, and other (like tribals), they have still "today sense".
    – Larme
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 8:38
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    My last name means "bastard son of William" (maybe I should change it to "Snow"). "Stands with a Fist" seems pretty awesome compared to that. Didn't they actually go through a lengthy explanation of why that's her name in the movie, too? Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 5:08
  • I recently saw this movie for the first time and yes, you do get an amusing anecdote of how this becomes her name
    – m1gp0z
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 21:51
  • This answer doesn't make it clear enough, but "smith" is a short and very common form of "blacksmith".
    – Prometheus
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 3:22

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