Why do some british actors have such weird names?

Normal British people: John Smith, Katie Phillips, Amy Wood...

Actors: Orlando Bloom, Asa Butterfield, Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch...

I mean can you imagine an ordinary Brit mum shouting "Orlando dear, your dinner's ready!" up the stairs? Would she call him 'Orly' for short? Or would it be 'Lando'?

FYI I couldn't, either.

Is It Normal?
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  • How about "Boris" Johnson? His real name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He apparently decided to use "Boris" because he believed it would make it easier for the plebs to relate to him. (It didn't alter the fact that he's an incompetent, self-serving buffoon, but a lot of people fell for it.)

    Meryl Streep shouldn't be on your list, since she's American. But she does a British accent much, much better than most American actors, so your confusion is understandable.

    As for the others, they were all born into upper middle class families. If you're American, you most likely don't understand just how crucial that fact is in Britain. That segment of society does have a tendency to endow their kids with names that they hope will make them stand out from the rest of us scum. They also tend to ape the British upper class by perpetuating old names from the families of the two parents.

    I'm sure that's why the full names of the guys you list are Asa Maxwell Thornton Farr Butterfield, Orlando Jonathan Blanchard Copeland Bloom, and Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch.

    That's all so fucking pretentious, but then pretensions to higher social status is a defining characteristic of the British upper middle class.

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    • Pfft! More like upper class if you ask me!

      I'm British...

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      • I wouldn't claim that my definition of class distinctions is widely considered correct, but I think the British upper class are people who have inherited titles. The three actors mentioned in the OP were all born to parents who didn't meet that criteria. They all had to earn their living, but they were members of the elite professional class.

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        • Boojum's definition is correct- in Britain, at least. Upper class is exclusively the landed gentry.

          So in the abscence of an official title, even the richest, poshest of the posh heads, like Boris Johnson, can only ever hope to be upper middle class.

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  • This is the legacy that Beowulf and Wiglaf died for: the British right to have funny names

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  • Meryl Streep is American.

    But yes, I take your point that those names are all pretty weird. I am originally from England and in my experience people with very usual names tend to be from very posh, wealthy families - exactly the kind of people whose kids end up being famous. Nepotism.

    So I think it's a combination of those people, plus others who have changed their name to something weird so that they stand out and hopefully are remembered from auditions and such.

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  • these names dont actually seem that weird to me-

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  • Weird and funny. I make jokes about their surnames. Like for e.g. Amy Wood, maybe she's made out of wood.

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