Cross-culturally personal names are frequently avoided to the point of being taboo. The paper seeks to give a semiotically grounded analysis of why names in particular are so often taboo, and in so doing attempts to shed light on the species of performativity which undergirds the unmentionability of verbal taboos. From the avoidance of names in second-person address to the unmentionability of forms phonetically similar to the avoided name, a gradient scale of unmentionability is sketched out for the case of name taboos. Through the analysis of a wealth of examples, the paper shows how the patterning of the avoidance of a form is inextricably linked to its performative function and ideological conceptualization.