In the movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture they show or imply why/how V'Ger was named, however, this is confusing and makes no sense. Why would a computer call itself something based on the name "Voyager" being smudged on it's outer shell with some sort of soot? A computer would know it's own name from it's programming.

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    Why would a computer necessarily know it was named 'Voyager' from its programming? Sep 23 '15 at 4:54
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    Note: to use a tag, connect the words in each tag with dashes. Please don't create new tags for subjects that aren't likely to be needed again.
    – Wad Cheber
    Sep 23 '15 at 5:27
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    @N_Soong has a point, there is no reason at all for the human designation to be included in the programming. Besides the fact that it would never be used internally in any way, the code for something like a spaceship has to be locked down and tested months or years before the actual mission. The human-facing name of the probe is much more open to change at a later date.
    – DavidS
    Sep 23 '15 at 13:05

Memory Alpha explains that:

The center contained the oldest part of V'ger – Voyager 6, an unmanned space probe launched by NASA in the late 20th century. The entire vessel surrounding the Voyager probe was built by an unknown race of machine entities in order to help it complete what the latter interpreted to be its primary programming: "learn all that is learnable," and return that knowledge to its creator. During its journey, the probe came to think of itself as V'ger after the only remaining legible letters from its original name (the "O", "Y", "A" and "6" on the nameplate being obscured from encounters with previous spatial hazards) and amassed knowledge to such a degree as to become self-aware.

Although the bolded part of the quote is the most important, I've included the whole paragraph to highlight the fact that V'Ger was encountered by an alien race. The alien race probably encountered V'Ger when the O, Y, A and 6 had been obscured, so told it that its name was "V'Ger". Remember that V'Ger hadn't developed a state of self-awareness initially, so it probably was given that name by the alien race.

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    After they'd learned to read English :)
    – Jane S
    Sep 23 '15 at 5:17
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    @JaneS all of the voyagers have a gold disc on them with earth history, music, and other things, so it wouldn't be hard with that vast repository for the aliens universal translator, to figure it out.
    – Himarm
    Sep 23 '15 at 13:28
  • The disc carries photos of the Earth and its lifeforms, a range of scientific information, spoken greetings from people such as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the United States and a medley, "Sounds of Earth," that includes the sounds of whales, a baby crying, waves breaking on a shore, and a collection of music, including works by Mozart, Blind Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry,. Other Eastern and Western classics are included, as well as various performances of indigenous music from around the world. The record also contains greetings in 55 different languages.
    – Himarm
    Sep 23 '15 at 13:29
  • @Himarm And all they had to do was to figure out that they had to spin this gold disc while with a needle placed in these tiny grooves. It doesn't seem a particularly obvious a thing to me with no context :) And even with that, how does that give the phonetics represented by English characters? :)
    – Jane S
    Sep 23 '15 at 22:10
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    @Jane S how the universal translator does it is the biggest mystery
    – Himarm
    Sep 23 '15 at 22:35

The big question is how the machine planet aliens learned how to read and pronounce English.

Obviously Voyager 6 could have carried some visual and audio records which enabled the machine planet super duper ultra hyper computers to figure out to read and speak English. But apparently there were some gaps in the records due to space hazards which just happened to include the name of the space probe so the the only clue the machine planet people had about the name was the already partially illegible nameplate on Voyager 6.

V'ger's ignorance of its true name of Voyager 6 was necessary for the plot because if it said it was Voyager 6 they would search the records for the communications codes and other useful data. But it required some really convenient selective damage to Voyager 6's records and nameplate.

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    According to the novel the return v'ger was sent back by the Borg
    – user46509
    Sep 23 '15 at 6:34

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