"Don't call me Sir. Call me Rocko."
A character is in a position of high authority or status, and as a part of this, is owed respect and even obeisance from those considered beneath him.
However, this person refuses to take advantage of the situation. He insists that he be addressed by name rather than title, he stops people who try to bow to him, he corrects people who try to avert their eyes. While still being cognizant and proud of his position, he tries to minimize the social distance between himself and members of other classes.
The reasons for this vary considerably and tend to be complex. He may hate to see others degrading themselves before him. He may be from humble origins
and uncomfortable with such shows of respect, perhaps because he fears he is being mocked or doubts his own worthiness to receive them. He may be trying to endear himself to the lower classes in a deliberate gambit to seem personable. Or he may simply find it tiresome and impractical and say something to the effect of "Formalities are a waste of time."
If this character is very powerful, such as a king, he will often try to change the behaviours of those around him or abolish denigrating practices. Whether this works generally depends on the kindness of the setting.
This trope also pops up in works that involve the military whenever a non-commissioned officer (usually a Sergeant
) is referred to as "sir" as the title is typically reserved for commissioned officers. The stock response from the NCO is "Don't call me Sir, I work for a living
." Roughly 90% of the time this pops up it's when Drill Sergeant Nasty
is introducing the fresh-off-the-street recruits
to their basic training
A common way to play with this trope is to have one character insist on being called by name
, but another character, usually a servant or similar role, agrees and continues using the title anyway, in the basic form of: "Don't call me Sir." "Yes, Sir." The two characters may argue about this throughout the story, and the eventual use of the first name by the subordinate character can be used so show the development of their relationship. (The Old Retainer
This is a Super Trope
of the second variant of They Call Me Mister Tibbs
, where a character insists upon First Name Basis
in order to be more jovial.
Compare/contrast Insistent Terminology
, First Name Basis
, Last Name Basis
, Friendly Address Privileges
, Just the First Citizen
. See also Nice to the Waiter
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Anime & Manga
- Youko, the main character and eventual queen in The Twelve Kingdoms, can't stand to see her courtiers and peasantry prostrate themselves before her, partly because it offends her sense of equality and because she fears the ministers are scowling while their faces are hidden. At the end of the series, she issues a proclamation that abolishes the custom.
- In Legend of Galactic Heroes, after Reinhard and Hilde get married, Reinhard tells her she can stop calling him "Kaiser" like everyone else and call him by his first name, with mixed results.
- In Bakuman。, Mashiro, during his first real conversation with his assistant Takahama, gets him to call him "Mashiro-san" rather than "sensei".
- The third Megami Sound Stage reveals that Hayate has been trying to get Agito, who recently joined her family, to call her by her first name rather than "Commander/Lieutenant Colonel Yagami". Agito is initially unable to do so, but eventually starts calling her "Meister Hayate."
- In a flashback of Bleach, Yoruichi suggests that Soifon call her "Yoruichi-san" rather than "Commander," but Soifon suggests "Yoruichi-sama" instead.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Relena Peacecraft asks Dorothy Catalonia not to call her "Relena-sama", presumably because they're the same age (in fact, Dorothy's a year older). Dorothy keeps calling her that anyway, which seems to be subtly mocking.
- Yuuri of Kyo Kara Maoh repeatedly asks characters, especially Conrad, to address him as Yuuri rather than the kingly title of 'Your Majesty'.
- Princess Princess: Sakamoto Akira is called "Sakamoto-sama" by practically all other students (even his upperclassmen), who also bow to him. He's uncomfortable with this, since he believes he only gets that respected for being the previous Sakamoto-sama's younger brother. The only two students he actually had the courage to ask to call him by his name without the sama were two of the school "Princesses", who, in return, (and as a joke) asked him to call them by their names without honorifics as well. Not realizing they were joking, he granted their request.
- Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Nogizaka Haruka's fans became upset that she allowed Ayase Yuuto to call her by her given name and without honorifics.
- Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle: Princess Sakura has been trying to talk Syaoran out of calling her "Your Highness" (and using Keigo in general) ever since they were little kids — to no avail.
- Lieutenant Filicia Heideman of Sora No Woto runs her small military unit as if it were a family and she were the mother. Adressing each other by ranks isn't necessary.
- In Girls und Panzer, during the last chapter of Little Army, Miho tells one of the students at her mother's tankery school that she doesn't need to address her formally, since the student is older. The student then tells Miho that since Miho is the instructor's daughter, age doesn't matter.
- Used by Touka in a Saki side chapter, when Hajime, one of her teammates and a maid at her house, refers to her and her cousin Koromo as "Touka-sama and Koromo-sama," Touka reminds her that formal speech is not allowed when her father is not present, prompting Hajime to reply, "I'm sorry, Touka".
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Edward Elric, as a State Alchemist, technically holds the military rank of Major. He doesn't really care for the military though, and sometimes tries to tell soldiers to stop saluting him and addressing him as a superior officer.
- The Trope Namer comes from Peanuts. Peppermint Patty hates it when Marcie calls her "Sir". Of course, that's probably due more to the "gender confusion" angle than the "unwanted deference" one. And since Marcie has Opaque Nerd Glasses as she's otherwise pretty much blind, it's understandable for her to be confused by the Tomboy Patty. At least, for a while. Later Marcie's pretty certain what gender Patty is; she just keeps doing it, likely from a combo of deference, habit, and orneriness.
- In the Mai-HiME fanfic Windows of the Soul, Natsuki tries to get Hideko, one of Shizuru's maids, to call her by her first name instead of "Kuga-sama," but Hideko refuses, calling her "Kuga-san" as a compromise.
- In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Dumbledore tells Harry that Headmaster is too formal; he can call him "Heh" for short. He is both surprised and pleased when Harry does.
- In Lilly Epilogue Family Matters, Mr. Satou insists on not being called "sir," but as his actions indicate, this is clearly not out of a desire to be friendly.
- In the Naruto fanfic White Rain, Rock Lee insists that everyone in the village, including Naruto's former teammates and his pals in the Rookie Nine, refer to Naruto exclusively as "Hokage" or "Lord Hokage" to the extent that he lectures Tenten on addressing him by name. Naruto doesn't really care either way.
- In Diaries of a Madman, Navarone hates titles and constantly has to ask others not to call him sir, or by any of the other titles he's obtained. This is probably one of the reasons why Celestia awards him a particularly prestigious title (along with a really gaudy suit of armour) as a punishment.
- Practically a Running Gag in Bait and Switch and related fics. Captain Kanril Eleya prefers "ma'am", despite Starfleet protocol being "sir". She'll also answer to "Captain" or First Name Basis (though only a couple of her command staff members are willing to do the last one, and her first officer only when not speaking as first officer). Doesn't hurt that she started off as a Bajoran Militia NCO.
Eleya: I’m not a ‘sir’, Phohl. I’m a former NCO, I work for a living. ‘Captain’ is fine, ‘ma’am’ if you want to be formal, Hell, call me by my first name, even.
Eleya: Oh, and by the way, don’t call me "sir". I work for a living. Or I used to, at least.
- When she takes a new command in the interquel "Shakedown Shenanigans", she does it three times onscreen and alludes to having done it "umpteen" times offscreen.
- In the omake for the Saki doujin, Neutral Position (Doujin is not safe for work, although the omake is), Mairu Shirouzu tries to get her best friend Himeko Tsuruta (who calls her by her position as Club President) to call her something less formal. Himeko tries "Shirouzu-senpai", which Mairu says is "too stiff," and then "Mairu-san", prompting Mairu to say "don't use -san". Himeko then blushes and stammers before saying Mairu's first name without honorifics, which Mairu finds cute.
- In A Twist in Destiny Harry is forced to receive tutoring from a surprisingly jovial Barty Crouch Jr.
Crouch: Mr. Crouch was my father, and I didn't much like my father. So just call me Barty, ok?
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- In Master and Commander, Captain Aubrey wants to pose his warship as an unarmed whaler, and tells his lieutenants that there is to be no more 'Sirs' or saluting. Their response? "Aye Sir."
Pullings: Yes, I think we're all finding that quite difficult.
- God himself does this in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, telling Arthur and his knights to quit groveling and averting their eyes from him. Apparently he finds the behavior annoying. He still appears to expect deference — when Arthur responds to The Quest with "Good idea, O Lord!" God angrily snaps, "'Course it's a good idea!" — just not formalities. Or depressing psalms.
- In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Kirk asks Spock to call him "Jim". His particular reason is that he and Spock are Heterosexual Life-Partners.
- In Stripes, Sergeant Hulka uses the "Don't call me sir, I work for a living!" line on a new-recruit.
- In Forrest Gump, Forrest's platoon leader in Vietnam immediately forbids him to salute him or show any forms of respect in the field because the enemy snipers would specifically target the commanding officers. Truth in Television: a salute on the battlefield is called a "Sniper Check" in military jargon. This is now official policy for deployed U.S. military forces in some areas.
- Saving Private Ryan also mentions the "sniper check" — Upham is told that he draws fire every time he salutes Captain Miller.
- The "I work for a living" part is also in Good Morning Vietnam, followed by a line meant to set up another one-liner from Robin Williams.
- In The American President, President Andrew Shepherd tells his Chief of Staff, A.J., that he can call him by his first name when they're alone together. A.J. replies, "Whatever you say, Mister President."
- The US Intelligence representative from Transformers: Dark of the Moon is obsessive about not being called "ma'am".
- In the 1986 movie Saving Grace the new Pope Leo XIV wants his closest aides to please call him something other than 'Your Holiness' all the time. Though he does say 'Your Not-So-Muchness' is "Too long."
- In one of the Porky's movies, Coach Brackett asks the other characters to quit calling him "Coach" and address him as Roy. "I'm only twenty-three, for Christ's sake."
- Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now.
You can cut out the "sir" crap, Lance. I'm Bill Kilgore, I'm a goofy foot
- Oscar: Sylvester Stalone's character Angelo 'Snaps' Provolone, honoring his father's wish to turn from a life of being a prohibition gangster, is flanked all day by his men who constantly call him 'boss' to his growing annoyance.
- G. I. Jane has one of the trainers during the Training from Hell yell this (along with "I work for a living!") to the prospective Navy Seals.
- Out Cold has John Majors (played by Lee Majors, who insists that Rick not call him Mr. Majors.
John Majors: I'm not Mr. Majors — my daddy was Mr. Majors! Actually, his last name was Mankowitz, but that's beside the point.
- In the american version of Scent of a Woman, Frank Slade hates to be called Sir. Charlie, being the polite naive guy that he is, calls him Sir out of reflex. The answer: Just call me Frank. Call me Mister Slade. Call me... Colonel, if you want; just don't call me Sir
- Towards the beginning of Men In Black, as Agent Kay takes charge over a border check, INS agent Janus tries to take control again, but Kay bluntly tells him "Don't 'Sir' me, young man. You have no idea who you are dealing with.", also serving as an Establishing Character Moment.
- The Cabin in the Woods. Hadley and Sitterson are checked into the Facility by a security officer who's just been posted there.
Hadley: What's your name?
Truman: Daniel Truman, sir.
Hadley: This isn't the military, Truman — you can drop the "sir". But Sitterson does like to be called "ma'am".
Sitterson: Or "Honey Toes".
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Past Charles insists that Logan not address him by his professor title.
- Each of the three main male characters in The Wheel of Time, being from a small village, are immensely weirded out when fate hands them a set of nice clothes and suddenly everyone is bowing and saying "my lord." They handle it quite differently: Perrin struggles with the ethics of lordhood whilst tentatively allowing the practice to continue; Rand gets an inflated head and decides it's all his due (not helped by everyone proclaiming him the Chosen One of every prophecy out there it seems); and Mat continues to struggle in vain to make it stop.
- In Sanctuary (book three of the Dragon Jousters series by Mercedes Lackey), Kaleth has to scold the Tian priests at least twice for prostrating themselves to him. Not that you can really blame them, as each time Kaleth had been possessed by one of the Altan/Tian pantheon to pass messages on ....
- Played with (like everything else), with King Verence II and Queen Magrat. Verence had been a member of the Guild of Fools and Joculators, which is firmly established as the bottom of the social ladder, and Magrat is simply "a bit wet", and most of the country (which is tiny) has known her all her life. They both hate being deferred to this way, Magrat because she feels like marrying someone she loves should have nothing to do with how people she's known forever treat her, and Verence because he feels it's inexpedient and has even gone so far as to set up a parliament. The people they rule, however, are a bit old-fashioned, and don't hold with Verence's style of ruling, since what is the point if they have to rule themselves? After all, it's "got to be done proper."
- In Pyramids, the modern-educated protagonist, after being made the Pharaoh, tries to be the kind of affable modern ruler who shakes people by the hand and shows an interest in their work, instead of the kind who's always look down at the tops of grovelling heads. It doesn't really work out, because he's pushing against the weight of centuries-long tradition (and parts of it are actively pushing back).
- Sam Vimes acts like a variant of this trope after being knighted — he hates being treated like a nobleman in any way, since he is disgusted by the usual behavior of Ankh-Morpork's nobles, and he also still completely feels like a "normal" citizen. Eventually he becomes comfortable enough with it that most people who don't know him call him Sir Samuel. Admittedly, he's a Duke by this point, and he objects to "your Grace". His Watch rank is another matter; he accepts that the rest of the Watch call him "sir" (especially now that it's big enough most of them don't know him personally) and would rather be addressed as Commander Vimes. Being a Watchman is real. He does permit a select few to call him "Mr. Vimes", as he believes they respect him for things that actually deserve respect, not his rank.
- Corporal Strappi has the "I'm not a sir, I'm a bloody corporal!" version in Monstrous Regiment. In his case it's because he'll take any excuse to bully the recruits. (On the other hand, Private Maladict radiates aristocracy to such an extent that when he signs up, Sergeant Jackrum has to stop himself calling him "sir".)
- In Interesting Times one of the first edicts Cohen the Barbarian makes when he becomes Emperor is to stop people Kowtowing and giving long-winded, overly flattering titles as he thinks it is a disgrace that ordinary people are compelled to do that (he does also say if they want to show respect they can give him money, though).
- Jake from Animorphs. Ax is always calling him Prince (a rank, rather than royal title). Leading to:
Ax: ... Prince Jake.
Jake: Don't call me Prince.
Ax: Yes, Prince Jake.
- Amusingly enough, when Ax first is getting used to living with the rest of the crew, he does this because military command and structure is drilled into the entirety of Andalite society, but as time progresses, it's hinted that he keeps doing it because he knows it annoys Jake, and finds it funny.
- Sandor Clegane of A Song of Ice and Fire doesn't technically have the rank anyway, but he functions as a knight in everything but name, and as such, other knights and courtiers often address him as "ser". He hates it. Direct use of the trope name occurs when Sansa makes this mistake and he snaps, "Don't call me ser."
- To be specific, he thinks knightly pretensions are hypocrisy, as a knight is just a thug with a sword, horse and armour. This has a lot to do with his brother, Ser Gregor Clegane, The Dreaded Psycho for Hire for Lord Tywin Lannister.
- Davos Seaworth, a lowborn smuggler who was knighted for smuggling food to a castle under siege, is told off for doing this by his sons, who are well aware that the other knights look down on their House. "If you don't remember it, Father, why should they?"
- In his autobiography About Face, David Hackworth mentions how he reluctantly accepted a Field Promotion up to officer rank during the Korean War. He gets into a truck and is addressed as "sir" by the driver.
Hackworth: Don't call me sir. I was a sergeant until a few minutes ago.
Driver: Yes sir.
- Belgariad: Belgarion, having been raised as a farmboy, is naturally unnerved when he is unexpectedly named as the Rivan King and suddenly everyone is bowing to him. He gets used to it after a while.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Percy can tell Blackjack not to call him boss, and get the response of "Sure, Boss, whatever you say, Boss" — cheerfully, not ironically.
- Honor Harrington
- From Crown of Slaves, Berry Zilwicki, upon becoming queen of Torch finds the formalities associated with monarchy to be tremendously awkward, and comments that she foresees establishing the most informal monarchy in history. She prefers to be on a first name basis with people, which is convenient given that many of her future subjects are from the Audubon Ballroom, and thus have no last names.
- Being quite small, she suggests "Your Mousety" as an honorific.
- Jeremy also winces a bit at being addressed as "Mister X."
- The title heroine of the series has enough titles to stock a bookstore (seriously, see 'em here), but she doggedly tries to get her Grayson armsmen to call her "Honor." It rarely happens.
- Calling superior officers "Sir" is also taboo in the navy of the People's Republic of Haven, particularly soon after the initial coup and purge, though for more sinister reasons. The use of such titles is considered unacceptably elitist, and the use of the kludgy "Citizen [Rank]" is prescribed instead, under threat of severe punishment. Many Havenite crews ignore this requirement, depending on the attitudes of their Citizen Commissioners: for example the borderline-autistic Shannon Foraker completely ignores it, with her CO convincing the commissioner to let it slide on account of Foraker being too good an ECM tech to lose.
- Though Michelle Henke fully expects to be addressed as "ma'am" by her subordinates — justifiably so, as she's a flag officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy — she has no interest in being called 'milady', despite being a countess in her own right and a member of the royal family (she's the Queen of Manticore's first cousin). Hence, this dialogue:
Henke: Rule Number One. Unless we're trying to impress some foreign potentate or convince some newsy we're really earning our lordly salaries, we all have better things to do than spend our time bowing and scraping before my towering presence.
Cynthia Lecter: Yes, Milady.
Henke: Rule Number Two. It's 'Ma'am,' not 'Milady,' unless the aforementioned foreign potentate or newsy is present.
- Kurtz in Stephen King's Dreamcatcher very much dislikes the word "sir." He's ruthless and rather scary (unusual for this trope) and characters avoid the word "sir" out of fear of his reaction, although because they're obviously not comfortable around him "sir"s will often slip out. "Boss" is much more effective and doesn't put you on the lunatic's bad side. Kurtz eschews the use of the word "sir" — as well as the use of ranks, rank insignia, rates, et cetera — because the nature of the operation he's commanding requires that he and his subordinates do so. If the military personnel involved in the "cleanup" were to be identified as such, they would be in direct violation of federal law — specifically, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 (18 U.S.C. §1385), which forbids the United States military from carrying out operations against civilians within the United States. It's more exploiting a legal loophole than a personal preference.
- Arises between Bunter and Lord Peter Wimsey in Jill Paton Walsh's The Attenbury Emeralds. After Lord Peter's elder brother the Duke of Denver dies without surviving issue, Bunter uses Wimsey's newly-inherited form of address, and Wimsey tries to get him to use his first name, at least in connection with their investigation work. Bunter settles for returning to "My Lord"/"Your Lordship", which he'd been using for years. Despite Wimsey's and Harriet's efforts to the contrary, Bunter generally tries to resist the more egalitarian spirit of post-WWII Britain, even discouraging his son Peter Bunter ("PB") from seeing himself the equal of his schoolmate Bredon Wimsey.
- Inverted in A Series of Unfortunate Events, in the miserable mill. The boss insists that everyone call him Sir, to the point where neither we nor the protagonists know his name.
- Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series insists Fisk just call him by his name, while Fisk only refers to him as Sir or Noble Sir (though he does use Sir Michael in monologue). Michael admits to the audience that he'd be willing, at least for a while, to just settle for Sir, since Fisk means Noble Sir as an insult. Of course, when Fisk starts calling Michael "Mike" on occasion that isn't appreciated either.
- Harry Potter
- In Native Son, Bigger is so used to saying "yessuh" and "yessum" to white people that he finds it hard to break after Jan objects to it.
- In Searching for Dragons, Mendabar's Establishing Character Moment is him arguing with his aide, Willin, to stop referring to him by various "stuffy" titles (among other things). Willin, who feels that the king ought to adhere more with traditions, firmly refuses.
- The Drill Sergeant Nasty version occurs in M.Y.T.H. Inc. In Action. You will address Sgt Smiley as "Sergeant", he is NOT an OFFICER!
Smiley: It didn't take a grant from the crown to make me a gentleman, I was BORN one!
- In The Once and Future King, once everyone's accepted that young Wart has pulled the sword from the stone, he's horrified that his foster-father is kneeling before him and calling him "Sir".
- Inverted, with prejudice, in Lucian Truscott's novel Dress Gray, after West Point cadet Ry Slaight figures out that the commandant of cadets has been railroading him to cover up a murder.
He would call Hedges "General" from now on, a subtle gesture, but one to which a man like Hedges would be attuned. It meant he'd never again hear the word "Sir" from Slaight's lips.
- Inverted by new captain Victoria "Iron" Gates on Castle. She insists on being called "sir" over "Ma'am".
- On CSI NY, Danny uses this to play a joke on his (unknown to them at the time of course)future wife in her first episode. On Lindsay's first day on the job, Danny tells her Mac likes to be called "sir". She proceeds to do so, and then Mac tells her not to call him "sir".
- Doctor Who
- The Doctor. It's usually a sign of great distress when he doesn't mind people calling him "sir". The Tenth Doctor also dislikes being saluted. The only reason he lets the UNIT commander of the episode do it is because they seem to get a buzz out of it.
- Rose tries to convince the members of UNIT to stop saluting her during "Turn Left".
- Sandor Clegane of Game of Thrones doesn't like being called "ser". Unlike many examples, it's actually incorrect, as he is not a knight (though many assume he is, what with being the personal bodyguard of the Crown Prince). Beyond that, Sandor doesn't think much of knights — after all, his brother is one.
- In The Adventures of Superman, Perry White hates it when Jimmy Olsen calls him "Chief", but he can't get him to remember.
- Lois and Clark: In "The Phoenix", Lex Luthor told Nigel not to call him "Sir" anymore since he no longer had a façade to keep.
- Also, when Superman reclaimed his birthright as "Lord Kal-El" and became the ruler of New Krypton to prevent Lord Nor from ruling it and using its power to take over and enslave the human race, there was a scene where several Kryptonians were bowing to him and he told them it would no longer be needed.
- Gibbs (a former Marine Gunnery Sergeant) insists upon being called "Boss" instead. Abby, being Abby, played with it. She is the only person in the entire show who can get away with this kind of thing and not get Gibbs slapped for it.
Abby:Thank you, sir!
Gibbs: Don't call me sir.
Abby:Thank you, ma'am!
(amused reaction from Gibbs)
- And if you call Ziva "ma'am"... whoops.
- In the 1st season episode ("Sightings") a former enlisted service member takes offense being called sir by Harm.
- Another example is in "Dog Rober: Part 1" when Harm goes to Admiral Boone’s place to inform him that the SecNav wants to have him as his troubleshooter.
Boone: Don't sir me. I'm retired.
- The Palace is all about a fictional British Royal Family, and the main characters are all comfortable being called by their titles. However, this trope is briefly Played for Drama in the first episode, shortly after King James's sudden death. His eldest son, Richard, enters a room where his immediate family is gathered, and his mother and sisters begin to curtsy and greet him with "Your Majesty." The new king immediately stops them, disturbed.
- Star Trek
- Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager mentions in a conversation early in the pilot episode "Caretaker" that standard Starfleet protocol is to call superior officers "sir" regardless of gender, but she herself prefers "Captain". "Ma'am" will do in a crunch (and Paris does so throughout the series in crunch time). (Starting with Star Trek: The Next Generation, Starfleet officers of superior rank are addressed as "sir" regardless of their gender. Presumably the idea is that the patriarchal meaning of the word had changed over the centuries to become gender-neutral, although male characters will occasionally "sir" female characters who are being especially authoritative with just enough extra inflection to indicate that the gender-specific overtones are not quite dead.
- Next Gen also used the "I work(ed) for a living" variation, when someone "sirs" Worf's adoptive father, a retired Starfleet CPO.
- Inverted by Troi: she is promoted to the rank of Commander while Data is off-ship, and when Data returns, she jokes that he has to call her "Sir" now.
- Chief O'Brien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is like this as well; in fact, in one episode, a dying ensign notes that his situation has to be getting worse because O'Brien didn't correct him about calling him "sir". That said, O'Brien is not a Starfleet Officer, he's an enlisted man. Which leads to the fact that following the strict chain of command, Nog, who is a cadet with a battlefield promotion to Ensign, outranks him. He follows the standard tradition of using ranks as titles though, and he's laid back enough about it to claim that he did so so he wouldn't have to wear fancy uniforms and go to boring meetings.
O'Brien: You know, I just realized, when he gets back from the academy, I'm going to have to call him "sir".
- It's also played with in the episode "The Storyteller," when Julian Bashir tells Miles not only to not call him sir, but to call him Julian. Miles has been in Starfleet too long to be impressed by this, and he looks a bit smug when Julian mutters that the formal address will do fine at the end of the episode. They eventually end up best friends using First Name Basis anyway, at least when off duty.
- In "Playing God", Trill initiate-for-joining Arjin addresses Jadzia Dax as "Ma'am", which Jadzia promptly rejects and insists that Arjin. All her by her first name
- "In the Hands of the Prophets" has Commander Sisko use a variation when Vedek Winn first addresses him as "Emissary":
Sisko: I wish you wouldn't call me that. I'm "Commander Sisko," or "Benjamin," if you'd like.
- In John Cleese's "The Strange Case of the End of Civilization As We Know It", the President, a Gerald Ford expy, keeps demanding that his CIA aides "Don't call me Sir, call me Mr. President", with the usual "Mr. President Sir" gags. A cut seen takes this Up to Eleven, where the NEXT president is told "Your predecessor also said to call him Mr.President, sir." "Mr. President, MR. PRESIDENT!" "Yes, Mr. President Mr. President." And so on, and on.
- Played a bit for laughs in The West Wing with Donna Moss and incoming First Lady Helen Santos.
Helen: Did you just "ma'am" me???
Donna: I seem to have, yes.
Helen: (cheerfully) Yeah, don't do that again.
- Josh had to repeatedly tell Charlie not to call him "sir", as only the President is addressed that way in the White House, while everyone else is "Hey, when am I gonna get that thing I asked for". He also had to remind him not to call the President's youngest daughter "Madam".
- King Arthur in Kaamelott, Livre V: "Don't call me sire." He is no longer the king of Britain, after all. Of course, being Surrounded by Idiots, they keep forgetting.
- In one episode of British sitcom Blackadder, the titular servant and the Prince Regent switch clothes to impersonate eachother. Explaining the game, Blackadder instructs the somewhat simple-minded Prince that he must refer to him as "your highness". The Prince, of course, precedes to refer to him only as "your highness your highness" for the remainder of the charade.
Blackadder: You must of course refer to me only as "your highness", your highness.
George: Certainly understandable, your highness your highness.
Blackadder: No.. not "your highness your highness"... just "your highness", your highness.
George: That's what I said! "Your highness your highness", your highness your highness...
Myths & Religion
- The Bible: When Saul was chosen to be king, nobody could find him. He was eventually found in the coatroom, being one of the Bible's many examples of extremely humble people. Though he did a Face-Heel Turn once David came on the scene.
- A prank call from frequent Bob and Tom guest Joel Lindley has him insist that he be called "El Conquistador"...which proved to be the problem for the gentleman on the other end of the line, who kept calling him "sir".
- Played with in the Role Aides game supplement Dragons, which features a character class of dragon-mounted warriors. Among humans of the Dragonlands, they're to be addressed as "Dragonlord" and treated with extreme deference. In front of actual dragons, who are really the ones in charge, they can only be called "Riders", never "Dragonlords", and it's the dragons who must be accorded every respect.
- At the end of The King and I, when the king's son ascends the throne, the very first thing he does is start telling people to stand up and look him in the eye.
- Robo in Chrono Trigger initially refers to Marle and Lucca by honorific, presumably because he's programmed to do so, then reverts to First Name Basis at their insistence.
- Jedi Academy: Kyle Katarn insists that both Jaden and Rosh call him Kyle instead of Master, as he says that titles "make my skin crawl." Rosh tries to adapt to this and starts acting so relaxed he's soon found literally leaning on Kyle, which he doesn't appreciate either. There's just no pleasing some people. Whereas Jaden seems to have trouble calling him just Kyle right until the end of the game, which is supposed to take place over several years (however long it takes to go from being an Initiate to a Jedi Knight). By the Fate of the Jedi books taking place decades later, Kyle actually insists on being called "Master Katarn". This may be related to the fact that he's on the Jedi Council...
- This conversation from Ratchet & Clank:
Clank: Please, return your appendages to the steering mechanism, sir.
Ratchet: Oh, sorry. By the way, you can stop calling me 'sir'. The name's Ratchet.
Clank: Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir.
- Mass Effect 2
- Kal'Reegar calls Tali (who, being in charge of the research project on Haestrom, is considered his superior) "ma'am". When she tells him to call her by her name, he replies, "I'll work on that, ma'am."
- Shepard can choose to encourage this kind of mentality among the crew of the Normandy.
- If you didn't make one jealous of the other, when Tali and Ash see each other again before the mission on the dreadnought in the first game, Tali calls Ashley by her rank and last name, like she did in the first game, but at Ashley's suggestion (potentially by pointing out that Tali is now an Admiral), prompting them to switch to First Name Basis.
- Big Boss gains his title at the end of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. However, due to how he gained it, he refuses to let anyone else refer to him as such until the end of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, six years later. He's not even comfortable with it then. It's only at the end of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, a full decade after Snake Eater, that he truly embraces the title. And then comes Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, where, after losing everything to Cipher and XOF, he casts the name off again in favor of Punished Snake.
- In Call of Duty 3, Dixon insists on the squad not calling him Sergeant after he's promoted to the rank.
- Early on in King's Quest V, Cedric addresses King Graham as "your majesty." Graham tells him to drop the "your majesty" part, as it is much too formal.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Sonic dislikes being referred-to formally or being given titles. Examples include insisting that Shahra call him by his name instead of "Master", stopping the Knights of the Round Table bowing to him once it is revealed that he is the genuine King Arthur and stopping people such as Cream and Elise calling him Mr.
- Also, Blaze the Cat dislikes being called Highness. She tolerates "Princess Blaze".
- Drill Sergeant Nasty Sergeant Dornan in Fallout 2 explodes when the Chosen One addresses him as "sir."
Sergeant Dornan: I AM NOT A SIR! I work for a living, you moron!
- In the Warcraft universe, Tyrande to Shandris around the time she becomes High Priestess.
Shandris: I'll follow you for the rest of my life, my lady!
Tyrande: Don't call me that, I'm still Tyrande.
Shandris: Yes, my lady.
- Used in the opening of Battlefield: Bad Company:
Srgt. Redford: And cut out the "Sir, yes sir" crap! I'm a sergeant, not the goddamned President!
- In Dragon Age: Origins, Zevran may once refer to Loghain by title, prompting him to point out that since joining the Gray Wardens, he relinquished his old titles, and should not be addressed any differently than the others.
- Archmage Savos Aren in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Archmage: We haven't been formally introduced, have we?
Dragonborn: No, sir.
Archmage: "Sir?" How quaint.
- In Final Fantasy V, Galuf is a king, but he has amnesia when he meets the most of the rest of the game's party and it isn't until much later in the game that they all find out he's a king. Once he officially reassumes his position, Bartz says they'll have to call him "King," but he says that he doesn't like titles, so they should just call him Galuf. He also extends this to fellow king Xezat, who along with him was one of the Warriors of Dawn.
- Vayne in Final Fantasy XII prefers to be addressed simply as "Vayne" rather than "Lord Consul" or "Your Highness." He justifies this by explaining that though he is the son of the emperor, he is not royalty, as leaders in his country are elected democractically. Furthermore, he insists on being treated as just another citizen of Rabanastre, rather than the newly appointed leader that he is.
- Similarly, his brother Larsa, though young, is nevertheless of noble blood and is properly addressed is Lord, but amongst the party he just goes by Larsa.
- In Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland, the main character is Princess Merurulince, but she normally just goes by "Meruru" and doesn't want anyone to bow to her or speak to her formally or anything like that. In her own words, she's never been much of a princess.
- Team Fortress 2: The supplementary comic "Loose Canon" shows that the Engineer prefers to be called "Dell" rather than "Mr. Conagher", as befitting his characterization as a soft-spoken, friendly sort of fellow (compared to his teammates, that is; the very same comic also shows that the Engineer isn't an Extreme Doormat, since he also threatens to break the geriatric Blutarch in half if he doesn't "take your goddamn hands off me").
- Dead or Alive: Dimensions features one such moment between Ayane and her mother, Ayame, in which the latter manages to call the former back from the Despair Event Horizon:
Ayane: "My Lady..."
Ayame: "Please, you don't have to call me that. I am your mother."
- In Phantasmagoria, when Adrienne calls Malcom "sir", he tells her he doesn't like being called that, because it makes him feel old (he's over a hundred), and asks to be called by his name.
- In Little War Game you the player might start saying this since everything with a human voice calls you 'sir' for most orders you give them. This ordinarily wouldn't be a concern, but the game is a Real-Time Strategy game and as such you'll be hearing their voices over.. and over.. and over..
- But I'm a Cat Person's Bianca doesn't like to think of her ownership of Patrick as anything but a technicality. He insists on calling her "Master" anyway.
- In The Order of the Stick, Roy says this to Vaarsuvius at least once.
- In Sabrina Online, Zig Zag insists that ALL of her employees call her by name, not "Ma'am" or "Miss".
- RWBY inverts with one of its main characters, Yang, specifically demanding to be called 'sir'.
- General James Ironwood plays it straight by telling Ozpin to drop the formalities when they're talking. They're old friends, after all.
- The SCP Foundation has SCP 662, a bell that summons a butler named Mr. Deeds. Mr. Deeds calls everyone sir, often leading to this trope. Unlike most examples, however, he promptly ceases this when asked politely.
- In Lovelace One Two, Mr. Stone, Andi's mentor, has apparently told her this repeatedly.
- In Real Life, at first the President of the United States was addressed as "Excellency", with the full style being "His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of Their Liberties". (One wonders how that would go over today.) George Washington had this changed, at the insistence of James Madison, to the simple "Mr. President". This custom has persisted to the present day, whereas in a few other countries presidents are addressed as "Excellency" but the U.S. President is just "Mr. President".
- What a woman in the office of US president will be called is still a bit unsettled — "Miss/Mrs. President", "Ms. President", and "Madam President" (as most international presidents would be called) were all batted about during Hillary Clinton's campaign. Probably it will all come down to the personal preference of the first woman actually elected.
- Most presidents are addressed as Mr. President — "Monsieur le President" in French, "Herr Präsident" in German, "Panie Prezydencie" in Polish, etc. Your Excellency, however, is the diplomatic style of most republican heads of state. So, the first page of a treaty will list the President of the United States as "His Excellency, the President of the United States of America".
- In many English-speaking military organizations, sergeants and petty officers will take offense at being called "sir" (the title being reserved for commissioned officers. "Don't call me 'sir'! I work for a living!" is the common sergeant's rebuff). An exception is the United States Air Force, where airmen call anyone who outranks them "sir" (and leads to jokes from the other branches about how no-one in the Air Force actually works anyway.)
- Despite this being a Stock Trope of military training, there will always be at least one flustered, if not one maddeningly Genre Blind recruit who will fall afoul of it.
- A very general rule for civilians: Army, Air Force, and Marines you're safe with "Sergeant" for any NCO. For the Navy, "Petty Officer" for anybody without an arch over their stripes (called a "rocker"), and "Chief" for anybody with the rocker.
- Irish musician Tommy Makem used to reply "my father's not here" whenever anyone called him "Mr. Makem" instead of "Tommy".
- Walt Disney hated being called "Mr. Disney". Occasionally when he was referred to as such, he'd say something along the lines of "Please, call me Walt. The only Mr. at the Disney Studios is our lawyer, Mr. Lessing."
- Even after he was knighted, Laurence Olivier hated to be addressed as "sir" or "Sir Laurence", insisting on only being addressed as "Larry".
- This is also a cultural thing. In Europe it seems that further east you go, the more likely you are to offend someone by calling them by an honourific that would be considered polite elsewhere. In south europe, you´re often quickly dissuaded from using honoriffics (in a very open and friendly way).
- For example, in Spain it's usual to call someone "Señor Lastname" (Mr. Lastname), but using just "Señor" without a name (which translates on itself to "Sir") is reserved for TWO things; little kids talking to adults, and the King himself.
- College professors are often very informal when dealing with their students, which can be very jarring for people used to calling their teachers "Mr.", "Mrs.", and so on in grade school.
- This is especially a problem at community colleges, where, due to duel credit programs in many states, it's not at all unusual for some of the students to be 15 or 16.
- Most don't seem to mind being addressed as simply "professor"
- Many college graduates have this issue when going into the workforce when they deal with hourly personnel. Engineers especially end up working with men old enough to be their fathers reporting to them (at least on paper) and calling them "sir" or "Mister". It can be jarring, especially in the South, where great deference is placed on age more than social class.