Alice has just met a man named Bob, who seems like a perfectly nice person — until he uses her name. To which Alice realizes and possibly responds, "I never told you my name."
This trope is used to place suspicion on an otherwise ordinary character or to hint that there is more to the character than meets the eye. The person whose name is used does not necessarily have to notice; it could simply be a hint to the audience to pay more attention to the character who knew it without being told.
It can also be used humorously, generally with subversions, such as Alice asking why Bob knows her name... and Bob revealing that Alice was wearing a nametag the whole time. This is also easily double subverted, if the nametag doesn't reveal the full name, although that tends to be in less humorous situations.
A subtrope of Saying Too Much
. Compare I Never Said It Was Poison
, where a suspect incriminates himself by revealing confidential evidence only the person involved in the crime would know, and Spotting the Thread
, where the spy is an impostor imitating someone Alice knows, instead of acting as a new person. The Inverted Trope
is You Just Told Me
, when responding to her real name is what reveals Alice's true identity.
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Anime and Manga
- In NEEDLESS, Mio sneaks her way into Cruz's team. Though he doesn't find out for sure she's a mole until Mio turns on them, Cruz quickly becomes suspicious of her when she calls him "Cruz" as opposed to "Yamada" (his nickname, which everyone in the team uses instead of his real name).
- A variant in Monster: Tenma realizes that a couple of policemen aren't what they seem when they address him as "Dr. Tenma" after he only told them his name and not that he was a doctor.
- In Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure, Enya Gail, one of Dio's most loyal followers, pretends to be an innkeeper in order to lure Jotaro and company in to be killed by the effect of her Stand, Justice. However, she inadvertently gives herself away by addressing Jotaro by his correct name, when in fact he had registered to the inn under a false name.
- In part 4, Kira tries to get Josuke to heal his wounds by posing as a victim in one of his own explosions. Josuke, however, quickly points out that it's incredibly odd that Kira would ask him to fix him up personally rather than call an ambulance.
Anyone can see I'm a high school student. How the hell am I supposed to fix you? I can't even play pachinko dressed like this, which is a fucking pain. Do I look like a licensed medical professional to you? Huh? Or maybe ... You can see Crazy Diamond.
- In the Hoshiyomi filler arc of InuYasha, demons manage to get a photo of three of Kagome's friends from her backpack, and use it to create puppets of them in order to trick Kagome and Hojo into handing over the magic blade that their master needs. Kagome is suspicious to begin with, but her suspicions are confirmed when one of the three calls Inuyasha - which no one had mentioned to them.
- In Tiger & Bunny, during Jake and Kotetsu's fight, in a fit of rage, Jake calls the latter by his real name, something that he shouldn't have known. It clues in Kotetsu that Jake also happens to be a mind-reader.
- In an issue of Justice League of America, Plastic Man in disguise was talking with Bruce Wayne and after a while, Bruce said his name. Plastic Man never mentioned his name and he and the group chased him and "Bruce" was revealed to be a telepathic alien with amnesia.
- Subverted in the miniseries Oracle: The Cure: Barbara never told Corey her name, but when she pointed this out, he reminded her that he had known her when he was a kid from her librarian days.
- A variation shows up Irredeemable, when the Plutonian refers to the Hornet's wife by name during a flashback. The Hornet had never mentioned her name to him, and realizes that he's spying on his teammates and may not be entirely trustworthy.
- In Usagi Yojimbo, Sasuke does this to Usagi, Jotaro, and probably everyone else he meets. When someone calls him on it, he just dismisses it - "You must have mentioned it earlier." In this particular case, it's because Sasuke is a powerful spellcaster and can read people's minds.
- Inverted in Ultimate Spider-Man when Spidey wakes up unmasked and surrounded by the X-Men:
Spider-Man: I want to put on the mask and keep it on! But every time I turn around, someone somewhere finds out I'm Peter Parker!
Jean Grey: We... Uh... We didn't know your name.
- In Turnabout Storm, shortly after Twilight Sparkle accidentally summons Phoenix Wright to her world, she addresses Phoenix by his name before he properly introduces himself to her. When he calls her out on it she hastily claims that she had a Namedar spell performed on him when he arrived. Though it could sound plausible enough, her hesitation and some of her future actions still make clear that something's up.
- In the Harry Potter fic Make a Wish, the auror interviewing Harry after he killed an assassin with accidental magic referred to him by his assumed name of "Mr. Black" despite the lack of an introduction. Harry commented afterwards to another auror on the team that "His technique was so calm and relaxed that I don't even remember telling him my name."
Films - Live-Action
- In The Truman Show, Truman's attempt to drive out of town with his wife ended when an unknown cop told them the road was closed. However, the cop then addressed Truman by name without ever being told his name or shown any ID. This immediately lets Truman know something is up.
- In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Nicolas Cage's character does this to the young Dave. When Dave asks how he knows his name, Cage bursts out, "Because I can read minds!" After a beat, he says normally, "It's on your backpack". Though he was telling the truth the first time.
- Double Subversion in City of Angels. Seth calls Maggie by name and when asked points out that she's wearing a nametag. Later, she pulls off the nametag and it only shows her last name.
- Played with in a subtle moment early on in Red Eye, in which the villain ends up saying the name of the heroine's father in conversation with her and she doesn't notice that he'd just said a name she'd never told him. Probably a good many people in the audience didn't either.
- In Final Destination 2:
– You have to follow the signs... Kimberly.
– How do you know my name?
- In The Rich Man's Wife, Josie (the wife in question) is being terrorized by her husband's killer, who is demanding an exorbitant sum of money from her and threatening to tell the police that she hired him to kill her husband (she didn't). She goes running to her ex-lover Jake, pleading for his help. He calms her down, assuring her that "Cole won't hurt you." She's grateful, until she suddenly realizes that she never told him the man's name -Jake hired the man to kill her husband so that Josie would come back to him.
- Possibly subverted in Thunderball when the Bond girl Domino demands to know how Bond knew that was her name (or rather, her nickname); he says it is on the bracelet on her ankle. The "possible" part is that it's not clear he hasn't read up on her already, since the reason he is in the Bahamas is following a lead about her recently murdered brother, though it didn't lead to her directly..
Domino: My my, what sharp eyes you have.
Bond: (as she walks away) Wait till you get to my teeth.
- In The Prophecy, Gabriel confronts Thomas as he's sitting in church. When Thomas questions how Gabriel knows his name, Gabriel dismissively tells him "You look like a Thomas." Gabriel does this many times. One of the more humorous times, he calls a waitress "Madge" - she reflexively looks down to see if she was wearing a name tag - she wasn't.
- In The Count of Monte Cristo, Mercedes realizes the Count's true identity when she points out that he told her: "Edmond Dantes is dead," even though she had never mentioned his last name in their earlier confrontation.
- In the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Matthew desperately calls the police when the pods start growing in his backyard. They reply with his name before he gave it, leading him to suspect that the authorities are all pods.
- Variation in Olympus Has Fallen. Secret Service agent Mike Banning runs into another survivor of the attack on the White House and fellow Secret Service agent who claims he's been hiding out the whole time. In their conversation the survivor mentions the villain's name...something Banning only was recently told by the impromptu government leaders he's in contact with and was only recently found out, and correctly deduces that the survivor is in fact a traitor working with the White House attackers.
- In both the book and film versions of The Shining, there is a scene towards the beginning where Hallorann the cook calls little Danny Torrance "Doc", his parents ask how Hallorann knew they call him Doc, and Hallorann answers by saying Danny just looks like a Doc. The real reason, of course, is that Danny and Hallorann both share a psychic ability—"the shining".
- There's a variation in the mystery novel Say It With Bullets by Richard Powell. The hero is talking to a woman he has just met when she reveals she knows exactly when his birthday is. He is immediately suspicious of her, but it turns out she had met him and had a crush on him when he was 16 and she was 12.
- In Carpe Jugulum when Agnes meets Vlad he says her name without being told. When she considers that he might have asked someone Perdita asks her why anyone would ask for her name.
- In Unseen Academicals, Glenda is talking to someone she thinks is Lady Margolotta's librarian. That she knew Glenda's name without being told (either because she's a vampire or just because Vetinari told her) is one of the clues that tips Glenda off to who she really is, after she's already left.
- Making Money contains one as well, from Moist to an old accomplice, thus spoiling his denial of being Albert Spangler.
- Played with a little in one of the books of The Riftwar Cycle. Erik von Darkmoor is approached by a friendly man, whom he has never met, but who calls him Erik. When the man switches to calling him "von Darkmoor" instead, Erik's squadmates stick a knife in his back. When Erik asks how they knew this man was up to no good, the squadmate says that the man might have overheard "Erik" somewhere, but everyone was under strict orders not to use the name "von Darkmoor".
- In the Children of the Red King series, Alice Angel knows Olivia's name immediately when she and Charlie walk into her shop, and uses it repeatedly. It doesn't say much for Charlie's character that he doesn't think anything is wrong until Alice also says his name. It turns out that, unknown to them Alice is Olivia's next door neighbour, godmother and self declared guardian angel and a friend of Charlie's Uncle Paton.
- Artemis Fowl: When Artemis first kidnaps Holly, he calls her "Captain Short". When she demands to know how he knew her name and rank, he points out that she's wearing a name tag... except, as Holly next points out, the name tag is written in the fairy alphabet, which Artemis shouldn't be able to read. (As it happens, Artemis had stolen a copy of the fairy Book and deciphered their language.) Invoked Trope since Artemis did this on purpose, knowing she'd notice the "slip" — and that she would understand the significance of how he knew.
- A variation occurs in Nuklear Age when Superion mentions the name of Atomik Lad's girlfriend to him, when Atomic Lad had been careful not to mention her name around Superion because he already distrusted him; this incident only heightens that distrust.
- Occurs in the Ciaphas Cain short story Sector 13. Cain identifies a Genestealer hybrid when it refers to him by name before he introduces himself; he'd told his name to another hybrid, and 'stealers communicate telepathically.
- In the YA novel The Third Eye, clairvoyant protagonist Karen is walking to her job at a day care center when a woman stops to offer her a ride, saying that she's affiliated with the same center and recognizes Karen. It isn't until the woman addresses her by her name, which she hadn't mentioned, that Karen realizes she's being kidnapped.
- Similar to the double-subversion example at the top, in Wizards's First Rule, Richard realizes that a person is actually a shapeshifter when they only know Zedd by his nickname, which Richard mentioned. Richard challenges it to say Zedd's full name, it realizes the game is up and attacks, and Richard fights it off.
- Spaced played with this in their Homage (of sorts) to The Matrix. With the agents grilling Brian at the front door when they were looking for Daisy.
Agent 1: Can you tell us where she [Daisy] is, Mr. Topp?
Brian: How do you know my name?
Brian: ...All right.
Agent 2: Where is she, Brian?
- In the Firefly episode "Trash", Mal is introduced to a pilot friend's new wife- who is a con artist that Mal has previously had a rather severe run-in with. They commence fighting, and the pilot demands to know what's going on. Mal shouts accusations at her, to which she responds "You're a liar, Malcolm Reynolds!" The pilot had never told her Mal's full name.
- One episode of NCIS features a variation. A potential love interest of McGee visits him at work ... except he never told her he was with NCIS.
- On one episode of The X-Files a character gives himself away with this trope but he's talking so fast that the audience might not notice until Mulder stops him, saying, "Whoa, whoa, wait a minute here...When did I say my name was 'Agent Mulder'?"
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Window of Opportunity", Jack confirms that Malakai is also in the time loop when the latter uses Carter's name, despite not having been introduced to her in the current loop.
- A variant occurs at the tail end of the Castle episode "Sucker Punch". Beckett realizes a suspect she has just released was in fact the killer of both the victim of the week and her own mother, because he used "her" in reference to her mother. Beckett had mentioned a Death by Origin Story during an interrogation, but not the gender of the person she lost.
- In Battlestar Galactica, Kara "Starbuck" Thrace realises that Simon knows more than he should when he calls her Starbuck - she had only told him her real name, not her call sign. It doesn't end well for Simon (though being a Cylon, He Gets Better).
- In Angel this happens when Lilah propositions Faith to kill Angel.
- Once Upon a Time: Snow White figures out that Lancelot isn't who he claims to be, when he knows the name of Emma's son, Henry.
- Later Snow saves a woman and tells her how she herself was once saved, too - but she doesn't say Regina The Evil Queen was her savior. Yet the woman actually is Regina in disguise, and this trope is how she unintentionally reveals herself.
Snow: I never said it was her.
- And again, word for word, in the first episode of season 3.
- A variation appears in the BBC miniseries Gunpowder, Treason & Plot, when one character realizes that his girlfriend is a spy for King James. He's been told not to refer to Guy Fawkes by his real name, but instead to call him "Johnson". He slips up in front of her, accidentally using the name 'Fawkes', and she doesn't call him on it. A few scenes later, when Fawkes reminds him to use the alias, he catches his - and the spy's - mistake.
- A variation in one episode of Bones - one victim is an old friend of Hodgins (who married Hodgins' former fiancee), and both parties agree to hide their former relationship. However, Booth catches that she knew Hodgins' first name was Jack despite Booth not using said name. The defense attorney for the killer finds out too, and it nearly gets the case thrown out for evidence tampering, because someone with a personal interest in the case had been involved with each step of the evidence gathering.
- In The Outer Limits's "Lithia," the leader of a village in a post-apocalyptic all-female world who's witnessed tragedy when 12 men let out of cyberfreeze caused tragedy due to their aggressive nature puts the main male character back in stasis, and says "Goodbye, Jason" - even though he never told anyone his first name. It turned out that he was the love of her life before being frozen.
- Happens in Criminal Minds, when the woman who's been stalking Maeve the whole time comes out and calls Reid "Doctor". He doesn't realize until later that he was not introduced to her, either as "Agent" or "Doctor".
- A variation occurs in How I Met Your Mother when Lily is complaining to the Mother about some of Ted's road trip habits.
Lily: I can't believe Ted dragged me to the childhood home of some stupid bucklesmith no one's has even heard of.
The Mother: Yeah, who cares about Florian von Otterloop?
Lily: I never told you his name.
- A variation gets spoofed in Bleak Expectations:
Pip: Whackwallop? Then you are a cousin to the Sternbeaters and Hardthrashers, and a natural ally of Mr Benevolent!
Dr Whackwallop: Gently who?
Pip: I am completely reassured.
- In Silent Hill 2, Maria calls James by name in spite of the fact that he never introduces himself. James never comments on this or responds to it in any way, and it's far from the only knowledge she should not have and yet does.
- In the English version of The World Ends with You, upon meeting Neku, Joshua uses Neku's name twice before actually being told by Neku himself. Used to hint that Joshua is more than he seems, as he later ends up being a very significant character.
- Iris does it to Phoenix in the last case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations. When Iris is confronted about it, five Psyche-Locksnote appear before her and the issue has to be dropped. It's not revealed completely until the end.note
- In Xenogears, after being exiled from his village, Fei encounters a woman in the forest who is later knocked unconscious prompting Fei to yell "Keep your hands off Elly!". Later on she introduces herself and her name is in fact Elly. There is a really complicated reason for this.
- Are you part of an MMORPG RP Community? Expect this.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, the Avatar knows Chrom's name the moment they first meet, even though they're suffering from amnesia and initially can't remember their own name. Chrom's lieutenant Frederick finds this very suspicious.
- Subverted in the English translation, as the Avatar had already heard Chrom's name by that point.