Race Name Basis
aka: Everyone Calls Him Elf
Some characters know each other enough to speak on a First Name Basis
. Other times the setting calls for a more formal Last Name Basis
Then we have this. A character either doesn't know or doesn't care to use the subject's proper name and instead calls them by their race.
This trope refers mostly to those settings where each race is fundamentally different to one another. Because of this, it is most common in fantasy or science fiction works. Stories featuring the Five Races
are almost certain to possess some measure of this, though certain other settings, such as a World of Funny Animals
also apply. However, it does not refer to Present Day
settings, such as use of the N-Word
as these are almost certain to be derogatory unless shown otherwise. While Fantastic Racism
often does tie into this it is not the only reason for it.
The reasons for referring to one by their race tend to be more varied in fantastical settings than they are in reality
. It could be a sign of respect, or lack of it
. Maybe they haven't yet been properly introduced. Maybe the other character's name is simply too strange to pronounce
. Maybe the racial term is
the character's last name
, or his only name
. This is particularly common among Token Nonhuman
characters. Legolas and Gimli are, for example, the token elf and dwarf in the The Lord of the Rings
In such situations don't expect any confusion to come of this, even if more than one of said race is present. Somehow, even with all the use of racial designation, the characters always seem to know which individual is being called upon any time the name of their race is uttered by another. In extreme cases, characters will do this even when speaking to others of their own race.
Naturally, there is a bit of Truth in Television
Note that the title is a play on Everyone Calls Him Barkeep
, but it is more closely related to name basis tropes
and doesn't necessarily refer to a character who lacks a proper name.
See also First Name Basis
, and Last Name Basis
. Related to Hey, You!
. Compare Everyone Calls Him Barkeep
when this is done with professions rather than race, and N-Word Privileges
where a certain term (normally those found in Real Life
) is "derogatory without permission". If doing this doubles as First Name Basis
then you're probably on a Planet of Steves
. In works involving animals this will likely be a case of Species Surname
, or its more extreme Sister Trope
, A Dog Named Dog
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Anime And Manga
- In Bleach, many of the characters refer to other races by the names of the races, subraces, or epithets such as "Shinigami", "Arrancar", "Quincy", etc. In particular, the Hot-Blooded Grimmjow alternates between this trope and Last Name Basis for the protagonist.
- In Dragon Ball, Vegeta routinely called Piccolo 'Namek' in the English dub, interchangeable with Namekian as even Piccolo describes himself as 'a Namek' to others.
- At the end of The 13th Warrior, Ahmad is sailing away after having helped the Vikings. One of the Vikings shouts to him, "Good-bye, Arab." To which he replies, "Good-bye, Northman." It was a simpler, and less PC time.
- Downplayed in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where Azeem calls Robin "Christian" (initially because he was a complete stranger who happened to be Christian, and later as a term of endearment). Azeem addresses the rest of the (presumably Christian) cast normally.
- In Dragonheart, Bowen calls the dragon "Dragon" mainly for lack of anything else to call him. Eventually, Dragon gets tired of it, and declares he has a name, but admits that Bowen would never be able to pronounce it. Later, Bowen decides to call him Draco instead, basically calling him Dragon in another language. Draco lampshades the irony, but decides to go along with it.
- Discussed in detail in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where King Arthur calls a peasant "Old Man," and then "Man" when he points out that he isn't old, before the peasant says Arthur should call him Dennis.
Arthur: Old woman!
Arthur: Old man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there?
Dennis: I'm 37.
Dennis: I'm 37 — I'm not old!
Arthur: Well, I can't just call you 'Man.'
Dennis: Well, you could say 'Dennis.'
Arthur: Well, I didn't know you were called 'Dennis.'
Dennis: Well, you didn't bother to find out, did you?
- The villainous Steel often calls the titular Balto "wolf-dog" to his face, to disparage Balto's mixed parentage.
- The arrogant and pretentious Cat R Waul knows Fievel Mousekewicz's name in Fievel Goes West, but calls him "mouse" to emphasize his Fantastic Racism that mice are hopelessly inferior to cats.
Cat R Waul: Listen, mouse: I am the law here, and you are a mere hors d'oeuvre.
- In Babe, the farmer never calls Babe anything other than "pig." Since the animals are only intelligible to each other, the farmer doesn't know his 'real' name.
Live Action Television
- The Lord of the Rings: Legolas and Gimli regularly refer to one another as "Elf" and "Dwarf" respectively. As the story goes on, the use of these evolves from derisive, to respectful, to terms of endearment.
- The Witcher: Elves, and to a lesser extent other races, refer to humans as "dh'oine", which is simply "Human" in the Elder Language. The Scoia'tael in particular use it as a borderline insult.
- Artemis Fowl: There is actually fairy etiquette about this, a bit like N-Word Privileges. Calling someone by their species name is only acceptable if you're good friends, else it's insulting. Most fairies do call all humans 'human' though, when they don't call them Mudmen, that is. In The Opal Deception, Ark Sool refers to Foaly as "centaur" which Foaly notes is insulting to do unless between friends.
- Common in World of Warcraft; NPC's will usually address the player as their race (tauren, orc, night elf, etc) or character class (warrior, mage, hunter, etc), unless there's an in-story reason for the NPC to know the player's name. unlike most examples of this trope, it's not generally meant to be derogatory.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the executioner at the beginning of the game calls the player character by their race name (or equivalent Fantastic Slur) when calling them to the chopping block. When playing as a custom race, though, she remains silent.
- Neverwinter Nights 2 has a few instances of this, although they aren't always voiced (especially with races added in the expansions). For example, the encounter where you acquire Khelgar Ironfist as a party member has a couple of thugs derisively tell you (for instance) "This doesn't concern you, half-elf."
- God of War: When not using Kratos's actual name, everyone, including gods, call him simply "Spartan" (well, except his soldiers, who are Spartan as well). The series wiki even lists Spartan as one of his aliases. The gods also sometimes call Kratos "mortal", even after he's technically become a god, and this one is used more as an insult.
- In The Order of the Stick, Vaarsuvius refers to Belkar as "the halfling". This is less because of any general contempt for other races and mostly because it's Belkar; Roy, Haley, and Durkon are "Sir Greenhilt", "Miss Starshine" and "Master Thundershield" respectively (Elan has Only One Name, but sometimes just gets called "the bard"). Belkar has also been known to refer to Vaarsuvius as "elf".
- Looking for Group: Characters have taken to calling Cale "Elf", and Krunch "Bloodrage". For Cale this is generally used by the main characters so that they speak with extra authority when they're about to lecture him for being naive. For Krunch's case it's mostly used by strangers and acquaintances, and is probably meant to be overtly racist.
- Discussed in Counter Monkey, "Dungeon Mastering a Great Game". Spoony is a big fan of roleplaying and doesn't like when players address each other by race or profession as in, "Elf, go identify that magic item," and "Thief, go pick that lock." He discusses causes for it and how you can avoid it in your Tabletop RPG session.
- The Dwarf, Elf, and Ogre from Le Donjon de Naheulbeuk. Other party members are called by their classes (Barbarian, Bard, Enchantress, Ranger, Thief).
- In Kung Fu Panda, Master Shifu usually refers to Po as "Panda". Fridge Brilliance implies that his other students, who seem to be examples of A Dog Named Dog, might originally have had other names, but since Shifu always referred to them by their species, they started using those as their names.
- In The Land Before Time, the dinosaurs have proper names as shown by the main characters, yet the adults never seem to have their names revealed. That doesn't stop Little Foot's grandfather and Cera's dad from referring to each other as Three-Horn and Long-Neck, respectively, whenever they talk to each other, though.
- Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Jihad".
- First, Lara does it to Spock:
EM3GREEN: We'll all die here.
Spock: A statistical probability.
Lara: You ever quote anything besides statistics, Vulcan?
Spock Yes. But philosophy and poetry are not appropriate here.
- And then Sord does it as well.
Spock: Sord, what did you think you saw back there?
Sord: Don't know, Vulcan. A shape, couldn't really make it out. Probably seeing things, like Kirk figures.