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You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious
Peter: "Well, can you just gimmie the keys, please?"
Lois: (While having a gun held to her back) "Alright, Peter, I'll get it. Don't put a gun in my back."
Peter: "I'm not! I'm just asking for the key. Gimmie the key."
Lois: (Thinking) Peter, we've been married for 20 years. Please recognize when I'm acting out of the ordinary because I'm in danger.
Lois: "Here you go. Here's the key.... Pete."
Peter: (Thinking) Why is she calling me 'Pete'. We've been married for 14 years, she's never called me Pete..... Why am I trying to figure this out when I could be listening to my tapes in the car?
Peter: "Bye!"

Bob and Alice have known each other for years and have a mostly good relationship. Except for one small thing that drives Alice up the wall: Bob refuses to call Alice by her name.

  • If she's his boss, he'll call her "Jefe," or "Boss" or "Meine Frau" or "Slave Driver" or any number of variations.
  • If she's a relative, he'll call her "Sis" or "Goober" or "Pinhead".
  • If Alice prefers to be called Cindy, he'll call her Alice. Every time, and reveling in it when it makes her scream in aggravation.

Unless something serious has come up. Then he'll drop the nicknames and call her by the name she wants to be called by.

Often played for comedy, but equally often done seriously.

A variation is that Alice is currently dying (in the habitual way of Hollywood, which is to say, very slowly), while Bob is calling out to her, finally using her real name. She will smile up at him and say "You finally called me Alice..." before passing out and/or dying.

This is also a Sister Trope to Out-of-Character Alert:

  • Bob could call Alice "Alice" to let her know there's something off about the situation, and he knows doing so will get her attention.
  • An impostor Bob could call Alice "Alice" in an instance where Alice knows for certain sure Bob would never do so, which would tip her off to the reality that that's not Bob.

Related to First Name Ultimatum and Full Name Ultimatum—except it's not generally played for comedy.

Honorifics also merit mention seeing as anime characters in this situation will likely start using more affectionate terms for each other. One of the many complaints of western fandom is that important moments lose their impact because of the limitations of the English language in translation.

And the inverse is true as well. Bob may call Alice "Alice" all the time, but refer to her by an old nickname he has normally avoided using to underscore a serious or intense situation.

Compare against Accidental Misnaming, Malicious Misnaming, OOC Is Serious Business.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

  • A heartbreaking example in Puella Magi Madoka Magica episode 10, wherein Homura calls Madoka by her first name in a previous timeline, right after Madoka asks her for a mercy kill. Her last words in that timeline are "You finally called me by my first name." Homura is unable to respond to this at all, and merely wails as she shoots Madoka's soul gem.
    • Also invoked on other occasions. In the current timeline Homura tells Madoka to address her by her first name, as is fitting for best friends to do.
    • Up until Episode 8, Kyouko is too much of a Jerkass to call anyone by their name. As she watches Sayaka turn into a witch, Kyouko yells out "SAYAKAAAAAAA!!", a sign of her Character Development.
  • On Maison Ikkoku, Yusaku Godai and Kyoko Otonashi are always "Godai" and "Manager" to each other as part of their complicated romantic dance. When he calls her "Kyoko" to her face, it's important, and when she calls him "Yusaku," it's really important.
  • In Sailor Moon, Pegasus always calls Chibi-Usa "Small Lady". In the very last episode of Super S, he finally calls her "Chibi-Usa", and she gasps, "That's the first time you've called me by my real name!" (In English, of course, he had called her "Rini" countless times before, leading to a collective forehead slap by subbies and dubbies alike. The Cloverway dub attempted to fix this by having him call her "Sailor Mini Moon" for the first time, which... didn't have the same impact.)
  • In Hellsing, Alucard usually calls Seras Victoria "police girl". If he calls her by name, it's serious.
  • In Pokémon Special, Pearl usually calls his best friend 'Dia', but when serious calls him by his full name, Diamond.
  • Riza Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist uses this trope to trick the shapeshifting Envy, masquerading as her boss, Roy Mustang. Envy, disguised as Roy, meets up with Riza and calls her by her title, "Lieutenant", as he always does. She responds by pulling out her gun and telling him that Roy always calls her by her first name when they're alone. Here's the kicker: this isn't true; she just said that to trick Envy into reacting and revealing himself. And then she proceeds to pwn his ass.
  • In Tokyo Mew Mew, Masaya refers to Ichigo by her last name, in one episode however, when he is chasing her, he refers to her by her first, causing her to stop. In the "dub", he just said her first name but louder.
  • In Tsubasa Chronicle, Kurogane and Fai normally don't use each other's names - the former uses variations of "mage" or "idiot", while the latter uses pet names such as "Kuro-puu", to Kurogane's unending annoyance. When Fai addresses him simply as "Kurogane" after the Tokyo arc, it is a bad sign, indicating Fai's withdrawal into stiff formality. Kurogane is none too happy about it, and when Fai eventually lapses into using the somewhat respectful but still affectionate "Kuro-sama" it's a sign that the two of them have finally sorted out their issues enough to have formed a fairly comfortable partnership.
    • The trope also applies to a lesser extent between Sakura and Syaoran, who normally refer to each other "Syaoran-kun" and "Sakura-hime" with a couple notable exceptions. (Rather annoyingly, official published translations rarely pay attention to this.)
  • In Steins;Gate, the main character only ever calls Kurisu by her real name when the situation is dead serious.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Barnaby usually calls Kotetsu 'old man' just to annoy him. But at the end of episode 13, after Barnaby has defeated the Big Bad, he calls him Kotetsu for the first time, a sign that their relationship is changing for the better.

     Comic Books  

  • Willie Garvin always calls Modesty Blaise "Princess". The number of times he's called her Modesty can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and it's always a case of Out-of-Character Alert.
  • In Batman, the Al-Ghul family has this with the Dark Knight. Ra's Al-Ghul refers to Batman as "Detective". If he ever uses anything else, it's a sign something's seriously wrong. Talia tends to refer to Batman as "Beloved", and likewise, it's serious, if she ever refers to him otherwise.
    • When Ra's died and Talia took up the title of Ra's Al Ghul, she started calling him Detective as well.
  • In Uncanny X-Men #183, Colossus started calling Kitty Pryde "Kitty" instead of the pet-name "Katya" when he broke up with her. More recently, when they got back together in Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men, he went back to calling her "Katya".
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik calls Snively by his real name, Colin. This is what clues him in that his boss (and uncle) is suffering from a Villainous Breakdown.
  • When the Human Torch stays in the negative zone to hold off the entire horde of Annihilus, The Thing, who almost always treats him like a kid and uses the name Johnny (or matchstick), calls him John.
  • Kingdom Come. Bruce calls Superman "Clark", knowing it completely annoyed him, since Supes had fully rejected his humanity and only answered to "Kal". In the final scene, Superman once again re-adopts the name Clark, and prefers it, finally rejoining the rest of the world.
  • In the Jack Chick tract "Born Wild", Dexter disrespectfully calls his mom "Connie". After he converts to Christianity, he shocks her by calling her "Mom".
  • An example that was casual for the person speaking, but monumental for the readers: in a profoundly silly story arc of Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine is open-mouthed shocked when a leprechaun refers to him as "Mr. Logan". Not only had no one in the comic called him by that name previously, this was the first indication he even had a name other than Wolverine. The leprechaun's only explanation was "We little people know a lot o' things."

     Fan Fic  

  • Some authors use this in Mass Effect fanfiction. In the games, Commander Shepard is never referred to by a first name, since the player can choose it. Many authors will stick with this, because it seems out of character for others to refer to Shepard as anything but "Shepard." This can go as far as audience expectations; many readers will be thrown off if a character refers to Shepard by a first name, some even prefer that not even the narration uses it. Clever authors will invoke this trope using their Shepard's first name in the same way as a Precision F-Strike, where otherwise sticking to the expectation but having a single use of Shepard's first name will add a tremendous amount of weight to a scene.
  • This is used a lot in Bleach Shunsui/Nanao fanfictions, with him dropping the -chan on her name if the situation is serious.
  • In Weekend at Hisao's, when Misha calls up Hisao to yell at him for upsetting Shizune during their argument and force him to open up about his problem with seeing his old friends again, she uses a Full Name Ultimatum, which is also one of the few times she doesn't call him "Hicchan".
  • Older Brother, by Pengy Chan. *sob*
  • Though we don't get to 'hear' his name, in Kyon Big Damn Hero, Yuki calls Kyon by his real name to calm and center him after a depowered fight.
  • In Doctor Whooves Adventures, the Doctor simply refuses to call Twilight Sparkle by her real name at first. He goes from Midnight Twinkle to Evening Glitter to Morning Glory - but when all the cards are down, he finally gives up the Running Gag in a truly heartwarming moment.
  • In Saki, Momo typically calls Yumi "senpai", occasionally referring to her as "Kajiki-senpai" if she wants to be clear who she's talking about. In Zero-Sum, after receiving a Love Confession from Yumi in the middle of The End of the World as We Know It, she says "Well, I have always loved you since we first met as well, Yumi!" Yumi lampshades how infrequently Momo used her actual name.
  • Referenced in the NCIS fic Shards to a Whole; since Tim and Abby's sex life leans toward Casual Kink and seldom use each other's full names, Tim's Safe Word is "Abigail", while Abby's is "Timothy".

    Film 

  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indy has just seen Dr. Elsa Schneider die reaching for the Holy Grail. Despite trying to dissuade her from doing exactly the same thing, Indy believes he can reach the Grail if he just reaches a little further... but then his father, who spent Indy's whole life calling him by the humiliating appellation "Junior", says "Indiana. Indiana. Let it go." And that convinces him.
    • It is revealed later that Indiana is actually a nickname (his father calls him "Junior" because his real name is "Henry Jones, Jr."), so in fact, this example is an inversion.
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: During Spock's recovery from his resurrection the moment when he first called Kirk "Jim" was very dramatic, as an indication he remembered their friendship.
  • In Chicago, Amos is shocked when Billy Flynn refers to him by his actual name at the trial, rather than the Andy or Alan or whatever from all their previous meetings. This helps Flynn get exactly the testimony he needs.
  • Men In Black is an ironic example, in that the names these characters grew up with have been purged intentionally, leaving them only with one initial codenames. K takes the joke a step further, perpetually calling J every diminutive nickname in the book (Son, Kiddo, Champ, Sport, Tiger, Slick...)
    Agent J: "Hey, Z? K? Guys? HEY, OLD GUYS!!"
    • Better still, the whole room looks.
  • In Coraline the titular character is called "Caroline" by her new neighbors, to her disgust. However, in the Otherworld the correct pronunciation is used. Also, at the end of the film after Coraline and Wybie have disposed of the Other Mother's hand, Wybie calls her Coraline.
  • Variation, from Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels: "What are we going to do, Rory?" "Mister Breaker. Today, my name is MISTER BREAKER."
  • All through John Carpenter's Vampires, the priest calls Jack "Mr. Crow." So when he says "Jack, you need to see this," as he's staring at a closed circuit television, you know something bad's about to happen. For the record, he calls him "Jack" from that point on in the movie as well.
  • In The American President, the president tells A.J., his Chief of Staff, to call him Andy in private, but he never does until one of the very last scenes. The president asks, hypothetically, if they would have been elected if his wife hadn't died.
    A.J.: "I don't know. But I would have liked that campaign. If my friend Andy Shepherd had shown up, I would have liked that campaign very much."
  • In The Flintstones movie, Barney tries to get BamBam to call him "Dada" all through the movie. He finally does during a death-defying rescue... which overjoys Barney so much that he doesn't notice the beam about to hit him in the head.
  • In The Ring Two, Rachel's son Aidan insists on calling his mother by her first name. So when Samara takes over Aidan's body and subsequently starts calling her "mom", she realizes something's up.
    • At the end, Aidan calls her "mom" again. She tells him to call her Rachel.
  • In Tangled, Flynn consistently calls Rapunzel "Blondie" or "Goldie". When he realizes that the Stabbington brothers got him away from her, and left her vulnerable, he shouts for "Rapunzel!"
  • In Finding Nemo, Gil usually calls Nemo either "kid" or his nickname "Sharkbait". He shouts his name when he thinks he's been killed in the tank filter.
  • Throughout most of Kung Fu Panda, Master Shifu refers to Po only as "Panda", probably due to his lack of respect for him. When Po finally proves himself by defeating Tai Lung, Shifu starts to call him by name.
  • In An American Tail, Tony prefers to call Fievel by the name "Filly", but when searching for him with Tanya, he shouts out his real name.
  • In Mr. Peabody & Sherman Sherman breaks the rules of only calling his father "Mr. Peabody" or "Peabody" when Sherman believes the dog just sacrificed his life to save Sherman and Penny.
  • In Field of Dreams Dr. Archibald Graham knows something is special about Ray Kinsella when he asks if he is former baseball player "Moonlight" Graham, the first time he's been called that in more than 50 years.

    Literature 

  • Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code has Butler telling Artemis his first name because he believes he is going to die. Artemis then sends a message to Butler's sister Juliet saying "Domovoi needs you." in order to make it obvious to her that this is serious since she knows that he would never let Artemis know his name unless it didn't matter any more.
    • Comes back later when Butler is watching Artemis' tape made to help them recover their memories after their Mind Wipe. Artemis saying "your name is Domovoi" is what triggers Butler's memories to come rushing back to him.
    • Root has been known to comment that Holly calls him Julius only when she's about to do something he really won't like.
    • Mudboy vs. Artemis vs. Artie, depending on how well-disposed the rest of the gang is feeling towards Artemis at the moment.
    • In the fourth book, Mulch refers to the Atlantean sea-elf Vishby by his real name only once, when he's imploring him to escape from a submarine moments before it gets crushed by water pressure. The rest of the time he uses the demeaning nickname 'Fishboy'.
  • In The Babysitters Club, when Stacey Mc Gill's parents call her "Anastasia," she knows that she's pushed them too far, and it's time to back down.
  • In the Wheel of Time, Tuon doesn't use Mat's name until after they get married, preferring to call him 'Tylin's Toy' or just 'Toy' for short. Mat retaliates by calling her 'Precious', but falls back into using her actual name after he does it without thinking when warning her of an assassination attempt.
  • In the Discworld books, Sergeant Colon is one of the few people allowed to call Commander Vimes "Sam", but doing so is usually a sign that he's worried about something. Also, the only person to ever correctly pronounce Mister Teatime'snote  name on the first try was Death.
  • The Hollows series has a number of inversions.
    • Nick Sparagmos refers to Rachel as Ray-Ray when trying to entreat her to give their relationship another chance. Even while describing mourning for her when he believed her dead.
    • Nick is just fine being called Nick. But Jenks and Ivy tend to call him "crap for brains" and "Professor" just to piss him off because of his stupidity and genuinely clueless betrayal of Rachel.
    • The demon Algaliarept calls people by the names he has been given in exchange for demonic favors. Unless he has them in his thrall, at which point he uses diminutives. And conversely, Rachel's people tend to refer to him by the nickname Big Al due to Speak of the Devil, and only use his proper name when they have to deal with him directly...which is always serious.
    • Rachel's brother Robbie hates to be called "Bert", so Rachel does it when she needs to drive a point home to him.
  • In Turn Coat, the 11th of The Dresden Files books, Dresden calls Captain Luccio "Stacy"; her name is Anastasia and she hates that diminutive, but it serves as proof to both of them that each is who they say they are. Also, Morgan calls him by his first name when he tells Dresden to stand aside and let the Wardens arrest him.
    • Blood Rites does a different variation on the trope: Murphy is well acquainted with Harry's usual irreverence in the face of authority, so when she hears him address his mentor Ebenezar McCoy as "sir," she drops everything she's holding in shock.
  • In Harry Potter near the end of the series, this becomes standard operating procedure. Molly Weasley is embarrassed to have her husband's pet name for her revealed this way. It's "Mollywobbles". Awwwww.
    • A minor example crops up in Half-blood Prince, when Harry and Hagrid, usually good friends, refer to each other as "Potter" and "Professor" in conversation to indicate that they're annoyed with each other.
    • Also, in HBP, after Dumbledore dies, McGonagall asks Harry to say where he and Dumbledore were hours before. You know she's serious when she calls him by his first name. And when he repeatedly refuses to say, she reverts to the more formal "Potter".
    Harry registered the renewed use of his surname.
    • During the final battle in Deathly Hallows, Harry calls Voldemort "Tom Riddle". Voldemort is very surprised and not at all happy...
  • Maya Angelou in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings recalls a conversation with her mother when she was afraid she was turning into a lesbian. She fears the worst when her mother calls her "Marguerite" instead of one of her many nicknames. When her mother calls her "Ritie", she knows it's nothing serious.
  • In Linnea Sinclair's Games of Command, Admiral Kel-Paten only calls his flag ship captain by her surname, Sebastian, as is professional. But when she suddenly falls ill, he addresses her as Tasha, revealing that his feelings for her are less than professional. After her condition has stabilized, he reverts to calling her Sebastian.
  • In the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning, Jericho only refers to Mac by her first name when she's been brutalized or badly injured — otherwise it's Ms. Lane in a somewhat derisive tone.
  • In Black London once learning Pete's full name, Jack uses it to prove he's being sincere rather than wily and dodgy.
  • Mother considers the Scarecrow far too badass to be called "Shane", until he's about to commit suicide.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, magicians never use their birth names, because those have magical power over them. The djinni Bartimaeus thus always calls Nathaniel by his real name, until the end of the second book when he finally calls him by his pseudonym. Bartimaeus says it's because he's just like all the other magicians now. Nathaniel takes it as a compliment. It wasn't suppose to be.
  • In Hawk Song by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Danica is walking with her bodyguard, Andreios. As the Avians (Danica included) are very stiff and formal, she knows that Andreios is very serious when he calls her "Dani" in public. In turn, she uses Andreios' full name, instead of his nickname "Rei" to let him know that she's serious.
  • In the Amelia Peabody mysteries, Amelia and her husband scrap all the time, but she knows he's really angry at her when he calls her "Amelia" rather than the usual "Peabody."
  • Mr. D (Dionysus) never calls Percy Jackson by his real name, usually "forgetting" it and saying something like "Peter Johnson" instead. Except for once, at the end of the last book, after Percy manages to save all of the gods and the entire world. When called out on it, he immediately pretends to have done nothing of the kind, but it's obvious that he really is proud of Percy.
  • Used in A Song of Ice and Fire with Jaime and Brienne; from their first meeting on, they snipe at each other constantly, and the only terms of address used are "Kingslayer" and "wench". When Jaime wants to convince Brienne that following the Kingsroad is a really bad idea, he finally calls her by name.
    • It gets flipped around much later, when they've become good friends and pretty much always refer to one another by first name. When Jaime gets worried about the fact that she's taking news of the Red Wedding very hard, he goes back to calling her "wench" in an attempt to annoy her out of her depression. It doesn't work.
  • In the Lucky Starr series, Lucky's foster father Hector Conway calls Lucky by his real name, David, in moments of deep concern.
  • In the second The Raven Cycle book, Blue Sargent knows something terrible must have happened when Gansey calls her by her real name instead of his nickname for her, "Jane."

     Live Action TV  
  • In The Adventures of Superman "The Evil Three", Perry, talking to the terrified Jimmy, calls him "Jim" rather than "Olsen."
  • Doctor Who:
    • Ace usually calls the Doctor "Professor". She uses "Doctor" only when it's really serious. Of course, technically "Doctor" isn't a name, but it is what he wants to be called.
    • Generally, if the Doctor calls Jack Harkness by his first name instead of "Captain", it's a moment of either affection or duress.
    • The Doctor has occasionally called Amy by her real first name, Amelia, when she's about to do something silly. This is a holdover from the first time they met. Amelia was seven and introduced herself to the Doctor with her full name. About an hour later, she was 19 and preferred to be called Amy. He preferred Amelia, although most of the time he just calls her "Pond."
    • In "The Angels Take Manhattan", Amy calls River Song by their given name Melody and the Doctor by Raggedy Man as she says her goodbyes just before she is permanently shunted to the past by a Weeping Angel The Doctor also indicates the seriousness of the moment by calling her "Amelia Williams," which he had never previously used, despite her marriage. Perhaps in recognition that her love for and marriage to Rory meant she was going to try to follow him, no matter the consequences.
  • In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Grave Danger", it took Grissom calling Nick by his family nickname of "Pancho" to break Nick out of his panic.
  • In every Star Trek series ever, calling someone by their first name instead of their rank or last name indicates something very serious is going on.
    • This goes all the way back to Star Trek: The Original Series. Spock usually referred to Kirk as "Captain"; he only called him "Jim" when his emotional state was affected, for good or bad. A good example is in "The Doomsday Machine", when he calls him "Captain" and then "Jim" in the same conversation:
      Spock: Captain, you're getting dangerously close to the planet killer.
      Kirk: I intend to get a lot closer. I'm gonna ram her right down that thing's throat.
      Spock: Jim, you'll be killed. Just like Decker.
    • See Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres' now or never almost kiss for another example.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy always calls Spike by that name, until she breaks up with him "for real" and calls him William.
  • Sort of inverted on Joan of Arcadia — when Joan's classmate Adam keeps calling her "Jane," she gets used to it because Adam's clearly the show's Cloudcuckoolander. But then they become a couple, and then when they break up, he starts calling her "Joan." It's a sign that the rift has healed when he goes back to "Jane."
    • This is also how Joan usually identifies the random strangers who are God speaking to her — by their calling her by her first name. (Which inevitably leads to a scene where Joan flips out on a stranger who knows her name... who just happened to read it off her name tag.)
  • At the end of season 3 of LOST, Sawyer's in a funk after finally killing Cooper. Sawyer repeatedly addresses Kate by her name instead of "Freckles" or another nickname when she confronts him about what's wrong:
    Kate: Ever since you got that tape from Locke it's like you've been sleepwalking. You don't care about our friends, fine, but it's like you don't care about anything anymore. And since when did you start calling me Kate?
    • It's a sign that things are getting really serious when almost everyone begins referring to Sawyer and Hurley by their given names (James and Hugo, respectively) instead of their nicknames.
  • On Burn Notice, Sam has called Michael by his first name (as opposed to "Mike" or "Mikey") exactly once, when he found confirmation that a crazy conspiracy theorist who'd been trying to enlist their help was right about a plot to kill several American spies.
    • Sam combines this with Out-of-Character Alert in the season two finale. He's been tasked with getting Michael's mother, Madeline, out of town to keep her safe from the bad guys, but she refuses to run. She jokes around with Sam, offering him a beer - something Sam would never turn down. He slams his hand on the counter and says "I don't want a beer, Madeline!"; refusing the beer and his calling her Madeline (instead of "Maddie") tells her he's dead serious.
  • On The X-Files, the only time we ever really hear Mulder call Scully "Dana" is when things get deadly serious and extremely dangerous. The favor isn't really returned, since Mulder doesn't like his first name.
  • Either used or inverted in Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) when Billy, in an early season, is attempting to get through to Dee, who is in shock. At Roslin's suggestion, he calls her by her full name and rank, which snaps her out of it at least enough to notice them. Referring to her by her affectionate nickname doesn't work.
  • Eureka: Sheriff Jack Carter and several friends become trapped inside his house by its sentient AI. When his deputy Jo Lupo shows up to check on him, Carter wants to let her know what's going on, but, of course, the house is listening. So he tells Lupo that everything is fine, but addresses her as Josefina (which no one ever does) as a way to alert her that something isn't right.
  • On Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Eames calls her partner by his first and last name pretty much indiscriminately. But when he calls her "Alex", you know the shit is about to really hit the fan, or he's seriously concerned (one notable specific example is when he's talking to her just after she realizes that the wrong man has been doing time for her husband's murder).
  • Starsky & Hutch: Captain Dobey calls Starsky "Dave" when he's been poisoned and has less than 24 hours to live. Starsky and Hutch crack jokes about the lengths required to get a first name out of him.
  • Inspector Lynley almost universally called his colleague and partner Barbara Havers by her last name - until Havers was shot in the line of duty, at which point Lynley went quite berserk and could only say desperately, "Barbara? Barbara???"
  • In Criminal Minds, Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia have many pet-names for each other. When Morgan's calling Garcia "baby girl", "goddess", or "sweetheart", and Garcia's referring to Morgan as "god of chocolate thunder", "sweet-cheeks", or "hot stuff", everything's copacetic. During Garcia's shooting in season three, the "Derek"s and "Penelope"s were flying, due to the intense emotional fallout. In season five, when Morgan is temporarily promoted to Unit Chief, the first thing he does is curb the unprofessional pet names (though he's right back to calling her "baby girl" again after Hotch retakes the Unit Chief role}:
    Morgan: Thanks baby gi- Agent Garcia.
    • Used jarringly in recent episodes, though not between Morgan and Garcia. Reid, upset that JJ didn't tell him that Emily's death was faked, even though he spent over two months in a deep depression and crying at her house, calls JJ by her first name of "Jennifer". Given that everyone calls her JJ, it was quite unusual to hear, especially out of Reid, who has always had a close relationship with JJ.
    • In the season one episode "Riding the Lightning", Hotch and JJ interview a guy on death row.
    JJ: Agent Jennifer Jareau. My friends call me JJ.
    Suspect: Well... hello, JJ.
    JJ: You are not my friend. You can call me Jennifer.
  • Played with in the JAG episode "Full Engagement." Harm always calls Sarah MacKenzie by her nickname "Mac." During an emergency landing in Harm's Stearman, Harm mutters, "Come on, Sarah." Mac later says she knew the situation was serious because Harm called her Sarah. Harm explains that Sarah is his plane's name; he named it after his grandmother.
  • In NCIS, any time Gibbs refers to DiNozzo or McGee by their first names (Tony and Tim, respectively) is usually a bad sign.
  • In Ashes to Ashes Ray almost never refers to Alex by name, and then only as Drake, but when they all get a bit of Character Development in series three and he begins to respect her skills despite her gender he refers to her as "ma'am". Also in a similar vein, when Gene's in a good mood he calls her Bolly, Bollykegs, Bolly-knickers, Bolls or Mrs-lady-woman over there, when he's angry he calls her Drake and when it's serious, Alex.
  • Inverted in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Moze spends an entire episode trying to get her friends to refer to her by her real name, Jennifer. Ned is the most reluctant, but when he finally relents, she's almost ran over because she only responds to him when he says Moze out of habit.
  • In the Granada Sherlock Holmes TV Series, Holmes and Watson use each other's first names in "The Devil's Foot" when Holmes is under the influence of a psychotropic drug, and Watson is trying desperately to snap him out of it.
  • In Stargate SG-1, O'Neill refers to Carter by her last name at all times, while she refers to him by either his full rank or "Sir". When they start calling each other "Jack" and "Sam", it is a sign that it's literally a life-or-death situation.
    • In "The Enemy Within", it's a subtle clue to the audience that Kawalsky is doomed, when Jack spends the entire episode referring to his best friend as "Charlie", rather than his last name as he normally does.
  • On Person of Interest, Finch and Reese are usually very formal and only call each other by their last names unless they're really worried the other is in a really bad situation or are really serious about something they're going to say (though occasionally Reese uses Finch's first name when he wants to be especially irritating to his very formal and very private boss).
  • El Chavo del ocho: When Dona Florinda gets angry at her son, (yes, she does get angry at him at times) she shows him by calling him "Federico" instead of "Quico" or any sweet nickname she usually calls him.
  • On Flashpoint Spike is always Spike to his teammates... until the episode "Shockwave," when he puts himself in a dangerous situation. While Parker is begging him to get out of danger, he calls him Michaelangelo, and afterward Ed asks, "Michaelangelo Scarlatti, what were you thinking?"
  • In Scrubs Dr. Cox has a tendency to call J.D. either girls names or "Newbie" even when he's been at the hospital for several years. One episode has him calling him JD while thanking him for helping him recover from his Heroic BSOD after having his patients die.
  • Despite their disdain for military protocol, Hawkeye and BJ on M*A*S*H regularly address Col. Potter by his rank out of respect for his compassionate, thoughtful approach to command. Only once, when Potter has been badly upset by another soldier snitching on him to his superiors and is contemplating leaving the Army, does Hawkeye call him "Sherm," urging him to stay.
    • A slight variation; Winchester always addressed Hawkeye by his last name, Pierce (he mostly called B.J. by his last name as well, though occasionally calling him "Beej"), except in the episode where Hawkeye found out his father was in the hospital and was agonizing over waiting for news. When Charles is trying to comfort Hawkeye by recalling his somewhat strained relationship with his father ("whereas I have a father, you have a dad"), Hawkeye notes Charles has never talked about his own father before, and Charles addresses Hawkeye by his nickname for the first time, as an indication Charles has never been this personal about anything with him before.
  • On My So-Called Life, Mr....Katimski always calls Rickie "Enrique", which always drove Rickie up the wall. But in the episode "Resolutions", when he has to tell Rickie he's being placed in a temporary facility instead of the place he wanted to go, Katimski calls him Rickie.
  • During the 100th Episode of Gilmore Girls, Logan, who has always called Rory "Ace" (as in "Ace Reporter") for as long as he's known her, finally calls her "Rory" to get her to stop freaking out for a moment over their relationship (or lack thereof). She points this out immediately before he starts his explanation. This marks the start of their Relationship Upgrade, as the next scenes with them clearly show.
  • In The Patty Duke Show, Patty calls her father "Poppo" 99% of the time. When she's upset or has a problem, she calls him "Daddy."
  • Breaking Bad: When Jesse calls Walter "Walt" for the first time instead of "Mr. White," it's a sign of how much the balance of power has shifted in their relationship.
  • Aside from his wife the First Lady, only five people in seven seasons of The West Wing ever called President Bartlet "Jed" to his face — and only Leo has done it twice. In the episode of The West Wing when we first find out President Bartlet has MS, and he tells Leo about it:
    Leo: Jed, of all the things you could’ve kept from me...
    President Bartlet: You haven’t called me “Jed” since I was elected.
  • In Castle, co-leads Detective Kate Beckett and writer Rick Castle almost never call each other anything other than "Castle" and "Beckett" (even in more intimate moments!). You know the situation's serious when one calls the other "Kate" or "Rick"... and even worse when Castle calls Beckett "Katie". Come to that, it's also telling if anyone calls Esposito or Ryan "Javi" or "Kevin."
  • The Newsroom's Will McAvoy is known as "Will" to everybody he's familiar with, even ex-paramour MacKenzie McHale, so when she finds him unconscious and vomiting blood on the floor of his bathroom, it's a mark of her terror and continued affection for him that she calls out "Billy!".
  • Sleepy Hollow: Ichabod generally refers to Abbie as 'Leftenant' or 'Miss Mills'; if he calls her Abbie then you know he means business. In fact, the first time he calls her that, he face absolutely crumples—-because she realizes he really means to let himself be killed.
  • 24 Day 5: Special Agent Aaron Pierce is tied to a chair and given an ultimatum by President Logan: remain quiet about the latter's role in the day's events and receive a cushy job anywhere he likes (except the White House, obviously) or be killed. Pierce then proceeds to give a "The Reason You Suck" Speech at Logan, calling him "a traitor to [his] country and a disgrace to [his] office", vows to make him face justice...and caps it all with "Is there anything else...Charles?". That's right, a Secret Service Agent just referred to the President of the United States by his first name out of sheer disgust.
  • In Dinosaurs Baby calls his father Earl "Not the Mama" no matter how much Earl tries to get him to say "Daddy". When Baby gets sick, calling Earl "Daddy" proves OOC Is Serious Business and he's really sick. When he gets better he goes back to calling him "Not the Mama."

     Professional Wrestling  

  • Any time a wrestler is called by his real first name (e.g. Mark for The Undertaker), you know things just got serious. Especially in real life, since wrestlers usually call each other by their ring names outside the ring.
    • And when it's done blatantly on-air to the point of Lampshading, one can usually count on an audience reaction somewhere between maniacal cheering and awed silence. Or both at the same time, from different sections.
    CM Punk: So let me ask you this, is this little conversation between CM Punk and Triple H? Or is it between Phil Brooks and Paul Lavesque?

     Video Game  

  • An inversion shows up in Metal Gear Solid 2. When Emma is dying, she begs Otacon to call her, just once, by her real name, instead of "E.E.". He does - after she dies.
    • And in Metal Gear Solid 4, Big Mama really gets Snake's attention by calling him "David." Not only does nobody ever call him that, but most of the cast probably doesn't even know it's his first name.note 
  • It's pretty subtle, but Jay of Jay's Journey only calls Antignarot by his proper name in a few of the more serious scenes (oddly, never in Antignarot's presence.) As Atolla mechanically corrects Jay's mispronunciations of Antignarot all throughout the game, he even starts to correct one of these correct usages.
  • Ace Attorney:
    "Are you... telling the truth, Apollo Justice...?"
    • And in Trials and Tribulations, Godot calls Phoenix Wright, "Trite," because he blames him for Mia's death. He only calls Phoenix by his real name at the end of the last case in the game after he successfully proved that Godot was the real killer, and proved his worthiness as Mia's successor.
  • Danette from Soul Nomad & the World Eaters has a problem with remembering names, which gets really annoying for Gig whom she frequently refers to as "Hey you in there". Until the end of the game Gig uses up all of his powers to defeat the final boss and appears to have died. She first tries to call for him as "You in there" before screaming "Giiig!" Ironically in one of the endings she still calls him "You in there" even when he's no longer possessing the main character.
  • .hack//G.U.: Being the stubborn teenager that Haseo is, he never calls Pi by her name, instead preferring Obasan (old hag in the US version). During what seems to be an I Cannot Self-Terminate scenario in which Haseo has to Data Drain Pi's infected Tarvos Avatar, she collapses, and Haseo invokes this trope by calling her name out loud. Thankfully, Pi got better.
  • In Dragon Age II, Varric, who tends to refer to most people except for Hawke, Aveline and his crossbow Bianca by pet names, starts to call Fenris "Elf", then says his actual name when trying to convince him not to kill his sister.
    • In Origins, Shale calls the Waren "you" instead of "it" twice, both times with a high Friendship when Shale was thanking him/her for all they'd done for her.
  • In Persona 3, Mitsuru always refers to the Protagonist by their surname... until Rank 9 of her Social Link.
  • Mass Effect 3. Javik calls Liara by her name instead of as a generic "asari" to motivate her. Shepard Lampshades the Trope by asking if Javik did it on purpose to motivate her. Javik shrugs and says it worked, didn't it?
  • Fate/stay night: Most of the time, Rin calls Shirou by his first name, as a way of teasing or taunting him. When she switches to using "Emiya-kun", it's a sign that the discussion has turned serious.

    Webcomics 

  • In The Order of the Stick, the Monster in the Darkness finally calls O-Chul by his real name when he breaks out of his cage to try to kill Xykon.
    • Played another way in the prequel, "Start Of Darkness": Redcloak and his brother, Right-Eye, have a conversation where they promise to call each other "big brother" and "little brother" instead of the names they've adopted for Xykon's convenience. At the end of the book, after Redcloak has mortally wounded Right-Eye, their last words to each other are "Goodbye, little brother." "Goodbye... Redcloak."
    • Another instance, when Belkar decides being left behind is an elaborate prank:
    Belkar OK, elf, enough with the jokes. You got me, fair enough, now bring the ship back. ...Vaarsuvius?
  • Scary Go Round: "Oh, Eustace"
  • Benny in Looking for Group has a number of sarcastic nicknames for her adopted father, Krunch, with 'Old Cow' being one of her favorites (since Krunch is a minotaur). When she calls him 'Father' in this strip, Krunch observes "It is never a good omen when you call me that."

     Web Original  

  • The Global Guardians PBEM Universe. Achilles, leader of the titular hero team, is the son of Evil Overlord Lord Doom. The two get along about as well as you'd expect a crusading Superhero and a Diabolical Mastermind to get along. Lord Doom never referred to his son as "Achilles", preferring to call him by his actual first name (Joshua) on the rare occasions the two talked with one another on a "civil" basis (usually when Doom tried to manipulate the heroes into stopping a rival villain, or some other plan). The one time Doom called Achilles "Achilles", the hero knew something really bad was about to go down and it wasn't just his dad trying to put a plan into action.
  • Throughout the Machinima series The Codex, Jack calls Candice "Candy" because she gets angry enough to need to be physically restrained by other Spartans. In the finale, when he says "Hey Candice", it's such a break from his normal immaturity and cheerful arrogance that the moment serves as all of his character depth. Before he snaps back to normal and charges through the plasma fire, of course.

     Western Animation  

  • In the episode "Stranded" of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Cindy, starting to grow closer to him, refers to Jimmy by name instead of one of her usual insulting nicknames, much to his (and later, the others') surprise.
  • In the 1985 Pound Puppies TV special, Cooler spends the entire time calling Violet "Sam", until she's in the path of an out-of-control car. Her reaction to him calling her by name to warn her: "Cooler, you called me Violet!"
  • In the Magic School Bus episode about weather, when everyone buys into the idea that Ralphie is the superhero Weatherman except Keisha. At the end, when Ralphie has been disillusioned by his inability to stop the thunderstorm he made, but they need his knowledge to get out of it, Keisha urges him, "Come on, Weatherman, think!"
  • Very subtle example in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Season 3 finale "Magical Mystery Cure". Shining Armor calls Twilight by name instead of his nickname "Twiley" during her coronation.
  • In Hey Arnold!!, Arnold's grandfather used to call him "Short Man", though Arnold didn't mind the nickname. But when his grandfather referred to him by name, Arnold knew it was important.
    • Though it is later revealed that "Shortman" is actually Arnold's last name.
    • Likewise, Helga had a number of rude epithets for him, including "Football Head", but in private, she could indulge her romantic feelings for him and only then did she call him Arnold.
    • Arnold's (very senile) Grandma only calls her husband and Arnold by nicknames based on whatever crazy character she's playing at the moment. When she calls them by their real name (especially Phil), it's a sign there's something really big happening, such as when Arnold was depressed about never knowing his parents.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Shayera abandons her Hawkgirl moniker after her part in the Thanagarian invasion. For the most part, that's respected. But when the Hawkgirl name comes up again, it is always for serious reasons:
    • Vigilante uses the name as a weapon to remind her that while she was The Mole, the Hawkpeople were going to cheerfully kill the human race, and tortured him on a more personal note.
    • Roulette uses the name to announce that a Brainwashed and Crazy Shayera is about to engage in a fight against Vixen.
    • A woman with very little English used the Spanish form of Hawkgirl to thank Shayera for saving her and her child. This was especially poignant because the rest of the crowd in which she stood was berating Shayera for her part in the Thanagarian invasion.
  • On The Secret Saturdays, Van Rook's first name is used when circumstances become dire for him. Like moments before he dies in a Heroic Sacrifice
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door, when one operative refers to another operative by name instead of number, it means either A. They're particularly close or B. Something serious is happening or about to happen.
  • Episode 11 of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated had a pissed-off Velma call Shaggy, who chose Scooby over her, "Norville" to express how she feels about losing out to a dog.
  • Men In Black - Kay calls Jay "Jay" - compared to how he's ranked Jay from Tiger (competent streak) to Slick (regular) to Sparky (did something REALLY stupid) - when Jay gets REALLY intuitive against heat-loving (to the point of psychopathy) aliens. Too bad Jay's not good enough (at golf) to hold it.
  • Dick Dastardly insists on being called "chief" by his Vulture Squadron charges, but Zilly will usually call him "D.D." out of a nervous tic. And Muttley will invoke his name during a grumble ("Sanfrassin' razzaffrazzin Rick Rastary!") after getting cheated out of a medal.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splinter usually calls his students/adopted sons by their full names. In a tie-in book for the 1987 series, when it looks as though Michelangelo is about to be lost in space and is almost out of air already, he starts using their nicknames so that he can give orders all the faster. Donatello mentally notes this as a sign of just how worried he is.
  • Lois attempts to invoke this in one episode of Family Guy, when Diane Simmons is pointing a gun at her back, and she refers to Peter as 'Pete' in the hope that he'll suspect from her out-of-character behavior that something is amiss. Peter notices, but doesn't think anything of it.
  • Generator Rex: If Six ever calls Dr. Holiday 'Rebecca' instead of 'Holiday', then you know that something really serious is going down.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph typically refers to fellow members of the Gaang by their nicknames. When the situation's serious or when Toph is trying to make a point, she'll stop doing so.

     Real Life  

  • Variation: in US military service it's a common rumor that the soldiers swear at each other almost pathologically, so that when someone in the unit gives out an order that's completely devoid of vulgarity, it drives the point home that they're in it deep.
  • Very common when parents discipline children, often referring to them by their full first name rather than a diminutive, or pronouncing their first, middle and last name.


Year XThis Trope Is XYou Know What They Say About X
You Mean XmasNaming ConventionsCall a Human a 'Meatbag"

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