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First Name Basis / Literature

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Literature examples of First-Name Basis.

  • Sarah Waters has a very neat trick in Affinity, which is made up of two diaries. In the main narrative, the protagonist sometimes refers to her maid Vigers. In the other, mention is made of a character called Ruth. They are in fact the same person. The reader only discovers this in the very last pages, and the fact has terrible consequences.
  • Played With in Animorphs—-the characters repeatedly say that they won't reveal their last names in the narrative for fear of being discovered by the Yeerks whom they secretly fighting. It's only in the penultimate book that we discover that Jake (and presumably his cousin Rachel) have the surname Berenson. The one time a surname has to be used in dialogue it's censored: "Tobias ———." (Fanon says its "Fangor," but probably not since he had a different legal father.)
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • Pebble in the Sky: Grew, Arbin Maren's father-in-law, is never referred to by his family name, just by the name Grew, which is probably his first name, since his daughter, Loa Maren, simply calls him Father.
    • "Rejection Slips": "Kind", the third letter, addresses Isaac Asimov as "Isaac". It also calls him "friend" three times in only seven sentences. This shows the poem is trying hard to be very friendly compared to the other two.
  • The Aubrey-Maturin-series has several examples.
    • Dr. Maturin and Captain Aubrey are close friends, and will address each other as "Stephen" and "Jack" when in a social setting. However, when they're on the job, it's "Doctor" and "Captain".
    • Dr. Maturin often addresses Lt. Pullings as "Tom", as is an old shipmate's right, but Pullings always calls Maturin "Doctor", not to indicate any distance but out of respect for his immense skill and learning.
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    • One of the most heartwarming moments in the series is when Defrosting Ice Queen Diana Villiers actually drops her guard and addresses Dr. Maturin as "Stephen" rather than "Maturin".
  • In Patricia A. McKillip's The Bell at Sealey Head:
    • When Ridley Dow is caught by magic, Miranda Beryl gets him to the door calling him by his first name. She continues to call him by it as she is getting him somewhere to rest.
    • At the party, Gwyneth Blair insists that Judd Cauley call her "Gwyneth" — after all, he did when they were children.
  • In C.S. Goto's Dawn of War trilogy, an Eldar Farseer calls Gabriel by his first name; he finds it presumptuous but doesn't object.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain books, it is used in several ways.
    • In Death Or Glory, when Felicia Tayber first calls him "Ciaphas," Amberley Vail speculates they had had some time to socialize — though when is the question. (There are other hints that they had a fling during the course of the book, including one infamous mention of a particular mechadendrite.)
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    • In Duty Calls, the colonel of his regiment calls him "Ciaphas" to emphasize that she is personally concerned about him after a concussion and he should not act as if he had a Hard Head.
    • An old school acquaintance calls him "Ciaphas", which Cain does not like, as a sign this "old friend" is annoying and presumptuous.
    • His one friend from the artillery regiment he was first posted to, Toren Divas, occasionally calls him "Cai". While Cain often finds Divas somewhat irritating, he still likes him enough to let the abbreviation slide.
    • In Cain's Last Stand, Cain gives information to an agent of Inquisitor Vail, and refers to her as "Amberley", to remind him that she and Cain are close.
    • When Amberley herself calls him "Ciaphas" in For The Emperor, he later reflects on how it seemed so natural that he didn't think to question it at the time. It's probably got something to do with Love at First Sight. Or because she's an Inquisitor.
  • In C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy, Tarrant only calls Vryce by his first name twice. Both times are significant.
    • It also works the other way round: Tarrant is called "Gerald" by Damien Vryce only in a few and very important instances.
  • In John C. Wright's Count to the Eschaton, Menelaus grumbles about titles and insists on "Menelaus" — or "Doctor" if he's too afraid to use that.
  • Kate, the Demon Hunting Soccer Mom also refers to friends by first names, mostly. In the second book in the series, she referred to one of the bad guys by his first name — but he was a celebrity whose first name was a household word of sorts.
  • Discworld:
    • In A Hat Full of Sky, Esmerelda Weatherwax, a highly respected witch, grants Tiffany the right to call her "Granny Weatherwax", usually reserved for those who are quite close to her while everyone else calls her Mistress Weatherwax. Her closest fried, Nanny Ogg calls her "Esme".
    • In Soul Music, the following conversation addresses the issue for someone whose acquaintance everyone eventually makes:
      Nobby: What's his first name?
      Colon: What do you mean? He's Death. Just Death!
      Nobby: No, that's his job. What do his friends call him?
      Colon: What friends?
      Nobby: Oh, right. Still, he must've got one, hasn't he?
      Colon: You mean like, "Keith" Death?
      Nobby: I think he looks like a Leonard.
    • The leader of Ankh-Morpork's City Watch uses this trope in an odd way - he's usually fine with being referred to as "Commander Vimes," while he lets coppers he's worked with for a while use the more informal "Mister Vimes." But if Sergeant Colon ever calls him "Sam," he knows his old friend is worried.
    • Vimes himself is confused when Sybil asks him, "Did you go to see Havelock?" because he can't wrap his head around the Patrician having a first name, or anyone knowing him well enough to call him by it. (Only a few other people are ever seen calling him Havelock, mostly Mustrum and Hughnon Ridcully, and, oddly, Topsy Lavish.)
  • In the 14,233 lines of The Divine Comedy, there is only one character who ever uses the first name of the poem's protagonist and she only does so on one occasion. When the Author Avatar turns away from Paradise to look for his departed, damned mentor, his deceased lover calls him "Dante" to focus him on the journey ahead.
  • In Robert Heinlein's Double Star, the emperor realizes the Emergency Impersonation imposture when the double calls him by title privately; they had been on a first name basis in private.
  • In Drei Männer im Schnee by Erich Kästner, Hagedorn and Tobler become fast friends, and shift to a first-name basis quite late in the narrative. This is a significant event, and not something that was taken lightly in German culture at the time.
  • In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novel Dead Beat, we see Harry and Ramirez's becoming Fire-Forged Friends when Ramirez tells him, during the battle,
    Everyone else who lets me ride on their dinosaur calls me Carlos
    • In Cold Days Harry referring to Murphy more and more as Karrin signals a shift in their relationship towards a Relationship Upgrade even if it isn't achieved in the book.
  • Unless they're trying to make a point, even masters and servants in Duumvirate are on first name bases. The only exceptions are for people who hate their given names, or have a formal title and can't be told apart.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' Gaudy Night, Harriet Vane has an awkward moment: because she is addressing Lord Peter Wimsey before the senior members of the university, she (properly) calls him "Lord Peter" (as opposed to just "Peter") for the first time in a long time.
  • Family Skeleton Mysteries: Georgia's referred to her father by his first name since she was young. When someone told her she shouldn't, she replied that since his current colleagues called him Phil and she was going to be one of his colleagues in academia someday, she should also call him Phil; Phil himself never objected. When she refers to him as "Dad" in a text to Madison in book 3, Madison immediately knows something's up and has Deborah call the police.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Necropolis, Surgeon Ana Curth insisted on Surgeon Curth when she first met Dorden. At the end, after they had worked together the length of the war, she had comforted him while he wept over his son's death, and she decided to join the Ghosts, she tells Dorden about her decision, and
    She smiled sadly. "I think, by now, that it's all right for you to call me Ana."
    • Most of the Gaunt's Ghosts are on a Last-Name Basis, so that use of the first name, while not often as pointed as this, is usually significant sign of friendship or informality. (Except Dalin Criid — because "Criid" means Tona Criid, his adoptive mother.)
    • A more straight example: After Traitor General, Rawne and Guant address each other by first name, at least in private
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, when Nikita's and her berserk spirit's relations change from openly hostile to somewhat friendly-ish, it's marked by her giving him a name, Mister B.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry's closeness with people can be measured whether they address him by his first name or not. Teachers (except for Dumbledore and Lupin) are exceptions, since they stick to formality and call all students with last names. This becomes so entrenched that when Harry and Hagrid have a brief falling out in The Half-Blood Prince, Hagrid calls Harry with "Potter" just to make a point (and Harry in turn calls him "Professor", before the two realize that staying angry at each other is not the best solution).
    • Sirius Black is referred to by his last name until Harry starts to become attached to him. Yet Remus Lupin, of whom Harry is equally fond, is always Lupin (at least in narration), just as Hagrid is always Hagrid and Dumbledore is always Dumbledore. Harry starts calling him “Remus” in Deathly Hallows .
    • Speaking of Dumbledore, he calls everyone by their first name (except Hagrid), whether he likes them or not. And whether they (*cough*Voldemort*cough*) like it or not. Of course, Dumbledore did know Voldemort before he was Voldemort.
    • The Voldemort one deserves special mention. In The Half-Blood Prince Voldemort is being interviewed by Dumbledore for a teaching position. He's already taken the name Voldemort, and tries to get Dumbledore to call him such. Dumbledore refuses citing "You'll always be Tom to me." As Harry notes, doing so prevents Voldemort from controlling the conversation.
    • On one occasion, "Mad-Eye" Moody makes a rude comment, only for Dumbledore to snap "Alastor!" Harry is momentarily confused, then realizes that "Mad-Eye" probably isn't Moody's real first name.
    • In Goblet of Fire, Harry and Ron overhear Snape and Karkaroff having an argument, and calling each other "Severus" and "Igor". This is the first hint they've met before, back when they were both Death Eaters.
    • Interestingly, Harry always has to be prompted by others to call Snape "Professor," except in one instance - when he first uses what turns out to be his signature spell, Expelliarmus:
    "Shouldn't have let Professor Snape teach us that one," Harry said grimly.
    • Throughout the series, Snape himself always addresses his colleague and former teacher as Professor McGonagall; however, in Book Seven, after he becomes Headmaster, he calls her Minerva.
    • At some point, Harry stops thinking of his future mother in law as Mrs Weasley, as referenced by the use of Molly.
    • The most interesting example comes from Voldemort as surprisingly he is the only antagonist (aside from briefly Bellatrix in the Order of Phoenix) who actually refers to "Harry" by his first name, doing frequently in the first and fourth book. Of course during his Villainous Breakdown any courtesy from Voldemort fades away he just calls Harry "the boy", "Dumbledore's puppet" and "Potter" because he hates him so much. The last time he calls Harry by his first name is when the latter is performing a Heroic Sacrifice by letting Voldermort seemly kill him.
    Voldermort: Harry Potter... the boy who lived... come to die.
  • Hilda and Richie: Throughout the book, fox pup Richie always addresses Hilda by her first name rather than any honorifics such as "Lady Hilda" or "Ms. Hilda". This implies that, in spite of her being an adult with authority over him, there's a considerable level of casualness between the two foxes.
  • From the Honorverse:
    • When President Pritchart and Queen Elizabeth III start calling each other "Elizabeth" and "Eloise", the Solarian League and the Mesan Alignment are in deep shit.
    • But when Honor Harrington and Thomas Theisman start throwing around "Honor" and "Tom", the Solarian League and the Mesan Alignment are fucked.
    • Then Admiral Hemphill and Admiral Foraker become "Sonja" and "Shannon" to each other, and.... well, that more or less puts the final nail in the Alignment's coffin. They just have to get around to burying it.
  • In the beginning of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock are referred to as Perry and Dick, making them more relatable to the audience. Later, they are referred to as Smith and Hickock, which serves to distance them from the reader.
  • In Jane Austen people are only on a first name basis when they are intimate friends, in accordance with Regency conventions.
    • Elinor concludes that Marianne and Willoughby are engaged in Sense and Sensibility when she overhears him calling her "Marianne" rather than "Miss Marianne" or "Miss Dashwood". (They aren't actually, however.)
    • In Pride and Prejudice it is considered a bit precipitate that of Lydia's three weeks' friendship with the Colonel's new wife, they have been intimate [on a first name basis] for two of those weeks. Note that Elizabeth is only on first-name terms with Charlotte Lucas, established as her oldest and closest friend. Jane Bennet and Caroline Bingley are "Miss Bennet" and "Miss Bingley" despite their (apparently) increasing friendship. Also note that Darcy doesn't address his lady-love as 'Elizabeth' until after she's agreed to marry him.
    • In Northanger Abbey, the speed with which Catherine and Isabella call each other by first name is noted.
      The progress of the friendship between Catherine and Isabella was quick as its beginning had been warm, and they passed so rapidly through every gradation of increasing tenderness that there was shortly no fresh proof of it to be given to their friends or themselves. They called each other by their Christian name, were always arm in arm when they walked, pinned up each other's train for the dance, and were not to be divided in the set
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Jill The Reckless, Derek is annoyed that Jill is on a first-name basis with Wally Mason; she explains that they knew each other as children.
  • In Journey's End Stanhope angrily says to his old school friend and subordinate Raleigh "Don't you Dennis me!". He later has a Pet the Dog moment at the end when he calls Raleigh by his first name after he's dying.
  • Kitty Norville refers to people by their last names in her narrative until they become friends or allies. Then she calls them by their first names.
  • A very subtle variant in The Lord of the Rings. Westron, the common tongue that Tolkien translated into English, has two different forms of the second person pronoun: a "familiar" form for use with family and close friends, and a "formal" form for everyone else. However, the Hobbit dialect of Westron dropped the "formal" form entirely (presumably as a result of the rather gregarious and egalitarian nature of the hobbits), using the "familiar" form for everyone. This gives those in Gondor who listen to Pippin's conversations the impression that he is a close personal friend of such notables as the Steward, the Captain Of the Guard, etc.
    • In the chapter after, it is mentioned that this has led to Pippin having to repeatedly debunk rumors that he is a prince among his people (technically true, since his father is Thain of the Shire, but the title has no meaning when the Shire isn't being invaded), that he is there to negotiate an alliance, and that there is a hobbit army marching to reinforce Minas Tirith. Apparently someone heard him use informal pronouns when speaking to Denethor, assumed no-one who wasn't at least a prince would dare to address the Steward of Gondor so informally at a first meeting, and everything just spun off from there.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Mad King, Emma recounts when a child, the crown prince had insisted on her calling him "Leopold" and made her kiss him every time she called him "highness."
  • Mercy Thompson refers to people by their first name if they're pack or friends of the pack. Enemies or unknown quantities are referred to by last name only.
  • Invoked and subverted in the Myth Adventures book "M.Y.T.H. Inc In Action", when Guido and Nunzio are being put through basic training by a Drill Sergeant Nasty. "The first thing you should know is that we are on a first name basis here... and my first name is SERGEANT!"
  • In Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, Celia Bowen offers this to Herr Thiessen, once they meet.
  • Nightfall (Series): Myra tries to call the Prince ‘Vlad’ instead of ‘my lord’ or ‘your Highness.’ It’s a bad idea, and in response, the Prince decides to teach her her place.
    • “You are not my friend, and you are not my enemy. To me, you are food. You belong on my plate.”
  • In George MacDonald's "Port In A Storm", the father stops his story to comment that he and their mother were on first name basis already at this point in the story.
  • Princess Irene insists on this in George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin:
    "Oh, then, Curdie, you must call me just Irene and no more."
    "No, indeed," said the nurse indignantly. "He shall do no such thing."
    "What shall he call me, then, Lootie?"
    "Your Royal Highness."
    "My Royal Highness! What's that? No, no, Lootie. I won't be called names. I don't like them. You told me once yourself it's only rude children that call names; and I'm sure Curdie wouldn't be rude. Curdie, my name's Irene."
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero in Hell, after Mab calls Miranda "Miranda", she kicks herself for not realizing he was Not Himself and the shapechanger; he always calls her "ma'am" or "Miss Miranda".
  • In Quantum Gravity, elf culture goes from second half of name to first half of name. This is important, as everything except the first half of one's name is on the books, and elves have stronger True Names than any other being.
    • Tath, specifically, asks Lila to switch to Ilya after becoming closer.
    • Interestingly, even after They Do, Zal still insists upon Zal, not Azrezal. Could be because, being also demonic, he thinks of it as a nickname, rather than a more formal address.
  • The Reynard Cycle: This is played with throughout the series.
    • For much of Reynard the Fox, Reynard and Isengrim refer to each other as Fox and Laruwa (Calvarian for "Master"), as their relationship is highly adversarial. In fact, Isengrim doesn't even know Reynard's real name. By the end of the novel, they drop the pretense altogether as a sign of genuine friendship.
    • Reynard insists that his followers refrain from calling him Lord, or Baron, for much of The Baron of Maleperduys. During the novel's conclusion, he forces Tybalt to refer to him by his formal title as a sign of submission.
    • In Defender of the Crown Reynard has been heaped with titles and honorifics, and its clear that only Isengrim, Hirsent, and Rukenaw are given leave to speak to him informally. He does make an exception for a priestess, however.
  • Played straight and inverted with Prince Lucian Kiggs in Seraphina. As he bonds with the title character, he calls her by her first name (or her nickname, "Phina") and insists that instead of "Prince Lucian" she call him "Kiggs", which he prefers. During their Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure he coldly switches back to "Miss Dombegh" and demands that she call him "Prince Lucian" again (similar to the Ever After example under Film), but when they reconcile, "Phina" and "Kiggs" reappear.
  • In Shaman Blues Konstancja stands out as the only person who calls Witkacy by his given name - Piotr - rather than the nickname everyone else's using. It shows that she's no longer part of his world.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Tiger, Richard Sharpe bluntly explains to the intensely aristocratic William Lawford that they are now "Dick" and "Bill" to each other because they are posing as two privates, deserting together, and anything else would blow their cover.
  • There is exactly one person who calls Sherlock Holmes "Sherlock," and that is his older brother Mycroft. Perhaps not a mark of affection so much as it being a bit odd to refer to someone by the surname you share.
  • Eustace and Jill in C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair call each other by last name at first, as was customary at their school. Toward the end of the book, as they became friends, they start calling each other by their first names.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a variation with Jaime and Brienne. Initially they refer to each other with derogatory nicknames ("wench"/"Kingslayer"), but as they travel together they begin to develop respect for each other as knights and begin to use formal honorifics ("ser"/"my lady") and eventually actual names, though Jaime reserves "wench" as a term of affection/frustration when Brienne is being particularly honourable. Brienne refers to Jaime almost exclusively as "Ser Jaime" in A Feast for Crows, and when Jaime runs into her ex-fiance, who badmouths Brienne, he makes him address her with respect, backed up by his right hand.
    “The bear was less hairy than that freak, I’ll—”
    “You are speaking of a highborn lady, ser. Call her by her name.”
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Chiss have rather long, punctuated names like Mitth'raw'nuruodo. Their shorter "core names", like Thrawn, appear to be mostly reserved for close acquaintances, relatives, and friends. When Thrawn met Jorj Car'das in Outbound Flight he started on a Full-Name Basis and was told to call Car'das by his last name and, since Car'das hopelessly mangled Mitth'raw'nuruodo, allowed Car'das and the other two humans to use his core name. Later he asks his brother Mitth'ras'saffic if he will let them use his core name, Thrass, and Thrass initially refuses, but relents because the humans did save Thrawn's life, at least. When he came into Imperial service Thrawn simply went by Thrawn since just about everyone had trouble with his full name, to the point where the fact that he had more name was surprising.
    • By Survivor's Quest it seems like the Chiss interacting with representatives of the New Republic and the Empire of the Hand have acclimated; Chaf'orm'bintrano, who was suspicious and dismissive of humans fifty years ago, quickly tells Luke and Mara to call him Formbi, and gives the core names of every Chiss he introduces to them, much to Prard'ras'kleoni's annoyance.
  • Cats from Tailchaser's Song have three different names. Their heart-name is essentially their given name and their face-name is their surname. Their heart-name is only known by their family, mates, and very close friends. Despite their adventure together, Fritti Tailchaser never shares heart-names with his Kid Sidekick Pouncequick. He does end up sharing it with Roofshadow (whose heart-name is "Firsa"). This heavily implies a romantic bond between them. Tailchaser lampshades this by saying that he doesn't even know his Childhood Friend and crush Hushpad's heart-name. Even after they reunite, they don't share heart-names and Tailchaser ends up leaving Hushpad.
  • Jem and Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird are on a first-name basis with their father, Atticus. When Scout is questioned as to why she calls her father by his name as opposed to something like "Dad," she says it's because Jem does, and he started calling his father by his name ever since he began talking (presumably because, as their mother died when they were both young, Jem grew up hearing his father only be called by his first name).
  • In The Underland Chronicles, Gregor, Boots and Lizzie's last name is never mentioned. Their mother's first name is Grace.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Encarmine, Inquisitor Stele calls an astropath by his first name for the first time in ten years just before he kills him.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Brothers of the Snake, the Librarian, Petrok, insists that Priad, a brother-sergeant, call him "Petrok." Until Petrok orders Priad to lead his squad to war over Priad's objections, when he reverts to "sir". Petrok, although thinking his orders right Because Destiny Says So, concedes that's fair enough.
  • In another Warhammer 40,000 novel, Fall of Damnos, Jynn at first calls Scipio by his name because she doesn't know his surname or rank, but he lets her keep calling him like that, as he believes she "earned the right" by saving his life. Notably, his comrades aren't happy with that.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, after rescuing Colonel Leonid in a Take My Hand! situation, Uriel deliberately addresses the shaken Leonid as "Mikhail."
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Horus Rising, when one iterator praises another for how her picture captures "Garviel", she observes that he must be a friend of Captain Loken, to call him so.
    • In Graham McNeill's False Gods, when Loken goes to speak with Erebus, Erebus insists on "Erebus" and not "First Chaplain". Later, Horus tells the remembrancer Petronella Vivar to call him "Horus" and not "my lord."
    • In Graham McNeill's Fulgrim, when Fayle requests permission to speak, Fulgrim addresses him by first name. His pleasure is visible, and one of Fulgrim's soldiers reflects on the skill with which Fulgrim flatters. Later, when Solomon Demeter tries to pry the true story of what happened on Murder out of Saul Tarvitz, he calls him "Saul" — and then asks permission.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Aiel have trouble grasping the notion of a name with multiple parts, and so tend to be on a Full-Name Basis with wetlanders in general. However, Aviendha refers to Elayne by just her first name, which is as significant as it would be in Japanese.
  • In E. D. Baker's The Wide-Awake Princess, Liam takes to calling Annie by her first name while they are searching. Annie doesn't even think about it until she has a minute to reflect. Later, when he calls her "Your Highness" she notes he must be doing it to alert the prince to her being a princess.
  • In Wolf Hall, Cardinal Wolsey is the only person in Cromwell's professional life to address him by his first name, Thomas. Even his close friends later (and Henry, when he's feeling affectionate) usually just shorten his last name to "Crumb." Wolsey, a fellow Self-Made Man, was one of the few people Cromwell ever opened up to.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, Tej realizes only after her emergency Citizenship Marriage to Ivan that he's from a political family. As in Ivan's "cousin Gregor" being more formally known as the Emperor Gregor Vorbarra, ruler of three worlds and billions of people.
  • Temeraire: The main cast are from 19th-Century England, so first names are rarely used and are signs of an extremely strong relationship. The protagonist Will Laurence is on a first-name basis with Granby, his first True Companion in the Aerial Corps; with Tharkay after they become Fire-Forged Friends, and only in dire situations; and sometimes with his lover, Admiral Jane Roland. Granby and Captain Little are also on a first-name basis, which is a subtle sign that they're secretly lovers.
  • Protagonist Mike of The Fold refers to everyone by first name, including people like Dr. Arthur Cross who should really be getting their honorifics. The narrative reflects this, which is odd in formal setting when "Dr. Cross" is asked a question but "Arthur" responds.