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Last Name Basis / Literature

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Examples for Last-Name Basis in Literature.

  • In The Alice Network, no one ever calls Allenton or Cameron by their first names, although Cameron's first name is known (Cecil). Justified: They're military men, and not calling people by their first names is military custom.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Nymphadora Tonks is a rare female example; she demands that people call her Tonks and not her first name. You can see her point. Her parents call her Dora, and after she gets married, so does her husband. The book doesn't address whether or not she took her husband's last name; Harry/The Narrator still thinks of her as "Tonks". Lupin still calls her that too ("Tonks is going to have a baby"), though he also uses "Dora" on occasion.
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    • Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle are almost universally referred to by their last names. In Malfoy's case, he's only ever referred to by his first name when it needs to be clear that he, not his father, is being referred to.
    • For that matter, a large number of characters are known by their last names; (Rubeus) Hagrid, (Albus) Dumbledore, (Severus) Snape, (Remus) Lupin, (Minerva) McGonagall, (Dolores) Umbridge, (Cornelius) Fudge, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, etc. Justified since most of them are authority figures, like teaching staff or ministers. The general rule of thumb is that Harry/The Narrator refers to characters he likes by their first names unless they are explicitly authority figures. For instance, he starts calling Lupin by his first name once he's stopped thinking of him as a teacher. Hagrid is an exception: though him and Harry are close friends, he never calls Hagrid on his first name. Nobody does, not even Dumbledore, who's on a First-Name Basis with everyone up to and including the Big Bad. Even his own brother calls him "Hagger".
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    • Pansy Parkinson is a weird exception. As the Alpha Bitch, Harry clearly has no liking for her, but the narrator keeps calling Pansy by her first name rather than her last, which is something he does to Malfoy - another character he dislikes. The only known character that calls Pansy by her last name is Ron. However, Harry never talks to Pansy or mentions her in dialogue, so we don't know how he would refer to her outside his head. This is a good example of the double-standard that classes last-name-basis as masculine and first-name-basis as feminine.
    • Voldermort the Big Bad was the another exception as he is the one of only two antagonist (the other being Bellatrix briefly in Order of Phoenix) who doesn't call Harry by his last surname but his first name. Though he stops being so courteous towards his Arch-Enemy during his Villainous Breakdown in Deathly Hallows and labels Harry as "Potter", "the boy" or "Dumbledore's puppet".
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    • Insofar as it applies to fellow students at Hogwarts, that's really just a Public School (Americans: read 'private, fee-paying school') thing, probably informed by all those other books set in boarding schools.
    • Harry himself is generally called by his first name by friends, or by his last name, full name, or "Mr. Potter" by foes. In the real world, "Harry" usually refers to the character in specific, while "Potter" refers to the franchise as a whole.
  • To the very end of the Sherlock Holmes canon, despite being best friends and living through years (even decades) of perilous adventures together, Holmes and Watson still use each other's last names, but this would be absolutely Truth in Television for Englishmen of their period and class. Only Holmes' brother Mycroft ever uses his first name, though one childhood friend does dare to utter "Mr. Sherlock", presumably a habit derived from differentiating between the brothers. Interestingly, in the pastiche Beekeeper's Apprentice series, the main character and the detective refer to each other as 'Russell' and 'Holmes' respectively. Even after they get married.
  • In Fahrenheit 451, protagonist Guy Montag is referred to solely as Montag in the narrative and more or less everyone else, only addressed as Guy by his wife Mildred and once or twice by his boss Captain Beatty (Clarisse calls him 'Mr Montag').
  • The protagonist of The Little Stranger is known simply as Dr. Faraday.
  • In The Amelia Peabody Mysteries, Amelia and her husband Radcliffe Emerson fondly refer to each other by their last names, in memory of their rather tumultuous courtship. That Prof. Emerson from the first with less than affection addresses Miss Peabody by her last name alone, as though she were a man, indicates that he respects her as an equal.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, Last-Name Basis is normal. First names are seldom even given in the text. Exceptions grow as the series go on, and are generally significiant. Technically, every important character except Bragg has a first name given; it's just that the only characters who are ever referred to by their first names with any frequency are Gaunt, Corbec, and Milo.
  • In The Great Gatsby, the character Jay Gatsby is almost always refered to as Gatsby. Although, to be fair, nobody really knows anything about him.
  • Anthony Buckeridge's Jennings books have the schoolboy characters (and their teachers) use surnames only all the time (as is still quite common in some British schools). Initials occasionally crop up, but you have to read quite a few books before learning all the first names of the regular characters.
  • Jane Austen:
    • In Pride and Prejudice, unlike virtually every screen adaptation, you do find out Mr. Darcy's first name when he signs a letter. However, use of first names and last names was regulated by strict social protocols. Elizabeth's parents refer to each other as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (which was usual in public, but less so while at home). Aunts and uncles were referred to by last name as well, so Elizabeth refers to her Uncle Gardiner. In public, the daughter called 'Miss Bennet' was the eldest present, and her younger sisters became 'Miss Firstname' (the same applied to sons; Edmund's Romantic False Lead in Mansfield Park laments that he becomes Mr. Edmund again once his older brother shows up). Darcy and Bingley both refer to each other exclusively by last name with the proof of their friendship being the lack of a formal 'Mr.' proceeding it. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is referred to by first name because she's the daughter of an earl, unlike Lady Lucas who was married to Mr. Lucas until he was granted a non-hereditary knighthood. Mr Bennet's lack of a first name is lampshaded by Lost In Austen, wherein Amanda is surprised and pleased to find out Mr Bennet's first name. Even if it is Claude.
    • The same is true of Austen's other novels, with the exception of Emma — several characters in that story do address the heroine by her Christian name. This actually makes sense, since they are her social peers and are older characters who have known her from birth or early childhood onward; it's only those of lower social standing and/or newer acquaintance who call her "Miss Woodhouse."
  • Being set in the Napoleonic Wars, this trope appears frequently in the Aubrey-Maturin series. For instance, before their marriage, and even occasionally after, Stephen Maturin and Diana Villiers customarily address each other by their surnames, notwithstanding the passion of their romance. Last-Name Basis becomes an important plot point in the round-the-world arc beginning with The Thirteen Gun Salute when Stephen writes a letter granting his friend - and superior as chief of naval intelligence - Sir Joseph Blaine power of attorney to move his fortune to a different bank than the one he currently has it deposited in. However, Stephen signs the letter with his first name instead of "S. Maturin", which is his customary signature for business letters; in true Cloud Cuckoo Lander fashion he was writing a note to his wife at the same time and got the signatures mixed up. Sir Joseph can't move the money with the incorrectly signed power-of-attorney letter, but this proves to be very fortunate in the end because the bank that Stephen had intended to deposit his funds on unexpectedly goes bust. Also, Stephen's using his first name solidifies his friendship with Sir Joseph and moves it to a new level of intimacy, and from that point on they address each other by unadorned first name - a liberty that, among his friends and loved ones, Jack, Jack's wife Sophie, and Diana are virtually the only other ones entitled to.
    • Jack and Stephen are on a First-Name Basis (something which, at the time, was reserved for family members and Blood Brothers), but only during their off hours. When they are on the job, they invariably address each other as "Captain" and "Doctor".
    • Stephen addresses Jack's First Lieutenant (later Captain) Thomas Pullings as "Tom", which is his right as an old shipmate and someone who has saved Tom's life a couple of times. However, Pullings never calls Stephen anything other than "Doctor", not out of any desire to maintain distance, but since he respects Stephen's skill and education too much to address him by an unadorned first name.
  • Horatio Hornblower also goes by this, being a Regency piece about Wooden Ships and Iron Men. The third-person narration also refers to the protagonist exclusively by his last name—this is not surprising since Hornblower finds the name 'Horatio' ridiculous and won't sign his personal correspondence with it, preferring a discreet 'H.' instead. It also holds true for William Bush in the novel Lieutenant Hornblower (which is the only one from his point of view) but this is also not surprising since as a naval officer he would have been called Mr. Bush since early adolescence.
  • Meursault, the narrator of Camus' The Stranger.
  • Goes back and forth in Star Wars Expanded Universe novels: not only does the narration use some first names, some last names, and some nicknames, it's rare that the characters themselves use a different name than the narration - usually for emphasis. For instance, the Wraith's original roster: Wedge Antilles, Wes Janson, Myn Donos, Jesmin Ackbar, Hohass "Runt" Ekwesh, Garik "Face" Loran, Ton Phanan, Falynn Sandskimmer, Voort "Piggy" saBinring, Tyria Sarkin, Kell Tainer, and Eurrsk "Grinder" Thri'ag. Yes, they often call the squad commander by name, but not the doctor. (On the other hand, Phanan is older than Wedge....)
    • Kinda justified on Wedge's case: almost every third human from Corellia is named Antilles.
    • And most people call Wes Janson "Wes", anyway.
    • An exchange from Outbound Flight.
      Thrawn: "I appreciate your honesty, Jorj Car'das."
      Car'das: "You can just call me Car'das. In our culture, the first name is reserved for use by friends."
      Thrawn: "You don't consider me a friend?"
      Car'das: "Do you consider me one?"
    • Palpatine is referred to as the Emperor or as Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine to the extent that it was assumed to be his only name. Grand Moff Tarkin's rank and Friendly Address Privileges let him reveal Palpatine's first name once: it's Sheev.
  • Artemis Fowl: While Artemis Fowl goes by his first name, his butler, Butler, is never addressed by his. Lampshaded rather poignantly in The Eternity Code when Butler is fatally shot by Spiro's guards, and confesses his first name to Artemis. Later, Juliet comes racing home from training in Japan with Madame Ko because Domovoi needs her, not "Butler".
  • In Good Omens, there is no reference to Witchfinder-Sergeant Shadwell even having a first name. Wensleydale, the Smart Guy of Adam's gang, is rumoured to have been christened "Jeremy", but the rest of the gang call him "Wensley" (his parents call him "Youngster", possibly in the hope that he'd take the hint).
  • In the Discworld series, Ponder Stibbons is pretty consistently refered to as Ponder by the narration, but no one in universe calls him that. His might be the only name of the faculty that Ridcully remembers except for the Dean, or should I say Henry, since unlike the others he is not constantly referred to by his position at the university. STIBBONS! This becomes justified later as refering to Ponder by only one of the positions he holds would be rather misleading.
    • An even better example from the Wizards of Discworld is that of Rincewind, who can't even REMEMBER his first name (if he even had one. His mother left before he was born. Don't ask.) We only find out it's his last name in fact when he meets a distant relative Bill Rincewind, Archchancelor of Bugerup University in XXXX.
    • He has a distant ancestor who goes by the name of "Lavaeolus", meaning "Rinser of Winds"; this appears to be his only name.
    • Cohen the Barbarian's first name is revealed to be Genghiz when Teach calls him that (until then, like Rincewind, he had Only One Name). His closest friends and comrades, the Silver Horde, continue to call him Cohen.
  • Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs almost always refer to each other by their surnames in the Lincoln Rhyme series by Jeffery Deaver. In fact, it's considered bad luck by them to use first names while working a case, which is probably justified because the one time Sachs says "Lincoln" while processing a scene, the tunnel she's in collapses.
  • In Obsidian Mirror, Oberon Venn is referred to almost exclusively as Venn. Even by his best friend tends to call him Venn as opposed to Oberon.
  • In Agatha Christie's novels, Poirot and Hastings, despite being very close friends, call each other by their last names.
  • In The Wardstone Chronicles, we have John Gregory. You go through a good portion of the story thinking his name is actually Gregory. More specifically, the main character Tom usually refers to him as 'The Spook' in the narration, but 'Mr. Gregory' when he's talking to someone. Alice calls him 'Old Gregory'. Almost nobody ever calls him John.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry and Karrin Murphy both do this to each other. Very rarely has Harry ever called her Karrin. She's called him Harry a few times though. Also they never call Butters by his first name, though that might have more to do with it being Waldo... As they grow closer over the course of the series, Harry starts referring to her as "Karrin" in his internal monologue more and more often. Though when he's talking to her, it's still "Murphy" or "Murph."
    • 'Gentleman' Johnny Marcone does this to Harry. "Mr. Dresden, I have asked you not to call me that."
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe Eighth Doctor Adventures:
    • In The Ancestor Cell, a great deal of the plot has to do with an antagonistic alternate version of Fitz Kreiner. The evil alternate version is generally known as Father Kreiner. The Doctor, however, calls him Fitz anyway, and although the first time the Doctor does so, he tells the Doctor, "Don’t call me that. I’m not Fitz," he puts up with it from then on, perhaps symbolic of the fact that, following an Enemy Mine situation and Kreiner's having aired out his grievances with the Doctor, they slip back into their old relationship.
    • In The Gallifrey Chronicles, Anji Kapoor's new fiance, Greg, keeps calling her "Kap". Fitz can't figure out how he came up with this nickname, until Trix explains it probably comes from Kapoor. Fitz has a problem with this:
    ‘But that’s her. . . Hang on, he calls her by her surname? That’s just screwy.’
  • Lampshaded by C.S. Lewis in The Silver Chair, when 1940s British schoolmates Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb call one another by their first names near the end of their adventure, after spending almost the entire book on a last name basis. "One didn't do it at school," Lewis notes.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, Ludmilla Droushnakovi hates her first name, and prefers to answer to a contraction of her surname, Drou (or Droushie to a four year old Emperor Gregor). This continues long after she marries Clement Koudelka (who dislikes his first name as well, preferring to answer to the standard military address of Rank Lastname whenever possible). In fact, in Komarr, which takes place thirty years after said wedding occurs, Miles, who has known the Koudelka family literally his entire life, refers to her as Drou Koudelka.
  • Spenser's first name is never given in any of the books. In at least one case, when a character asks for his first name, the first-person narrator simply says "I told her my first name."
  • If First Mate Cox has a given name, it's never revealed in Nation. To do so would probably humanize him too much.
  • 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 it has terrible consequences.
  • Anne of Green Gables: After an embarrassing incident involving the use of the nickname "Carrots" and a smashed slate over his head, Gilbert Blythe is referred to almost exclusively as "Mr. Blythe" almost by Anne Shirley. When she's not snubbing or ignoring him, that is. This goes on for years until they finally become friends, at which point she takes to calling him "Gil".
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, friend of the family Mr. Poe is referred to as Mr. Poe for the entire run, which is justified as it is a somewhat Victorian setting and the Baudelaires are polite children. This is emphasized during Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, in which Mr. Snicket receives a letter from the Duchess R. of Winnipeg. While he lambasts many things as erroneous, he never comments on someone who has been friends with his family for years, particularly his sister, addressing him as "Mr. Snicket".
  • Animorphs has Chapman. His first name, Hendrick, pops up a time or two, mostly in The Andalite Chronicles, but rarely in the regular books. Probably because the main characters are kids, and he was vice principal.
  • Played with in Catch-22. Major Majornote  earns the rest of his squadron's dislike after being promoted to squadron commander. He fails to earn back their respect, partly because he can't ask to be addressed casually without invoking Last-Name Basis or his rank. Major Major eventually starts authorizing documents (his only job as squadron commander) with the fake signature "Washington Irving" to make the job less monotonous. When he gets bored of that, he switches to "Irving Washington."
  • Appears in Jeeves and Wooster according to the time frame. As a servant, Jeeves is referred to simply as "Jeeves" by just about everybody (Bertie is quite jarred to find out that Jeeves even has a first name, Reginald), and he calls his master "Mr. Wooster". Meanwhile, acquaintances refer to Bertie as "Wooster", but close friends and family members use his first name.
  • Used interestingly in A Brother's Price. The firstborn daughter of any family is named Eldest and raised to be the leader of her siblings. When someone outside of the family addresses Eldest, it's almost always by the last name. Eldest Whistler is introduced as Eldest Whistler, and that's how she's handled in the narration, but called Whistler when spoken to. If Eldest dies one of her sisters is considered eldest, but keeps her name and isn't called by her family name.
  • In Stephen King's ''Dolan's Cadillac'', the main character's first name is never revealed and the only time his surname is mentioned - even though the story is told in the first person - is when Dolan (once he's trapped in his car in revenge for the murder of the narrator's wife Elizabeth) asks "Is your name Robinson?"
  • Scarlett's parents call each other "Mr O'Hara" and "Mrs. O'Hara" in Gone with the Wind.
  • Except for Marius Pontmercy and Jean "Jehan" Prouvaire, all of Les Amis d'ABC in Les Misérables only go by their last names; their first names are never revealed.
    • Nor are Inspector Javert's, Father Fauchelevent's, M.Gillenormand, or either of the elder Thenardiers. It would be easier to list the characters that do have first names.
    • Feuilly is an ambiguous case in Les Amis, as his social class may indicate that like Fantine he doesn't have more than one.
  • In Neal Stephenson's Reamde, one of the Russian "security consultants" is only ever addressed by his last name. One of the other characters lampshades this....
    Olivia: ''The man up there is known to you, I believe. Name of Sokolov."
    Zula: ''Someone needs to get that guy a first name."
  • Present all through the Philo Vance novels, justifiably due to the time period. Vance and Markham are established as long-time friends in the first novel, but they never call each other "Philo" and "John".
  • In The Curse of Chalion, Lupe dy Cazaril, the protagonist, is "Caz" to his close friends and "Ser" or "Dy Cazaril" to everyone else — this turns out to just be that he personally hates his Embarrassing First Name. Similarly, his best friend, the March dy Palliar, is 'Palli' to him, though no explanation is given for that.
  • Gilbert Osmond from The Portrait of a Lady is referred to by his last name Osmond by almost all the other characters, even his own sister and his wife Isabel.
  • Richard Campbell Gansey III of The Raven Cycle, also known as Dick. He thinks his full name is fairly pretentious and embarrassing and prefers going by just "Gansey."
  • In Those That Wake, Jon Remak generally goes by Remak.
  • The Great Merlini: We know (from references to the front door of Merlini's shop) that his first initial is "A", but everyone calls him Merlini. Averted with narrator Ross Harte, though, who is most often called Ross.
  • Carl Hiaasen has an unexpected example in Striptease — Mordecai is only referred to by that name Mordecai throughout the novel (even Joyce refers to him as her "cousin Mordecai"). Since Mordecai is a rare, but not unknown, first name in the US, the reader will probably assume that is the character's first name. It is only in the Where Are They Now epilogue that his full name (Jonathan Peter Mordecai) is given. (There's no plot reason for any first/last name confusion, it just comes as a mild surprise to any reader who happens to notice.)
  • In The Pendragon Adventure, people from Cloral are never referred to solely by their first name. Certain other characters also get this treatment, including the eponymous protagonist, who is usually only called by his first name by people he knew on Second Earth.
    • This is not, strictly speaking, this trope though - on Cloral, their first name is their formal name, which means that people from there are actually on first-name basis, even though they use their last name in that way.
  • (Jean) Passepartout in Around the World in 80 Days.
  • Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (The Three Musketeers) as well as the main character D'Artagnan.
  • RCN: Daniel's servant and Parental Substitute is only ever referred to as "Hogg", the family name.
  • Justifiably played straight in the Village Tales series, in which a lot of the Loads and Loads of Characters are ex-Forces, Old Etonians, or were up at Oxford together (or all three); and many are titled (i.e., peers). They all tend to use surnames or titles of one another (and some minor academic characters appear only by position-title), varied by school-era nicknames ... affectionate or otherwise.
  • In The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street, both Mori and Matsumoto are Japanese and therefore go only by their last names, and address others by theirs. It is a significant moment when each allows someone else to use their first name. Thaniel calls Mori "Keita" to emphasize that he intends to stay with him, and Matsumoto tells Grace to use his first name after he finally admits his feelings for her.
  • In the Skulduggery Pleasant series, there is Mr. Bliss, who is, even by is sister, only referred to as this, or his more formal, political title of Elder Bliss. But since he chose that name himself, it could very well be that his first name is actually Mister, in which case this would be a case of Full Name Basis.
  • In Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note, Aya calls the four boys from the Detective Team KZ this way despite they practically her only friends. Of course, with all the "Kazu"'s, it's rather confusing the other way round.
  • Guinevere Beck from You2015 is called "Beck" by her friends.
  • Michael Caesar or simply just Caesar from The Boondick series is simply just Caesar to everyone
  • Emphasized in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; the heroic and jovial Mc Murphy refers to his fellow mental ward patients by their surnames. They all get along fairly well. The antagonist, the sadistic Nurse Ratched, calls the patients by their given names. They are not fooled by her sweet, motherly façade.
  • With the exception of his ex-wife Joan, no one (including the narration) calls Thomas Covenant by his first name. Linden notes at one point that even when she and Covenant were lovers, it never occurred to her to call him "Tom" or "Thomas" - "Covenant" always fit her perception of him too well for her to call him anything else.
  • In Robert Louis Stevenson's The Pavilion on the Links, the narrator always adresses his romantic rival as Northmour. The reader never learns more than the initial of the man's first name: R.
  • Robert Ackley from The Catcher in the Rye is referred to as just "Ackley" by everyone. Not "Robert", "Bob" or even "Ack", just "Ackley".
  • A cat's "tail name" is the cat equivalent of this in Tailchaser's Song. Cats have three names, with their "face name" being used by those very close for them, their "tail name" being used in general, and their "heart name" being personal. A cat is given their "tail name" in a Naming Ceremony when they're a kitten. The protagonist's name is Fritti Tailchaser, but everyone just calls him Tailchaser.
  • Bravelands: Baboon troops have a ranking system with the highest rank being the Highleaf. The Leader of the troop is referred to as the "Crownleaf". They take "Crownleaf" as a surname and are exclusively referred to as such.
  • Jack Reacher. "Second Son" (a short story prequel from when Reacher was a young teenager) reveals Reacher was on a Last Name Basis with his own family:
    Unlike his brother he was always called by his last name only. No one knew why, but the family was Stan and Josie, Joe and Reacher, and it always had been.
  • Whyborne of Whyborne And Griffin hates his first name. The only people who call him "Percival" are his parents and siblings, people who have just met him, or someone deliberately trying to annoy him. Even his husband calls him Whyborne most of the time.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Rejection Slips": "Learned", the first letter, addresses Isaac Asimov as "Asimov". This shows the poem is more formal than the other two.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Beckendorf is almost never referred to by his first name, Charles. Only Silena calls him "Charlie".
  • Xandri Corelel: Diver's first name is never mentioned. Everyone just calls him Diver, or occasionally Mr. Diver.
  • Steel Crow Saga: Lee the con artist almost exclusively goes by her family name, or by the family name of her current alias. In a moment of sudden candor, she admits to a stranger that it's because she misses her family despite their estrangement.
  • Area 51: Many of the main characters such as Mike Turcotte and Lisa Duncan mostly get called by their last names.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • While the Capitol citizens are usually on a First-Name Basis, President Snow is universally referred as that. We don't learn his first name until the third book, when Finnick briefly addresses him as "President Coriolanus Snow".
    • Likewise, President Coin. The only time her first name — Alma — is brought up is when Katniss references her for the first time.
    • Other than Coin, nearly everyone in District 13 are addressed by their last names, because everyone above the age of 14 are considered soldiers. We never learn the first names of Boggs, Mitchell, Jackson, the Leeg sisters, and Homes.


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