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Last Name Basis / Real Life

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Examples of Last-Name Basis in Real Life.

  • Not at all uncommon in many British schools (especially in all-male situations such as PE), and not just the posh public schools that the stereotype tends to suggest, either.
  • In the educational setting, students are commonly expected to address teachers, administrators — and to a lesser extent, support staff — by a courtesy title (Mr., Mrs. or Miss), administrative title (Principal or Superintendent), Coach, or Dr. (if they have a doctorate degree of some sort) and their surname, especially in the classroom. Sometimes, teachers will allow them to use a shortened last name (e.g., "Mrs. K" for Krabappel) if it is long or cumbersome to use. Sometimes, teachers and faculty will do this to each other as well when students are present.
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  • Clergymen, except for their closest friends and family, often expect their parishioners to refer to them by their title (e.g., "Pastor," "Reverend," "Rabbi," etc.) and their last name, although some are fine with people using the first name in combination with their title (e.g., "Pastor Dan").
  • Children are generally expected to refer to adults who aren't their parents by their last name with Mr./Ms./Mrs./etc unless told that they are allowed to refer to them by their first name.
  • In business relationships, where the customer service representative was speaking with a client they did not otherwise have an established relationship with (previous or personal), they might be expected to call them "Mr." or "Mrs.," or short of that, sir or ma'am. Also, in some businesses or companies, subordinate workers might be asked — at least initially — to refer to their superiors by Mr. or Mrs., although many are informal enough that they are allowed to call their supervisors and bosses by first name almost immediately.
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  • In the courtroom, in addition to attorneys referring to adult litigants, witnesses and defendants (and sometimes, minors over a certain age) by a courtesy title and last name, everyone is expected to refer to judges as "Your Honor" or, short of that, "Judge (last name)." Erroneously addressing a judge otherwise may earn a stern reprimand to a contempt of court citation, although for children a gentle reminder is all that's needed.
  • Standard practice in all armed forces around the world.
  • A vast majority of political figures are referred mainly by their last name, unless they get some kind of nickname (e.g.,JFK).
    • The main exceptions to this being some female politicians and political legacies whose last names aren't distinctive enough (Hillary Clinton, almost universally referred to as "Hillary", is an example of both). Saddam Hussein was almost always referred to as "Saddam," initially to avoid confusion with King Hussein of Jordan.
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    • One extreme example was Abraham Lincoln. He didn't like the name Abe or Abraham and even his family and friends addressed him as Lincoln.
      • This is ironic, since he's an example of an American President who's commonly called by his first name (and often the diminutive form).
  • This is more often than not the case in the United States military. It can lead to confusion with common last names, however, so the form of address may be modified to "Rank Last Name" in units were there is more than one soldier with the same last name, or an appropriate informal title such as Top, Gunny or Chief may be substituted.
    • This is probably so in EVERY military in the world, where you are only "allowed" to refer to others by first name within your own or a lower rank group. Also, last names are usually visible on the uniform, so you hear the last names of your comrades frequently and place them to faces more easily.
      • Not the case in the IDF. Israelis are generally very, very informal, speaking to complete strangers their age with the language they’d use for a close friend. This is a bit toned down in the army, but even then soldiers sometimes refer to their direct commanders by their first name.
    • In the Army, the Last Name rule is less common among the commissioned officer ranks, where a superior officer often calls peers and subordinates by their first name. Enlisted soldiers are told to stick with last names, as an unofficial rule. Note that the rule never applies when speaking to a superior: use their title only.
      • In most of the US military, it is always more polite to address a superior officer as "sir" or "ma'am" than by any specific title, with the exception of generals, who should be addressed as "general".
    • Part of this stems from the ideal of professionalism; part of it is because during basic training, nobody in charge really cares about your first name.
    • In the Canadian Armed Forces, you refer to an equal or lesser ranked Non-Commissioned Member by their last name and a higher-ranked NCM by their rank, unless that NCM is a Master Warrant Officer or Chief Warrant Officer in which case you call them sir or ma'am. Officers are always referred to as either sir or ma'am. However most units subvert this when they're not training and not within view of the public or higher-ups, and allow first-name basis for even the higher ranks.
  • In cultures where First-Name Basis is normal, a person with a common first name but an uncommon last name might be addressed on Last-Name Basis by their friends and peers, just because it's a more distinctive name. Or because it sounds cooler.
  • The Norwegian explorer Nansen famously suggested to his companion Johansen, after weeks of sharing a sleeping bag to survive an arctic winter, that they should start using each other's first names.
  • Almost universal in sports, where announcers and coaches will refer to the players almost exclusively using their last names. Even some teammates will refer to one another in a Last-Name Basis. In the overwhelming vast majority of cases only the last name appears on the player's uniform: there is, for instance, currently only one exception in all of Major League Baseball (Ichiro Suzuki, who originally used his first name in Japan).
    • Fans also typically refer to sports figures only by their last name, with only a few exceptions (Kobe Bryant is "Kobe," Shaquille O'Neal is "Shaq", LeBron James is "LeBron", Alex Rodriguez is "A-Rod", etc.).
    • The most famous exception is that Brazilian soccer players usually have their nicknames on their uniforms. Only Known by Their Nickname is the usual norm.
      • The same is true in capoeira, a Brazilian martial art, as well; one can know someone for years by their capoeira name—e.g., Mestre Bimba—before finding out their real name (Manoel dos Reis Machado). Even historians of capoeira might not recognize the name Machado if they heard it.
  • AP Style for news writing dictates that, after the first mention of someone in an article, all other references use only their last name. This makes it tricky when a reporter finds himself writing an article about several members of the same family.
  • Averted in Iceland, where the patronymic last name is thought of as more a description than an actual name, honorifics are applied to the first name, and even the phone book is listed in first-name order. The footballer Heiðar Helguson is the son of a woman named Helgu; his own children will likely carry the second name Heiðarson or Heiðarsdottir.
  • Most Koreans refer to each other by title, title + surname, or a generic family term like "Auntie" or "Grandma", unless they are close, and sometimes not even then.
    • Additionally, addressing a Korean as "Surname + ssi" is extremely rude if they don't happen to work for you, that being how subordinates are addressed. It's also very common for Koreans to address each other by their full names, in part because almost all Korean names are only three syllables long (this last is also true in most of China, whose name-pattern Korean borrowed some time after the Three Kingdoms period).
  • In Holland, at least in the East region of Twente, it's not unusual for people to call them by their last name as a greeting.
  • As noted in Little Women, when Jo tells Laurie that she's not Miss March, she's only Miss Jo, it was a common practice in the 1800s to refer to the oldest of multiple sisters by "Miss [surname]" and all younger sisters as "Miss [first name]".
  • An unusual academic example: at St John's College, students refer to each other by honorific and last name in class, and often in non-academic situations, with the result that many people are ignorant of the first names of fellow students they see every day.
  • Dunno about other Spanish speaking countries, but in Argentina is common to have a Last-Name Basis between male persons, even if they are best friends, and First-Name Basis for female persons. It's also common for male persons to be addressed by a nickname that is often based on a physical attribute.
    • Last Name Basis is only used in the first year(s) of high school, and some particular places (some extremely vertical enterprises, the army/police forces) unless you are addressing to a professional (like a doctor) or somebody really important (Mr. President). Everyone else use their First name or his/her nickname, calling a person by their last name is considered offensive and awkward, unless that person requests it.
  • Longtime San Francisco TV news anchor Fred Van Amburg billed himself as just Van Amburg later in his career.
  • Indie Pop singer Leslie Feist.
    • Same things goes for Jillian Banks.
  • Dr. (Benjamin) Spock
  • Colonel (Harland) Sanders (founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken)
  • Stand-up comedian Christopher Titus, with a few exceptions, has gone by his last name since at least high school. Also, at least one album has just used "Titus" on the front cover.
  • The historical scientist (Nicolaus) Copernicus.
  • World War One hero Sergeant (Alvin C.) Yorknote .
  • News anchorwoman Lisa Kennedy is almost always known as simply Kennedy.
  • Last-Name Basis is Truth in Television for many non-US cultures; in Latin America it's not uncommon to see close friends calling each other by their last names, and standard practice in Japan, combined with Japanese Honorifics. First name + honorific is more intimate, and yobisute (null honorific) even more so, albeit this is mostly exclusive for either Japanese or other East Asians from the Sinosphere (Chinese, Koreans, Thais, Vietnamese, etc) but not for either Westerners, Africans, or West Asians (Arabs, Jews, Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalis, people from the Former Asian Soviet states, etc).
  • Also Truth in Television for shows set in historical times (before about 1945 in North America and 1980 in the UK). In Regency England, for instance, first names were only used by adults when addressing children (and parents when addressing their own children, even if they were adults), and among siblings or very close female friends. Husbands and wives only addressed each other by their first names when alone: in public or even amongst their family, they often referred to each other more formally. In many ways, the use of the first name became the English-language version of the French tutoyer, as if addressing someone by their first name without a good reason showed that you didn't see them as your equal. While modern Americans see using the first name as friendly and egalitarian, someone from this time frame would see it as pushy, rude, and intrusive.
  • How much Truth in Television this is for modern US culture varies, especially for professional settings. Title-and-last-name-basis is often used in formal business relationships, for example with a customer or a boss. Even in less formal settings, Last-Name Basis is seen among groups of coworkers and male persons, especially when there is a lot of first-name overlap. Female persons tend to stay with first names and tend to only use both first and last names if there is an overlap. It's also the standard in the US military, where you might be a bit hazy on the first name of your best buds.

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