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First-Name Basis

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Nurse Mary: Tell me, Captain Blackadder...
Cpt. Blackadder: Edmund.
Nurse Mary: [grins] Edmund.
Blackadder Goes Forth, less than a minute before the Relationship Upgrade

The sudden switch in nickname or honorific when referring to a character, usually from their family name to their given name, is frequently used to demonstrate a significant change in the relationship between two characters, the desire for one by one party, that they have evaded listeners who require more formality, or that they are Not Themselves. Never using any formal indicators and just calling a character by their exact name is about as common to show the same thing.

Another common trope is a character saying the other's actual name rather than some rude variant of "you" or of their name to show a relationship getting closer. The other situation is a character who was previously irritated to be called by a "cutesy" name finally accepting the moniker, usually from the sort of overly cheerful character who does that with everyone's name.

Propriety may demand that it be used only in private. Referring to a character by a first name to a third-party can reveal the nature of the relationship. This can range from a total accident to an intentional flaunting.

Juniors may stubbornly insist on titles and family names when they think the senior is using his authority to feign friendship.

For the creepy use of this by an enemy, see Terms of Endangerment.

Keep in mind that in Japanese the family name comes first so in anime and manga this is more of a "last name basis". That Other Wiki almost always reverses this order for westerners, as do some translations (and many Japanese themselves when they write names in alphabet), complicating things considerably. Bonus points are awarded if you notice in the audio that one name is used but in the subtitle a different name is used. Note that this is much less important in languages other than Japanese, because most languages just automatically use First Name Basis to denote equality and/or friendship, more or less. Except when they don't.

A variant of this is when a character on first name basis is known and called exclusively by the diminutive version of that first name. Therefore, a character, named William, regardless of the situation, is "Will", "Bill" or "Billy". The character uses his full first name only when he is required to (official paperwork and I.D., for example). This can often occur with individuals in positions where formality is more the convention, such as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and Prince Harry for example. This is often a deliberate, individual preference in the interest of a promoting a more unassuming, approachable, and less highfalutin persona.

This trope is the polar opposite of They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!. Compare Last-Name Basis, when the characters never made the switch, Full-Name Basis if they never even switch to last name, and Hey, You!. May get interesting when the character is Pals with Jesus.

May result in No Full Name Given if everybody is on first name terms with a character. Not to be confused with Only One Name, such as Prince, or Cher.


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  • Blood and the Stars: Arthur Dage and Commander Aldor Ren are on a first name basis with each other.


Video Example(s):


Arlo panics

Arlo freaks out when he completely forgot about Seaside and the yacht is far away from the city.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / FreakOut

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