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You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious

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Peter: Well, can you just gimmie the keys, please?
Lois: [while having a gun held to her back] All right, 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 any number of variations.
  • If she's his sister, he'll call her "Sis" or "Goober" or "Pinhead".
  • If she's his mom, he'll call her Alice instead of Mom or Mother.
  • If Alice prefers to be called Ally, he'll call her Alice. Every time, and revel 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 English-speaking 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 to Accidental Misnaming, Malicious Misnaming, OOC Is Serious Business.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • A heartbreaking example in 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.
  • One Piece:
  • 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 "Maiden". 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 Adventures, 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, who is 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 says that to trick Envy into reacting and revealing himself. And then she proceeds to pwn his ass.
  • In Tokyo Mew Mew, Masaya usually refers to Ichigo by her last name in early episodes. In one episode, however, when he is chasing her, after trying to call out to her, he yells her first name, causing her to stop. In the "dub", he just said her first name but louder.
  • 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.
  • In Sword Art Online, Shino "Sinon" Asada and Kyouji "Spiegel" Shinkawa are acquainted in real life and Gun Gale Online (albeit not close friends), calling each other by their last names in the former and their character handles in the latter. When Spiegel makes a Love Confession to Sinon while in GGO, he calls her "Sinon," then corrects himself and calls her "Asada-san."
  • In Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Kaguya seems physically incapable of calling Shirogane anything other than "president", to the point that it's the entire reason she asked him to run for reelection. Which is why it's such a big deal when she refers to him by his full name when she admits to Hayasaka that she's in love with him.
  • In Fairy Tail, Gajeel generally refuses to refer to Levy by name, even when he pairs up with her for the S-Class Exam. However, when they're attacked by Kawazu and Yomazu, two enemies that they can't defeat easily, and Gajeel learns that their foes are low-ranking members of Grimoire Heart, Gajeel calls Levy by name when insisting that she warn the others, since Grimoire Heart is a dangerous dark guild.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 Al-Ghul 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 (Archie Comics), 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 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."
  • In Green Lanterns, Jessica Cruz talks to her power ring like a person, as a result of which it has developed a uniquely casual conversational style, usually calling her "J-Bird" or occasionally "Jess-Mess". In one story, it calls her Jessica when it's delivering bad news, and she realises it must be really bad.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • Like in the series itself, Star Trek: The Original Series fanfics have this trope. If Spock calls Kirk Jim or McCoy calls him Captain that means things are going in some really unplanned directions.
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): When San calls Vivienne by her name instead of calling her "sister", it's usually a sign things are frighteningly serious.
  • In Incarnation Of Legneds, Kojiro usually calls Bell "young master" to tease him for his humility as well as a nod to Kojiro's past as a Servant. But when Bell is about to self-deprecate after managing to complete a magic spell on his first try, Kojiro stops himself from calling him "young master" and calls him "Bell" to show just how serious he is about getting Bell to take pride in himself and his accomplishments.
  • Shen vs. Kai: Like in Kung Fu Panda canon, Shen always calls Po by his animal name "Panda", but when he witnesses Po having a Heroic B So D, he calls Po by his name after his attempts to call him "Panda" proved futile. And it's also what makes Po finally respond to him.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Something Wicked This Way Comes have an example while Kirk and Spock are having a telepathic conversation after the latter has been seriously injured. Spock, for the most part of the conversation, is quite calm and formal, addressing Kirk as Captain, but as his condition deteriorates and he feels himself dying, he begins calling him Jim.
    Spock: Jim, listen, please. There’s no time.
  • The Vow: Shen has for years stopped calling his former nanny Ah-Ma by her name and instead addresses her as Soothsayer. However, when he decides to set her free, he calls her by her name to empathize how serious he's when he says they'll be strangers from that point onward.
  • This is used a lot in Bleach Shunsui/Nanao fanfictions, with him dropping the -chan on her name if the situation is serious.
  • In Ashes of the Past, Max gives all of his non-legendary Pokémon nicknames. On rare occasions, though, he'll refer to one of his Pokémon by their species name when giving commands in battle—which means that the actual command is to do the exact opposite of what he said to do.
  • 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.
  • 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 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."
  • My Family and Other Equestrians: When Applejack calls Blade Star by name and does not use his Embarrassing Nickname of Bones, you can be sure she is serious.
  • Ask King Sombra: Sombra never once refers to Coffee Talk by her real name. So when he does, she knows something is up.
    Coffee Talk: After all this time together- Sombra has never once gotten my name right. Which means that you're not entirely him.
  • In The Phoenix Wright Vampire AU, there's a scene where Edgeworth calls Phoenix "Phoenix, dear" and "Nick" over the phone. Since at this point their Relationship Upgrade is so fresh that the obsessively-formal Edgeworth hasn't even switched to "Phoenix", let alone used "Nick" or any pet names, this makes Phoenix worry that something is very wrong. And it is— Von Karma has broken out of jail and is holding him hostage.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, no one ever calls Lieutenant Heymans Breda by his first name. But when Riza does it almost absently in the Elemental Chess Trilogy, he knows it's a sign that she's really, really upset.
  • In the Twice Upon an Age series, this trope is in play any time the Lord Inquisitor Mahanon refers to the Lady Inquisitor by her full first name. He almost always addresses her by the Affectionate Nicknames "Toria" or "ma da'vhenan," so if he actually calls her "Victoria," he is either very angry or very afraid.
  • In The Black Emperor, Kallen breaks years of habit of treating her mother as just another maid and calls her "mom" when she pleads with her to leave the Stadtfeld manor.
  • In Waiting is worth it, when Izuku calls Toshinori "dad" for the first time, he is so surprised by this that he suddenly spits up blood onto the windshield and almost crashes the car. Thankfully Izuku's quirk prevents any serious damage or injuries.
  • Ichigo knows to take Zangetsu seriously in The Snow Has Stopped The Rain when he calls him by his real name instead of King (or some variant).
  • Pokémon × Nimja: Play the Game:
    • OGiNiM, the fun-loving Canadian-turned-Bulbasaur, is so devoted to the Dutch hypnotist YouTuber Nimja that he will only refer to him as "Mijnheer," note  which is Dutch for "sir." Therefore, it can safely be assumed something is very wrong if he refers to Nimja by any name other than "Mijnheer".
    • In the first chapter, "Another One Bites the Dust", he refers to Nimja as “Sir” in urgency, which immediately alerts the newly-transformed Mew that something isn’t right. He heads over to the Rijksmuseum and discovers that OGiNiM has become a Bulbasaur. And he's terrified.
    • Later on, in Chapter 4, "Don't Stop Me Now", he calls Nimja "Sir" out of despair and sadness, as he believes Nimja is annoyed by his continued texting. It's also worth mentioning that he switches from HiS UsUaL BiCaMeRaL TeXtInG PaTtErN to talking in all lowercase letters, something that alerts Nimja immediately. He even lampshades this towards OGiNiM by pointing out how rarely OGiNiM calls him “Sir,” as well as all the other OOC Is Serious Business actions OGiNiM has had that day. Nimja wastes no time in letting his biggest fan know that he would never tire of OGiNiM’s texting. He wasn’t angry with OGiNiM, he simply wanted to help him.
  • Invoked in the Pirates of the Caribbean fic "The Curse of the White Sword"; for the residents of Tortuga, the idea that a mysterious barmaid who has rarely spoken in the month she spent on the island feels comfortable calling Captain Jack Sparrow 'Jack' is practically evidence that she's more than just a barmaid (she's Elizabeth Swan in disguise looking for Jack after Will left Port Royal thinking she'd chosen someone else).
  • The very first words spoken to Chell by GLaDOS in the Portal fanfiction Resolution count as this. In the games, she doesn't even bother to refer to Chell by name, instead simply going for a sarcastic Hey, You! approach. Here, however, she actively refers to Chell by her first name, shocking her greatly. Similarly, as GLaDOS slowly starts to take a level in kindness, she begins to refer to Wheatley by name, rather than "the moron" or "the idiot ball."
  • Psalm of the Lark: Barbara calls the Joker "Jack" when she reveals to Harley that he's been killed.
  • In The Horsewomen Of Las Vegas, Becky Lynch (a criminal in this story) regularly addresses Sasha Banks as "Nurse Magenta" (Sasha is a nurse in this story, and has magenta hair) whenever she visits her for medical treatment. After Becky is seriously injured after being attacked, she has her crew (led by Brooke Tessmacher) trick Sasha into coming to her. Sasha is never happy having to treat Becky and is about to leave when Becky says, "Wait, Sasha." Being addressed by name makes Sasha realize just how seriously injured the usually flippant, jovial Becky really is, and stays to treat her.
  • Throughout the second half of The Return-Remixed, the Diva Army's resident Drill Sergeant Nasty, Jazz, always addresses Kelly Kelly as "Blondie" and generally does not like her. When Kelly wins the Divas Championship in the climactic battle royal near the end of the story, Jazz then says, "You did good, ... Kelly", and salutes her.
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, Klein got trapped in the titular MMO under the unfortunate handle of "BallsDeep69," so by Episode 3 his guildmates think "my name is Klein!" is how he says hello. Kirito usually refers to him as "Balls" or "Ballsy," but if he does call him Klein, it's a sign that he's genuinely touched or his Hidden Heart of Gold is showing.
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: Professor Goodwitch normally addresses her students by their surnames. However, when her students are attacked by a terentatek during a field trip, she calls out to them by their first names to save time because they're in a life-or-death battle against a creature she has never seen before.

    Films — Animation 
  • In An American Tail, Tony prefers to call Fievel by the name "Filly", but he shouts his real name while searching for him in the pier fire.
  • Chicken Run: Rocky continuously calls Ginger "Doll Face" until they reconcile after the pie machine rescue.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 him and Penny.
  • 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 Zootopia, Nick constantly refers to Judy as "Carrots". However, when the duo escape the asylum and fall down the waterfall into the lake, he panics and shouts out "Hopps!" then "Judy!" when she doesn't resurface right away. Note that it's the only time in the film that Nick actually calls Judy by her first name.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Avengers: Endgame. Peter Parker always calls Tony Stark, "Mr. Stark" as befitting a teenager who deeply respects and admires his hero and mentor. The only time he calls Tony by his first name is when Tony is dying.
  • Blastfighter: When Tiger and Connie are fleeing from the poachers, Connie collapses; too exhausted to go on. While exhorting her to go on, Tiger addresses her by name for the first time in the film. Connie is so amazed and inspired by Tiger (who is her father) actually addressing her by name that she gets an Heroic Second Wind.
  • 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 (possibly making this an Invoked Trope — he goes right back to getting his name wrong afterwards).
  • Dredd. Judge Dredd refers to probationary Judge Cassandra Anderson as "rookie", except when she's not focusing and he has to get her attention. At the end of the movie he calls her Anderson when telling her his assessment of her is over. This is foreshadowing that she's gained his respect and he intends to pass her as a Judge.
  • 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.
  • In The Flintstones, Barney tries to get Bamm-Bamm 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.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Our hero, Dr. Henry Jones, Jr., hates his father calling him "Junior" instead of his preferred nickname "Indiana." In the end, when he's vainly struggling to reach the grail and futilely risking his life, his father soothingly says, "Indiana. Indiana. Let it go." And that convinces him.
  • 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.
  • Variation, from Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels: "What are we going to do, Rory?" "Mister Breaker. Today, my name is MISTER BREAKER."
  • 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 code names. K and Z take 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 Planet of the Apes (1968), the orangutan Dr. Zaius publicly maintains that Col. Taylor, like all humans, is basically just an animal skilled in mimicry, and can't really talk, and he insists on calling Taylor by the nickname "Bright Eyes". When the two first meet privately, however, Zaius dispenses with all such pretense and willingly calls Taylor by his real name. This establishes that Dr. Zaius knows a lot more about humans than he's letting on, and also that he's capable of kindness. Taylor, though still well aware that he's in a very bad position, recognizes the gesture for what it is and thanks him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness. After resigning in protest, Scotty uses First-Name Basis when imploring Captain Kirk one last time not to fire off the secret experimental torpedoes being loaded onto the Enterprise.


By Author:

By Work:

  • In The Alice Network, when Lili asks Eve to pray for her, she uses Eve’s real name.
    “I need people praying for me. I wrote a letter to my old Mother Prioress in Anderlecht, but I’ll take your prayers any day, Evelyn Gardiner.”
    It was the first time Lili used Eve’s real name. Even after the trial, they went on using the old code names. The ones that felt true.
  • 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".
  • Angels Flight: When a conversation between Harry Bosch and Frankie Sheehan becomes serious, the formal names "Hieronymus" and "Francis" are used.
  • 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 anymore.
    • Comes back later when Butler is watching the tape Artemis 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.
    • In return, about the only time Root calls her "Holly" instead of "Captain Short" is when he's about to die.
    • 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 McGill's parents call her "Anastasia", she knows that she's pushed them too far, and it's time to back down.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, magicians never use their birth names, because those have magical power over them. Bartimaeus knows that "John Mandrake's" real name is "Nathaniel", though, and naturally always uses it when they're alone. He finally switches at the end of the second book, explaining that he now thinks of Nathaniel as just like all the other magicians. Nathaniel takes this as a compliment. It wasn't supposed to be.
  • In The Belgariad, Durnik always calls the sorceress Polgara (with whom he has been deeply in love for years) by the respectful "Mistress Pol", which is how he knew her when she was hiding out with The Chosen One as the head cook on a remote Sendarian farm. It's not until the final book of the quintet, when she utterly magically exhausts herself into unconsciousness, that he cries out a terrified "Polgara!"
  • In Black London once learning Pete's full name, Jack uses it to prove he's being sincere rather than wily and dodgy.
  • In The Cinder Spires soon after an attack on their spire from an enemy nation, Gwen is relieved to see some of the Guard ready and on hand. Gwen has some wounded people who need attention. Benedict gently calls her "Gwendolyn" and notes they shouldn't get in these men's way. Gwen realizes Benedict never calls her by her proper name and quickly deduces these "Guards" are infiltrators, as in the confusion of the attack starting 15 minutes ago, no patrol would be that ready and prepared unless they were infiltrators.
  • In Dear Mr. Henshaw, the main sign Bill has become closer to his son at the end is him calling him Leigh, instead of "kid", without being prompted.
  • 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 Dresden Files:
    • 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 Turn Coat, 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.
  • In The Expanse, Amos is normally The Nicknamer who almost never calls people by their real name. Right before going into a particularly dangerous situation, he notices that Holden is scared out of his mind and barely fighting back all-out panic. While reassuring him, he calls him "Jim" instead of the usual "Cap". Holden even notes that it may have been the first time Amos ever used his first name.
  • 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 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 Gideon the Ninth, both times Harrow actually calls Gideon by her first name instead of "Griddle" or Nav, Gideon calls her out on it. The first time happens when she's scared Gideon is about to die, and the second occurs when she asks Gideon to make her an important promise after a heart-to-heart.
  • 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 where they were, 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 by his birth name, "Tom Riddle." Voldemort is very surprised and not at all happy at Harry defying the persona of "He Who Must Not Be Named" and addressing him as just another wizard.
      • The narrative itself does this at the end of the book when Voldemort dies; it switches to calling him "Tom Riddle", showing that he was as ordinary a man as any other in death, which Voldemort always feared most.
        Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snake-like face vacant and unknowing.
    • Not much attention is called to it, but one sign of Percy's stuffiness is that he calls his parents "Mother" and "Father", unlike his siblings. However, he calls Arthur "Dad" when apologizing for their three-year estrangement.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • John Dies at the End: Throughout the series of books, John only refers to Dave as ‘David’ when he is seriously concerned for his safety.
  • Kiesha'ra: In Hawksong, 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.
  • Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter: The first chapter lampshades Dr Conway's use of "David" when speaking to Lucky. Unlike in the first couple of books, his accidental use of Lucky's real first name is a sign that the current problem has him very stressed out.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Mr. D (Dionysus) never calls Percy 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.
  • 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".
  • Used in A Song of Ice and Fire with Jaime and Brienne; from their first meeting on, they snipe at each other constantly, mostly addressing each other as "Kingslayer" (Jaime) and "wench" (Brienne). 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.
    • Earlier on, this is done in the first book, after Bran "falls" from the tower. Catelyn, distraught over what has happened to her son, looks for someone to project it on, and finds it in her husband's illegitimate son Jon Snow, who is also distraught over what happened to Bran, his half-brother. To show that she means business, instead of calling him "bastard", or "Snow", she decides to use his first name. Right before telling him that it should have been him. Keep in mind that at this time, he is fourteen.
  • In These Words Are True and Faithful, Sam is used to being addressed by Ernie as "kid" or "boy." When Ernie addresses Sam as Sam, Sam knows something is up.
  • In Touch (2017), Caleb is actually "Asset Thirteen", but chose a name for himself. When his partner Twenty-Three actually uses his number, he's confused and a little worried. It turns out that they've just been ordered to cross the Moral Event Horizon or be killed by their masters, and are being transferred out of the city if they do survive.
  • 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 Zer0es, Bellwether usually insists on referring to the members of the Zeroes by their code names. Crash knows things have gotten deadly serious when he calls her and talks about them using their real names.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • The Adventures of Superman: In "The Evil Three", Perry, talking to the terrified Jimmy, calls him "Jim" rather than "Olsen".
  • In Ashes to Ashes (2008) 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.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): In an early season, Billy 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.
  • In Beverly Hills, 90210, when Donna is being attacked by a known rapist, David arrives home. The rapist forces Donna to tell him to leave, and when she does she refers to David as "Dave". Immediately, it seems as if David does leave, until a second later when the rapist attempted to assault Donna again, David bursts into the room, and both him and Donna beat the rapist into submission.
  • Happens with the two Master Computers in Blake's 7 at the moment of their 'death'. When the Liberator is damaged beyond repair, Zen says "I have failed you..." despite always referring to itself in the third person. Slave, the overly-sycophantic computer of Scorpio, always refers to the crew as "Master", but addresses Tarrant by his name after the Ace Pilot makes a futile attempt to stop Scorpio from crashlanding in the final episode.
  • 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.
  • In Broadchurch, DI Hardy refuses to call DI Miller her preferred first name, instead choosing to use Last-Name Basis. He uses her first name when he has to break the news that her husband was the one who murdered Danny Latimer. This only freaks her out further, as she immediately tells him to stop calling her "Ellie".
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy always calls Spike by that name, until she breaks up with him "for real" and calls him William, his name before he became a vampire. Whereas Spike called Buffy by her family name "Summers" when first making his Anguished Declaration of Love.
  • 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.
    • Like Sam, this is combined with Out-of-Character Alert with Barry the Money Launderer. While helping Mike check a bank account, Barry is caught by Blye, a minor antagonist from season 1. Blye forces Barry to wear a wire. After the episode's escapades which resolved Blye's and Michael's antagonism towards each other, Michael suggests to Barry if he is ever stuck in a situation like that again just offer to buy Michael or his friends lunch. Barry understands and agrees to this precaution.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • In the CSI episode "Grave Danger", it takes Grissom calling Nick by his family nickname of "Pancho" to break Nick out of his panic.
  • 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".
  • 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". To save Amy's life, the Doctor attempted to destroy her faith in him by telling her he had been using her, to which he referred to her as "Amy Williams" which he had never done before.
      Amy says that he only calls her Amelia when he's worried about her.
    • In "The Angels Take Manhattan", Amy calls River Song by her 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.
    • The Doctor typically referred to Danny Pink as "P.E.", but in moments of seriousness will call him by his real name.
    • In "The Time Monster". When Captain Mike Yates and his battalion are bombed by the V-2, the Brigadier tries to contact him on the 2-way radio. After several failed attempts where the Brig addresses him as "Captain Yates" only to get static for a reply, he finally asks, with an unusual note of desperation in his voice, "Mike?"
    • "Face the Raven": Rigsy, to whom the Doctor has always referred by a variety of nicknames, appears to be in mortal danger. The Doctor, making an effort to be empathetic, starts calling him by his proper name. Rigsy asks him to stop because it's just making him more scared.
  • In the 12th season finale of ER, R.N. Sam Taggart is secretly taken hostage by her armed ex-husband Steve and his criminal partner. As she is led out of the hospital she calls Dr. Abby Lockhart (referred to as 'Abby' or 'Dr. Lockhart' by staff members, but never her full first name) "Abigail". Abby quickly deduces there is a problem and alerts two nearby police officers. The resulting carnage and escape lead into the 13th season premiere.
  • 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 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 the premiere episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will tells Geoffrey to call him Will. Geoffrey states that for reasons of propriety, he can't. Near the end of the series finale, when Geoffrey is no longer his butler, he honors this request.
  • Game of Thrones: In "A Golden Crown", Viserys calls his sister "Dany" when he realises he's in deep shit.
  • Subverted in Get Smart when Max consoles Agent 99 after the Chief has been shot.
    Max: Don't worry, Ernestine; he'll be okay.
    99: Do you realize that's the first time you've ever called me Ernestine? [Max nods] I wish it were my name.
  • 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 5th episode of Good Omens, Crowley calls out Aziraphale's name as Azriaphale's bookshop is burning and Crowley is desperately looking for him. Before this, Crowley exclusively called Aziraphale "Angel".
  • In the fourth season of House, House has many doctors competing for three spots on his diagnostics team. He gives each of them insulting nicknames which he uses exclusively. One of the doctors senses that she's about to be cut from the team when House calls her by her name instead of her nickname.
    Amber: You didn't call me "Bitch". Is that bad?
  • Inspector Lynley: Lynley almost universally calls his colleague and partner Barbara Havers by her last name - until Havers is shot in the line of duty, at which point Lynley goes berserk and can only say desperately, "Barbara? Barbara???"
  • Subverted 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.
  • 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. When she destroys a sculpture he created in a desperate attempt to keep him from dropping out of school, she tearfully apologizes without giving a full explanation (God told her to keep the statue from being displayed, and she used the first option that came to mind). He coldly rebuffs her and calls her "Joan". From then on, Adam calling Joan by her own name, as opposed to Jane, was a sign of serious trouble, such as after their breakup in Season 2.
    • This is also how Joan usually identifies the random strangers who are God speaking to her — by their calling her by her first name. (This 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.)
  • 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 that either 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). He also calls her "Alex" in the series finale, which may or may not have been intended as one final bit of Ship Tease from the writers.
  • 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.
  • In Lucifer, Lucifer only ever refers to Chloe as "Detective", save for two times: once when she nearly dies in Season 1, and when he tells her he loves her in the Season 4 finale.
  • On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary would call her boss Lou Grant, Mr. Grant, ever since the first episode. Every other character would call him Lou, but Mary would only call him Mr. Grant out of respect for him as he was her boss. Even in the first episode, Mr. Grant wanted Mary to call him Lou but she refused. However, when Mary was truly angry or was serious with him, she would call him Lou. She only did this a few times in the whole series. Doing this would make him pay attention and know that she was serious.
  • 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.
  • Merlin (2008): In "The Kindness of Strangers", Kilgharrah calls Merlin "Emrys" for the first time before revealing he is dying.
  • On My So-Called Life, Mr. Katimski always calls Rickie "Enrique", which always drives 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.
  • In NCIS, any time Gibbs refers to DiNozzo or McGee by their first names (Tony and Tim, respectively) is usually a bad sign. Or at least a sign that Gibbs wants them to know he's not in 'boss mode' at the moment. Most of the time, a first-name address from Gibbs is his way of saying 'I've got your back'.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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".
  • 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).
    • Finch insists on referring to Root as "Miss Groves," her birth name, instead of the hacker name she prefers. When she goes off on a potentially suicidal mission, he reassures a worried Shaw that no matter what happens, "Root is not alone." The use of her preferred name underscores just how serious he considers the situation.
      • He also goes so far as to refer to her as Samantha, her real first name, when he's worried that she's going to start torturing and killing innocent people during her Sanity Slippage Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • The Machine designates its creator Finch as "Admin", but when presented with a Sadistic Choice (reveal its location or Finch will be killed) addresses him as "Harold" and later (when its own existence is at stake) "Father".
  • The Persuaders!: Unlike most of the other people in the series Lord Brett Sinclair tends to call his friend, self-made millionaire, Danny Wilde, by his full name of Daniel. The nickname is used when Brett sees Danny in crisis or injured:
    • In Death In The Family Brett called out ‘Danny!’ when he found Danny unconscious after an intruder on the Sinclair estate attacked him.
    • In Someone Waiting Brett again used ‘Danny’ when he found Danny sprawled in the garage while the pair is investigating who is trying to sabotage Brett’s return to racing.
    • In Angie Angie, during one of their rare arguments, Brett was trying to convince Danny that his childhood friend, Angie, was involved in less than honest activities. It's very telling that Brett was addressing his friend by the seldom used nickname the entire time.
    • Subverted twice in Five Miles To Midnight in which Brett used the nickname without Danny being injured when he did it. Unless one counts the episode's plot of the pair trying to escort a 'gangster' to a safe haven with other gangsters dogging their trail as a crisis.
  • 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.
  • In the Granada Sherlock Holmes TV Series, in the episode "The Devil's Foot", Holmes cries out Watson's first name of "John!" as he is recovering from the influence of a psychotropic drug.
  • 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, her face absolutely crumples—because she realizes he really means to let himself be killed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Or his giddy shout at the end of "Amok Time", showing his relief that he hasn't... that is, that Starfleet has not lost a fine captain.
    • Bones, conversely, routinely addresses Kirk as "Jim", and in return Kirk almost always calls the doctor by the nickname "Bones" (their friendship was implied to be long-established prior to their assignment to the Enterprise). It's when Bones calls him "Captain" that you know he's serious.
    • Similarly, the one and only time Scotty addressed Kirk as "Jim" was when Kirk was apparently about to stay behind in the Mirror Universe so the others could get home.
    • See Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres sharing a now or never almost kiss for another example.
  • Succession: Kendall and Roman hatch a scheme to oust their father Logan from the family business with a vote of no confidence. Things go awry when Logan remains in the room during the vote and starts influencing the board members. When Roman's time to vote arrives, Logan pressures him not to vote and calls him "Romulus", which seems to be a childhood nickname. In spite of driving the vote, Roman caves and does not vote to oust his father. The name does not come up at any other point.
  • 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.
    • This trope plays a major part in "Take This Sabbath Day," a season one episode. President Bartlet's parish priest from childhood, Father Tom Cavanaugh, comes to visit Washington; at first, he calls Bartlet "Jed," and Bartlet requests that he use the title "President Bartlet" while they are in the White House, and especially the Oval Office. Father Cavanaugh's visit coincides with Bartlet and his staff attempting to get an inmate off of death row. They fail to do so, and Bartlet has a breakdown, making excuses as to why the young man had to die. Father Cavanaugh challenges Bartlet on every excuse; as the episode ends, the following exchange occurs as the men stand in the Oval Office:
      Father Cavanaugh: Jed...would you like me to hear your confession?
      President Bartlet: (A long pause) ...yes.
  • The X-Files:
    • The only time we ever really hear Mulder call Scully "Dana" is when things get deadly serious and extremely dangerous.
    • Scully calls Mulder "Fox" only once and he asks her not to, so she stops and the favor isn't really returned, since Mulder doesn't like his first name. He says he even made his parents call him Mulder (though it's not true and number of characters call him by his first name, which he takes just fine).
    • The Out-of-Character Alert version is seen in the series, also, when Mulder switches places with someone else or when someone else is pretending to be him. The Not-Mulders assume they're close enough to be on a First-Name Basis and call Scully "Dana," something the real Mulder doesn't do.

  • Alice Isn't Dead: The Narrator is known only by nicknames for the entire first season, because her wife only ever called her by nicknames. So of course when Alice shows up in the finale to warn The Narrator off following her, we learn The Narrator's real name: Keisha.

    Pro 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 Levesque?
  • When John Cena proposed to Nikki Bella in the ring immediately following their match in Wrestlemania 33, he used her real name "Stephanie Nicole Garcia-Colace", as a signal to the audience that this was real.note 
  • When Dolph Ziggler was on a face run in early 2017, he interrupted The Miz during an in-ring promo and challenged him to a Intercontinental Title Match. Miz at first refused, and started walking backstage, when:
    Ziggler: Come back, Miz! Miz, come on!... HEY MIKE!
  • Once in ECW in 1999, during a mic confrontation between Tommy Dreamer (w/Francine) and Lance Storm (w/Dawn Marie), Dawn addressed Dreamer as "Thomas," which Joey Styles questioned.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
    • In Dual Destinies, Blackquills gives the Judge the less-than-flattering title of "Your Baldness", which he uses throughout the entire game. Right up until the final trial that is, when he becomes dead-set on helping the defence take down the Phantom, and starts calling him the normal "Your Honor" instead.
  • 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 Oba-san ("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: Origins, Shale calls the Warden "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 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.
  • Played for a bit of a laugh at the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition, if Cullen's romance has been completed. His codex entry updates to include a letter from his sister Mia, who expresses delight at how happy her brother sounded in his most recent letter... and complains that he's not telling her everything, because he's suddenly started referring to the Inquisitor by her first name.
  • 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 the more polite "Emiya-kun", it's a sign that the discussion has turned serious.
  • In Mortal Kombat X, Sonya Blade refers to Johnny Cage by his last name at first, but after he saves her from Shinnok, she calls him by his first name. Some time after, they have a daughter.
    Kenshi: The war is not over; Quan Chi has escaped. Why are you smiling?
    Johnny Cage: ...she called me "Johnny"...

    Web Animation 
  • 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.
  • When Barbie tries to give Ken a banana pizza in Barbie Vlog, he shows his seriousness by calling her "Barbara". This is one of the very few times that Barbie's full name is mentioned in a Barbie media. Ken just hates bananas that much.

  • 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"
  • The Search For Henry Jekyll: Al only calls Hyde Edward when he's trying to get his attention or especially horrified with his actions.
  • 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 Videos 
  • In perhaps one of his more infamous breakdowns, Arin of Game Grumps is trying to get past respawning enemies in Heart of Darkness. Again and again he fails, getting more frustrated as he will check a screen for enemies (that doesn't allow moving forward), go around move on, and suddenly find enemies that were on the opposite side suddenly surrounding him to death. Dan is laughing his ass off Arin's frustration, who is at the point of begging for some amount of sympathy that he calls Dan "Danny", something he rarely does naturally.

    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.
  • Justice League: In "Twilight", after calling him "Superman" throughout the episode, Batman switches to using Superman's real name as he tries to convince him to escape from Brainiac's exploding base.
    Batman: Kent, don't be a fool.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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 the Magic School Bus episode about weather, when everyone buys into the idea that Ralphie is the superhero Weatherman except Keesha. 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, Keesha 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 called him "Arnold." There were a few instances—largely when she was terrified or frightened—when she shouted his real name in desperation, such as when she nearly drowned in a flood.
    • Arnold's (very senile, or possibly very clever) 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 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.
  • Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: 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.
  • On The Cleveland Show, Rallo is only addressed by his given name, Montclair, on one occasion, when his father Robert asks him about something serious.
  • 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.
  • In The Simpsons:
    • Homer invariably calls Bart "Boy", or "The Boy" (when referring to him in conversation with others). Whenever he uses Bart's actual name, he's generally really angry. He'll typically follow this with "Why you little...!" and throttle him. Whereas Marge calls him Bart normally, "My special little guy" when she's feeling particularly lovey-dovey, and if she's really angry, she'll go to Full-Name Ultimatum with "Bartholomew J. Simpson!"
    • Likewise, Bart usually calls Homer either by his first name (a big no-no for children in most families), or some form of nickname, based on his real name (Homeboy, Home-slice), or referencing his size (Fatty, Big guy). When he calls him "Dad", he's generally really genuinely upset or desperately needing help.
    • Inversely, in "Lisa the Greek", Lisa is upset after realizing that her father was only spending time with her because she had a nack for correctly predicting the outcome of football games so he could make bets and win money, rather than simply because he wanted to spend time with her, and calls him "Homer" instead of "Dad".
    • Mr. Burns almost always calls his assistant simply "Smithers" and Smithers almost always calls his boss "Mr. Burns" or "sir". However, during a heated confrontation between the two as Smithers urges him to reconsider his sun-blocking plan in "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 1", they have this exchange:
      Mr. Burns: There has been a shocking decline in the quality and quantity of your toadying, Waylon, and you will fall into line, now.
      Smithers: No, Monty, I won't. Not until you step back from the brink of insanity.
  • On Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Mr. Herriman always calls Frankie "Miss Frances". So it's a sign of just how desperate he is when his fear of dogs overwhelms him in one episode and he calls out for "Frankie" to save him.
  • In Voltron: Legendary Defender, during Shiro and Adam's argument about the Kerberos mission, Adam calls him Takashi (his first name). This is the only time someone refers to Shiro using his first name, and the conversation is revealed to be the end of Shiro and Adam's relationship.
  • In the Adventure Time episode "Broke His Crown", Princess Bubblegum is visibly upset at having to attend dinner at the Ice Kingdom. Marceline asks her to call the Ice King "Simon", but she is reluctant to do so since she only views the Ice King as a villainous kidnapper with zero redeeming qualities. When Princess Bubblegum notices something wrong with Ice King's crown, Marceline doesn't believe her until hearing PB call him "Simon".

    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.
  • Professional basketball player Becky Hammon's full name, Rebecca Lynn Hammon, was not used in professional contexts until she was signed to the Russian national basketball team and began to feature in Russian-language articles.


Video Example(s):


Jimmy Neutron

"Did she just call you 'Jimmy'?"

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / YouCalledMeXItMustBeSerious

Media sources:

Main / YouCalledMeXItMustBeSerious