They Call Me Mister Tibbs

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Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalties as ‘empty,’ ‘meaningless,’ or ‘dishonest,’ and scorn to use them. No matter how pure their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.

The way you address someone says a lot about how you think about him or her, and what your relationship is. Just think of the difference between calling someone "Biff" and calling him "Dr. Edmond Von Trapp".

This can be a potential minefield, especially when meeting someone new. If someone makes a mistake, it usually takes one of two forms:

  • Character A assumes too much familiarity with Character B, only to be corrected, usually in a rather sharp way. "That's Doctor Von Trapp to you!"; Depending on how it's played, this can be used to generate sympathy or contempt for either character: If Character A seemed genuinely rude, then Character B will look better; if Character B seems to have overreacted to a relatively minor slip, then the opposite is true.
  • Character A assumes too much formality with Character B, only to be given a gentle alternative: "Please. Doctor Von Trapp is my father. Call me Biff." Almost always used to show that Character B is not as bad/scary as he or she initially seemed. (Though if he is a superior, the subordinate may insist on the formal title to show that no, they are not friends.)

Trope is named for Sidney Poitier's famous line from In the Heat of the Night. An educated black detective, Virgil Tibbs is in a bigoted part of the South and ends up first suspected in, then solving, a murder case. Early on, he is asked what people call him where he comes from. (The line was sufficiently iconic to be used as the title for another movie with the Tibbs character a couple of years later.)

Referring to a third party without appropriate title can also cause a character to be brought up short. Usually this is also a demand for respect, though it can be a friendly warning that the familiarity might cause trouble.

Note that this happens in real life, making it an example of Truth in Television. Compare First-Name Basis, where characters that know each other change form of address to symbolize a change in the relationship. See Honorifics for the East Asian equivalents.

Something similar is used in several countries in Latin America, where people refer to themselves by their educational degree, such as licenciado (college graduate), ingeniero (engineering college graduate), maestro (master or teacher, depending on context), or doctor (Ph. D.), and the variant in languages that have formal and informal pronouns - in French, Spanish and Italian, for example, it's rude to call someone you don't know well by the informal "tu". In fact, there is a verb (tutoyer, tutear and dare del tu, respectively), to describe the act of calling somebody by the familiar version of 'you'. This feature, which is called 't-v' distinction, is common to all the major western European languages except English, albeit to varying degrees. It used to exist in English, until 'thou' dropped out of use. Which is why it was sort of rude for Vader to ask his master what "thy bidding" was.

For the above reasons, variant A can be a rich seam of Values Dissonance when going from one culture to another. An exchange that makes the overly familiar fellow look like an outright thug in Japan, for instance, can instead make the person insisting on their proper honorific look incredibly arrogant in the U.S. (This can be bypassed by clever dubbing, by having the overly-familiar thug use terms like "Buddy" and "Pal" instead of the person's given name.)

This convention becomes more important the older the literary/media source. In American movies made before the sixties, it would be common for working class characters to address middle or upper class characters as "Mr," "Mrs," or "Miss," while middle-class characters would refer to working class characters by their job ("Hey, Porter!"), their last name ("Jeeves, please get the door.") or their first name ("Home, James.") depending on their degree of familiarity, and occasionally their job. (For example, a butler would always be "Jeeves", a valet would be "James", the housekeeper "Mrs. Danvers.") Even older works, such as the writing of Jane Austen, can sound positively stilted to modern ears, with husbands and wives referring to each other as "Mr. Bennet" and "Mrs. Bennet" even in private!

The title quote for this trope makes a strong point about the United States before the civil rights movement altered race relationships. In older movies and TV shows, working class or middle-class black people address most whites with the formal "Mr," "Mrs," or "Miss," even if the person addressed is a child or low-status worker. Most whites would refer to any working class black by their first name (the best-known example being Jack Benny and his butler Rochester) rising to the more formal usages only with middle-class professionals like Virgil Tibbs, a college-educated police detective. The difference between Americans in northern and southern states will primarily be that of emphasis. Indeed, in many southern states, failure to follow the rules of address noted could get a black assaulted on the spot or even murdered by local white vigilantes.

See also Full-Name Basis and Terms of Endangerment. If this is a Running Gag, then it becomes Insistent Terminology and possibly a Large Ham Title. Contrast The Magnificent, when it's a title or suffix after the name. Compare Do Not Call Me "Paul"

Examples of They Call Me Mister Tibbs include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In the English version of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, people aren't always sure whether to address Dr. Vellian Crowler as "sir" or "ma'am", which causes him to angrily retort that he is "Dr. Crowler, thank you very much" and that he has a "Ph.D. in dueling".
    • In the Japanese original, character Jun Manjoume is frequently addressed informally as just "Manjoume" by many characters, which causes him to angrily mutter "San-da!" (meaning they should attach the "san" honorific to the end of his name). Since "Sanda" is the also Japanese pronunciation of the English word "thunder", this insistence is what gave birth to his nickname as "Manjoume Thunder". On the other hand, he never does this in the manga.
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, Major Alex Louis Armstrong calls his older sister "sis", prompting her to say "Major General Armstrong!" She's a Badass.
    • During the Briggs arc, Vato Falman repeatedly has to remind people that' he's Second Lieutenant Falman after being transferred and promoted.
  • Used in Dragonball Z, though not in the American dub of the anime, just the Japanese versions (and the translated manga). Piccolo mentions Kaio can help them, to which Kaio says "It's Kaio-sama..." or Lord Kaio.
  • In the Rainbow Mist filler arc of One Piece, Robin calls Henzo "Mr. Henzo" (even though she is speaking Japanese). He asks to be referred to as "Professor Henzo", and she complies. In the Drum Island arc, Dr. Kureha, when introducing herself to Nami, and when taking Chopper in as an apprentice, says "Call me Doctreine". Crocodile also referred to Nefeltari Cobra, Alabasta's king, as "Mister Cobra."
    • When Dalton confronts Wapol and addresses him without honorifics, Wapol demands that he address him with the respect owed to his king.
    • Vergo is pretty insistent that Law address Vergo using the honorific "-san".
  • In Bleach, Hitsugaya often has to insist that Momo and Ichigo call him "Captain Hitsugaya" (as opposed to "Shiro-chan" and "Toshiro" respectively).
    • In the Bleach pilot, Rukia demands that Ichigo address her as "-sama" when he asks to be let back into his body (by contrast, the actual Rukia insists that Hanataro not call her this).
    • While recuperating after his fight with Ichigo in the Soul Society arc, Captain Kuchiki plaintively wonders when Ichigo will stop calling him by his first name Byakuya.
  • Played for laughs at the end of Inuyasha. A newly married Kagome refers to Sesshoumaru as nii-san. His reaction (and the identical reaction of Inuyasha) is priceless. Jakken goes into the usual hysterics insisting that she learn some respect and be put in her place... Lord Fluffy just dismisses it.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, since the Saint King's clone is still the Saint King, people sometimes refer to her as "Your Majesty", which really annoys her as she insists that she's just a normal third-grader so they should call her "Vivio". Otto doesn't care and continues calling her that anyway as a form of teasing, causing some fans to start Shipping them.
    • Deed does the same, but by Vi Vid, Vivio has come to accept it.
    • Inverted with Signum, who suggests that she might have to stop referring to Fate as "Testarossa" and using the informal "omae" on her after she becomes Fate's vice captain in Lightning Squad, but Fate notes that it's fine. Most characters tend to address each other normally in the company of their friends and may do so formally when in an official context or to make a point(Nanoha once calls Hayate "Hayate-chan" when talking about her need to help her out as a friend, then switches to "Commander Yagami" when mentioning that she trusts her as a subordinate).
  • In Fruits Basket, the Yuki Fan Club is fanatic about Yuki being addressed with proper respect.
  • From the various Tenchi series:

"Hey Washu..."

  • A-hem*

"Er, Washu-chan (Little Washu in some dubs)..."

    • Another time, this time in a manga version of the Pretty Sammy subseries. Washu's still an educator, and tends to change her form of address depending on either a, the time of day..b, the scenario..or c, whatever's opposite of what her greeter initially used.
  • In Code Geass, Cornelia insists that her younger sister Euphemia call her "Viceroy" while she is in Japan Area 11. She does so again when Euphemia calls her "sister" while Cornelia is calling to express displeasure over her choosing Suzaku as her Knight, possibly as a way of distancing herself from her in that instance (as she otherwise doesn't seem to mind what Euphemia calls her when the two are alone).
  • "It's Lord Munto!" ("Munto-sama" in the original.) Particularly effective in the scene where he has already half-disappeared, Yumemi is reaching out for him calling him by name, and he still demands that she addresses him properly. She still doesn't.
  • Black Lagoon has Eda going off on the Church of Violence's new apprentice Rico for calling her "Sis" during a gunfight:

Eda: That's Sister to you, jackass!

  • Akira, English dub: "That's Mister Kaneda to you, punk!"
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Rei always addresses Asuka in the most impersonal way possible.
    • It's not that she doesn't like her, it's more that Asuka is irrelevant to her purposes. Asuka, on the other hand, certainly does not like Rei, and has been known to refer to her by her last name at best, or by insulting nicknames at worst. A fandom favorite is "Wondergirl."
  • In Princess Lover, Teppei was raised in a middle class family, then suddenly gets thrust into high class society. When greeted by his servants, he tries to insist on them using familiar terms. They finally compromise with Teppei-Sama. It still unnerves him a little. His new peers take to the more familiar name though.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Patrick Colasour consistently refers to Kati Mannequin as "Colonel". While this is appropriate when they first meet, as he is her subordinate, he continues to do so on their wedding day, and even several years after they're married. By then, she's been promoted, and it's a Running Gag that she always corrects him with "It's Brigadier General!"
    • In Zeta Gundam, Char Azn- *ahem* Lieutenant Quattro is fond of reminding people who guess his real identity that he's a Lieutenant, not a Captain.
  • "Queen" Leonmitchelli from Dog Days gets mad whenever someone calls her a princess.
  • "Let go of me, you furball!" "That's Mr. Furball to you!"
  • In One Piece, when Dalton confronts Wapol, Wapol demands to be addressed as "King Wapol," when Dalton refuses to use honorifics on him.
  • In the Pokémon anime, Shigeru (Gary) tells Satoshi (Ash) something like this in the first episode. Shigeru, meanwhile, refers to him as Satoshi-chan (Ashy-boy in the dub.)
  • In Heat Guy J, a young girl (about 14 years old) appears in a Filler episode from a nearby village. She insists on being called by her title, Hime("Princess"), because in her culture, only immediate family members and spouses have the right to know each other's real names.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Similar to the quote at the top of the page, in Issue 16 of Futurama Comics, Professor Farnsworth insists on being called "Professor" rather than "Mr. Farnsworth", as he "didn't go to Professoring University for 10 years to be called 'Mister'!".
  • In issue #74 of the Archie Sonic the Hedgehog comic book, upon seeing that Robotnik is alive and well, Sonic addresses him by name. The villain responds "That's Doctor Robotnik to you, hedgehog!"
  • Transmetropolitan: When Spider addresses the Smiler as "Callahan", the Smiler smacks the cigarette right out of his mouth and shouts "Mr President!".
    • Is worth noting that Spider did this on purpose.
  • In the beginning of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, when Wilhelmina Murray and Campion Bond meet, Bond asks the privilege of using Wilhelmina's first name. She is an Ice Queen and thinks he's a creep, so she flatly refuses.
  • In the Tintin comics, Captain Haddock is always called "Captain Haddock", to such an extent that his best friend isn't sure of what his first name is. (The only time his first name is ever mentioned is when Tintin says that he thinks it's Archibald.)
  • When the CIA enter Gracie Mansion on the sly in Ex Machina, Mayor Hundred quickly exerts his authority by admonishing the agents to address him as "Your Honour".

Film[edit | hide]

Beckett: You do remember a pirate named...I believe it is "Jack Sparrow"?
Elizabeth and Will in unison: Captain Jack Sparrow.

    • And then there's Will's politeness at the start of the movie due to class differences:

Will: How could I forget Miss Swann?
Elizabeth: Will, how many times must I ask you to call me Elizabeth?
Will: At least once more, as always, Miss Swann.

  • Nixon: When the head of the CIA calls him "Dick", Nixon replies with, "My friends call me 'Mister President.'"
  • Austin Powers: "Doctor Evil! I didn't spend all those years in]] evil medical school to be called 'mister', thank you very much!"
  • Reversed in The American President. President Andrew Shepherd's Chief of Staff and best friend, A.J., always calls him "Mister President", even when they're alone. At one point, he insists that A.J. can call him "Andy" when they're alone. A.J. responds, "Whatever you say, Mr. President."
  • In The Pink Panther movies, once Jacques Clouseau is promoted to Chief Inspector, he makes sure to point it out to everyone calling him "Inspector".
  • Star Trek This is not James T. Kirk. "This is Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise."
    • Mr. Chekhov acknowledging orders from Spock, who's the Captain in Pike's absence; "Aye commander, uh..er...Captain. Sorry, captain."
    • Type A; in order to demonstrate the utter contempt and arrogance of the villain in an extremely direct and subtle way.

Pike: This is Captain Christopher Pike of the Starship Enterprise. To whom am I speaking?
Nero: Hi Christopher. I'm Nero.

  • In Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  • Vinny Jones' character Big Chris, a loan enforcer for Hatchet Harry, admonishes a delinquent debtor that "It's Mister Harry to you".
    • When Rory Breaker's thug addresses him as "Rory" while he's in the midst of a cold fury, he responds, "That's Mr. Breaker. Today, my name is Mr. Breaker!
  • In To Sir, With Love II, as soon as he starts teaching the class, Thackeray declares that he is "no dude, or brother, or man. I am Mister Thackeray." He also makes a point of referring to all his pupils as Mr. or Miss as a mark of respect. This was also done in the first film.
  • Lampshaded in Monkey Business by Groucho Marx's character:

Gangster: Now listen, bozo-
Groucho: That's Mister Bozo to you.

Kaffee: I'm not through with my examination. Sit down.
Col. Jessup: "Colonel"!
Kaffee: What's that?
Col. Jessup: I would appreciate it if he would address me as "Colonel" or "Sir." I believe I've earned it.
Judge Randolph: Defense counsel will address the witness as "Colonel" or "Sir."
Col. Jessup: [to Judge] I don't know what the hell kind of unit you're running here.
Judge Randolph: And the witness will address this court as "Judge" or "Your Honor." I'm quite certain I've earned it. Take your seat... "Colonel."

  • Subverted in Die Hard during this exchange between Gruber and McClane

Hans Gruber: Touching, Cowboy, touching. Or should I call you, Mr. McClane? Mr. Officer John McClane of the New York Police Department?
John McClane: Sister Teresa called me Mr. McClane in the third grade. My friends call me John, and you're neither, shit-head.

Cop: Your name is Mister Keyes? What kind of a name is 'Mister'?
Keyes: Yeah, my momma wanted me to get some respect.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The mystery novel The Sybil In Her Grave by Sarah Caudwell features a character who so enrages the dominatrix he's engaged for the afternoon that she leaves him in an uncomfortable situation and must be rescued by one of the other characters. His mistake? Calling her "tu" instead of "vous".
  • A variant bordering on subversion occurs with His Grace His Excellency Commander Sir Samuel Vimes The Duke Of Ankh in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. He started out simply as a Captain of the Watch, and was Captain Vimes. Then, he retired, and said, "They call me Mister Vimes" in a reference to In The Heat Of The Night. That didn't last; though Vimes did mean to retire, in short order he was made a Knight, and Commander of the Watch. Still later, he was made a Duke. He's not fond of "Sir Samuel" or "Your Grace," though...while he does understand the value of titles, he prefers to use his Watch rank. He's Commander Vimes, thank you very much.
    • In several of the later books, The Truth and Thud!, to name two, his junior officers call him Mister Vimes (always Mister, never Mr.) as a measure of their respect for him. It's implied that they've earned this right by dint of their long-standing and hard work.
    • He also goes by Blackboard Monitor Vimes.
    • And while he almost never says it, Sergeant Colon, who Vimes knows has earned the right, will—when he's very worried—call Vimes "Sam".
    • He is occasionally "Sir Samuel, if you must," if calling a duke by his job title is giving someone apoplexy.
    • Mistress Weatherwax. She won't let you forget it. Unless you come from her home country of Lancre and/or have known her for a really long time; then she generally won't object to being called "Granny." Only Nanny Ogg is allowed to call her by her first name, though.
      • Or Archchancellor Ridcully.
    • Susan Sto-Helit insists on being addressed as Miss Susan in the same way that kings insist on 'Your Majesty', and for pretty much the same reason. Strangely, despite the fact that she is a duchess, nobody has ever addressed her as 'Your Grace'.
  • The form of address used by various characters in referring to a certain, ah, You-Know-Who is important to characterization throughout, and becomes critical in the last book of, the Harry Potter series. Depending on who's talking about him and to whom, he'll be He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (formal, almost "official" parlance), You-Know-Who (casually between most wizards, if anyone speaks of Voldemort casually), Voldemort or Lord Voldemort (a rare brave few), the Dark Lord (mostly Death Eaters), Riddle (used very sparingly), or Tom (almost exclusively the purview of Dumbledore). The closest he got to actually being named in the media was when Cornelius Fudge referred to him as "Lord Thingy."
    • Even those characters who would once use Voldemort's full name, to show their bravery or contempt, drop it like a hot rock once he comes back, for practical reasons.
    • Also, it seems Harry can't even mention Snape without someone (usually Dumbledore) correcting him to "Professor Snape".
  • In Tales of MU, female human students are customarily addressed as "Ms. (Last Name)", while other races are referred to as "Miss (Given Name)", as modern-style surnames are mostly used by humans. Half-human protagonist Mackenzie Blaise eventually insists on being addressed as "Ms. Mackenzie".
  • Jake, the leader of the Animorphs, could never get his alien comrade Ax to refer to him as anything other than "Prince Jake"; his continual refrain was "Don't call me 'Prince'." As the series progressed it became obvious that Ax was more making a joke out of it than anything else.
  • The Night of the Hunter: "Preacher]] Harry Powell."
  • Some (well, two) of Vonnegut's characters insist on being called "Mom".
  • Happens in several Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Necropolis, Curth's first meeting with Dorden starts with his calling her "Ana" and her snapping "Surgeon Curth". She realizes a bit later, as they discuss the complete inadequency of the rooms he has been given to work with, that he was not coming on to her, and feels guilty. (Between her commandeering the resources to make the rooms adequate, and his volunteering to work on her wounded refugees before the fighting actually starts, they patch things up, leading to a First-Name Basis request at the end of the novel.)
    • In Sabbat Martyr, Gaunt's adjunctant Beltayn gives him a message from "Lugo". Gaunt says, "That's Lord General Lugo"—and then says while he doesn't mind, a bad habit could get Beltayn in trouble.
    • In Gav Thorpe's 13th Legion, a navy lieutenant refers to "Schaeffer" and gets told "That's Colonel Scaeffer" to you.
    • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel Dead Sky, Black Sun, when Pasanius calls Uriel "Captain" in the beginning, Uriel says that does not apply while they are under the death oath; at the end, he calls him it again, and reminds him that they have fulfilled their death oath, and so Uriel is his captain again.
    • In The Killing Ground, when Leodegarius brings Uriel to his third ordeal, he address him as Captain Ventris, which Uriel thinks a good sign.
    • In James Swallow's Blood Angels novel Red Fury, when a Flesh Tearer refers to the Blood Angel Chapter Master as "Dante", Rafen insists on "Lord Dante."
    • In Ben Counter's Soul Drinkers novel Chapter War, Eumenes exults in Sarpedon's submission, demanding he address him as "my lord."
    • In Horus Heresy, a non-Astartes human refers to Horus merely as Horus, and is severly rebuked by the Space Marines around her.

He is the Warmaster. The Warmaster. You would do well to remember that.

  • In JRR Tolkien's The Return of The King, Pippin greets Aragorn as "Strider"; Aragorn does not mind, but his companions are of the opinion that you don't address kings like that.
    • Pippin (and Merry) also address Denethor, Faramir, Theoden, and other royals/stewards by their common names, since Hobbits don't have the custom of adressing their nobility by title. This leads to the people of Minas Tirith believing that Pippin and Merry are Hobbit royalty.[1]
  • In G. K. Chesterton's The Return of Don Quixote, Murrel manages to get to talk to Dr. Hendry by asking his daughter whether "Dr. Hendry" was in.

It was a very determining detail that Hendry had once been proud of his doctor's degree; and a yet more determining detail that none of his new neighbours were now in the least likely to give it him. And this was his daughter, who was just old enough to remember when it had been freely given.

    • At the climax, Michael Herne reveals that the Severne family are not the ancient noble house they claim to be, having gotten their hands on the title recently and in a legally dubious manner, and their real name is Smith, even though he is in love with the Honourable Rosamund Severne. He leaves, certain he has lost all. Later, he learns that she no longer goes by Rosamund Severne; if he wants to find her, he should ask for "Miss Smith".
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Mitth'raw'nuruodo is almost universally called "Thrawn" by the time of The Thrawn Trilogy. Books and stories set earlier have him get people to use the shorter name first as a courtesy when the humans he meets insist that he use their last names and proceed to hopelessly mangle his name - "And please call me by my core name, Thrawn" - and later with a shade of contempt. "Perhaps my core name would be easier for the average fleet officer. Call me Thrawn." By the time of the Hand of Thrawn duology, most of the galaxy remembered him well but hadn't known he had more name. Other Chiss are a bit more reluctant to tell people their core names. Apparently they're usually for personal use.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Harry objects to a receipt made out to "Mister Smartass" because it should be "Doctor Smartass." In reality, he earned a GED.
    • Also, despite Marcone's constant protests, Dresden calls him John. However, the moment Marcone replies informally, Dresden says "Don't call me Harry," and hangs up the phone.
  • In Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor, a retired U.S. Navy Coast Guard Master Chief gets rather upset when people call him "Chief" instead of "Master Chief". Apparently, this is something that bothers military people.
  • In Holes, the kids all insist on being called by their nicknames, even if said nickname is insulting ("My name is Armpit!").
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Thirteenth Child, Eff is shocked when William calls her "Miss Rothmer." Her twin brother Lan says she should be used to it, having put her hair up; Eff protests—but not from William; William points out that "Miss Eff" and "Miss Francine" would be worse.
  • This is Serious Business In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. A human Eastern-bloc ambassador nearly suffers a nasty fate when he refers to their "fraternal aid" to the Emperor, implying a blood relationship where none exists.
  • In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, Bruno overdoes it:

"Dindledums?" said Bruno. "Oh, they're ever so pretty! And stones aren't pretty, one bit. Would oo like some dindledums, Mister Sir?"
"Bruno!" Sylvie murmured reproachfully. "You mustn't say 'Mister' and 'Sir,' both at once! Remember what I told you!"
"You telled me I were to say Mister' when I spoked about him, and I were to say 'Sir' when I spoked to him!"
"Well, you're not doing both, you know."
"Ah, but I is doing bofe, Miss Praticular!" Bruno exclaimed triumphantly. "I wishted to speak about the Gemplune and I wishted to speak to the Gemplun. So a course I said 'Mister Sir'!"

  • Referred to in an early book in the Master and Commander series. When Dr. Maturin asks why Jack so desperately desires promotion to the rank of Post Captain, as he is already called "Captain". Aubrey replies that it is only a courtesy, as he is in fact merely a commander.

Aubrey: How would you like it if some fellow could call you "Mister" whenever he chose to come it uncivil?

  • In the RCN Series series book What Distant Deeps, Lady Posthuma Belisande doesn't much care for her given name,[2] but she also seems to be a very friendly person, at least to social peers, and thus invites them to call her "Posy" rather than by her title. She playfully tells Daniel Leary, at their first meeting, that she'll slap him if he calls her "Lady Belisande" again.
  • In the Lisa Gardner novel The Third Victim, Rainie addresses Richard Mann as "Mr. Mann" only to have him respond "Please call me Richard. Mr. Mann was my father." In his case, he is not only discouraging formality, but making a disdainful comment about his father, which becomes significant when Mann turns out to be responsible for the murders.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero in Hell, after Mab calls Miranda "Miranda", she kicks herself for not realizing he was Not Himself and the shapechanger; he always calls her "ma'am" or "Miss Miranda". Later, after he is freed, Mab carefully watches himself and corrects himself from "Miss Miranda" to "Miranda" and "Mr. Prospero" to "Ludovico."
  • In the Dale Brown novel Edge of Battle, Sergeant Major Ray Jefferson does not appreciate being called a mere Sergeant. It becomes something of a Running Gag.
  • Michelle Henke from the Honor Harrington books prefers to be addressed as "Admiral Henke" or "ma'am" rather than by her noble title of Gold Peak or "milady", though she will deign to use the latter in official communiques.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Memory, Miles Vorkosigan gets a temporary appointment as an Imperial Auditor—A government position with nearly unlimited power (serving as a stand-in for the Emperor himself) described as "...a cross between a Special Prosecutor, an Inspector General, and a minor deity". He informs his cousin Ivan (who has been addressing Miles as "Coz" since they were children):

"That's Lord Auditor Coz to you, for the duration."

    • After Miles gets a permanent post as Imperial Auditor, both Ivan and Miles' clone brother Mark address him as "Lord Auditor Coz/Brother" on occasion to needle him.
  • Langston Hughes wrote a series of poems about a woman named Alberta K Johnson who insisted on being called Madam. Most of the poems are even titled Madam and blank.
  • In the Erich Segal novel "Doctors", Dr. Laura Castellano testifies before the Health Commission about the harmful effects of smoking on a developing fetus (the book is set before such precautions were mandatory). One of the senators challenges her claims and in the process of doing so, calls her "Miss" Castellano, then "apologizes", asking if the proper term is "Mrs." or "Ms". His obvious intent is to undermine her by implying that she's uninformed because she herself does not have children. Laura doesn't let him get away with it:

"You may call me Doctor Castellano, if you please."

  • In Jane Austen's "Emma", one of the clearest ways that the reader is led to dislike the garish Augusta Elton is her over-familiarity. She attempts to make Emma her close friend at first meeting, she calls her new husband "Mr. E", addresses Jane Fairfax as simply "Jane", and worst of all, calls the county squire "Knightley". "'Knightley' indeed!"
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, McLean had told Angel and the Bird Woman they would find his son in the swamp. Not realizing that he was a Parental Substitute, not an actual father, Angel is surprised to hear Freckles talk of Mr. McLean. The Bird Woman talks of this trope rather than telling her that McLean is a bachelor and a Scotsman (where Freckles is Irish).

"Did you know Mr. McLean had a son?" asked the Angel. "Isn't the little accent he has, and the way he twists a sentence, too dear? And isn't it too old-fashioned and funny to hear him call his father 'mister'?"
"It sounds too good to be true," said the Bird Woman, answering the last question first. "I am so tired of these present-day young men who patronizingly call their fathers 'Dad,' 'Governor,' 'Old Man' and 'Old Chap,' that the boy's attitude of respect and deference appealed to me as being fine as silk. There must be something rare about that young man."

  • In James Clavell's Shogun, the protagonist insists on being referred to as Anjin-san ("Mr. Pilot") instead of just Anjin as soon as he's learned enough Japanese to understand what -san means.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Boston Legal had a fun subversion of the common type of this.

Nora (Alan Shore's secretary): Mrs. Schmidt...
Shirley Schmidt: My mother is Mrs. Schmidt; you can call me...Schmidt.

O'Neill: Well, with all due respect, doctor, I-
Carter: It is appropriate to refer to a person by their rank, not their salutation. You should call me Captain, not Doctor.

    • And in a later episode:

Sen. Kinsey: Commander Thor, my name is--
Thor: Senator Kinsey. O'Neill suggested I send you to a distant planet for your actions here, but I am reasonably certain his statement was in jest.
Sen. Kinsey: [raises his finger] I'm sure it was, Commander--
Thor: [raises his finger] Supreme Commander.

  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    • The main characters play with this a lot, given their familiarity. Spock calls Kirk either "Jim" or "Captain" depending on the situation, just as Kirk calls him either "Mr." Spock or just "Spock". Dr. McCoy freely calls his friend "Jim" all the time; Kirk usually addresses the Doctor as "Bones". Similarly, even junior officers are permitted to call Lt. Cmdr. Scott simply "Scotty", and Kirk and McCoy both do so regularly. Ironically, Scotty himself always addresses his superiors by their title.
    • A more specific example: in the episode "Whom Gods Destroy", Kirk keeps calling (the insane) former Captain Garth, "Captain Garth". Garth insists on "Lord Garth".
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation the captain almost invariably refers to his officers as "Number One," "Dr. Crusher," "Mr. Data," etc. And Beverly is the only one who can get away with calling him "Jean-Luc" on anything like a regular basis. A deleted scene from Star Trek: Nemesis references this fact, with Riker playing a prank on his replacement and telling him to drop the formal titles with Captain Picard. It gets him a Death Glare.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has some fun with this. Dax calls Captain Sisko "Benjamin," sounding almost as if she were talking to a child. He calls her "Old Man", which is exactly what she was when they first met.
  • In the pilot for Star Trek: Voyager, Ensign Kim calls Captain Janeway "sir" as per Starfleet protocols regarding addressing a superior officer regardless of gender. Janeway replies that she isn't comfortable being addressed as "sir", adding, "'Ma'am' will do in an emergency, otherwise 'Captain Janeway' will be fine." Later, in a crisis situation when Kim calls her "Ma'am", she answers, "I'll let you know when it's an emergency, Ensign."
  • On Enterprise, even Tucker calls his best buddy "Captain" Archer.
  • The West Wing did it in a Flash Back, where a young Bartlet calls Mrs. Landingham, who was then his father's secretary, "Delores". She replies cheerfully, "Call me Mrs. Landingham, please." Later, when he's the President of the United States and she is his secretary, he still calls her Mrs. Landingham.
    • Abby Bartlet, a well-regarded surgeon, has her own moment like this in season two when Sam refers to her as "Mrs. Bartlet." As her medical practices are being called into question, she insists that everyone refer to her as "Dr Bartlet." She rather ruefully notes that it's her own fault, though; during the campaign she had asked to be called "Mrs." to downplay her own accomplishments because voters were more comfortable with a wife who was not quite her husband's equal.
    • President Bartlet often has this done for him by his staff - whenever someone calls him "Bartlet," they interject "It's President Bartlet". Jed also has a moment like that in the first season: when a retiring Supreme Court Justice he doesn't like calls him "Mr. Bartlet", he replies "It's 'Dr. Bartlet'." (Because he has a doctorate in economics, that is.)
    • The second version also appears in the fifth season when Bob Russell is introduced. President Bartlet calls him "Robert Russell", and Russell replies "Bob - Robert Russell is my father."
    • There's also a particularly poignant moment in the first season where Bartlett has to determine whether he'll give clemency to a man on death row. After calling in an old priest friend for guidance, the priest asks him whether to call him Jed or Mr. President. He insists on Mr. President, and then explains that, by being called the President, he's acting in the official capacity, whereas if he were called Jed, then the decisions he makes would be by a man, not by an office.
      • The moment becomes even more powerful when, after learning the man has been killed, the priest turns to the President and says "Jed, would you like me to take your confession?"
      • Similarly, to Leo, "That's the first time you've called me 'Jed' since the election."
    • And then there's this exchange between Toby and the British Ambassador:

Toby: "I think we have to be careful how we use the word terrorist. Can I call you John?"
Lord Marbury: "I am John, Lord Marbury, Earl of Croix, Marquis of Needham and Dolby, Baronet of Brixton, England's ambassador to the United States. A terrorist is a terrorist even if he wears a green necktie and sings 'Danny Boy'. Yes, you can call me John."

    • Marbury actually gets two. From his introductory episode:

Leo: Sir.
Lord Marbury: It's "Your Lordship," as a matter of fact, but it couldn't possibly make the least difference.

    • Interestingly, Sidney Poitier was Aaron Sorkin's first choice for Bartlet. Sadly, we missed the opportunity to hear "They call me Mister President."
  • The second variant is parodied in a promo for The Sarah Silverman Program: An elementary school class greets Sarah as 'Mrs. Silverman', to which she responds, "Mrs. Silverman was my mother. She was a bitch."
  • The 2003 Battlestar Galactica Reimagined miniseries did this with Laura Roslin, former Secretary of Education and new President. Calling her "Madame President" was shown as the barometer of how the specific character felt about her - i.e. Billy, as her personal aide, using the term right off the bat; and Baltar using it in a politically calculated tone, only after she offers him a position as her adviser. Contrasting with those uses is Colonel Tigh, who repeatedly refers to her as "that woman," and Commander Adama, who calls her everything from "Miss Roslin" to her face to "that schoolteacher" behind her back. It is only after he realizes that she's right - they lost - and after she keeps the secret that he really doesn't know where Earth is that he addresses her deliberately as "Madame President".
    • Roslin was originally going to be referred to as Mr. President, but the creators decided against it. Strange, considering they regularly refer to military women as Sir, and Roslin, as President, is technically commander-in-chief no matter what bargains she's made with Adama.
      • Not necessarily; that's a trait of modern American politics (and some other countries; I'd get more specific, but I Did Not Do the Research). It might be her inexperience with such matters, but in dealing with Adama she arranges for him to handle certain concerns, herself to handle others, and (later) still other concerns to be tandem efforts of the military and civilian government. Her power over the military may be exclusive to deployment; that is to say, as soon as she authorizes military force, she steps back and lets the them handle it. Zarek claims Adama doesn't have such power, but as a longtime jailed revolutionary he may not be correct; the Colonies were only unified with the Cylon war, meaning the Colonial Military is the oldest, most visible and likely one of the strongest aspects of the Colonial System.
    • Also, at one point Baltar gets angry about being called "Doc",[3] and says that he should be addressed as "Doctor" or "Mr. Vice President".
  • The second variant is parodied on an episode of My Name Is Earl:

Earl: Excuse me, Mr. Covington-
Mr. Covington: Mr. Covington was my father's name. You can call me "sir".

  • In the episode "Some Assembly Required" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the stock phrase is used as a joke, when Jenny Calendar tells Rupert Giles, "Please call me Jenny. 'Ms. Calendar' is my father."
  • On Numb3rs, strict college dean Dr. Mildred Finch insists on being called Millie. Played for irony, since at the same time as she stresses this informality, she's coming down hard on her subordinates in other areas.
  • Andrew Hartford deals with this in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive (and he's not helped by Cloudcuckoolander Dax):

Hartford: Dax, can you please call me Andrew? Every time you say "Mr. Hartford," I look for my father.
Dax: Got it. You want us to think of you as someone young.
Hartford: Ouch!

  • Inversion: Are You Afraid of the Dark? had a recurring character, Sardo the magic shop owner. Whenever he was introduced, one of the main characters would call him "Mr. Sardo", which would trigger his Catch Phrase: "That's Sar-doh! No 'Mister', accent on the 'do'!"
    • There was also the recurring character, the Mad Scientist Dr. Vink. "Vink's the name. Dr. Vink." (With a va-va-va. Also: he is NOT a nutbag.)
  • The Drew Carey Show features an odd variant:

Drew: My father is Mr. Carey. I'm Mrs. Carey.

  • On Criminal Minds, Gideon always insisted on introducing Reid as "Dr. Reid," going so far as to correct his fellow agents when whoever was doing the introducing left out Reid's title. This was more of an issue in the early seasons, when Reid was twenty-four and looked fifteen; now that he's approaching thirty, the team seems to have relaxed about this a bit.
  • On 24, David Palmer does this twice. Late in Day 2, around the time when his cabinet is plotting to declare him incapacitated so they can move ahead with the military strike, Mike, who has known Palmer for a long time, calls him "David" while pleading with him to relent. He responds "I'm the President, Mike. You don't call me by my first name." Early on Day 3, he tells Wayne, "Wayne, right now, it's Mr. President,"; while Wayne calls him by name in private or on less official matters, in public or in more formal settings, he calls him with the same formality as any other American citizen. In Day 2, Sherry calls him "Mr. President" as a way of distancing herself from him when she is disappointed in his unfavorable response to one of her requests (despite having divorced him, they are still on a first-name basis).
  • In Jeeves and Wooster, a butler frets about his employer calling him by his first name, but he doesn't know how to correct him politely.
  • Comes up a lot in Yes Minister, particularly at the start when Hacker is not yet used to the obsequious and perfectionist politeness of the Civil Service. Bernard steadfastly refuses to call him anythign other than 'Minister'.
  • Rumpole of the Bailey - Rumpole frequently inverts the second version with his clients, asking permission whether he can refer to them more formally, after he's been introduced to them by their first names.
  • In a sendoff scene in season 7 of Red Dwarf, Lister acknowledges a title for Rimmer, 'First Officer', as a way of fondly bidding him farewell. The Cat and Kryten acknowledge it too (although they think it's his funeral).
  • Blackadder plays with this too. At one point, he and the prince he's serving must pretend to be each other. This exchange occurs, and eventually Blackadder's own servant is roped into the name confusion:

Blackadder: You will, of course, have to call me "Your Highness", Your Highness.
Prince George: (nods) "Your Highness Your Highness".
Blackadder: No, just "Your Highness", Your Highness.
Prince George: (looking pleased with himself) That's what I said -- "Your Highness Your Highness", Your Highness Your Highness.

  • In the Horatio Hornblower movie, "The Wrong War", Hornblower greeted a newly arrived Army officer as "Major" Edrington. Edrington then told Hornblower that, as Edrington was of noble blood, the right form of address was 'My Lord'. At first, even though it was offhand, it seemed meant to identify Edrington as an annoying toff. But it comes off in a better light later, after Edrington turns out to be a Reasonable Authority Figure. In contrast to some of the other Lords running around France in the movie.
  • Lady Heather in CSI has no formal claim to the title, but, as a professional dominatrix, nonetheless expects to be referred to as such by both her employees and her customers.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus
    • Subverted in epsode 21:

Doctor: Next please. Name?
Watson: Er, Watson.
Doctor: (writing it down) Mr Watson.
Watson: Ah, no, Doctor.
Doctor: Ah, Mr Doctor.
Watson: No, not Mr, Doctor.
Doctor: Oh, Doctor Doctor.
Watson: No, Doctor Watson.
Doctor: Oh, Doctor Watson Doctor.
Watson: Oh, just call me darling.
Doctor: Hello, Mr Darling.
Watson: No, Doctor.
Doctor: Hello Doctor Darling.

    • Enforced roughly by a police officer while comforting a widower, whose wife was just eaten by an alien blancmange.

Officer: I think what's happened is terribly, terribly funny.. tragic! You must understand we have to catch the creature that ate your wife, and if you could just help us answer a few questions, we may be able to save lives.
Angus: Aye, I'll do my best, Seargent.
Officer: Detective Inspector!

  • One opening Sketch from Saturday Night Live: Had Tom Hanks hosting for the seventh time (a big deal then) and being welcomed into the 'seven timers club' which was run, of course, by Steve Martin.

""Tom Hanks"": Thanks a lot, Mr. Martin.
""Steve Martin"": Please, call me Mr. STEVE Martin.

  • Doctor Who:
  • Degrassi: "It's Holly freakin' J."
  • In the Lost episode "Dr. Linus," the flash-sideways version of Ben is a history teacher with a PhD. Whenever a character calls him "Mr. Linus," he grumbles, "It's Dr. Linus, actually." Sideways Alex seems to be the only one who addresses him properly.
  • Gibbs, of NCIS, says this whenever someone calls him "sir" as opposed to "boss". Lawyer M. Allison Hart made it a point to refer to Gibbs as "Mister" Gibbs throughout Season 7. It was a sign of respect when she finally called him 'Special Agent Gibbs' in the season finale.
  • In an episode of Law & Order: UK, the gangster Don Marsh expresses his contempt for the law by addressing DS Brooks by his Christian name. Brooks will have none of it, insisting:

Brooks: That's "Detective Sergeant Brooks" to you.

  • In an early episode of Law and Order Phillip Swann, a man who EADA Ben Stone put away for murder, gets a retrial. During the whole process, he needles Stone by calling him "Ben". Stone finally has enough after Swann's case falls apart:

Stone: A lot of effort to wind up right back where you started. And in polite society, Sir, you don't call people by their first name unless they ask you to - I didn't do that. You're not a friend, and you're certainly not a colleague.

    • Ben Stone even inverts this trope, tending to use the abovementioned term "Sir" to address men who he has contempt for.
    • The Law and Order UK episode based on this also inverts this trope when the man in question consistently refers to James Steele by his proper title rather than his first name in an effort to aggravate him by acting as though they're equals.
  • The titular character of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman often needs to remind people to call her "Dr" instead of "Miss", several of whom deliberately call her "Miss" in an effort to rankle her and demonstrate their lack of respect.
  • In the first episode of Season 4 of Castle Detective Beckett calls the new Captain "ma'am" leading to her responding: "My mother drops by, you can call her ma'am. Call me Sir or Captain.
  • On One Life to Live, as Jerkass character nastily refers to a doctor who has had his licensed revoked (thanks to the Jerkass lying through his teeth during a malpractice suit) as "Mr." in an effort to taunt him.
  • One of the many, many Running Gags that occurs in the Mexican sitcom El Chavo del Ocho, usually with El Chavo referring to Profesor Jirafales[4] as "Maestro Longaniza" ("longaniza" is a kind of sausage).

Prof. Jirafales: "I'm not a maestro, and my name isn't Longaniza! I'm a longaniza and my name is Maestro...I mean, I'm a maestro, and my name is Jirafales!"


Music[edit | hide]

  • Janet Jackson in "Nasty Boys":

"And my name's not 'baby'! It's Janet, Ms. Jackson if you're nasty!"

"I'm a fag, I'm a Jew, how do you do?
That's Mister Anarchist to you!"

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Peanuts running gag; Peppermint Patty constantly has to remind Marcie, "Stop calling me sir!"
  • Candorville gives us both instances of this trope here.

Puppetry[edit | hide]

Iain Paisley: That's Reverend Paisley to you, Lord!

Radio[edit | hide]

Jack: Oh, Mr. Cortez [the director], let me ask you something--when Basil comes in... Or Bayzil. By the way, how do you pronounce that? Basil, or Bayzil?
Basil: "Mister Rathbone."

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Applied accidentally to the lich darklord whose real name is Firan Zal'honen, but who is now known throughout Ravenloft as "Azalin". When he first arrived in Darkon, he used his title "Wizard-King", in the dialect of his homeland, to introduce himself; for the natives of the Land of Mists, "Azalin" was the closest they could come to pronouncing it, and they latched on it as his name. Just to make things more awkward, he's formally referred to in court documents as "Azalin Rex", or "Wizard-King King".

Theatre[edit | hide]

  • Act II, Scene II of The Merchant of Venice plays with this trope as it was used in Elizabethan England. Launcelot, a peasant who's been away from home for some time, runs into his father, Gobbo, who's been looking for him. However, Gobbo is blind and doesn't recognize his son, so Launcelot, being the play's Plucky Comic Relief, decides to mess with him...
    • First, Launcelot, pretending not to be himself, asks him if he's talking about "young Master Launcelot." Since "Master" was a title of address reserved for the higher classes, Gobbo insists that his child is "no master, sir, but a poor man's son." (However, he does unintentionally call his son "Master", having no idea who he's speaking to.)
    • When Launcelot continues to insist on using "Master Launcelot", Gobbo says, "Your worship's friend and Launcelot, sir," a polite way of speaking for his son and saying that his son should be addressed as a "friend" rather than by a formal title. Launcelot points out that, if he's a "your worship" and Launcelot is his friend, "ergo", Launcelot must be called Master Launcelot.
    • For added fun, Launcelot repeatedly calls Gobbo "father," and Gobbo still doesn't recognize him, because at the time "father" was a general term of address to old men, used by the peasant classes. After Gobbo recognizes Launcelot as his son, he ceases to refer to him with the words "you" and "your", using the more familiar "thou" and "thy."

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • After winning the TNA X Division championship, Doug Williams stoped answering by the more friendly Doug, and demanded to be called Douglas Williams.
  • "MIIISTEEER AAANDERSOOON~!!!"

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Mega Man Battle Network's version of Mr. Famous would always insist "Just Famous!" whenever Lan called him "Mr. Famous." The exchange in Rockman.EXE was "Meijin-san!", "-san wa iranai," (literally, "No need for -san").
  • In Warhammer: Dark Omen Commander Bernhardt prefers to go by "Commander". The only guy who doesen't is the Witch-Hunter, Matthias. (Who usually calls him either "Bernhardt" or "You there!") who in turn wants to be called by "My proper-title of Witch-Hunter General". Matthias eventually forgets himself and Bernhardt notes it. ("Ah. You called me Commander.")
  • The Big Bad in Tales of Hearts introduces himself thus, revealing that he has possessed the main character.

Kohak: Why are you here, Creed Graphite?
Kunzite: Creed?! Calm down. Creed knows nothing about you.
Creed: Don't forget the "sama", Mechanoid.

Aerith: "...thank you, Mr. Barret!"
Barret: "Who you callin' Mr. Barret? That don't sound right!"

Guybrush: "Doctor De Singe?"
De Singe: "That's the Marquis De Singe to you, ruffian."

  • Momma Bosco in the Sam and Max games, being a Straw Feminist, is very particular about how she is addressed. When Sam and Max first meet her, she insists on being called Ms. Momma Bosco. In Season 3, after she got a PhD, she will correct you if you don't call her Dr. Momma Bosco.
    • The trope namer is also given a shout-out in the Season 2 finale.
  • In Dragon Age Awakening, there is an option to reply to Oghren's drunken 'Hey, you!' with 'That's Commander Hey You, by the way.'
  • In Resident Evil Zero, Rebecca tells Billy that "That's Officer Chambers to you" when she confronts him and he's quite dismissive of her.
  • In the German version of StarCraft II, Matt usually addresses Raynor with the formal "Sie", but when it's only the two of them in the Cantina (like in the cinematics "Hearts and Minds" and "Who we choose to be") he switches to the more familiar "Du".
  • Inverted in Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica. Cloche is painfully aware of her title and this is precisely why she doesn't want her closest friends using it. Everyone else, though, has to call her 'Lady' or 'Holy Maiden'.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Katie: Nice to meet you, Mr. Wolf.
Mr. Wolf: Please, not that! My dad was Mr. Wolf. Call me Grampa.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The second variant is played for humor in Finding Nemo. Not knowing the sea turtle's name, Marlin calls him "mister turtle". As it turns out, "Turtle"ishis surname - "Dude, Mr. Turtle is my father. Name's Crush."
  • A Pimp Named Slickback in The Boondocks is possibly the weirdest example of this. You can't just call him Slickback, a Pimp, or even "this person" apparently, it's like A Tribe Called Quest: you have to say the whole thing, all the fucking time.
  • In a Family Guy episode, Brian Griffin (the dog) is made the teacher of Chris' class. Brian tells the class not to call him "Mr. Griffin" because "that's my father's name". Chris speaks up and says, "I thought your dad's name was Coco (a dog), and he got hit by a milk truck!", lampshading the fact that Brian is a dog who took the last name Griffin from his owner.
  • From The Lion King:

Banzai: Hey! Who's the pig?
Pumbaa: Are you talking to me?
Timon: Uh oh, he called him a pig.
Pumbaa: Are you talking to me?!
Timon: You shouldn't have done that.
'Pumbaa: Are YOU talking to ME?!'
Timon: Now, they're in for it.
Pumbaa: They call me Mister Pig! AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

    • And from earlier in the movie:

Simba: Look, Banana-Beak is scared.
Zazu: That's Mister Banana-Beak to you, fuzzy!

Sultan: You vile betrayer!
Iago: That's Sultan Vile Betrayer to you!

Mario: You didn't tell me you were bringing a secret weapon, Luigi!
Luigi: That's Mama Luigi to you, Mario! -wheeze-

Sonic: Great swing, Tails!
Tails: That's Astronaut Tails to you, Sonic!

Patrick: And I am Professor Patrick
Spongebob: Professor?
Patrick: Doctor Professor Patrick.
Patrick: Mister Doctor Professor Patrick, for you.

    • Oddly, this would be far less of a joke in German, where stacking titles is the norm, and "Herr Professor Doktor" is reasonably common.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures has Shendu's brother, Tchang Zu insisting Shendu to call him "master" rather than "brother".

Shendu: As the thunder claps, so do I applaud your skill, brother.
Tchang Zu: Shendu, you may call me, master.
Shendu: Of course, "master".

  • In Toy Story, there's the following exchange after Mr. Potato Head claims that Sheriff Woody intentionally knocked Buzz Lightyear out the window.

Woody: Wait a minute, you--you don't think I meant to knock Buzz out the window, do you, Potato Head?
Mr. Potato Head: That's Mister Potato Head to you, you back-stabbin' murderer!

    • In Toy Story 3, Mr. Potato Head does it again when he purposefully tries to get sent to the Box, and during the opening sequence there's "That's Mister Evil Doctor Porkchop to you!"
  • From the Histeria! episode "Loud Kiddington's Ancient History":

Miss Information: And to our right is the great Carthaginian general Hannibal.
Hannibal: That's Mr. Hannibal to you!

Prof. Cycloid: Yoohoo, I'm up here, shellback!
Donatello: The name's Donatello, psycho!
Prof. Cycloid: That's Professor Psycho! I mean Cycloid! I mean Professor Cycloid! Now see what you've done, you've got me all mixed up.

  • Both variants were used in an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door. Hoagie's mum adressed Kuki's mum as "Mrs' Sanban", only for Mrs. Sanban to insist on being called "Supreme master of accounting Madam Sanban". At the end of the episode, Mrs' Gilligan says bids farewell to Mrs' Sanban, using her full title, only to be told "Please, call me Genki."
  • In The Simpsons, when Marge adresses the owner of Little Vicky's dancing school, a former child star a la Shirley Temple.

Marge: Hi Little Vicky!
Vicky: Oh, that was so long ago. Now I'm just Vicky.
Marge: Oh, all right then Vicky.
Vicky: Little Vicky.
Marge: But you just said-

  • In Lilo and Stitch, as Dr. Jumba Jookiba is all too fond to point out, he "prefer[s] to be called EVIL GEN-EE-OUS!!!"
  • "VON MADMAN!!!" on Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
  • In American Dad, the sleazy, perpetually horny Principal Lewis is coming on to a woman who calls him "Mr. Lewis". He responds "Please, my father was Mr. Lewis. Call me Chocolate Dinosaur."
  • My Dad the Rock Star: When Skunk first approached Buzz Sawchuck, he asked "Mr. Sawchuck?" and Buzz replied that was his father.
  • Phineas and Ferb: When Candace got a job as a lifeguard, she first addressed her boss as "Mr. Webber" and he said that Mr. Webber was his father and he was to be called "Captain Webber".


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • One of the reasons that the Religious Society of Friends (commonly called the Quakers) were unpopular with their neighbors was their insistence on using the familiar "thou" with everybody, refusing to recognize differences in station. As the thou/you variant has fallen out of usage in English, so has this practice. Quakers also do not use titles, preferring to address everybody equally, usually by first names - for example, Quaker children will often use their parents' given names rather than 'Mum' and 'Dad'. As with the thou/you example, this has led to friction.
  • To the Amish, titles are seen as a sign of vanity, a major taboo in the Amish community. Thus, people are often addressed by their full names.
  • Every sergeant ever who deals with new meat has used that line or a variation, or occasionally, when called 'sir', 'Don't call me "sir"; I work for a living!' While any member of the US Army with the rank of Sergeant or higher, such as Master Sergeant, may be addressed by a soldier as "Sergeant", woe betide any Marine who calls ANY Sergeant other than an actual E-5 "Sergeant". On the other hand, Gunnery Sergeants are often called "Gunny" by those 'deemed worthy', and Master Gunnery Sergeants are likewise called "Master Guns".
  • UK PM Anthony Charles Lynton Blair insisted on 'Tony', by which he is usually known. The impressionist extraordinaire Rory Bremner once convinced Number Ten that he was William Hague with a pitch-perfect impersonation, and got his call through to Blair himself, which was rumbled when Tony noticed that Bremner was calling him 'Tony' when the real Hague always called him 'Prime Minister'. When his Government, comprised of people who had spent most of their political careers in opposition, first met, they decided to stick with the first name basis that they'd used in the past.
  • US President James Earl Carter Jr. refused to be called anything but "Jimmy," to the point where he used it in his Oath of Office.
  • Mr. T adopted his unusual stage name in order to force people to always address him as "Mister". It's not just a stage name, as he had it legally changed. He once put it, "First name, Mister. Middle name, That little period thing. Last name, T."
  • BDSM communities have conventions for address that can differ between regions, and is usually far more formal in online communities than at Real Life leather events. Addressing someone as 'Sir/Miss' can be an acknowledgment of their role and experience, an identifier of the speaker's submission, or simply a term of respect between peers. The titles 'Master/Mistress' refers to those with a more or less 24/7 power exchange relationship, ie, training a full-time submissive or slave. Many newbies to the scene mistakenly spread the term around, which may endear them to some Old School Dom(me)s, but usually is a source of amusement when applied to submissives and switches.
  • It's SIR Ben Kingsley, and you'd better not forget it.
  • Sir Alan Sugar, the Donald Trump of the UK version of The Apprentice. Watching the show you'd think "Siralan" was one word.
  • German-speaking countries tend to be very serious about using the formal 'you' in conversation, to the point of it being a major milestone in a friendship when you know someone well enough to use the informal version with them. People who are next-door neighbors for twenty years will still often refer to each other as Herr and Frau so-and-so. Even married couples would refer to each other as "Herr X" and "Frau X" in front of others. German shops and other businesses do nowadays make a concession to Anglophone-style customer care: their employees do usually have name badges. However, as a rule, their name badges will always say include "Herr" or "Frau".
  • In Sweden up until either 1875, everyone was supposed to use Ni (you in the sense it had before thou fell out of use) instead of titles, or the late '60s/early '70s, when people switched to Du (you in the familiar sense) and titles actually fell out of use, excepting a few special situations.
  • Until the late 18th Century, surgeons learned their trade as apprentices, rather than through a university education. As they didn't have medical degrees, they were not entitled to call themselves "Doctor". Nowadays, an aspiring surgeon must first graduate from medical school (gaining the title "Doctor"), then complete at least four more years of training in surgery. After successfully completing their postgraduate training, they revert to using the traditional "Mister" as a badge of honour to distinguish themselves from ordinary doctors.
  • John Smeaton, famed for his actions during the attempted Glasgow Airport bombing, confessed that his subsequent meeting with the Prime Minister went something like this:

Gordon Brown: Call me Gordon.
John Smeaton: Yes, Prime Minister.

  • The rules that governed how you addressed and referred to people in 19th century England were convoluted enough that even some contemporaries got it wrong. Arthur Conan Doyle is notorious for having Sherlock Holmes address characters incorrectly, even when there's no reason for him to. On the other hand, Jane Austen is meticulous and in one case uses the rules to skewer one of her characters.
  • In 2009, while testifying on the Louisiana coastal restoration process in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Brigadier General Michael Walsh referred to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer as "Ma'am" when replying to one of her questions. This is proper military protocol, a respectful term usually reserved for one's superiors, and the typical address used from a military officer to a U.S. Congress person. The Senator interrupted his reply with the following: "Do me a favor, can you call me 'senator' instead of 'ma'am'? It's just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it. Yes, thank you." The General's immediate reply was still "Yes, ma'am," but he corrected himself after that.
  • Martial Arts dojos often insist on students referring to each other as "Mr. so-and-so" to foster respect among the students. In Japanese styles, honorifics are used - albeit inconsistently outside of Japan.
  • Brent Spiner does an amusing version of this while imitating Patrick Stewart at a convention, shown here

Brent: (as Stewart) My friends call me Patrick. You may call me Mr. Stewart. In fact, you may call me SIR Mr. Stewart.

George... May I call you George? ... Thank you. You can call me Mr. Shatner.

  • Brazilians of humble origins often call any richer or more educated person "doctor" as a term of respect.
  • Coach Bob Knight, already infamous for his bad temper, was finally fired from his position after physically attacking a student who cheerfully greeted him by saying "Hey, Knight, what's up?", without the prefix of "Coach" or "Mr."
  • When George Washington was first sworn in as president of the United States, he was addressed as "His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties." The manner of address was criticized for sounding too kingly, so it was changed to "Mr. President," though some Federalists such as John Adams lobbied to spruce it up a bit. So far, all American presidents have used it.
  • Zigzagged by Laurence Olivier on the set of Sleuth. When Michael Caine, who had never met a Peer before, asked how he should be addressed, Olivier replied, "I must always be addressed as Lord Olivier. And now that that's settled, call me Larry."
  1. Pippin is actually the son of the Thain of the Shire, which is a kind of viceroyalty, and Merry is Pippin's cousin; however, the Thain's sole job is to be military leader (which is meaningless in peacetime), and they aren't treated as royalty and do not govern.
  2. at least partly because it's a reference to the fact her mother died bearing her
  3. "a dock is a platform for loading or unloading"
  4. In Spanish, it's spelled with one s.