LINGUIST List 2.703

Thu 24 Oct 1991

Disc: Using last names

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Herb Stahlke, Re: 2.696 Using Names
  3. "Barbara.Abbott", Names/terms of address
  4. John E. Koontz, Last Name Usage in US English
  5. Susann Luperfoy, 2.696 Using Names

Message 1: Re: 2.696 Using Names

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1991 08:05 EST
Subject: Re: 2.696 Using Names
The use of last names for address may be as related to authoritarian
structures as to militaristic, although that may be a distinction
without a difference. In the movie "Dead Poets Society" the boys in
the prep school referred to each other usually by last name, and their
teachers addressed them by last name as well. I found this to be the
case also at Concordia College in Milwaukee, the all-male _gymnasium_
I attended for six years in the '50's. That it's not strictly
sex-linked is borne out by the fact that it was also the case at
Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, Illinois, where the
enrolment had always been coed but the environment was similarly
authoritarian. I had siblings attending there, and I understood that
faculty addressed students, regardless of sex, by last names. I don't
know how far that went among students, although I heard instances of
it between the sexes.
Herb Stahlke
Ball State University
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Message 2: LAST NAMING

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 91 08:01 EDT
Re: Using Last Names
I, too, have wondered about last naming among friends and non-friends.
My dearest, most loved male friend (I am also male) calls me by my
last name, and he's a sports fanatic, where I am not. I also experienced
last naming in the Air Force years ago. So try this on for size:
Might it be that last naming interjects distance in relationship,
in some cases like the military where intimacy is not present, and
in other cases where a lot of intimacy is present. In the former
case (military, classrooms, etc.) the last naming reflects the desired
affective state of non-intimacy, while in the latter case (dear friends,
close-knit team, in the gym where we see each other in the buff, etc.)
last naming marks a symbolic reversal of the desired affective state.
OK, I confess, I stayed up late watching the Braves win it in the 12th.
Charles Laughlin
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1S 5B6
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Message 3: Names/terms of address

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 91 09:30 EDT
From: "Barbara.Abbott" <ABBOTTMSU.BITNET>
Subject: Names/terms of address
Some more data on the difference between "Mr. X" and just plain
"X": Russell's scathing reply to Strawson's paper "On Referring"
was titled "Mr. Strawson on Referring". Throughout the paper
Russell refers to Strawson as "Mr. Strawson", while Quine is referred
to as "Quine". (Russell obviously respects Quine more than Strawson:
at one point he remarks, "I will leave the defence of Quine to Quine,
who is quite capable of looking after himself.")
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Message 4: Last Name Usage in US English

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1991 08:53:34
From: John E. Koontz <>
Subject: Last Name Usage in US English
In regard to the issue of contemporary US English address by last names, I
have noticed that phone order clerks, e.g., for mailorder computerware, are
very reluctant to give out last names. They introduce themselves by first
names only, and, if one asks for a name, they provide only a first name.
One generally has to explicitly ask for a surname, and, as a rule, they seem
quite uncomfortable providing it, even though I am presumably trying to get
their name to go with a price quote, in order to insure that the later sale
was made through them. I have had responses like `Well, I'm the only Randy
I speculate that it has something to do with reluctance to provide intimate
information to strangers, since it most cases it would be to their actual
financial advantage to insure that I later dealt with them. The only
functional sense in which a last name is intimate that I can think of is
that home addresses are listed in the phone book by last name, but perhaps
the intimacy is actually conditioned by social factors, e.g., providing a
last name is tantamount to introducing oneself to a stranger. Other
possibilities may be that last names may reveal (historic) ethnic
background, information not otherwise available, or simply that providing a
surname may lead to awkward and time-consuming exchanges on how to spell it.
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Message 5: 2.696 Using Names

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 91 13:45:51 EDT
From: Susann Luperfoy <susannstarbase.MITRE.ORG>
Subject: 2.696 Using Names
I'd always thought the reason was that girls were
being discouraged from getting too attached to their
birthnames because of the expectation that they were
destined to give them up for marriage. Whereas a boy
was to carry on the family name and so should build
it into his identity.
Susann LuperFoy
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