“Called”

Participial form of verb “call.” Named. In the U.S., “called” has commonly been used in reference to a nickname or some other unofficial appellation. The Britishism is to use it for a proper name. “In the branch on Amsterdam Avenue and 69th Street, back in the 1930’s, a boy serendipitously espied a shelf heavy with large volumes filled with photographs by a man called Matthew Brady, a name unfamiliar to the teen-ager.” (Richard F. Shepard, New York Times, July 14, 1991)/”A woman called Carry Nation became a symbol of the movement when she traveled from bar to bar with an oversize hatchet and smashed them to pieces.” (Slate.com, June 3, 2010)

21 responses to ““Called”

  1. Surprised at the voting results on this one–I had no idea the British usage even existed, and was pretty confused when I first encountered it.

    At a Cambridge University orientation event, someone introduced himself by saying “I’m called Rob.” My response was “And why do they call you that? “

  2. “Her name was Magill, and she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy”

    –The Beatles

    • The song in question (Rocky Raccoon) is set in the Wild West, so perhaps Paul was knowingly adopting US usage.

    • Actually, now I think some more, Paul’s distinction is between surname (Magill) and first name. And between the first name a person uses for themself and the first name others know the person by. I doubt that Paul meant that Lil was the name on her birth certificate, so he was saying she wanted people to use Lil Magill to refer to her, but they actually called her Nancy Magill. I think this would be the same in US or UK usage.

  3. Is there any traction to the notion that this use of “called” could be the result of a Norman French influence on British English? “Je m’appelle” is literally translated as ‘I am called.’

    • Christian R. Conrad

      Not quite, actually: Quite _literally_ literally it’s “I call myself”. (The “Je m'” is a contraction of “Je me”.)

  4. I don’t see this as a distinction. I’ve always heard this usage in the US.

  5. after commenting on a blog post today, I went back and edited it to say ‘named’ instead of ‘called’. It just didn’t sound right. Then I read Ben’s Slate article and found this site. I’m voting!

  6. This sounds perfectly normal to me, although more casual. I think my ear would say I hear it more for non-human things, like “the store is called”. Or are you saying the counterpoint is “I’m called Rob” versus “I’m Rob”?

    • I’m not sure what you mean by counterpoint. An American is likely to say “My name is Rob” or “I’m Rob,” never “I’m called Rob,” or refer to “a man called Rob.”

      • IvanOpinion

        Ben, I’m confused. I would normally expect that a person known as Rob was probably christened as Robert. If so, then my understanding from the original entry on this Noob (and from the Elizabeth/Betsy post, below) is that traditional US usage would be to say that he is named Robert, but he is called Rob. But this is inconsistent with your reply to Dan. Have I misunderstood the US distinction? Or were you assuming that Rob is the name on the birth certificate, but this person is generally known by some other name (Bob?) and therefore, in US usage, is not “called Rob”?

        Assuming the latter, I’m not completely sure that Brits would use the word “called” if they knew they were referring to a name that, whilst it might be the name on someone’s birth certificate, is not the name by which they are known. If Ms Horst, below, is known as Betsy Horst, then if I happened to know that she was christened Elizabeth I would never say that she was called Elizabeth. I might say that her given name is Elizabeth.

        I’m not saying there isn’t a difference between US and UK usage, but I’m not sure if we have clearly defined what the difference is.

      • IvanOpinion

        Thinking a bit more, what’s puzzling me is why, in US traditional usage, you would not refer to “a man called Rob”, but you would apparently refer to “a woman called Betsy”.

  7. Elizabeth Horst

    “My name is Elizabeth, but I’m called Betsy.”

  8. In Yorkshire they often use the active form: “They call him x”.

  9. ‘You are sad,’ the Knight said in an anxious tone: ‘let me sing you a song to comfort you.’

    ‘Is it very long?’ Alice asked, for she had heard a good deal of poetry that day.

    ‘It’s long,’ said the Knight, ‘but it’s very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it — either it brings the tears into their eyes, or else –‘

    ‘Or else what?’ said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.

    ‘Or else it doesn’t, you know. The name of the song is called “Haddocks’ Eyes”.’

    ‘Oh, that’s the name of the song, is it?’ Alice said, trying to feel interested.

    ‘No, you don’t understand,’ the Knight said, looking a little vexed. ‘That’s what the name is called. The name really is “The Aged Aged Man”.’

    ‘Then I ought to have said “That’s what the song is called”?’ Alice corrected herself.

    ‘No, you oughtn’t: that’s quite another thing! The song is called “Ways and Means”: but that’s only what it’s called, you know!’

    ‘Well, what is the song, then?’ said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.

    ‘I was coming to that,’ the Knight said. ‘The song really is “A-sitting On a Gate”: and the tune’s my own invention.’

  10. Neil’s quoting Carroll recalled me to this entry, and it strikes me that “called” is also used when a person’s true name may be in doubt, such as may be applied to a subject in a police investigation, for example.

  11. Pingback: “Plaster” | Not One-Off Britishisms

  12. Pingback: Which Side of the Atlantic Is This “Room” On? | Not One-Off Britishisms

  13. Pingback: “Called” a Kiddy Thing? | Not One-Off Britishisms

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s