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)

25 thoughts on ““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

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

    2. 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.’

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

  4. 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!

  5. 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”?

    1. 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.”

      1. 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.

      2. 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”.

    1. On a programme about a missing kid in West Yorkshire, the police transcript said “what do they call her?”. That sounded really odd to me. I’d say “what’s her name?” – and I’m only about 60 miles away!

  6. ‘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.’

    1. For myself, I like the distinction; it’s useful. However, I do not believe that it is specific to AmEng. Indeed I have used it to explain to my son Charles why he must not put Charlie when asked for his name on official forms. Also ‘My name’s Robert; call me Rob’ is common BrEng in my experience.

      I cannot imagine any Brit saying ‘I’m named Rob’; totally non-standard over here where ‘I’m Rob’ is sufficient, but the original Rob’s use of ‘called’ seems unnecessary but unobjectionable BrE to me.

      When asking about a baby’s future name ‘What are you going to call her?’ would be standard, not ‘What are you going to name her’, and the response would be ‘She’s going to be called Emily Lousie’, with or without the surname.

      When asking people for the name of their pet, the formulations that I am familiar with are ‘What’s his name’ or ‘What’s he called’; but never ‘What’s he named?’. The answer would be simply ‘Rover’ or, reflecting the question, ‘His name is Rover’ or ‘He’s called Rover’; but never ‘He’s named Rover’.

      In Britain I occasionally hear the biblical version, which looks like Alice’s Knight’s first formulation but doesn’t mean the same: ‘His name was called Jesus’ (also for other names). For me this is now non-standard and always tautological.

      1. Tom Cooper was a classmate of mine. Teachers kept trying to put him down in their rolls as Thomas or to call him that. But his name was not Thomas, it was Tom. He was named Tom. He was also called Tom.

  7. 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.

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