Here is a part of the conversation in a movie I watched:

Bosley: Elena?

Elena: Hi.

Bosley: Welcome.

Elena: Uh, Mr. Bosley?

Bosley: Just Bosley.

Elena: Thank you for seeing me.

Two persons are meeting for the first time and they are introducing themselves.

Elena calls him by Mr. Bosley but Bosley corrects her to call him Bosley without title Mr.

There might be three choices to call him maybe (Bosley's full name is John Bosley):

  1. Mr. Bosley
  2. Bosley
  3. John

What is his attitude by asking her to call him with option 2? And why didn't he like of her to call Mr. Bosley?

As a reference, she is much younger than Bosley.

The movie's name is Charlie's Angels (2019 film). It is a modern Hollywood spying movie. The conversation happens around 00:18:05. (And I found his name is Edgar Bosley in the scene. sorry. Several Bosleys in the movie.)The situation is Elena is an Engineer and Bosley is an undercover agent. Elena is meeting him for a kind of help.

This is the movie scene:

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  • Usually calling someone Title Surname is the most formal, then Surname is intermediate, and First name only is least formal. As is normal at formal first meetings, Emma started at the most polite level but Mr Bosley wished her to use the middle level of formality. Jul 14, 2020 at 7:40
  • You don't say what the setting of this film is, but addressing someone by their surname alone is unusual nowadays. Maybe Mr Bosley chooses to be addressed informally that way - perhaps to distinguish himself from another John? Jul 14, 2020 at 8:36
  • "What movie?" is information you have omitted. Jul 14, 2020 at 9:49
  • This is kind of strange, because addressing males by surname only is almost unknown in Britain, outside the armed forces. It used to be common up to maybe 1960 approximately. In modern times, surname only address is usually informal between friends. Jul 14, 2020 at 9:53
  • So what time period is the movie set? And where? Jul 14, 2020 at 9:54

2 Answers 2


"Mister" (Mr) is a formal title, however, it isn't always used in a formal setting, nor does its use mean that the situation is a formal one.

Businesses often address their customers with a formal title and surname, eg "Mr Jones", "Mrs Jones" etc. However, this is changing in some kinds of businesses. For example, my bank asked me how I would like to be addressed when I first joined them, and they now call me by my first name. Many new businesses, especially those that attract younger customers, like to present a friendly image rather than a formal one.

Younger people are usually taught to address elders, particularly teachers, but also the parents of their friends with their title and surname. This is a mark of respect or recognition of authority more than a 'formality'. Some adults may, as a personal preference, insist that a younger person use their forename as an address.

More than ever, there seem to be fewer 'rules' about when to use, or not use this kind of address, and it seems to be dictated more by the personal preference of the individual. In your example, it sounds like Elena has been given just one name of the person she is meeting - "Bosley" - so she has assumed that (i) this is is surname, and (ii) that he must wish to be called by his formal name because that is the only name he has given. It turns out that it is his surname (you said his full name was 'John Bosley') but it seems he wishes just to be called by his surname as if it was his given name. This is not extremely common, but not unusual. Some people get called by their surname as a 'nickname', and it sticks. Other people choose to use their surname alone as a given name.

I would say the 'attitude' being shown by the character by using the name is a respectful one. She is approaching him for help, so is showing humility. She may view this as a 'formal' situation. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it seems like she may also be showing respect by calling him what she believes he wants to be called. By saying "just Bosley" he is putting her at ease and making the situation somewhat more relaxed.


It is simply that using Mr (a formal title) sets the tone of the exchange as a formal one. He apparently prefered that it would be less formal and requests that she drop the 'Mr'. This is basically his way of telling her that he doesn't want the conversation to be too formal. As to why he did that, it would depend on the story and characters.

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