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I heard a character on TV, when asked for his name, responded:

My name is Bond, James Bond.

Why doesn't Mr. 007 reply, "My name is James Bond".

I am not familiar with first/middle/last name concept much, as in my region we have mostly our full names and father/family names at the end.

i.e. (Full Name) + (Family/Father Name)

Side Question: Is a person's last name a kind of identification in USA? How could it be used if it is? Our last name doesn't reflect much of identification so I'm not familiar of this as well.

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    As a note, Bond is British, not American... Also, this is a very set phrase and is one if the iconic pieces about Bond. – Catija Dec 21 '15 at 15:55
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    @Bsienn Always remember to capitalise the word I. We never write i on its own. Your spell-checker should be picking that up. – WS2 Dec 21 '15 at 17:17
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    @WS2 I'll take special care of this from now on. Thanks :) – Bsienn Dec 21 '15 at 20:51
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    He had to do something to spice it up! The author (Ian Fleming) remarked on this: "When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument ... when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, [James Bond] is the dullest name I ever heard." The Bond we know today is obviously not a boring man "to whom things happen", but the name appears to have stuck when the character changed. – corsiKa Dec 22 '15 at 18:00
  • Curious as to what James Bond has to do with America? – Lightness Races with Monica Dec 22 '15 at 20:11
53

There are as many answers to this as there are situations.

In informal settings, one might only give their first name. So, if I'm at a bar and I start chatting with someone, I would usually only give my first name... or if I'm being introduced to new people by friends, I'll only give my first name.

In formal or business settings, one might give both first and last name. So, if I'm introducing myself to a business partner, I'm more likely to use both first and last names. This is often because you want people to be aware of your full name, so if they need to find you later, they can do so.

When giving your name because it may appear on a list, as when checking in to a hotel, it's common to give your last name, as that is usually what the reservation is filed under. So, as an example:

Receptionist: Welcome to the Hotel. May I have the name on the reservation?
Guest: It's under Bond. James Bond.

This could be the case in many different situations other than simply at hotels.

Since you ask what the significance of last names is... well, there are many groups that only use surnames as means of address... particularly within the military or on sports teams. Often, only the surname of the person is known in those cases, with the possible addition of a first initial if the surname is common.

James Bond is a member of a military organization, and started out in the British Navy, so it makes sense that he would introduce himself emphasizing his last name.

Also note that the original Bond books were written in the 1950s and the movies first came out in the 1960s both of which are eras that are much more formal than modern times, so much of the characterization of James Bond stems from that time.

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    +1 for the whole answer, but I especially like that part about checking in where someone would be looking for your last name. Whether you're at the registration desk of a hotel or a golf tournament, this is a very normal construction in such instances. – J.R. Dec 21 '15 at 16:24
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    very through response. Thanks. Your given example fitted so well it cleared a lot of confusion and i learned something new. :) – Bsienn Dec 21 '15 at 16:34
  • Teachers generally only last name too – Aequitas Dec 22 '15 at 10:22
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    I'd also add that by asking for someone's name rather than their last name or first name, the response will usually start with what they would like to address you as. If you prefer to be called by your last name you'd respond with "Bond. James Bond." whereas if you prefer to be called by your first name you'd say "James. James Bond." instead. – Cronax Dec 22 '15 at 11:35
  • Came here to make sure someone mentioned the military implications, left satisfied – PseudoNym01 Dec 22 '15 at 19:18
22

In the United States it is not very common to lead with your last name when introducing yourself.

Mostly, this will happen in situations where what you are is more important than who you are, and will generally drop the first name altogether.

A good example of this is a police officer, who will only commonly introduce themselves using their first name in informal situations.

“Hello, I'm Officer Powell” establishes their identity, but emphasizes that they are acting in their capacity as Police Officer.

If you meet that same Officer at a Police Benefit dinner, an introduction of, “Hello, I'm Officer Judy Powell” would be more likely. In this case, that she is a Police Officer is relevant, but downplayed by the informality introduced by offering her first name.

As a side note, it's also uncommon to ask for someone's name. Either they offer it, or you are introduced, but the closest we come is an implied expectation of reciprocation when introducing oneself.

Salespeople will occasionally use the oblique request, “I'm sorry, what was your name again?”, which is a gamble as the response may very well be a blunt (and annoyed), “I haven't given it to you.”

Even hotels and restaurants have a tendency to ask, “Under what name is your reservation?” - which makes sense as that's what they actually want to know, and they have no way of knowing who in your party made the actual reservation.

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    "“What name is your reservation under?" => Or, at the 'Hotel Pedant': "Under what name is your reservation?" – michael Dec 22 '15 at 14:01
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    @michael_n Thanks for the correction, I've weekended at that hotel, but it's a bit posh for my tastes :) – Morgen Dec 22 '15 at 17:59
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    Hotel Pedant: In you can check, but you can never check out. – user151841 Dec 22 '15 at 19:20
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    @user151841: careful must you be, or at the Motel Yoda yourself may you find. Hmmmmm? – Bob Jarvis Dec 23 '15 at 12:09
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    That's a good observation about asking people's names. In a group activity, like a team sport, most people are in the same position of not knowing everyone else's name yet. Usually one of the first things you do will be standing in a circle and having everyone say their name. After that, there's little stigma attached to asking, esp. in the first few games, but people will still say "what was your name again?", or "sorry, I forget your name", or "I'm terrible with names" (with the unspoken request for the person to supply their name). – Peter Cordes Dec 23 '15 at 12:48
11

Usually, when someone introduces themselves, they give either a first name, or a first name followed by their last name. In other words, they'll say something like one of these lines:

Hello, I'm Joe.
Hello, my name is Joe Smith.

There are a few instances, though, where someone might be inclined to give their last name first. For example, people in uniform (firefighters, soldiers, etc.) often refer to each other by last name. So, in that kind of environment, someone might give their last name first, and then clarify by giving their first name afterward, almost as an afterthought:

Hello, I'm Smith. Joe Smith.

Outside of James Bond movies, this isn't all too common, but it's not so rare that it sounds jarring. In a James Bond movie, however, the line you quote is pretty much expected to be in the script somewhere.

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    In fact if you introduce yourself like that, it'll sound like a Bond movie reference. – Cascabel Dec 23 '15 at 5:37
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    @Jefromi - That partly depends on intonation and the length of your pauses. It's possible to say your name that way and not sound too much like James Bond. – J.R. Dec 23 '15 at 10:51
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Bond is British, and movies about super spies are not a good place to gather behavior characteristics about the average person.

The answer is: there is no answer as to why they say this, because they don't say this.

5

In certain governmental subcultures in America and Britain, it is common to refer to and address individuals by their surname only. For example, in the American military it is common to issue orders by surname. The "Bond, James Bond" idiom is a combination of the spy service type name reference, followed a civilian type of name given for added emphasis.

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    Ummm...no. "Bond - James Bond" is something that Ian Fleming made up. It has nothing to do with mixing military and non-military forms of address. I never used the phrase "Jarvis - Robert Jarvis" when I was in the military - I would have sounded like a pretentious idiot. One has to be a fictional character to get away with something like that. :-) – Bob Jarvis Dec 23 '15 at 12:19
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    @BobJarvis: I agree that the way Bond says it is a quirk that Fleming gave the character, like "shaken not stirred". It shows an over-sophisticated, world-weary man. And now that the phrase is so famous, anyone saying something similar would sound pretentious or like they're joking. But with a different reading, it would be rather ordinary: "I'm Jarvis... [puzzled look on the other person's face] uh, Bob Jarvis, glad to meet you!" So I think you're a bit hard on this suggestion. – Wayne Dec 23 '15 at 15:19
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    @BobJarvis, but if you were James Bond meeting a pretty woman you might first give your terse military form, then realizing what you have done, follow it by the more familiar civilian form. On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with a suave super spy being pretentious either. – ThomasMcLeod Dec 23 '15 at 22:52
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The family or last name is the proper way to refer to someone whereas the first name is the casual way. Western society has become very casual so often even complete strangers will give and refer to each other by first name. However in formal situations the last name is still used regularly preceded by the person's title or mister/miss if the person doesn't have one, for instance Officer Bond, Lord Bond or Mr. Bond.

Why does Mr. Bond say it that way? Well James is most often in rather formal places, but the simplest answer is that it sounds cool, and has become a catchphrase of his.

Also it is impolite to ask a person directly for their name. The proper way is to introduce yourself giving your name, and hope for them to reciprocate.

protected by Community Dec 22 '15 at 9:45

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