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The relationship between Harry & the Weasley-parents grows to be quite close. At one point I think Molly even says that Harry is like a son to her. Nevertheless Harry keeps addressing them with "Mr. Weasley" and "Mrs. Weasley" and doesn't use their first names.

Why does he do that? Is it a normal thing to do in Britain?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion, please move any further talk to Science Fiction & Fantasy Chat. – AncientSwordRage Dec 27 '16 at 17:55
  • Don't forget that asking whether it is a normal thing in Britain now is the wrong question to ask - the books were set starting 25 years ago! – curiousdannii Dec 28 '16 at 8:20
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The short answer is that it's perfectly normal in the UK for a child to address the parents of a school friend as Mister and Mrs, even into adulthood. The flipside is that it would seem very odd if he started referring to them by their first names even if you had a scene where they told him to do so.

You might also want to note that it would make picking up a subsequent book harder for new readers since you'd basically have changed their character names.

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    For the record, every instance of "call me Molly" I've found on google leads to a Molly/Harry sexual encounter slashfic. – Valorum Dec 26 '16 at 10:34
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    the only instance of "call me X" where Rule 34 isn't necessarily invoked, might be "call me Ishmael". – SQB Dec 26 '16 at 11:28
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    @SQB You are aware that that Moby Dick is a sperm whale? – user45485 Dec 26 '16 at 13:59
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    @SQB - You may be unaware that in the original book, the line read "*Call me Ishmael, you sexy beast". The publisher felt that the tone was over-familiar. – Valorum Dec 26 '16 at 14:19
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    Further to that, note that in some parts of the independent schools system it is perfectly normal for the children to address one another by surname only. Draco Malfoy's "Potter", "Weasley", and "Granger" are in fact how all pupils address one another in such schools. Adults would be "sir" or "miss", or "Mr Weasley" or "Mrs Weasley". – JdeBP Dec 26 '16 at 14:33
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I'm not sure that this needs to be a competing answer, but since other people have pressed for it:

Yes, it is perfectly normal in some parts of British society. There are some parts of the independent schools system where this form of address between children and adults is perfectly normal, and indeed the children address one another by surname only.

Draco Malfoy's "Potter", "Weasley", and "Granger" are in fact how all pupils address one another in such schools. Adults, both masters/mistresses and the parents of other pupils, would be "sir" or "miss", or "Mr Weasley" or "Mrs Weasley".

Whether Hogwarts is an independent school, or is state-funded, is a good question (especially as many people's assumption that it is independent seems flatly contradicted by recent pronouncements from the author). But it's another question. ☺ To this question: Yes, what you see is quite normal, and one of the many facets of this particular British schools sector that one can see reflected in the stories.

Don't mistake this for thinking that this is necessarily common across British society as a whole. It is not at all unified in this respect. There are, equally, parts of the British schools system to which these mores seem utterly alien and even appalling. So it can be surprising even to other Brits to hear anecdotes such as:

  • One can go through school without ever learning the first names of some of one's fellow pupils. As someone who systematically attempted to learn people's first names, I can report from direct experience that it even went so far as there being people who actually refused to tell me their first names.
  • Faced with two pupils sharing the same surname, rather than resort to given names as disambiguators, my Lower Fourth form-master promptly gave both pupils ad-hoc nicknames based upon their (then) appearance, which pretty much stuck with them for the rest of their school lives.

There is also a movement amongst teachers that objects to female teachers being "miss" whilst male teachers are "sir". The twain are not equivalent in status. This is part of a larger linguistic debate over the titles for men and for women, of course. (I rather like James Tiptree Jr's gender-neutral approach to the subject.)

Equally, do not mistake this for being something that is strictly peculiar to independent schools. It is just far more common and far more pronounced, to the inclusion of pupils, there. There are some state-funded schools which adopt similar codes to lesser or greater extent. To give two current examples:

  • Addressing adults in this manner is actually in rule #1 of the School Rules for the Queen's School, a state-funded school in Hertfordshire, today:
    Be polite, kind and helpful to teachers, support staff, visitors and other students, regardless of their age, colour, religion, race, language, sexuality or background. Address male staff as “Sir” or “Mr” with their surname and female staff as Ma’am’, “Mrs” or “Miss” with their surname.
  • It is in the first rule of the School Rules for St Dunstan's School, an Academy Converter in Somerset, today:
    Behave politely and sensibly at all times. Show respect for other people and their property. Female staff should be addressed as Mrs, Miss with the surname. Male staff as ‘Sir’ or Mr with the surname.

Yes, being required to address teachers in this way does bleed over into addressing all adults, in and out of school, in this way. In the opinions of some, it is intended to.

If you want to read even further about this across society as a whole, then you can do worse than to start with the publications of the Society for Name Studies in Britain (president: Peter McClure, Honorary Professor within the Institute for Name-Studies, University of Nottingham).

Further reading

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    Given that neither Molly, nor Arthur were Harry's teachers, nor his peers at school, I'm not sure how this relates to the question asked. – Valorum Dec 27 '16 at 10:29
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    @Valorum gives background information that enables the reader to understand the issue better. – SáT Dec 27 '16 at 12:33
  • @SáT - Hmm. It's tangential at best. I've not downvoted, but nor have I upvoted. I do feel that this should have stayed a comment. – Valorum Dec 27 '16 at 12:36
  • "many people's assumption that [Hogwarts] is independent seems flatly contradicted by recent pronouncements from the author" -- the source of finance isn't really strictly relevant here. The distinction you're drawing between an independent and a state school is more a matter of culture than anything else, and Hogwarts' culture is certainly closer to a typical independent school than a state school ... – Periata Breatta Dec 27 '16 at 19:27
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    I'll write it again with boldface: That's another question. (I was surprised that this WWW site does not already have it.) Comments to an answer to a different question are not for squeezing your own answer to it into. If you want to answer the question of whether Hogwarts is an independent or a state school, then you know where the "Ask question" hyperlink and the "post an answer to your own question" checkbox are. I was pressed into writing this answer. Consider yourself pressed into writing an outright question. (-: – JdeBP Dec 27 '16 at 19:58

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