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In You Win or You Die Jeor Mormont says:

You came to us as outlaws, poachers, rapers, killers, thieves. You came alone, in chains, without friends or honor. You came to us rich and you came to us poor. Some of you bear the names of proud Houses, others only bastard names or no names at all. It does not matter. All that is in the past. Here on the Wall we are all one House.

The general theme is you leave what you were behind and become a member of the Night's Watch. However despite leaving their former lives in disgrace people like Lord Mormont, Lord Janos Slynt and Ser Alliser Thorne keep their titles. In fact I've just finished A Storm of Swords and they gave Jon a particularly hard time for not addressing Slynt with the proper title!

If their previous lives and homes are wiped away, why are there still so many titles on the wall?

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    Granting someone their due title is a matter of courtesy, not a legal duty. A Knight remains a Knight, black or no, therefore a Ser. A Lordling remains a Lordling, Black or no. They only relinquish their claims, they do not relinquish their titles. Samwell was also referred to by Ser Denys Mallister as "My Lord of Tarly". Lord is just a courtesy, for example, children of Lords who are not Lords themselves are addressed as Lords e.g. Theon, Bran, Rickon, Jaime etc. – Aegon Sep 8 '17 at 11:27
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    Jon getting tough time was because Ser Thorne was bit of a W***er. Jon just granted the title to get it over with. You may have noticed how Jon then repeatedly slips the world "My Lord" in his statement, probably intentionally to annoy Janos Slynt. – Aegon Sep 8 '17 at 11:29
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    On the Wall they are indeed on house as They are brothers. As Yoren told Eddard that Benjen's blood runs black so it makes him as much as his brother as he is Eddard's. That doesn't mean their previous house names are forgotten. Only Order that gives up family names is the Citadel e.g. Maester Aemon doesn't carry his last name. Septons also give up their last names IIRC, High Septons have no name at all. NW recruits on the other hand, give up crowns, lands, claims but not their house name. – Aegon Sep 8 '17 at 11:32
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    Also Jeor Mormont chose NW by choice, not forced out of disgrace. Also by titles in the first comment, I mean verbal aristocratic titles, not landed titles. – Aegon Sep 8 '17 at 11:33
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Their previous lives are NOT wiped away.

Lord Commander Mormont is not saying you must give up your houses, as that is not the case for the Night's Watch. As TheLethalCoder said, he is merely saying that everyone comes as equal.

Some of you bear the names of proud Houses, others only bastard names or no names at all. It does not matter. All that is in the past. Here on the Wall we are all one House.

Outside the wall, those with the names of proud Houses would be considered superior to bastards which would be considered superior to those without any names. At the wall however, none of this matters, they are all equal regardless of previous rank.

As for why Jon was given a hard time for not giving Lord Slynt his proper title, those who have been knighted or given Lordship before swearing their vows at the Wall keep their titles. Lord Mormont was Lord Mormont at the wall before he became Lord Commander, similarly, Ser Alliser Thorne was knighted during the Targaryen rule and fought along side the Royalists during Robert's Rebellion

Alliser was a knight of House Thorne in the crownlands and fought on the side of House Targaryen during Robert's Rebellion.
A Wiki of Ice and Fire - Sir Alliser Thorne

Ser Alliser Thorne did not lose his title when he came to the wall, just like Lord Slynt didn't.

As for the words in the oath quoted by TheLethalCoder,

I shall wear no crowns and win no glory.

This simply means that they will not take any more crowns. They forsake their right to be the heir of their house or the Seven Kingdoms when they come to the wall. They can no longer return to their houses and take up the Lordship of their house. As for win no glory. They will not be raised for their glory in battle, they will gain no lands and no titles. They live to serve the Night's Watch and will die serving the Night's Watch.

The only orders where your House is removed his with the Maesters and the Faith, they only retain their first name, this led Maester Aemon to lead a forgotten life as the Last Targaryen living in Westeros. Otherwise, only the High Septon has to give up their name entirely. Although this seems to have been contradicted by the final episode of Season 7.

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    I still don't get it. They are no longer your superiour, ... but you still have to address them by their proper title? – Worse_Username Sep 8 '17 at 18:16
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    "Otherwise, only the High Septon has to give up their name entirely. Although this seems to have been contradicted by the final episode of Season 7." Can you clarify this bit? Where was it established that the High Septon gives up their name entirely, and what in that episode contradicted that? – J Doe Sep 8 '17 at 18:16
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    @Worse_Username Quoting from Aegon's comment above "Granting someone their due title is a matter of courtesy, not a legal duty. A Knight remains a Knight, black or no, therefore a Ser. A Lordling remains a Lordling, Black or no. They only relinquish their claims, they do not relinquish their titles. Samwell was also referred to by Ser Denys Mallister as "My Lord of Tarly". Lord is just a courtesy, for example, children of Lords who are not Lords themselves are addressed as Lords e.g. Theon, Bran, Rickon, Jaime etc" No one ever has to address them, Slynt is being a t**t to Jon. – Edlothiad Sep 8 '17 at 18:47
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    @JDoe "The draperies swayed back and forth in a wash of crimson silk. "Orton told me that the High Septon has no name," Lady Taena said. "Can that be true? In Myr we all have names." "Oh, he had a name once. They all do." The queen waved a hand dismissively. "Even septons born of noble blood go only by their given names once they have taken their vows. When one of them is elevated to High Septon, he puts aside that name as well. The Faith will tell you he no longer has any need of a man's name, for he has become the avatar of the gods." – Edlothiad Sep 8 '17 at 18:53
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    @Worse_Username Cultural practices don't always make sense. There's weirder stuff around nobles in the real world. Whatever the justification for it, the Watch treats pre-existing titles the same way it treats your name. You keep the word, but none of the authority that would normally come with it. – Phasma Felis Sep 9 '17 at 8:08
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The actual oath is:

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honour to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

The emphasised statement seems to back up your point that they should no longer be Sers and Lords but addressed by their name only.

However, lets look at your examples and see why they have the titles they do:

  • Lord Mormont: He is the Lord Command and so his title could come his rank, although he was Lord of Bear Island before taking the black.
  • Lord Janos Slynt: His title comes from being the commander of the Gold Cloaks and being the founder of his house.
  • Ser Alliser Thorne: Master-at-Arms so Ser could come with his rank, although he appears to have been a knight during the Targaryen rein.

Now let's examine your quoted statement:

It does not matter. All that is in the past. Here on the Wall we are all one House.

Lord Mormont appears to be saying that your past does not matter and you come to us as equals. However, you can still gain rank in the Nights Watch itself.

So all of this seems to back up your claim that people who take the black should no longer claim their titles. However, the actual oaths and words appear to be regarding the physical objects themselves not actually disregarding any titles.

Another aspect of this is the culture of people. Just because you give up your lands doesn't mean you give up your titles in your head. People coming from a noble house are still going to naturally try to command those from a low born family.

It's also courteous to call someone by their title even if they have "renounced it" they did earn it in the first place (even if it is a birthright). So not calling them by that title then goes against the culture of Westeros even if technically they should no longer hold it.

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    it is worth noting that the oath is actually very vague. It says nothing about not holding titles. It says wear no crowns, so you cannot be a king. If the glory is already won - e.g. Ser or Lord - then you could still keep it, you just can't try to find glory. George R R Martin made other parts of the oath vague intentionally. The main one being, "I shall father no childern" not "I wont bed whores from Molestown". Jon even raises this point in his POV. – josh Sep 8 '17 at 13:36
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    @josh Yeah it's vague but it's not meant to be taken literally. I don't think they want every recruit to read and sign a 32 page document on the dos and don'ts of the watch. – TheLethalCarrot Sep 8 '17 at 13:39
  • No, most of the recruits wouldn't know how make papers talk at them. – josh Sep 8 '17 at 13:54
  • Whether in or out of Universe it is certainly meant to make us ask these questions. It seems to me that this type of argument will be integral to Jon's arch. – josh Sep 8 '17 at 13:55

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