a man named John/a man called John

I was reading The Economist today, a source of cool BE words and phrases, and came across a sentence that had the phrase "......a man called John ......". I have seen that often throughout the magazine and I believe that is BE. We say ".....a man named John....".

Any thoughts?

  • Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Back in the 1950s there was very popular American song
    "I met a man called Peter".

    And in 1970 an American film "A Man Called Horse."

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I would say both phrases were possible although when I am telling someone's name in speech I usually phrase it "His name's Gareth"

    I could easily imagine saying: "He's got new boyfriend, this one's called Gareth."

    I often forget people's names and can be heard asking "What's he called?"

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    tievoli said:
    So can I say "How can I call you?" ?
    well, no! That doesn't follow. In the contextof asking someone their name your phrase would not be an idiomatic expression. You are best sticking with "What is your name?"


    Senior Member
    drei_lengua said:
    Hmm, interesting. Some classic American movies contain a lot of BE words and phrases. However, I know nowadays that we do not say "a man called Roger", unless it is regional.
    DL- I offer friendly disagreement. I hear both, in New England. I think AE usage leans a little more to "named", but both forms are used.

    Uncle Google confirms this...with 'named' showing up a little more frequently....2 million citations for "a man named" vs.
    1.8 million for "a man called". For (.UK) websites, called shows up a little more than twice as often as named, in the same phrases.

    I suspect it may be that some age groups are more apt to use one than another.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    tievoli said:
    So can I say "How can I call you?" ?
    As suzi br says - well no.

    I have heard some say,
    "What are you called"
    and a local variant is,
    "What do they call you?" - which comes out as Wuddathukkallye?


    Senior Member
    English, United States
    I've heard both "a man called" and "a man named," though "named" is more common.

    When choosing a name for a baby or a pet (or even a thing) I've heard both "What are you going to call him," and, "What are you going to name him" with equal frequency. The answer could be either "We are going to call him John," or, "We are going to name him John."


    English USA
    Don't know the context in the Economist, but a perhaps-too-easy explanation is that "a man called John" isn't necessarily "named John."

    The English usage (both AE and BE) adopts the Romance language construction to suggest and sometimes underscore uncertainty of identity. Movie dialogue (modern avatar of all English) frequently does this. (I'm looking for a man who calls himself 'Bucho'.")

    Literarily, the same. ("A Man Called Peter", per Brioche, above.)

    Usage of "a man named John" is likely to be different. That phrase might be used as a rhetorical ploy where John is sure to be recognized and the audience is being asked to appreciate the implicit irony of the indirection. ("In 1960 Americans elected as their president a young man from New England named John Kennedy.")


    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    I was referred to this old thread by a new one today.

    Apparently BE doesn't have a distinction between these two verbs but prefers to call (+ name).

    The usage of named/called in AE (such as I know it) is quite clear and the sentences below reflect the distinction:

    He's named John but he's called Jack.

    They named her Marianne but with her red hair, everyone called her Ginger.

    A Boy Named Sue (old US country/western song)
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