May 21st, 2017

Proper form of address?

So I'm reading a lot of Harry Potter fanfiction, and have recently come across something (again) that's been bothering me for a while.

In a lot of fics, mostly those where Harry is more independent/escapes the Dursleys/is raised by someone else etc., he gets to interact with "new" adults, either canon or non-canon characters. Very often, he is initially addressed as "Mr. Potter" by them and he then immediately asks to be called simply "Harry", which is perfectly fine as far as it goes. After all, a lot of the time he's still quite young in those fics; I get that a child -- especially one not yet exposed to the customary form of address at Hogwarts -- might be more comfortable with the use of his first name.

However, the thing that bothers me is that almost invariably, the adults in question immediately reply with "Very well. Please call me Jack/Jill". No matter who and what those characters are, other parent/guardian, Ministry official, hired professional, it's always the same reaction.

My question now is -- would an adult British person, especially in a professional situation and/or position of authority, someone who most often is a virtual stranger to Harry, respond like this to a child/young teenager who asks them to use his first name? On a first encounter? (Also bearing in mind that we're talking about a period of close to thirty years ago when the plot is set pre-Hogwarts?)

I understand that offering to use one's first name is supposed to put people at ease, but ... would an elderly lady like Augusta Longbottom, someone like Amelia Bones (the head of Magical Law Enforcement), or any other person Harry either hires (most often a lawyer of sorts) or meets socially, really do that? After all, in the books Harry still thinks of Arthur and Molly, people he's come to consider his surrogate family, as Mr./Mrs. Weasley even after seven years of knowing and interacting with them.

Sorry, I'm not buying it. It seems ... well, inappropriate, I guess. Other words that come to mind are "unprofessional" and/or "disrespectful".

Now, it might simply be a cultural thing; I'm German, and we just aren't as free with such easy familiarity. I mean, I'm still calling (mainly older) neighbors Mr./Mrs. X even though we've lived just three houses apart for close to forty years because we're just not that close. In fact, it strikes me as a rather American thing to do to offer the use of one's first name so quickly. (Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Americans and love the general openness and friendliness I've encountered in the country!)

My gut feeling is that this scenario seems a bit off. Am I on the right track or simply out of tune, if you will, because of cultural differences? Or because I'm just too old and stodgy? ;-)

Any help/comments would be appreciated.

Crossposted to fanficrants
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