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I think the sentence "When Alice met him, he said his name was Bob. (But I suspect it may be a pseudonym.)" makes sense. But I'd like to know if there are more natural expressions, or alternatives. What I'd like to know is for a one-time action, not for a custom.

How about "called himself" and "styled himself"? (I think the latter is not informal, at least.)

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I think you'll have to rely on the semantics of narrative to distinguish the situations. If you say,

When Alice met him, Bob introduced himself by name

there's no indication that Bob is using a false name.

If you say

When Alice met him, he introduced himself with the alias Bob

you've left no doubt that this is a customary deception.

If you say

It was only that time when Alice met him, did he introduce himself as Bob

then it's clear that that "Bob" meant only to deceive Alice the one time.

The sentence

When Alice met him, he said his name was Bob

doesn't actually tell you whether his name was Bob or not, while

When Alice met him, he called himself Bob

has the slight implication that Bob isn't really his name, but this might be innocuous as in

When Alice met him, he called himself Bob, although his brith certificate says Robert.

Styled has the implication of tailoring a name to a situation, but not necessarily with any intent to deceive:

He styled himself Magnifico the Magnificent when he performed his magic act.

  • Thanks for a clear and detailed answer. May I ask additional questions? (1) There's some implications that by "call oneself" the speaker ("I") feels/thinks Bob intentionally used that name. (2) "I thought he said his name was Bob, but in fact he's Gob; seems I misheard." is (slightly?) more natural than "he called himself". Am I right? – teika kazura Feb 17 '17 at 6:36
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    (0) You may ask as many questions as you want. (1) There some implication in call oneself that the name isn't the right one. Probably because when we name ourselves we say "I'm Bob", not "I call myself Bob". (3) Yes, because if you suspect the name you've got is wrong, it's more likely that you misheard than it is that someone needs to mislead you about his name. At least in the circles I travel in. – deadrat Feb 17 '17 at 7:12

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