The Top 10: Famous people whose names are sentences

John Rentoul
Statue of CS Lewis, and the wardrobe from his Narnia books

This started with a list compiled by Scott Jordan Harris, drawn to my attention by Damian Counsell. That is where the first three came from.

1. Clive Staples Lewis. Little known incident in one of the Narnia books.

2. Jeremy Irons. Except that he usually looks rather crumpled.

3. Tom Waits. The patient singer-songwriter, the one with the voice.

4. Nigel Havers. Thanks to Mrs Gladys Steptoe‏.

5. Ella Fitzgerald. Very good, Stu Garner‏.

6. Samuel Pepys. From Stefan Stern‏. I had just decided that Britney Spears wasn’t really a sentence because she needs to be spearing something, but I let this one through.

7. Theresa May. JP Cherrington‏ reminds me of the time I ended a column “Theresa Might” in the days when a play on her name was original.

8. Julius Caesar. “Yeah, I know: the old ones are the best,” said Geoffrey Mamdani‏.

9. Rosa Parks. Nominated by Chris Jones.

10. Mike Gapes. The Labour MP for Ilford South posted on Twitter: “You forget me.” Which I hadn’t, actually, as several people had already nominated him.

Stevie Nicks, Karl Marx, Ryan Giggs and Ed Balls (bawls) are all bubbling under the Top 10.

Andy Willetts said that Henrietta Swann Leavitt’s name is a brief conversation, but as I had never heard of the American astronomer I’m afraid she didn’t make it. Rob Warm‏ tried to nominate Walt Disney, as in the answer to the old Scottish question: “What’s the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney?” “Bing sings and Walt Disney.” This was ruled out of order.

Graham Kirby‏ said: “If ever you do Tube stations that are sentences I nominate Turnham Green.” Nicholas Rutland‏ then offered King’s Cross and Mike Mason‏ said Maida Vale. None of which is a full sentence.

Next week: Words that died and were reborn, such as wireless

Coming soon: Euphemisms, in honour of United Airlines’s describing throwing someone off a plane as “re-accommodating” him

The e-book of Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top Tens, From Politics to Pop is just £3.79. Your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, in the comments please, or to me on Twitter, or by email to

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