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What’s in a name?

Posted on 21 February 2009 | 9:02am

Am still undecided whether to drive or train it to Norwich. Will be a last minute decision. At least the sun is shining, and I have lunch with Delia to look forward to on arrival. I know name-dropping is frowned upon, but lunch with Delia before Norwich v Burnley is a Campbell tradition. I hope Norwich can keep up the recent losing tradition too.

I always like going to Norwich. I’ll probably see Charles Clarke, and Phil Webster of the Times who is living proof it is still possible to be a brilliant journalist and a good bloke.
As for Delia, well, she is a star. And Delia is such a great name … one of those names from which the person (ie Delia) is instantly recognisable by first name alone.

That’s the point of the blog … to ask who else the vast bulk of us know from first name alone. At the moment, if we say Barack, we all think … obviously. If I say Nelson, some will think Admiral, but if it’s clear I’m talking about a living person, we think Mandela. I guess Boris gets close, though part of me still thinks Yeltsin. What a character he was – Tony made me take out one of my Boris-drinking stories when I edited my diaries. I also think of Spassky the chess player, but Boris the mayor is probably ahead of them both now, in London at least. Britney of course, God bless her. There’s only one Britney, apart from those named after her. Kylie. No need to add surname. And Cheryl’s getting close, in the UK at least and now, according to Simon (you got that one because of the context) set for fame in the States.

Time to decide. Train or car? Thanks for the suggestions for one sentence for the Labour manifesto, which I intend to turn into a feature when I’m guest editing the New Statesman. Today, for no purpose other than your and my amusement (in my case when I get back tonight) suggestions for people known instantly by their first name …

  • Judith Haire


  • Sandra

    Its the people known only by their last name you need to worry about like Thatcher and Hitler. It’s much more cosy to be known by your first name, its a mark of affection. Most people known by their last name are hate figures or to be ridiculed.With the exception of Duffy!

  • Benedict Pringle


  • Wayne Robinson

    my recommendation would be for: Seth
    as in Seth Godin…a stimulating and inspirational marketer!

  • Mark Curry

    Ken, Beyonce, Madonna, Engelbert and possibly Jesus….

  • Mark Curry

    Ken, Beyonce, Madonna, Engelbert and possibly Jesus…

  • James Cherkoff

    Cesc. Back on the 8/3… đŸ˜‰

  • bcannon

    Delia has recently re-printed her book Frugal Food. Its a book for these times and has been stocked in Libraries accross Cumbria. I guess you are guaranteed a great lunch.

  • Marcus Dillistone

    As a ‘Marcus’, I am always portrayed in dramas as either a mad evil genius, or despotic villain… I have noted this for decades. My question is this; am I helping to drive this perception, or a victim of it? There’s no historical precedent – Marcus Aurelius was an humanitarian.

  • Anna Walker

    Does royalty count?
    Then there’s Brad – and Jen!
    Does Madonna have a last name?

    Oh and many years ago I was having dinner with a friend in NY who mentioned he’d had dinner with Al, Bobby and Leo – I sat there for a very long time going through all of our mutual friends, then thought maybe he means West Wing characters? His proud moment of name dropping completely lost on me!

  • Martin Dean

    For some strange reason I remember an episode of the Kenny Everett show where he was banging on about how you were only famous really when like Elvis and Marilyn you were only known by one name. He then introduced the next act “Ladies and Gentleman welcome TOYAH…..(perfect pause) ….wilcox. LOL

  • Rob Sandel

    How about I start the ball rolling with Seve and Tiger. (Is Jamie getting close?)

  • Karen Redman

    Do you think you could post your Boris Yeltsin drinking story in your blog? You could use false names if you think it might upset our Tony! There are so few genuinely funny people in world politics & Yeltsin was definitely one of them … so what would be the harm?

  • Charlie

    What an amusing way to spend a sunny afternoon!
    Winston, Napoleon, ‘Enery, Fidel, Eric’n’Ern, Guido, Maggie, Scarlet, Rhett, Sherlock, James, Hercule, Elvis, Jesus, Elton, Alf, Jude, Austin, Vidal, Ronnie’n’Reggie, Cassius, Dolly, Goldie, Adolf, Che, Pierce, Ziggy, Bart, Marge, Ming, Mick, Kanye, Snoop, P, Brad, Angelina, Keira, Audrey, Clint, Thunderclap, Dusty, Smoky, Marilyn, Lorna, Ghengis, Kubala, Buddy, Ernst-Stavro, Auric Plenty Pussy etc, Lewis, Zandra, Aimee, Brooklyn, FiFi Trixibelle, Peaches, Pixie, Troy, Frodo Bilbo etc, Darcy, Manfred, Kermit, Rocky, Rock, Mahatma, Cloudsley, Dava,
    That’ll do for now…

    Do Nicknames count?: “Monty”, Posh Ginger Sporty etc…, Number, Ringo, Mungo, Shakin’,

  • Charlie

    The other exercise which is quite amusing is thinking of Actors who seem BORN or DESTINED to play a particular role. What do you think?
    Here are a few that spring to mind……
    Paul Schofield = Sir Thomas More,
    Peter O’Toole = TE Lawrence.
    Richard Todd = Guy Gibson.
    Philip Seymour Hoffman = Truman Capote
    Audrey Hepburn = Holly Golightly.

  • Jane A

    Fergie, Idi, Sting.

    (Obama-esque lists of three being my current thing…)

  • Fugitive Ink

    What this seems to suggest is that anyone odd enough to want to be famous ought to go for a marginally unusual, yet short and easy-to-pronounce name (Elvis, Kylie, Britney – and why not Nigella, too, to break the trochaic spell?) rather than the more conventional ones (sorry, Tony, Dave, Gordon, err, Alistair …)

    (Alina, on the other hand, is quite probably headed for greatness.)

  • Fugitive Ink

    Note my deliberate mistake in tapping out ‘Alistair’ … obviously my subconscious was quite clear that while Alistairs are a bit unremarkable by nature, Alastairs are a different story altogether.

  • alastair campbell

    Charlie – great list

  • Alina Palimaru

    To Fugitive Ink

    Thank you!! I’m doing my best… Check back with me in a few years… đŸ™‚


  • Alina Palimaru

    To Fugitive Ink

    …although I must note that your observation is… random… đŸ™‚


  • Joanne Sheppard

    Groucho, Saddam, Arnie, Trisha, Brucie, Che, Bez, Evita, Oprah, Whitney, Roseanne, Tupac, Richard & Judy, Mao, Cliff.

    Hmmm, not often you see all those people mentioned in the same sentence. And I’m slightly disheartened to note how low-budget half the members of my list are.

    Actually, not sure if Mao counts, as despite his name being Mao Tse Tung, I have a feeling the ‘Mao’ part might have been his surname.

  • Caroline Hett

    Lembit is the only politician who might be idenitified by his first name alone.

    Anyway, have you thought about the flipside to this? The finest male totty throughout history use only their title and surname – Mr Rochester, Mr Darcy, President Clinton, Dr Who, President Obama.