Thinking man's/woman's crumpet

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Benedict Cumberbatch (left) and Helen Mirren (right) have been both described as "thinking woman's crumpet" and "thinking man's crumpet" respectively.

In British English, the term the thinking man's/woman's crumpet is a way of describing a man or a woman who is popular with the opposite sex primarily because of their intelligence but also due to their physical attractiveness.[1]


The expression is derived from the slang use of the term "crumpet" to refer to a woman who is regarded as an object of sexual desire.[2]


The first person to be called "the thinking man's crumpet" was Joan Bakewell, by humorist Frank Muir, following her appearances in high-brow television discussion programmes such as BBC2's Late Night Line-Up.[3] Bakewell is still synonymous with the phrase, but it has subsequently been applied to other high-profile women such as Anne Gregg,[4] Joanna Lumley,[4] and Felicity Kendal,[4] and, more recently, Helen Mirren[5] Jennifer Saunders and Gillian Anderson.[6] Trumpeter Alison Balsom is sometimes referred to as the "trumpet crumpet".[7] In a poll in the Radio Times in 2003, Nigella Lawson received the most votes to be the readers' "thinking man's crumpet",[8] with Carol Vorderman in second place.[citation needed]

Almost half a century after Muir deployed the term, Bakewell (by then Baroness Bakewell and a Dame of the British Empire) remarked that "it has taken me a lifetime to live it down. It was meant as a compliment I suppose, but it was a little bit of a put-down".[9]

Actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth have been repeatedly called by the press "the thinking woman's crumpet."[10][11][12]

After the release of the 1997 film Titanic, Kate Winslet was dubbed by one newspaper as "the sinking man's crumpet",[13][14] but this moniker was repeated by only one other British newspaper.

Stewart Lee uses the phrase 'crumpet man's thinker' in his stand up, referring to Andrew Graham Dixon.


  1. ^ the thinking woman's/man's crumpet - definition in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online
  2. ^ Crumpet, from World Wide Words.
  3. ^ An affair to remember, The Daily Telegraph, 5 October 2003.
  4. ^ a b c Obituary, The Independent, 9 September 2006.
  5. ^ Helen Mirren: A real drama queen, The Independent, 3 September 2006.
  6. ^ The X Files Uncovered, Fox Home Entertainment.
  7. ^ See, for example, Daily Mail, 10 September 2009 and 3 June 2011
  8. ^ Press Release, BBC Worldwide, 22 September 2003.
  9. ^ Quoted in The Oldie, June 2014
  10. ^ "Colin Firth: The Thinking Ladies' Leading Man - Photo Essays - TIME". Time. 22 February 2011. 
  11. ^ Shinan Govani: Tapping Idris Elba and Benedict Cumberbatch, the Titans of TIFF | National Post
  12. ^ Jarvis, Alice-Azania (29 January 2011). "Benedict Cumberbatch: Success? It's elementary". The Independent (London). 
  13. ^ Sweet, Matthew (2001-02-14). "Kate Winslet: the sinking man's crumpet". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  14. ^ Mather, Victoria (1998-01-25). "Tom checks into his new starry home". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2010-02-12.