Thinking man's/woman's crumpet

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

In British English, the thinking man's crumpet or thinking woman's crumpet is a humorous term for a person who is popular with the opposite sex because of their intelligence and 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 humourist Frank Muir, following her appearances in highbrow 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] Kate Bush and Felicity Kendal,[4] and, more recently, Helen Mirren,[5] Jennifer Saunders, Lucy Worsley and Gillian Anderson.[6][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, Colin Firth and Bill Nighy have been repeatedly called by the press "the thinking woman's crumpet",[10][11][12][13][14][15] as has historian Michael Wood.

After the release of the 1997 film Titanic, Kate Winslet was dubbed by one newspaper as "the sinking man's crumpet".[16][17]

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 Archived 2006-10-08 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 9 September 2006.
  5. ^ Helen Mirren: A real drama queen Archived 2007-03-12 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 3 September 2006.
  6. ^ David Wild (16 May 1996). "X-Files Undercover". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  7. ^ Ryan Gilbey (27 July 2014). "Gillian Anderson: actor with a very distinctive X factor". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  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". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
  12. ^ Jarvis, Alice-Azania (29 January 2011). "Benedict Cumberbatch: Success? It's elementary". The Independent. London.
  13. ^ Vernon, Polly (13 August 2011). "Bill Nighy: 'thinking woman's crumpet' with a passion for fashion". The Times.
  14. ^ Shattuck, Kathryn (12 November 2006). "A Veteran Actor's New Role: 'Thinking Woman's Crumpet'". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Barkham, Patrick (19 November 2009). "Bill Nighy: 'I am not suddenly the greatest actor in the world'". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Sweet, Matthew (2001-02-14). "Kate Winslet: the sinking man's crumpet". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  17. ^ Mather, Victoria (1998-01-25). "Tom checks into his new starry home". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2010-02-12.