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No reason for celebration when your surname enters the lexicon

From Crapper to Toobin, the end result is not a good one

By Ricky Browne

To become so famous that your last name becomes a verb in common parlance is not necessarily a good thing.

Take a certain Yorkshire-born businessman and engineer, best known for his plumbing experitse. Thomas Crapper sold flush toilets and other bathroom equipment with his name proudly emblazoned on the porcelain.

Although the word crap had previously been used to refer to excrement of one sort of another, its usage took off after Crapper’s success in making the flush-toilet a-must have piece of equipment for modern bathrooms in the late 19th century — even winning the right to carry the prestigious coat of arms of the then Prince of Wales.

Thomas Crapper, plumbing entrepreneur

But the price of that great success was to attach shame to the previously relatively unsullied name of Crapper. So much so that a couple generations later his grandson — or perhaps his great grandson — felt obliged to change his last name to his wife’s name of Phillips. For some reason he did not believe that the last name Crapper would help his career as a guidance councillor at a private school in Jamaica. Few doubted that he made the correct decision.

That brings us to the latest person to accidentally cause his surname to become a verb.

Jeffrey Toobin has seen an unwelcome spurt in his name recognition (Photo: CNN)

That person is no one other than Jeffrey Toobin who was already famous as a CNN political pundit and a reporter for the New Yorker magazine. But he is now becoming infamous.

Last week, Toobin, a 60-year-old Harvard-trained lawyer, was the latest to fall on the slippery slope of keeping your private life separate from your public life — especially when on a Zoom call.

Toobin was taking part in a New Yorker meeting, which entailed creating a scenario between Republicans and Democrats. There came a point where two groups were created and not being a part of either one of those two groups, he found himself with some free time on his hands. So to speak.

Thinking that he had disconnected from the Zoom call, Toobin seemed to have gone onto another video call, where he proceeded to give himself a hand in full view of other members on the call, with the camera pointed directly at his main point of interest.

News of the event has spread like wild fire. Toobin is currently suspended from the New Yorker and has asked for some time off from CNN to deal with some personal business.

But already, people are referring to the event as a Toobin — so that people will now be cautioned not to pull a toobin while on a Zoom call, or may be asked “you aren’t toobing are you?”

Toobin taking his dog for a walk on Tuesday Photo: Daily Mail

Toobin has apologized to his wife and family, and early yesterday morning was seen out walking his dog around his New York City neighbourhood on the Upper West Side. The dog seemed unperturbed about the fuss. But Toobin was careful to hide most of his face behind a large, orange face mask — careful to follow health protocols.

“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera,” Toobin said. “I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.”

“I believed I was not visible on Zoom,” he said. “I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.”

Outside of journalism, Toobin is also a prolific author. One of his earliest books was on the OJ Simpson trial The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson. His latest was just published in August True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump .

A screen shot from Simpson’s Twitter video

The level of ridicule Toobin is now facing, only a couple of days after this became public, is pretty high. But the lengths of the ridicule took a turn for the worse when even OJ Simpson felt he could laugh at the guy.

A couple decades ago Toobin first became famous when he worked as a journalist for the New Yorker to cover Simpson’s court case when he was charged for the double murder of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Toobin later profited by writing a book on the trial.

OJ Simpson’s mug shot

Toobin was the journalist who exposed the Simpson defence team’s secret plan to centre on racism — propelling himself to some considerable fame in the process.

Simpson may have resented Toobin benefitting from his misery. Like a dish that is best served cold, it took years for Simpson to extract a bit of revenge and twist the knife in Toobin’s wound.

On a video clip posted on Twitter , the former American football star said with considerable glee: “Damn Jeffrey Toobin! At least Pee-wee Herman was in an X-rated movie theatre. I’m just saying.”

Up to yesterday, Simpson’s video had been viewed some two million times.

Paul Reubens aka Pee Wee Herman shot to fame in the 1990s

Paul Reubens aka Pee-wee Herman, was a popular (if slightly creepy) US comedian with a children’s TV show and a couple movies mainly in the 1980s. He moved from fame to infamy in the early 1990s when he was caught by police enjoying himself too much during a viewing of a pornographic film in a public theatre in Florida.

The event proved to be the climax of his career, with Pee-wee quickly becoming a spent force and fading into obscurity after that.

But at least Paul Reubens didn’t suffer the further indignity of his last name being attached to anything else other than a rather good deli sandwich.

Toobin is known to have three children, two of them adults. It is not known at this stage if they will follow Mr Phillips’s example, and toss their last name into the crapper.

And with his latest book on the shelves, fans are no doubt hoping that Toobin’s next release will be perhaps less note worthy.

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