You could call the first man to put a slice of beef between two pieces of toast a genius. You could also call him a Sandwich — the fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu.
Naturally, Lord Sandwich was from the British upper crust, and now his family aspires to be fast-food kings.
Two of the earl's descendants — the 11th Earl of Sandwich, also John Montagu, and his son, Orlando — are cashing in on the family's noble name, opening a lunchtime delivery service for London's business district with $2 million in backing from Planet Hollywood honcho Robert Earl.
The 18th-century earl gained gastronomic immortality during a nonstop 24-hour gambling session, when he refused to leave the gaming table. "He ordered his servants to bring him this concoction," says Laura Lee, author of The Name's Familiar II (Pelican Publishing).
"It was certainly strange in Sandwich's time to eat with your hands. But for his day, he was like one of those computer geeks of today who have made millions and can afford to be a nonconformist."
Lee certainly documents the lives of nonconformists in her book, which offers biographies of the real-life folks such as Chef Boyardee and Barbie Handler, the daughter of a Matell executive whose name was immortalized by a boob-heavy doll.
Sometimes being an innovator isn't as rewarding as it sounds. Henry Shrapnel, an 18th-century British officer who invented a type of shell that would explode upon impact into deadly metal fragments, might have wanted a different claim at fame.
If You've Got It, Flaunt It
And then there's the story of a decidedly vain French acrobat who was really proud of how he looked in tight, tight tights. His name was Jules Leotard.
Leotard was a trapeze artist in the mid-1800s, the first to turn a somersault in midair. But he knew what people really wanted to see. And he was happy to give them everything but the Full Monty.
Talk about daring: According to his memoirs, the man who inspired the song "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" gave his protégés this advice: "Put on a more natural garb that does not hide your best features."
Lee says many common phrases stem from real-life names. "Maybe there is no such thing as the Easter Bunny, but there really was a James Bond and an Eleanor Rigby," she says.
"But if you heard the whole story behind the pop culture icons you love, you might feel differently about them."
Click here for a little walk through namesake history, compliments of Lee's research.
How right she is.
When trouble comes, who do you call? Bond. James Bond.
And who was he? A mild-mannered Philadelphia ornithologist.
Author Ian Fleming saw a news item about Bond's bird-watching manual in the newspaper. "It struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed," Fleming wrote.
Thus, 007 was granted his license to kill, even though the real Bond never shot anything more deadly than a camera.
Years later, Bond's wife, Mary, wrote Fleming with a tongue-in-cheek threat to sue him for defamation.
"I must confess that your husband has every reason to sue me," the author replied. "In return I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purpose he may think fit."
A Batty Lawyer's Fame