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02 June 2012 | News | By: M@

Big Ben: The Tower With Five Names

Big Ben: The Tower With Five Names

It sounds like Big Ben is to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Queen, after a majority of MPs backed the proposal. We've no beef with this — the tower has long had a history of confusing names and nicknames and this latest appelation just adds to the glorious complexity...especially when the press start also referring to it using non-sensical geographic terms (see below). So here's our guide to a London treasure that's held more names than the back of the Chelsea manager's chair:

Big Ben: the universal, popular name for the tower, repeated throughout the world. Pros: everyone knows what you're talking about, and it has a nice ring (pun sort-of intended). Cons: purists don't like it because Big Ben is strictly the name of the bell.

St Stephen's Tower: regularly used in newspapers, guide books and by 'that bloke down the pub who likes correcting people'. Pros: sounds more official than Big Ben. Cons: it's completely incorrect. St Stephen's is another (smaller) tower over the main public entrance.

The Clock Tower: a term used within the Palace and its communications. Pros: it's the official name. Cons: it's too ambiguous a term to gain popular currency — there are many clock towers in London let alone the world, and calling it the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster is too much of a mouthful.

The Elizabeth Tower: the proposed new name to tie in with the queen's Diamond Jubilee. Pros: there's a certain harmony in nominally pairing the edifice with the Victoria Tower at the southern end of the building. Cons: republicans will be irked, and everyone will still call it Big Ben anyway.

The east tower: a description of Big Ben seen all over the press today, presumably pasted in from the same media release. Pros: avoids the whole name problem by using a geographic term. Cons: it's rather confusing considering Big Ben is at the northern end of the complex, not the east, and there are a few smaller towers more easterly than Big Ben.

In conclusion: ever the diplomats, we propose the tower henceforth be called St Elizabeth Stephen's Big East Clock Ben. But we'll still call it Big Ben.


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Good for you, let it remain Big Ben. I can't see why it should be renamed just because a rich old lady who's had the best medical care possible all her life is still around.
Mind you, I'm glad she is if only to prevent her plant-haranguing son getting into Buck House.

Brian Lovett

How about "Neo-Gothic architectural conglomeration clock/bell tower" which also has a nice ring about.


I'va always thought Big Ben is actually a bit *rawdy*.

Why not a dull and boring (but efficient) London Clock?


It will always be the Clock Tower to me


The Cock Tower? Since most of the MPs inside are cocks?


I grew up knowing it as st stephens tower. If they were going to change its name why wasn't it made public? Isn't it bad enough brick lane is now know as bengalli town! I think it's utterly ridiculous what is the point in learning history at school when historic places names can be changed at the drop of a hat!