Thursday, July 29, 2010

George Melly on Transpontine

Thanks to Stephen Troussé on Twitter for spotting this letter by Don Locke in this week's London Review of Books:

'George Melly would not have agreed with Peter Gillman that the East London Overground runs from, rather than to, West Croydon (Letters, 8 July). Melly borrowed Henry Mayhew’s description of a gentleman crossing Waterloo Bridge and entering a ‘transpontine brothel’, and used the word to sum up what was so different about his band’s drummer: ‘simply the fact that he came from, lived in and was loyal to South London’. When the drummer discovered what the word meant he pointed out: ‘All you c*nts is transpontine.’ ‘He had logic on his side,’ Melly commented, ‘but he knew it didn’t work.’

Actually somebody once picked me up on the same point - that transpontine refers to the area on the other side of the bridge, so strictly speaking for someone based in South London, transpontine should refer to North London. But historically in London, transpontine has always referred to the southlands - usually used disparagingly but now proudly reclaimed!

1 comment:

oryx said...

My late father lived in London in the forties and fifties and when I asked him about south London then he reckoned it was 'a place you would only go if you needed to see relations'.

The discussions you have quoted via letter are a bit academic, but the 'place you would only go if you needed to see relations' attitude is still propagated by the likes of Time Out and the Evening Standard.

I don't mind though - I am happy to keep the many and varied beauties of south London to those in the know.