Friday, June 19, 2009

"Getting off at Mill Hill"

From the LRB letters column:
From Susan Pedersen

I can understand Bob Hall’s glee at having (as he thought) found me out, but I’m afraid the Blackburn residents Kate Fisher interviewed for her study of birth control did use ‘getting off at Mill Hill’ as a metaphor for withdrawal, for the simple reason that their ‘Mill Hill’ was a suburban train station on the way into Blackburn (Letters, 11 June). Had they been Londoners it would obviously have made no sense, but they weren’t and adopted their own local bus and train stations to get across what they meant. One of the Lancashire residents Lucinda Beier interviewed for her study of public health advised that one should ‘get off the bus at South Shore, don’t go all the way to Blackpool.’ It’s hard to imagine an activity (or a phrase) less conducive to linguistic standardisation.

Susan Pedersen
Columbia University, New York

From Bill Peppe

As any sailor could have told Susan Pedersen, the safe procedure is to ‘get out at Fratton’, the last station before Portsmouth.

Bill Peppe
Carbost, Isle of Skye

From Dorothy McMillan

My version of the ‘getting off’ expression for coitus interruptus is ‘getting off at Paisley’, the station before the terminus at Glasgow. I am also reminded of a Glasgow colleague’s expression, ‘getting off at Govan’. Tom Leonard has a poem ‘A Priest Came On at Merkland Street’, and Merkland Street was the old Partick Station underground stop, the one before Govan, itself the stop for Ibrox, the Rangers football ground. Can anyone decode this?

Dorothy McMillan
Glasgow

From John Cashmore

It would seem that it is in the history of each major English city to have an alighting point. Perhaps its proximity to the final destination is a reflection of the inhabitants’ approach to risk.

John Cashmore
London W9

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