Charles Wells charles at FREUDE.COM
Tue Mar 27 20:55:14 UTC 2001

There are a number of words beginning with "trans" that have an asymmetrical


There are other prefixes that behave this way:  ultramontaine and cisalpine,
for example.  There are other usages that are geographically centered, too:
overseas, Near East, Far West, Down Under, etc.  Far East in particular is
centered on Europe and sounds silly in American mouths, but whoever said
language was logical?

Charles Wells

>Today's Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster reminded me of the subject
>word. First, M-W:
>The Word of the Day for March 27 is:
>transpontine   \transs-PAHN-tyne\   (adjective)
>    *1 : situated on the farther side of a bridge
>     2 British : situated on the south side of the Thames
>Example sentence:
>     Bella recommended a transpontine restaurant for our evening
>so we took a cab across the East River from our hotel in Manhattan and met
>her in Queens.
>Did you know?
>     Usually the prefix "trans-," meaning "across," allows for a reciprocal
>perspective. Whether you're in Europe or America, for example, transoceanic
>countries are countries across the ocean from where you are. But that's not
>the way it works with "transpontine" -- at least, it didn't originally. The
>"pont-" in "transpontine" is from the Latin "pons," meaning "bridge," and
>the bridge in this case was, at first, any bridge that crossed the River
>Thames in the city of London. "Across the bridge" meant on one side of the
>river only -- the south side. That's where the theaters that featured
>populist melodrama were located, and Victorian Londoners first used
>"transpontine" to distinguish them from their more respectable "cispontine"
>*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
>Brought to you by Merriam-Webster Inc.
>(c) 2001 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated
>"Transpondian" is used on at least one email list I subscribe to whose
>membership is mostly in the UK. My naive first impression was to connect it
>with "transponder", but it means 'on the other side of the Pond', i.e., of
>the Atlantic. Since it's mostly (only?) used in the UK, its reference
>should be unambiguously to the US, or at least the Americas... but after
>having it explained to me, I used "cispondian" to mean 'on this side...',
>meaning specifically 'in the US'. One list member liked it, but I'm not
>sure he took the same meaning from it that I meant to put into it.
>And I think I'll pass this exchange on to that list for their comments.
>   Mark A. Mandel : Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
>          Mark_Mandel at : Senior Linguist
> 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :

Charles Wells, 105 South Cedar St., Oberlin, Ohio 44074, USA.
email: charles at
home phone: 440 774 1926.
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