From Cock Lane, Pissing Alley, Houndsditch and Old Jewry to Shaftesbury Ave and Marcus Garvey Way, London's place names serve as documents to its citizens ever-shifting lives and preoccupations. The novelist Maureen Duffy once described London's street signs as an alternative national portrait gallery; and the vicissitudes of England's history can be glimpsed in so many of the capital's names. Chepe, Dogs and Rotten Row: How London Was Named is a book that liberates London etymology from dictionary corner, offering instead a lively, idiosyncratic tour of the whole messy ephemera of the capital's nomenclature. Elborough, by scrutinising names etched into our collective consciousness, provides an insightful and entertaining account of the city's wayward development.
Travis Elborough is a freelance writer and editor who lives in North London. His publications include a guide to the life and thought of Friedrich Nietzsche and, among several books for children, a history of London's 'gentlemen of the road'. He edited Orange and Lemons, a compendium of London Poems (also published by Watling Street) reviews for The Sunday Times and is a regular contributor to The Oldie, despite not being old at all.