It's a word that does not seem to appear in dictionaries. Here's an example of usage:

Starkey rarely deigns to examine the undesirables outside the ponceathon of the Tudor court.

  • A similar and more common portmanteau is walkathon.
    – ermanen
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 22:19

3 Answers 3


I think I may have figured it out now.

The word "ponce" is clearly the stem of ponceathon (just as @Jascol has pointed out).

However, @chasly from UK is also right to point out that the BBC is not even remotely likely to have used it in a sexually-derogatory connotation. Hence, chasly's theories of misprint (possible but not likely, imho) or cyber attack (not likely at all, imho).

So there must be another meaning of ponce in use here. Fortunately, wiktionary gives us a clue: its page for "ponce" lists a derived term, "poncey":

poncey ‎(comparative more poncey, superlative most poncey)

  1. ostentatious or snobbish
  2. effeminate

To describe the Tudor court as "ostentatious or snobbish" sounds just about right. Certainly coming from Prof. Beard who is a relentless champion of the downtrodden in history.

To confirm this, I found another usage of the word in a somewhat similar context (but on a less grand scale). A GLA councillor is being criticized in a blog for summarily brushing off a request by a poor constituent while enjoying lavish perks and sinecures himself. Here's the relevant part:

How on Earth Coleman has the gall to tell a struggling single mum to live in the world, three days after getting back from a "ponceathon" sponging off everyone from the municipality of Morpheau to the local fire chief is totally beyond me.

  • I'm not sure, I don't think "ponce about" would get them in too much trouble, it has a meaning sufficiently distinct from any homophobic connotations. And I don't see the relevance of the anachronism, if Beard's trying to convey something to the modern listener then using modern words is entirely appropriate.
    – Rupe
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 12:59

Without knowing the context... I'd say it was a portmanteau of 'ponce,' meaning:

derogatory An effeminate man.1

and 'marathon.'

  • Then you should have searched for the context or asked the OP to provide it. In any case there is context: The Tudor court in England existed from 1485 to 1603. They had never heard of a marathon (except for scholars reading about the ancient Greeks). The word 'ponce' didn't enter the English language until the mid-1800s Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 0:45
  • P.S. I've since found that that the word ponce-athon does appear on the web in a couple of places but in a very different context. There appears to be a disaffected British expatriate now living in Australia with a grudge against the BBC and Britain in general. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 1:03
  • 4
    The relevant context would be when this paragraph was written, not when the Tudors held court. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 5:09
  • 1
    @chaslyfromUK - as others point out I can talk about periods of history without having to use the same words they did. Which is why I can talk about Chaucer without using Middle English. No need to be such a brat about criticism.
    – Jascol
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 9:35
  • @Jascol - Please stick to the facts and the arguments. I don't mind your point of view. However, let's keep ELU civilised and not indulge in name-calling. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 15:29

This is an excerpt from an interview in the arts section in a serious British national newspaper. The interview is with a historian, Professor Mary Beard. There is no way she would have made any homophobic remarks (or any remarks about a presenter's sexuality) or that the paper would have deliberately printed them. It is probably a typographical error (probably a careless edit) for 'pantheon'. It's a stupid error for them to make but that's all. (but see update)


I misattributed the remark to the professor. On re-reading I see that the word appeared in a comment by the reporter.


1. The Tudor court in England existed from 1485 to 1603 and refers to the Tudor kings and queens and their noble followers. The word 'pantheon' would make absolute sense in that context.

2. Update: There appears to be a modern usage of 'ponce-athon'. On checking some of the sources I see that there is a possibility of a cyber attack on the BBC and other British institutions from a disaffected expat. In any case it's not a generally accepted word.

noun UK formal
a ​small ​group of ​people who are the most ​famous, ​important, and ​admired in ​their ​particular ​area of ​activity:

Cambridge Dictionaries Online

The Saturday interview: Professor Mary Beard With her new TV series about the lives of ordinary Romans, Professor Mary Beard wants to tackle history differently. The nation's new favourite classicist talks to Stuart Jeffries

  • The context of Beard's answer seems critical of Starkey's focus on the royal court, as opposed to the outside worlf, which makes "pantheon" feel out of place to me. I wouldn't hurry to invoke careless editing to put your words in Beard's mouth. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 5:14
  • The phrase "the undesirables outside the pantheon of the Tudor court", makes perfect sense -- just look at the dictionary definition I cited. It would refer to the courtiers and the hangers-on who were in constant attendance on the reigning monarch in those far off days. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 10:13
  • 1
    @chaslyfromUK And here's a definition of "ponce about" which I think is the relevant phrase here, "to ​waste ​time doing ​silly things that do not ​achieve anything or ​help anyone". dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/ponce-about-around
    – Rupe
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 9:29
  • 1
    The full meaning of "ponce about" includes ostentatiousness and maybe effeminacy too. While these may come from its origins in "ponce", the phrase is well-established in its own right now. I don't see homophobia as relevant to this question at all. The most commons uses of "ponce" are in "ponce about" and to mean "scrounge" as in "can I ponce a fag?" and that the average Brit on hearing "ponceathon" is more likely to think of those meanings than anything to do with sexuality.
    – Rupe
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 9:42
  • 1
    @Rupe - I think it is important to make clear to American readers the precise meaning of the phrase you used ,i.e. "Can I ponce a fag?". In British English it means "Can I cadge a cigarette?" However, In US English this phrase would be very offensive indeed. Both terms are derogatory slang and related to homosexuality. Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 10:22

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