Sarah’s set me a challenge to investigate the interesting Lancastrian phrase, the lop and flea line.

I’m a bit stumped with that one, but I have discovered that ‘lop’ means ‘flea’ and comes from the Old Norse ‘loppe’. Google Translate tells me the word for flea in Swedish is ‘loppa’ and in Danish and Norwegian it’s ‘loppe’. Which all makes perfect sense. And it also follows that a southerner like me would never have heard of it: it’s northern English dialect that’s influenced by the Vikings.

There’s also the idiom as wick as a lop, meaning as lively as a flea. ‘Wick’ means lively and comes from the Old English ‘cwicu’, which means ‘alive’ and also gave us the word ‘quick’. The internet suggests this is a Yorkshire phrase, but I’ve since learnt that the lop and flea line is the division down the Pennines between those who call fleas ‘fleas’ and those who call them ‘lops’ (ie Lancastrians).

I think it’s getting a bit political now…

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