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Friday, November 12, 2010

Word of the Week: Wallop

With the Royal Horse Show in full swing here in Toronto, there's a lot of galloping going on. “Gallop” comes from two Frankish words, wala (well) and hlaupan (run), which the Norman French brought to England as “wallop”. For centuries, horses walloped. Meanwhile, in Central France people couldn't say “wallop”; they changed it to “gwallop” and then to “gallop”. Being greedy, the English wanted that word too, and our horses started galloping instead of walloping. But we kept “wallop” for things making the sound of a hoofbeat – like thwacking someone upside the head!


  1. They say there is a consistent alternation "wa" - "gua" between some populations, right ? But only "war"-"guerre" comes to mind now.

  2. You are quite right, E.T. Other examples where we have both in English are : warranty/guarantee; warden/guardian; wile/guile; wage/gage. Between English and French there is the personal name William/Guillaume; wasp/guêpe, to name a few.

  3. Thank you for your reply.

    As I understand, if that ("wa" - "gua") was the essence phenomenon behind the quoted example, would the general case in itself and a few more examples have deserved a mention, such as to perhaps prompt readers to look for more examples on their own ?

  4. Hello E.T.
    I try to keep my words of the week to 100 words or less so that they can satisfy people's curiosity without taking up too much of their precious time! I really just wanted to talk about the relationship between gallop and wallop in this one. As you point out, the gu-/w phenomenon is worth a whole article on its own.


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.