A good wallop

Middle & Over Wallop, Glyndebourne

If you’ve ever been to the opera at Glyndebourne, deep in England’s green and pretty Sussex countryside, you might have eaten in Middle & Over Wallop or Nether Wallop. If you’re like me, the names of those distinctive dining rooms might conjure up images of saucy spankings, or at least a punch below the belt, perhaps somewhere in England’s green and pleasant lands. But we might be wrong in thinking there was any sort of thrashing going on in the history of these eatery names.

Glyndebourne’s dining halls, built in the years just before the outbreak of the Second World War, were named after villages in Hampshire from which the Earls of Portsmouth take their family name. Lady Rosamond Wallop, sister of the eighth Earl, was the mother of John Christie, the owner of the Glyndebourne estate who — with his wife, Audrey Mildmay — founded the famous opera festival.

But where does the name and word wallop come from? Does it mean anything other than a good thrashing?

Wallop, dating back to the late 14th century, used to mean “to gallop.” That’s presumably where the Earls of Portsmouth got their family name from. It probably dates from the Old North French waloper (13th century, Old French galoper), from an old Germanic phrase walalaupan meaning “to run well” (cf. Old High German wela, “well”, and Old Low Franconian loupon, “to run or leap”).

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the modern meanings “to thrash” (from 1820) and “heavy blow” (from 1823) might be completely separate developments, of imitative origin. Oxford Dictionaries explains that “from ‘gallop’ the senses ‘bubbling noise of a boiling liquid’ and then ‘sound of a clumsy movement’ arose, leading to the current sense — of a heavy blow or punch. (In North America, it also has the figurative meaning of a powerful effect: something ‘packing a wallop’ …)

Another sense of wallop, at least for Brits, is an alcoholic drink — especially beer. You might find yourself knocking back some wallop when you visit Nether Wallop over the summer …


Hat tip to Patrick for the Glyndebourne Wallop reminder …