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Old 09 May 2011, 05:27 PM
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Icon02 Flea market

Comment: Where did the term Flea Market come from? I heard it was from the
fleas that were found in the clothing that was purchased.
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Old 09 May 2011, 05:48 PM
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There are two theories about the origin of "flea market," and although I'm fairly certain that one of them is actually a case of linguistic coincidence, we'll take them both for a spin. According to etymologist Christine Ammer, the first "flea market" may have been New York's raucous Fly Market, a fixture in Lower Manhattan from before the American Revolution until around 1816. The "Fly" came from the Dutch name for the market, "Vly" or "Vlie," which meant "valley," and was pronounced, you guessed it, "flea." Voila, "flea market." Maybe.

However, while the Fly Market certainly existed, and its name was evidently indeed pronounced "flea market," the actual origin of the term most probably lies in Paris, where Le Marche aux Puces (literally, "market of the fleas") was a popular shopping venue. Le Marche aux Puces took its name, as you might have guessed by now, from the semi-humorous (and probably at least partly accurate) popular perception that the market's ragtag goods were more than likely to be infested with fleas.
From The Word Detective.
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Old 10 May 2011, 06:19 AM
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For what it's worth: A flea market is a Flohmarkt in German - same word. I guess that supports a European origin rather than a New York one.
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Old 10 May 2011, 06:24 AM
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You European Imperialists! How dare you force honest hard working Americans to call our markets the same thing you do!
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Old 10 May 2011, 07:18 AM
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Well, if that appeases you, I've seen signs for "Garage Sale" here - a concept that is imported from the USA.

On the other hand, "garage" is a French word originally, if I'm not mistaken.
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Old 10 May 2011, 08:42 AM
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Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable gives the 'old clothes and bric-a-brac attracting fleas' explanation. It does mention marche aux puces as being the French equivalent.
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Old 10 May 2011, 09:04 AM
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Real 'Murkans don't have garages. Too fancy. We got car holes.
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Old 11 May 2011, 06:59 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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It's called "loppmarknad" in Swedish, which is a literal translation of "flea market". I've heard the explanation that it's the customers who are the fleas, but I can't verify it. Swedish Wikipedia claims that it's because the clothes sold were said to have fleas.
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Old 11 May 2011, 03:21 PM
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Garer (en Francais) = to park. "Garage" ensues.


O_Y
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Old 15 May 2011, 01:21 PM
samclem samclem is offline
 
 
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To update the Word Detective's good work, it's been taken back to at least 1891 with a story appearing in US newspapers about a matress full of gold coins found in the Paris "flea market."
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