Posted by ESC on January 14, 2001
In Reply to: Flea market posted by Barney on January 14, 2001
: : : Where did the name Flea market originate?
: : FLEA MARKET - "These bargain markets have nothing to do with fleas. 'Flea market' has been an American expression as far back as Dutch colonial days when there was a very real Vallie (Valley) Market at the valley, or foot, of Maiden Lane in Downtown Manhattan. The Vallie Market came to be abbreviated to 'Vlie Market' and this was soon being pronounced 'Flea Market.'" From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).
: Some hold that it originated from the French "Le Marche aux Puces" - a district in Paris of some antiquity.
I was surprised when Mr. Hendrickson listed only one origin. I knew it was too easy. The "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988) says the "marche aux puces" in Paris was the first flea market. "The reason for the name is simply that there are so many secondhand articles of all kinds for sale that they are believed to gather fleas."