I have a passing interest in the origin of surnames and friends will test my knowledge now and then. ‘What about Clegg, then?’ someone asked me last week, ‘that’s a good old Yorkshire name – you know, Foggy, Compo and Clegg and all that…’ he added. My friend was surprised when I told him that the original bearers of the name would probably have come from Clegg – a place just over the border, near Rochdale in Lancashire. According to one reference point the place-name is derived from an Old Norse word ‘kleggi’ for haystack. On this side of the border a ‘cleg’ is another name for a horsefly – which according to another source is also from the Old Norse ‘kleggi’ – in fact, the horsefly is still called a klegg in Norway. So imagine my surprise while out on a quick walk around the village yesterday when  someone said to me ‘it’s a bit cleggy down there’ pointing to a particularly muddy area. I made a mental note to look up the term again when I got home and found ‘claegy’ which is an Old English word for ‘clayey’. I know Yorkshire folk often say ‘claggy’ for sticky but when I spoke to an elderly neighbour about it he replied, ‘Nay, claggy means thirsty.’ I’m beginning to wish I’d never brought up the subject. Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can put me right?

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  1. Terry

    I’ve never heard claggy used to mean thirsty but during my days workng in Wakefield an invitation for a pint was often accompanied by the expression “I’m clagged” or “My throat’s clagged”. Until now I’d never thought of the derivation – maybe I was too busy thinking of the beer – but perhaps it implied the throat was so dry it felt Sticky and needed lubrication.


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