THE bird world is in a flap. The dunnock, that drab little sparrow which hangs out in hedges, has been outed as a “trollop”.

But the birdy expert who slapped the unpleasant label of being a slapper on the bird has himself been slapped down. He’s been accused of “everyday sexism” and the RSPB issued a statement distancing itself from the comments. The Sun newspaper went further – above a picture of former RSPB officer Chris Edwards was the headline “you tit”.

At a talk in Birmingham to promote the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, Mr Edwards had said of the dunnock: “The female does the equivalent of going out on the street corner, calling to attract a male, mating, sending the male off to get food, and then heading back to the street corner”.

He then brought up a slide with a picture of an inoffensive-looking dunnock and the word “trollop”.

Without wishing to intrude on the sex life of the dunnock – they can mate up to 100 times a day – the word “trollop” is interesting. It means “an untidy or slovenly woman; a slattern, slut” – all derogatory words – and it comes from a 14th Century verb, to troll, which meant to walk or cruise about, and was a hunting term for going in quest of game – you can see how it became an alternative for prostitute.

But “trollop” has nothing to do with “Trollope”, which is a County Durham surname that has graced several novelists over the centuries. The first Trollope was John Trollope (1427-1461) who lived at Thornlaw, near Wheatley Hill, and he acquired his surname because he came from Trollope, or Troughburn, in Northumberland. Just as Stanhope is a Viking name for the valley of stones, so Trollope was a Viking name for the valley of trolls – small, supernatural, subterranean cave-dwellers in Norse legend.

It must be difficult having a surname like Trollope – particularly as a Mr and Mrs Trollope in Doncaster in 1894 gave their new-born daughter the first name Silly – without being dragged into a sexism row about a dunnock.

MANY thanks to the surprisingly numerous people who have been in touch following last week’s column about the Scottish word “scunner”, a word that has been dragged into the Brexit negotiations.

Phil Chinnery spoke for several when he defined it as “the feeling of disgust or loathing brought about by someone or something unpleasant”.

Anne Gibbon sent a page from her father’s old Scottish dictionary, in which “scunner” is preceded by “scumfish” – which, as Mike Amos readers will know, means “to suffocate or choke” – and “scunge”, which means to slink slyly about like a dog looking for food.

Then comes “scunnerful” and “scunnersome”, which obviously mean loathsome or disgusting, and the page finishes with “scuppit-beaver”, which somehow is Scottish for “a shovel-shaped hat”.

These are great words – you can feel the loathing in “scunnersome” – but my favourite Scottish word remains one I heard many years ago when a scarecrow was discovered to have been placed in the middle of a football pitch, and the cry went up for someone to remove the (expletive deleted) “tattyboggle” pretty sharpish.