cringeworthy, toe-curling, cringe-making, cringingly

When something is very bad, and perhaps even to the point that it is embarrassing, you may bend your toes in response to what you witness. ‘Bending one’s toes’ in Dutch is ‘je tenen krommen’ and when something makes you bend your toes, we call it ‘tenenkrommend’ (‘toe bending’). It can be used both as an adjective and adverb. Obviously it has a negative connotation 🙂

I could only found ‘cringing(ly)’ as a translation, so am happy to receive suggestions!

“Heb je gisteravond naar ‘the voice of Holland‘ gekeken?” – “Ja, dat tweede optreden was echt tenenkrommend slecht!” 
(“Did you watch ‘the voice of Holland’ yesterday evening?” – “Yes, the second performance was so bad, it was embarrassing!”)

“En, hoe was de kersttoespraak van de directeur? Ik had geen tijd om te gaan…” – “Nou, je hebt niks gemist hoor. En zijn grapjes waren ook dit jaar weer tenenkrommend!” 
(“So, how was the (managing) director’s Christmas speech? I didn’t have time to go…” – “Well, you haven’t missed a thing… And also this year again his jokes were terribly bad.”)

“Onze bedrijfsfeestjes zijn altijd tenenkrommend; dan moeten we met de baas karaoke doen, of één of ander suf rollenspel.” 
(“Our office/company parties are always embarrassingly bad; we have to participate in karaoke with the boss, or do some stupid role playing game.”)

“Was je bij de presentatie van Frank?!” – “Ja! Tenenkrommend gewoon!! Die gast moet echt weggepromoveerd worden!” 
(“Where you there at Frank’s presentation?” – “Yes! It was terrible! Embarrassing! This guy needs to be promoted so that we get rid of him!” Note the verb ‘wegpromoveren’: the act of promoting somebody with the mere objective to get rid of the person (if firing is not possible).)

– “Plaatsvervangende schaamte (voelen)”: (be) ashamed/embarrased for someone else.

Related words:
– Teen: toe [noun] [de teen, de tenen].
– Krommen: to bend, to curve [verb] [kromde, gekromd].
– Gênant: embarrassing [adjective].
– Schaamte: shame [noun] [de schaamte, <no plural>].
– Slecht: bad [adjective].

9 thoughts on “Tenenkrommend

  1. I would also say ‘toe-curling’ in English, which is much the same image! it would be more common as an adjective than adverb I think.

  2. RE: English use of “toe-curling.” A warning here, as it can also have a very opposite meaing: “Toe-curling” can also refer to something that is sensually very pleasant. One often sees such usage in collocations having to do with sex. A Google string-search will generate ample examples.

  3. Hi DWOTD,

    I’d never heard this word before in Dutch, but from the way it is used here, I think “cringeworthy” is probably the most accurate translation. I say this because something is cringeworthy, in that it is the adjective: you would say “a cringeworthy activity”, and in the adverb case, you would use “cringingly”. I don’t mean to be nitpicky at all, just for the sake of accuracy. I Really appreciate you guys’ page here, I have learned a lot from it.


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