(brand) spanking new, spic-and-span

When something is brand-new, in Dutch we say it is ‘gloednieuw’ or ‘splinternieuw’. The latter says: ‘as new as a splinter’, fresh splinters being indicative of a wooden object being brand-new (in the old days I guess). The ‘superlative’ of ‘splinternieuw’ is ‘spiksplinternieuw’; the word ‘spik’ is a corruption of the word ‘spijker’: nail. So it is as new as a fresh splinter and a nail straight from the forge 🙂

Read more about the etymology in Extra below.

“Als u zich vandaag nog registreert, maakt u kans op het winnen van een spiksplinternieuwe auto!” 
(“If you register by today, you have a chance to of winning a spanking new car.”)

“Goedemiddag, ik kom aangifte doen van diefstal van mijn fiets.” – “Dat is niet zo mooi meneer.” – “Nee, dat is zeker niet zo mooi, want hij was spiksplinternieuw!” 
(“Good afternoon, I have come to report the theft of my bicycle.” – “That’s unfortunate sir.” –  “That is very unfortunate indeed, because it was a brand-new bicycle!” Note that ‘dat is niet zo mooi’ is used colloquially.)

“Hoe was je date met Sabina?” – “Heel geslaagd. En ze zag er fantastisch uit; ze droeg een spiksplinternieuwe jurk!” 
(“How was your date with Sabina?” – “It went very well. She looked fantastic; she wore a brand spanking new dress.”)

“Ik ben vanmiddag m’n spiksplinternieuwe handschoenen kwijtgeraakt; ik baal als een stekker.” 
(“This afternoon I lost my brand-new gloves; I’m really pissed off about it.”)

“Mijn spiksplinternieuwe iMac is nu al kapot, het ziet er leuk uit dat Applespul, maar de kwaliteit laat ernstig te wensen over.” 
(“My spanking new iMac broke down already; Apple stuff looks great but the quality is mediocre.” Literally: ‘… but the quality seriously leaves to wish for.’)

Related words:
– Nieuw: new [adjective].
– Splinternieuw: brand-new [adjective].
– Gloednieuw: brand-new [adjective]. You may also encounter the colloquial ‘gloedjenieuw’.

Regarding the use of ‘spik’, which is a corruption of ‘spijker’ (nail), German readers may recognize a similar origin in the adjective ‘nagelneu’ (as new as a nail) although we don’t have ‘spiknieuw’ or ‘spijkernieuw’ in Dutch. The ‘spic’ in English ‘spic-and-span’ has similar roots as ‘spijker’; compare English ‘spike’. The ‘span’ in its turn is derived from ‘span-new’ which has its origin in old Norwegian ‘spánnýr’. The Dutch word related to ‘span’ is ‘spaander’ which is basically a very big splinter (wood chip).

3 thoughts on “Spiksplinternieuw

  1. In Canada, we say brand new or brand spanking new, but never spanking new. Here spic-and-span is only used to mean very clean and never refers to something new.

    “A chance to winning” would have to be “a chance of winning” or “a chance to win”.

    Thanks for the great site…it’s our start page on our browser. 🙂

    • Hi guys,
      Thanks for the feedback!
      Interestingly enough we also use ‘spic/k en span’ for ‘very clean’ in Dutch. The relationship with ‘new’ does make sense given that brand new items are often also clean 🙂
      Any UK based readers willing to shed a light on which version is most common?

Comments are closed.