(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).


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].


good-humoured/tempered, in a good mood

The origin of this adjective goes back to the days when the type of headgear people were wearing (and how they were wearing it) could be indicative of their mood. Literally it meant: wearing the hat well. Note that the Dutch noun ‘muts’ no longer is a general word for headgear; it typically refers to the kind of hat that you can pull over your ears and is made of wool, or a wool like fabric, see DWOTD Muts.

‘Goedgemutst’ is slightly colloquial; a common more formal synonym is ‘goedgehumeurd’.

“Zo, wat ben jij goedgemutst vandaag!” – “Klopt, vandaag is de eerste dag van mijn vakantie!” 
(“You are in quite a good mood today!” – “That’s right, today is the first day of my holiday!” Note that ‘vakantie’ is typically used for a longer period of time-off.)

“Zij is echt prettig gezelschap, altijd goedgemutst en daar word je zelf ook heel vrolijk van!” 
(“She is really pleasant company, always good-tempered and that really cheers you up as well!”)

“Ik geef toe, ik ben niet echt het goedgemutste type bij uitstek, maar om nu te doen alsof ik altijd depressief ben, dat vind ik ook weer zo wat!” 
(“I admit, I’m not really an outstanding example of the good-humoured kind of guy, but to act as if I’m always depressed, that’s a bit too much to my liking.”)

Wat is er aan de hand? Vanochtend was je nog zo goedgemutst!” – “Ach houd toch op met dat goedgemutst, het is pokkenweer en het is koud! Daar word ik chagrijnig van! Laat me met rust!” 
(“What’s the matter? This morning you were in such a good mood!” – “Ah stop the ‘in such a good mood’ will you, it’s lousy weather and it’s cold! That makes miserable! Leave me alone!”)

Related words:
Muts: hat, cap [noun] [de muts, de mutsen].
– Goedgehumeurd: good-humoured [adjective].
– Humeur: temper, mood [noun] [het humeur, <no plural>].
– Stemming: mood [noun] [de stemming, de stemmingen].
Bui: mood [noun] [de bui, de buien].
– Vrolijk: cheerful, merry [adjective/adverb].
Blij: happy, glad [adjective].
– Opgewekt: cheerful, lighthearted [adjective].


badly done piece of work or repair, botch-job, botch-up
[het brod-del-werk] 

The noun ‘werk’ means ‘work’ in Dutch and it can be used for a (type of) job one has, but also for a job done, e.g. ‘goed werk!’ (good job!). When you deliver ‘broddelwerk’ you are doing a terrible job of poor quality. The related verb is ‘broddelen’ (to bungle / botch (up) (one’s work)’, however it is almost never used.

“Hij heeft een goede reputatie als dichter, maar zijn laatste bundel is echt broddelwerk!” 
(“He has a very good reputation being a poet, but his latest collection (of poems) is a botch-up.”)

“Ik heb mijn auto laten spuiten, maar het is echt broddelwerk, ik zweer het je, breng je auto nooit naar die garage!” 
(“I had my car spray-painted but it’s a botch-job, I’m telling you, never take your car to that garage!”)

“Denk jij dat Frank contractverlenging krijgt?” – “Ik denk het niet, die gast levert echt broddelwerk af!” 
(“Do you think Frank will get contract renewal?” – “I don’t think so, the guy’s output is always of very poor quality.”)

Related words:
– Broddelen: to make a botch of something, to bungle / botch (up) (one’s work) [verb] [broddelde, gebroddeld].
– Slecht werk leveren: to do a poor job [verb] [leverde, geleverd].
– Broddelaar: bungler, botcher [noun] [de broddelaar, de broddelaren].
Waardeloos: worthless [adjective].
– Slecht: bad [adjective].
Aanfluiting: farce, travesty [noun] [de aanfluiting, de aanfluitingen].


to liven up, to brighten up
[op-leu-ken, leuk-te op, op-ge-leukt] 

‘Leuk’ is the Dutch adjective for ‘nice’ or ‘pleasant’. It’s also the Dutch adjective for ‘funny, amusing, charming, attractive, pretty’ and even ‘jolly’, but we will ignore that for now 😉

‘Opleuken’ is an example of the Dutch tendency to create verbs whenever we have a need for one; the use of ‘op’ (which can mean ‘up’) in this case indicates that an improvement is the result.

“Zo, ik zie dat jullie de woonkamer opgeleukt hebben, gezellig hoor!” 
(“Hey, I see you (guys) have livened up the living room, really nice!”)

“Ik geef een feestje komend weekend, wil je me helpen om de boel een beetje op te leuken?” 
(“I’m throwing a party this weekend, will you help me brighten things up?”)

“Mijn kantoor is niet bepaald een warme omgeving.” – “Kun je het niet met wat planten opleuken?” 
(“My office is not really a warm environment.” – “Can’t you liven it up with a few plants?” Note that ‘kantoor’ in Dutch can mean both office (room) and office building.)

“Ik heb het helemaal niet naar mijn zin in mijn nieuwe huis; ik vind het er maar kil!” – “Niet zo zeuren, kom op zeg, leuk het een beetje op en dan valt het heus wel mee!” 
(“I don’t feel good at all in my new house; I think it’s rather bleak!” – “Stop whining, come on, liven it up a bit and it won’t be all that bad!”)

– “Het gezellig maken”: to (physically) improve the atmosphere, to make it more pleasant / cosier.

“O, wat heb je het hier gezellig gemaakt! En dat ondanks de grote ruimte!”
(“Oh, you have created such a nice atmosphere here! And that despite the big space!”).

Related words:
Leuk: nice, pleasant [adjective].
– Gezellig: pleasant, enjoyable, nice, fun, good atmosphere, cosy [adjective/adverb].
Verbeteren: to improve [verb] [verbeterde, verbeterd].
– Mooi maken: to beautify, to adorn, to pretty up [verb] [maakte mooi, mooi gemaakt].