MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Is Something “Brand Spanking New”?

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You just won a brand-new car” on many a game show. You might have told a friend before about a “brand spanking new” TV you bought. Or, because you listen to WFRE, you’ve definitely heard Brooks & Dunn proclaim how they’re a “Brand New Man”.

But, are “brand” & “spanking” really necessary? Doesn’t “new” get the message across just fine on its own? Why do we say something is “brand new” or “brand-spanking new”? And who brought corporal punishment into the mix?

The “brand” in “brand new” doesn’t refer to the manufacturing of something. Back in the 16th century, “brand” meant “a burning piece of wood”, so something that was “brand new” would’ve been anything that had just come out of a forge or furnace, like metalwork and/or pottery.

“Spanking” was an English word from the 17th century, which originally referred to something extraordinary. So, for something to be “brand-spanking new”, it couldn’t just be new, it also had to be remarkable. For better or worse, it actually has nothing to do with the verb “spanking”, or the act of popping someone on their backside.

And now you’ve learned something brand spanking new!

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or email [email protected].

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