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Posted by Barney on July 06, 2000

In Reply to: Brand-new posted by Bob on July 05, 2000

: : : : : : : : : This one came up today and after throwing it back and forth for a while and coming up with zip, my aunt and I have given up and want to ask you all - where the heck does it come from? Any clues?

: : : : : : : : Although they no longer do it, doctors used to spank new babies on their little bottoms to get them to start breathing. Nothing's newer, yes?

: : : : : : : That sounds like a good theory to me. "Brand-spanking-new" is a "sandwich word" created from "brand-new."

: : : : : : : BRAND-NEW - "'Brand-new has nothing to do with the brand name of a product. It is rather associated with the word 'brand' that is cognate with 'fire,' as in firebrand. The product would thus be fresh from the anvil, or as Shakespeare put it in 'Twelfth Night,' 'fire-new.'" From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997). According to the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988), the word "brand" ".dates back to the Middle Ages and earlier, when 'brand' meant 'flame or torch' as it does in the still current phrase 'snatching a 'brand' from the burning.' The description 'brand-new' in those days was applied to products - usually made of metal - newly taken from the flames in which they were molded."
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: : : : : : I disagree with the Encyclopedia when they say brand-new has *nothing* to do with product brands. The modern concept of branding has its linguistic roots in the branding of cattle, where a hot branding iron would permanently mark the ownership of a cow. (It's a small step from cattle to the brands on commodity products ... e.g., the smiling quaker man on sacks of oats in the 19th century that reassured consumers of a reliable quality level.) In this century with more widespread literacy, we tend to associate brand with brand name, but easy-to-recognize picture symbols are the original true brand identifiers. And the branding iron has its roots in the etymology noted. It's not a direct connection, but it's a real one.

: : : : : I, too, think "cows" when I hear the word "brand." So I was surprised to read what Mr. Hendrickson and the Morrises had to say.

: : : : If, by the way, there are any marketing types out there interested in more about branding, brand equity, brand assets, and related issues, they can visit our website at There are white papers to download on these topics.

: : : I think when referring to branded cattle, once again an iron rod with the owners symbol was laid in flames in order for the impression to take place (burnt) on the cattle. Thus a cow was "Branded" or "Labeled". You can see the evolution from that act when referring to products because the cow was the product of the owner. And said product was labeled. (Probably to discourage thieves.)
: : : It's amazing to see the modern day definition in america which undertones an expensive or superior quality of product by comparison. A "Brand name" or buying a "label" product.
: : : Remember what people said in the early 1980's about the expensive Jordache jeans: "You're just buying the label".

: : There appears to be a growing trend amongst some young people to remove the label so that it's the obvious quality of the product that impresses and not the label. I know one person who has removed all the badges from his Reliant Robin - much good that will do him.

: Oops. You lost us Yanks on that last one. What's a Reliant Robin?

This means that one of our sitcoms that's centred around the life and times of a family of Cockneys who live in a tower block - I hesitate to call it an apartment building - has not found it's way onto the screens in the USA. Del and Rodney Trotter plus Uncle Albert (earlier episodes include Grandpa), are market traders and their means of transport for all purposes is their three-wheeled car - the Reliant Robin. Now the Reliant Robin is a low budget car not valued for the kudos it confers on its owner but it has a faithful following. To remove the badges from such a car in an effort to disguise its origins is equivalent to shaving a lion and trying to pass it off as a kitten.