Friday, 12 June 2009

Spick And Span

Having been up since what seems like the crack of dawn this morning, I got to blogging relatively early, so began by seeing who'd popped up on the Blogger Buzz 'recently posted' list. And there was Bernie from On My Own, telling us all about a 'free' cleaning day carried out by what seemed like two cleaning angels. What a thing to win!

Come to think of it, a couple of those would be a welcome round here. I could ask a small one to fly up into the corners of every room on a cobweb/spider hunt, and get them to flick their wings over the top of any dusty cupboards they met on the way.

Another, heftier, taller entity might like to tackle the outside jobs, hovering mid air to trim over-enthusiastic green and growing things with a shiny (golden, perhaps?) pair of secateurs he/she just happened to have amongst their folds of cloudy raiment. That would be after manhandling (would that apply to an angel?) a few pairs of curtains down and into the washing machine...

I wish!

It's easy to see why the words 'spick and span' presented themselves to me as a suitable title for today. But then, naturally I had to hunt out their origins, as much as one may winkle out the truth of such things. This is what I found:-

The noun spick has various meanings, or rather it had various meanings, as it is now rarely used outside of spick and span. These include: a side of bacon, a floret of lavender, a nail or spike, a thatching spar.

Likewise span has, or did have, several meanings, including: the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger, a measure of butter, a fetter or chain, a chip of wood (as the Norse word spann-nyr).

Is there no end to the useless information I inflict on the Blogland collective mind?
Hopefully not.

If a poem should present itself on any of the aforementioned points before the sun is over the yardarm, or the roof top, I'll be back to share it...

Sorry it's a bit late...and not a lot...

Cleaners come and cleaners go,
but where they've been
we always know.

No speck of dust; house spick and span
thanks to elbow grease
and large dust-pan !


  1. These investigations into the derivation of words are invariably interesting. I guess everything to do with words and language is interesting, so thanks for that one.

  2. Then, I guess in origin "spick and span" really means something like "everything everywhere," so to speak. Over here, there is or was a cleaner called "Spic and Span." Therefore, I never knew that spic was supposed to end in K.

  3. 'Spic en span', also knows as 'Spick en Span' is also a Dutch saying with exactly the same meaning. Isn't that interesting ;-)

  4. I love the word "history!" Since words are our commom communication, it becomes interesting how the evolve over time.

  5. Reintroduced self to Spic and Span just yesterday. Can't say I enjoyed their company. :)

  6. My guess is, Jinksy, you will come up with something before the end of the day!

  7. Oh... you have pressed my hot button, Jinksy! I love, love, love words and word origins/derivations. I discovered the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary at the college library when I was a freshman. Many an evening I would sit in the library just to read the OED. There is a wonderful book about just such things: "Caught in the Web of Words" (1979, Oxford University Press) by K.M. Elisabeth Murray, the biography of her grandfather, James Murray, the genius behind the creation of the OED. I found it fascinating reading.

    Keep the "useless information" coming! I love it!

  8. Spic and Span. Hmmmm, could be worse. Wishy and Washy. Hunky and Dory. Namby and Pamby. Bubbles and Squirt. See what I mean?

  9. Well my place is far from spick and span. One day perhaps. But not today LOL

  10. Oh, for even only one cleaning fairy.. sigh. Actually, I'd be happy enough to settle for a brood that I needn't always nag to pick up after themselves!

    The only day this nest will be spick and span is when it is empty (rolling eyes).

  11. Hey, I thought I would play around and see what would happen, first time I've ever tried to do something like this. Pretty silly on my part.

    In all this land
    When we think of spick and span
    We think of something grand
    Perhaps that’s why we clean in the Spring
    Spring and Fall cleaning time
    This was to get everything in it’s prime
    But what do we do when we’re no longer able
    To reach high into the gables
    Or move that darn coffee table
    We just sit and look around
    Making an awful frown
    Wishing we could get our feet off the ground

  12. Hey Miss Nups, am so glad that I gave you inspiration for your post today LOL Not that I don't like being associated with Spick an Span but next time something a little more exotic okay....still having a chuckle, love it.
    Have a great weekend.....:- Hugs

  13. Of course, at least in America, "spic" is also a derogatory term for a person of Hispanic origin, I think (although not positive) most specifically a Puerto Rican person. So, trying to show off my new learning gathered here, by saying "Look at that spic!" while pointing at a side of bacon in the butcher's window, may end up with my getting into an inadvertent fight with someone named Juan.

  14. That is interesting learning where spick & span originated.I have never really given it any thought before.

    Many thanks for the lovely poem that you left on my comment box! Very apt!

  15. That's not at all useless information, Jinxy! I love to learn about the origins of things like spick and span.

    Now, can you dig for me the origins of the phrase "and the worm has turned?" How can anyone tell?

    Have a great weekend!

  16. Oh, I love hearing word history!!!! Etymology is so fascinating!!! And this is a wonderful post! But, I am in hysterics over Jim's remarks...oh, words can get us in big, big trouble, can't they? ~Janine XO

  17. Suldog - you'll need to spell it out - S P I C K, so everyone knows the difference!

  18. Wonderful!! I love the history of the words....absolutely fabulous info!! the way you write....

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  20. I love the word span. My husband said it also is the distance from outside of a wall to the outside of the opposite wall for roof framing purposed:)

  21. I love the expression "spic and span". It reminds me of when I was a child and my mum always had an apron on and a duster in her hand. She listened to "Housewives Choice" and "Mrs. Dale's diary" on the radio and she made me a cup of tea and a marshmallow biscuit every day when I came home from school. Ah, those were the days!
    Blessings, Star

  22. So next time I am drooling over a side of bacon I need to spell it: "Wow, look at that S-P-I-C-K of bacon. That way Juan will know I'm not talking about him? Gawd, I really hope Juan can spell. Otherwise, count my six feet under.

  23. The words spick and span stop at my front door and never come in, it seems. Oh well. This has caused me to remember something though that I'll probably post on...cob webs. I'll give you credit if and when I get 'round to it.


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