You’ve heard the phrase before… brand spanking new. This idiom is often used simply to describe things that are new. Such as “The film is 15 years old but looks close to brand spanking new” or “A brand spanking new computer souped up with all the bright shiny unnecessaries a girl could ever want.”
The word brand may remind some people of images of cowboys branding cattle on the open range. A hot burned wooden stake has been called a ‘brand’ since at least 950 AD. ‘To brand’ means to ‘make an indelible mark of ownership’, especially with a hot stake or iron. This verb usage has been known since the Middle Ages and is clearly derived from the earlier name. But that’s not the origin of this phrase.
It is more closely accurate to say that ‘brand new’ comes from marketing jargon, where terms like ‘brand loyalty’ etc. are commonplace. A ‘brand’ in marketing terms comes from the meaning of the word as ‘a particular class of goods, as indicated by a trade mark’. A brand new product is thought to come from a “brand’s new product”.
Now how does the spanking tie in and where does it come from? Some say that whoever coined ‘brand spanking new’ did so by appropriating the imagery of ‘spick and span’, the rhyming of ‘bran’ and ‘span’ and the meaning of ‘spanking’ to produce a satisfying-sounding phrase with some appropriate associations.
What has been more universally agreed upon as wording origins though is the practice of doctors ‘spanking’ babies right after they’re born. Doctors have traditionally spanked babies immediately after delivery to start them crying, and breathing. While this is actually less of spank and more of some light tapping the idea of a ‘spank’ has stuck.
So for something to be brand spanking new it would be as new as an infant who just came out of the womb.