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Word of the Day: hagelslag (chocolate sprinkels)

Many Dutch breakfasters start the day with a ‘boterham met HAGELSLAG’. For lunch these sweettooths break the day with another one. And so does Kolja, I presume, for he is the one who asked us where the word HAGELSLAG comes from. Thanks Kolja!




HAGELSLAG consists of brown chocolate sprinkels which are scattered on a slice of bread usually covered with butter. Originally HAGELSLAG was as white as snow because the sprinkels probably consisted of sugar or aniseed sugar. The earliest forms of HAGELSLAG were produced at the turn of the nineteenth century. The earliest advertisement of chocolate HAGELSLAG dates back to 1913. The famous chocolate manufacturer Venz started its production in 1936.

The choice of the brand-name HAGELSLAG with its two harsh gutturals is peculiar to say the least. ‘Sprinkels’ has a sweet and lovely ring, whereas HAGELSLAG sounds quite aggressive. The word HAGELSLAG is also in use for heavy precipitation of hailstones. As in: ‘de oogst is door zware hagelslag getroffen’ (the harvest has been swept by heavy hailstorms). HAGEL meaning ‘hail’ and SLAG meaning ‘blow’.

Nobody knows who came up with this odd word but it is a fact that Dutch people discussing HAGELSLAG will not immediately think of icy hailstones. This yummy chocolate delicacy is almost exclusively Dutch. Our Flemish neighbours also buy this product but they have another, maybe a more apt word for HAGELSLAG: ‘muizenstrontjes’ (‘mouse-droppings’).

Elsewhere in the world HAGELSLAG is for sale as well. Sprinkles (also called ‘jimmies’) are used as a decoration to cupcakes, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, and puddings.