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Word of the Day: nopjes (over the moon)

Jet is interested in a turn of speech used by Dutch Finance minister Dijsselbloem. He said recently: ‘Ik ben in mijn NOPJES over een nieuw financieringsplan voor banken.’ (I am pleased as punch about a new finance plan for banks). She wonders where these wee NOPs came from.

NOPJES could mean many things in Dutch. The word comes from the noun NOP, that’s obvious. The Van Dale Dictionary has the following translations: ‘burl’ (relieved surface in textile), ‘polka dot’ (circular embellishment), ‘bump’ (protuberance on the road), ‘stud’ (on the sole of a sports shoe), ‘tuft’ (of mattress). And last but not least: NOPJES are a famous brand of hard and salt Dutch liquorice.

At first sight these words do not give us any clues about the origins of the NOPPEN in ‘to be in one’s NOPJES’. Originally, and we’re talking twelfth century here, a NOP was a wisp of wool, a ‘noppa’. Newly woven woollen clothes used to have little fluffs of wool on them. These NOPPEN were a sign of newness and of quality. In those days people did not have the extensive wardrobes that modern men and women have. They were happy to have two outfits. And each of them had to last a long time.

So if a medieval person received a new dress he or she must have been very delighted. They were proud of their new clothes with fluffs, NOPJES. The NOPJES they removed from the clothes were used to fill mattresses.

So a NOP was a small round irregularity on the surface of a textile. Later on in history this word was also applied to other materials and objects, like the studs on the soles of soccer shoes.

However happy you may be and ‘in your NOPJES’, do not make the mistake to mix up NOPJES with the word NOPPES. This word has a completely different origin. NOPPES comes from the medieval jargon of thieves and it means ‘nothing’ or ‘gratis’. Sometimes it can still be heard in the street. Someone saying: ‘Het is zo goedkoop. Het kost bijna niks nada noppes’. (It is so cheap, it costs all but nothing….)

Minister Dijsselbloem may have been in his NOPJES, but in the meantime the crisis has blackened. If our goverment does not act quickly and give a boost to our economy both the banks and their consumers will end up with NOPPES.

So there I leave you. Tomorrow we continue with Komal’s suggestion BEETJE.