The flop chicken disappears from the supermarket, but does the word disappear with it? Probably not, because there is more popping in Dutch. In addition to flop chicken, we know flop class, flop squat, flop suitcase and flop bag: all five words from the past decades. Food journalist Wouter Klootwijk coined the term ‘exploded chicken’ at the beginning of this century, but the word only became widely known ten years later when the Wakker Dier Foundation started campaigning with it. Then things went fast: in no time at all, creative language users came up with new pop words analogous to plofkip.
However, the linguistic term “thud” has been common for over a hundred years. An explanation could be that thud chickens, thud classes, thud squats and so on are outgrowths of modern times and the thud sound is not. Were there not bulging school classes in the past? Yes. But no one ever talked about a pop class back then.
Perhaps the difference should be sought in another ‘pop’. Explosives are consonants in which the airflow is completely stopped for a moment and then released with a small explosion. It results in p, b, t, d or k, sounds that are realized with a pop sound. That is the real ploffen, one of the few verbs in Dutch that are onomatopoeic.
This verb to flop hasn’t produced many distractions. In addition to the ‘pop hood’, the foam casing of a microphone that is supposed to dampen the popping of mainly p’s and b’s, you also hear about a pop hood, but actually the only real derivation is the ‘pop bike’, the mocking name for the old Solex moped, a motorized two-wheeler that moved with a popping sound. Hence the name ‘t Ploffietske for a moped and scooter specialist in Groningen and the nickname Plofstra for Solex riders.
The popping of a pop chicken or pop class has no direct relationship with a pop sound, but more with the indecent statement ‘I pop’ after a lavish meal. “If I stuff any more into it, I’ll explode,” the guest actually wants to say. To explode as to explode is not in the dictionaries. It is relatively new, because once those who wished harm on someone did not add the curse to their enemy, ‘pop’, but ‘explode’, or rather ‘explode in a flour sack’ or ‘get an explosion behind your heart’.
And yet explode is now the most commonly used meaning. The particle de-explode is not the same as de-humanizing, depriving or delousing, where it has a negative meaning: ‘get rid of something’. It is the awakening of breakfast and budding: ‘starting with something’. To explode is to make something explode with a bang.
And so a pop-up class has so many students that the room almost explodes. A robbery is a theft in which an ATM is exploded. A floppy suitcase is the suitcase of a money runner that explodes if it falls into foreign hands, a floppy bag or floppy cushion is an airbag, an inflatable bumper that explodes in the event of a collision. And a flop chicken is a chicken that gets fattened up so quickly that it threatens to explode.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on 17 September 2021
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of September 17, 2021