Tidy up your "brol"


The noun brol is a multipurpose word whose content is poorly defined, but which every Belgian understands perfectly and uses with a certain delight; delight in the language, with smoutebol (nun's fart - a kind of pastry) as just one example.

Among its meanings, it is first and foremost a synonym for clutter, mess, pigsty, but brol can also mean a collection of disparate objects or a worthless object, junk to be discarded or an appliance that doesn't work or barely works, and in the figurative sense, confused organisation. In spite of its somewhat impulsive appearance, the brol has a certain prestige. Prince Charles is quoted as saying that "there would probably be no more monarchy if he hadn't saved the worthless institution (brol)." (Le Soir 12.12.2001). Journalist Eric Renette used the word when talking about public auctions that see "an incredible number of 'rustbuckets', 'brols' and other 'scrapheaps'." Sometimes, brol tries to avoid attention by using two 'l's, as in "the bric-a-brac traders will set up their broll in the village streets." (Le Soir 13.11.2001).


Brol has also won over artists, including Hergé, who remembered it by creating the name of a firm "Brol" in The Castafiore Emerald, and the title Angèle chose for her first album, "I wanted to put a Belgian word in my album, especially as it has always made me laugh. Brol means mess, disorder but it's optimistic and light, not at all pejorative. The word reminds me of my childhood and my country, because I am there less and less often. I find it very reassuring."