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Sneeuwgel – Word of the Year 2013?

The Dutch winter sometimes can be real fun, a proper winter, like last year. Most of the time though, between December and March the weather is, how should I put it… the opposite of pleasant. Temperatures fluctuate around the zero, the moist wind is blowing through whatever you wear and some unidentified mixture is falling out of the sky instead of proper snow.

Actually, this is what I want to discuss. While the Dutch have many words for urban waterways, they have surprisingly limited vocabulary describing forms of precipitation. Which I find strange, considering the variety of stuff that falls down on you most of the year. The local weather forecast recognizes rain, snow and hail, but the rest of it is just lumped together as “wintry showers”. And while the English language is able to distinguish varieties in the wintry showers such as graupel (even though its a German word) or sleet, the Dutch language largely ignores the topic. Which is even more surprising considering how much the Dutch talk about the weather.

Every year the Word of the Year is chosen, and every year the Dutch turn the election into a popularity contest. The words that have been chosen disappear from the language almost as quickly as they’ve appeared, while the weather remains undetermined and vague. Its a situation I refuse to accept any longer. So far, the Dutch had to get around with just four words for precipitation – regen (rain), sneeuw (snow), hagel (hail) and ijzel (glaze). Here’s my contribution to the Dutch language – new words describing wintery precipitation forms.

    • Sneeuwgel – snow pellets or graupel.
    • Snegen – a mix of snow and rain
    • Snagel – a mix of snow and hail
    • Ragel – a mix of rain and hail (also occurs during summer thunderstorms)
    • Snergel – snow, rain and hail at the same time (yes, it happens too)
    • Reeuwgel – a mix of rain and sneeuwgel
    • Heeuwgel – a mix of hail and sneeuwgel
    • Sneeuwrgel – rain, hail and sneeuwgel all together (I swear you, I’ve seen it happen)

Its too late for this year, but perhaps one of these words will make it in 2013. I choose sneeuwgel. It’s my personal favourite. And this winter, it’s already here.

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