One-and-a-half-metre-society voted Dutch word of the year: ‘Anderhalvemetersamenleving’

Other new terms in top 10 include ‘cough shame’ and ‘virus conspiracy theorist’

Andy Gregory
Tuesday 15 December 2020 14:49 GMT
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A sign warning for social distancing outside a terrace in Amsterdam
A sign warning for social distancing outside a terrace in Amsterdam

With coronavirus dominating just about every aspect of our lives, it seems fitting a term relating to the pandemic has been voted Dutch word of the year by a considerable (social) distance.

The Netherlands’ leading dictionary-maker, Van Dale, has announced that, by popular demand, its word of the year is Anderhalvemetersamenleving.

The compound noun translates in English to “one-and-a-half-metre-society”.

The lengthy new word, which was added to the dictionary in April during Holland’s first spike in coronavirus infections, describes life under the government’s five-foot social distancing rules.

It was the runaway winner of Van Dale’s annual poll, in which some 12,000 people took part, garnering just under 30 per cent of the votes.

The results were announced on Tuesday – on the same day the Netherlands began a strict five-week lockdown to counter recent sharp rises in new infections.

In second place with 11 per cent was fabeltjesfuik – translated into English by DutchNews as “nonsense trap”.

Van Dale defines as fabeltjesfuik as the “phenomenon that users of social media who are interested in conspiracies are offered more and more messages about conspiracies due to the operation of social media, which gradually leads them to believe in them”.

All of the other words in the top 10 were related to the year's defining story – the coronavirus pandemic – and celebrate the Dutch way of creating new words by knitting together existing words to describe a new phenomenon.

One notable inclusion was hoestschaamte, a word best translated as “cough shame” – the feeling experienced by people who cough in public places during the pandemic.

Also on the list was lockdownfeestje  – a word describing parties staged and attended by people who do not take lockdowns seriously – and viruswappie, translating to “virus conspiracy theorist”, used to describe people who deny the severity of the virus.

Additional reporting by AP

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