Did you wake up with crumbs in the bed this morning? Or was there a mysterious plate by the kitchen sink when you went to make coffee? Chances are that someone in the house got an attack of the late-night munchies, or as it called in Swiss German, a Bettmümpfeli.
The Swiss German word ‘Hundsverlocheti’ literally means a ‘dog’s burial’ but it has nothing to do with canine expiration. Instead, the term refers to an event no one in their right mind would want to go to. For example, you might say to someone who goes out to every party or hapenning in town no matter how unexciting it is “Du gosch a jede Hundesverlochti”. This means something along the lines of “You’ll find any old reason to go out (even a dog’s burial)”.
The Swiss work a lot: around 40 to 42 hours a week is average for a full-time job at a Swiss company. But the plus side is that, generally speaking, the Swiss don’t take their work home. That magical moment when the working day is done and you are free to leave is known as ‘Feierabend’ (literally ‘celebration evening’) and is pronounced something like Fürabet – depending, of course, what part of Switzerland you are in. You could, for example, ask someone: ‘Wenn hesch fürabet?’, which means "When do you get off?".
It’s safe to say that ‘Eiertütsche’ is not the most useful word on this list, but with Easter coming up fast, it is at least seasonal. Eiertütsche (or ‘Egg bumping) refers to a game in which animal products and sublimated warfare are combined in one brilliant package. The combat involves hard-boiled eggs being knocked against each other. The owner of the egg with the harder shell (the one that doesn’t break) is the winner. Anyone familiar with the British game of conkers where chestnuts are smashed into each other will get the picture. Who knew Easter could be this much fun?
No list of Swiss German words would be complete without one swear word containing a) a reference to an animal and b) a reference to an anatomical nether region. In this case, the animal is a sheep (Schaf) and the part of the anatomy is the testicles (from ‘Seckel’ meaning something like bag). Although the word might sound cute, it is a strong insult akin to ‘wanker’ or ‘asshole’. You have been warned.
When spring finally comes around after Switzerland’s long, cold winter, it’s time to take the convertible out of the garage (preferably an ‘old timer’, as vintage cars are known in Switzerland) and go for a ‘Blueschtfaehrtli’. A combination of the words for ‘blossom’ and ‘little drive’, this difficult-to-pronounce word refers to the Swiss tradition of going out to admire the technicolour blossoms on the fruit trees.
The Swiss equivalent of the seat-warming, pencil-pushing bureaucrat is the delightfully-named ‘Bürogummi’ or ‘office eraser’.
The Germans had the Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall) and Donald Tramp wants to build a wall with Mexico but in Switzerland, the cultural and linguistic divide between the French and German-speaking parts of the country is an invisible border known as the Röstigraben after the typically Swiss German potato dish rösti. Our translation: the potato dish ditch.