Swinglish 101 – The Swiss Say the Darnest Things

Swinglish 101 - The Swiss Say the Darnest Things

"May I use your handy?" If you have lived in Switzerland long enough, you will have undoubtedly come across this question... It is a perfect example of a Swiss anglicism, or short: Swinglish"!

We have decided to publish the funniest Swinglish translations and anecdotes. It is actually normal for most Swiss to speak English fairly well (aside from German, French, Italian, you-name-it), but occasionally, words appear in the wrong context or are ever slightly off.

For native English speakers, this results in some pretty amusing "Swinglish" (i.e. "Swiss English"). But just to set the record straight, this article is not intended to make fun, but rather to put a smile on our faces. I mean, some of these Swiss "sayings" are truly "mega cool"!

 

A "Public Viewing" has nothing to do with a person who passed away...

Swinglish 101 - Public Viewing
 

An "Oldtimer" has four wheels instead of two legs and a cane!

Swinglish 101 - Oldtimer
 

A "Beamer" has little in common with a German car brand, as it is a video projector!

Swinglish 101 - Beamer
 

"Partnerlook" should be added to the English dictionary, no?

Swinglish 101 - Partnerlook
 

And since Switzerland is so unique, the Swiss simply invented a new word to describe it: "Swissness"!

Swinglish 101 - Swissness
 

Now this one makes sense: You kick the ground to get going on a skateboard. Thus, why not call it a "kickboard" like the Swiss?

Swinglish 101 - Kickboard
 

If you said "Handy" instead of mobile phone in the UK, you might get some blank stares as it stands for "hand job"...

 

"I've spent the holy day calling on the handy - just to try and get a hold of this guy!"

 

READ
10 hilarious Swiss town names with funny connotations

"I did quite some snow shuffling this weekend!"

 

"Your sweater is totally trendy!"

 

"I became a gift from my girlfriend today!"

 

"It was so funny skiing the other day!"

 

"I was so drunken on the weekend..."

 

"The cooker at this restaurant is famous!"

 

"The rabbits were all action at Migros today!"

 

"Let's go wellnessing this weekend!"

 

"Hello together!"

 

Have you ever been offered "du" informality like this? "You can say you to me!"

 

"Horny Chicken" on a restaurant menu... HUH?


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

"Frosted the lemon"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Now, please share your own findings in the comments below!

(Photographs courtesy of auto-exclusive.ch, Imprefectly Perfect, Skateboardfreunde NBG)

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Dimitri Burkhard

Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Newly Swissed GmbH
As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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18 replies
  1. Sylvia
    Sylvia says:

    OMG this is hilarious! Just a month ago I had lunch in a restaurant where they offered “Frosted the Lemon”, meaning lemon ice cream…

    Reply
  2. M'dame Jo
    M'dame Jo says:

    Two of the bunch are germanisms: The “hello together” is simply a direct translation of the alemanic “hoi zäme” and “bekommen” means “receive”. I can’t find any reasonable explanation for the horny chicken though…

    Reply
      • Antonio Tejada
        Antonio Tejada says:

        And given that the British coined the term “gastropub”, I don’t think “gastro” is an odd root in English any more.

  3. Antonio Tejada
    Antonio Tejada says:

    “Handy” is decidedly Denglisch, not Swinglish. “Handy” was used in Germany for years and years before the word made it to Switzerland. The historic word here is “Natel”.

    Reply
    • newlyswissed
      newlyswissed says:

      Thanks for sharing in your linguistic knowledge, Antonio! With the advent of smartphones like the iPhone, the terms “Handy” or “Natel” are probably going to disappear soon… What do you think?

      Reply
      • Antonio Tejada
        Antonio Tejada says:

        I think “Natel” is going to die out, since that branding hasn’t been used in a while. (“Natel” is what the old PTT, predecessor to Swisscom, used to market mobile telephony as. It stood for Nationales Auto-Telefon.)

        I think “Handy” is going to remain the generic word for a mobile phone. I’m not aware of any language where smartphones have changed the everyday generic word.

      • Maurizio
        Maurizio says:

        in italian switzerland you only hear natel, and it’s not going away anytime soon. swisscom still uses it for commercial purposes since it has the trademark.

      • Antonio Tejada
        Antonio Tejada says:

        Well, this article was about Swinglish (that is, Swiss German English), and for sure, in the years I’ve lived in Switzerland — all in Zurich — the usage of the word “natel” has dropped steadily. (But you are correct, Swisscom still uses it to brand their plans… not sure what I was thinking when I wrote my post!)

  4. Evel
    Evel says:

    Be aware that the ‘kickboard’ is not a skateboard. It only exclusively refers to that thing with the handle, the one that got invented by the brand ‘Micro Scooter’. A skateboard is a skateboard in Swinglish ;-)

    Reply
  5. crazyknitter
    crazyknitter says:

    Living now for 12 years in the UK and coming to Switzerland once a year to spend time with my mum, I often roll my eyes at expressions. Mind you some are just hilarious when you are used to English. One year my English partner nearly had the hysterics when he saw “Heisse Knacker” advertised at the local Bahnhof Kiosk. It took me a few seconds to realise why he was laughing so much.

    Reply
  6. SusieH-W.
    SusieH-W. says:

    Hi there :) I have been living in Australia for 27 years and have been able to visit my home country Switzerland almost every year. ~ I have noticed how much more Swinglish there is every year! A few expressions (said in the Emmental Valley) are these: “Willst du mit uns “fooden”? – Instead of “Anlass”, it’s always an “event”. – A “Brückenfest” is now a “bridge party”, of course! – A “camp” has replaced the Schul-Lager. – Of course all the computer related language is English as well. – I often have to smile, though, when a real Emmentaler farmer is trying to speak English… Lovely!

    Reply

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