Saturday, 6 February 2016

EN: What are Swiss High German and Helvetisms?

 
 Cheer it up. There will soon be cream-based ice cream. 

While Swiss German (Schwyzerdütsch) is a number of dialects lacking standardized writing systems, Swiss High German (Schweizerisches Hochdeutsch) together with French, Italian and Romansh is one of Switzerland's four official languages. For those of us who have school-age children this is particularly important. Some of the German words which we ourselves learned once upon a time simply are not correct here, although the teachers obviously understand them. Instead typically Swiss words are used - so called helvetisms – like Rahm and Glace in our example.

Helvetisms with a French origin are usually quite easy to understand (at least for native Swedes, like me). However, unlike the French, German-speaking Swiss tend to put the stress on the first syllable, which might sound slightly odd in the beginning. Here you will find some of these words (in brackets the more frequent High German equivalent):

  • lawyer/attorney: der Advokat (der Rechtsanvalt) 
  • ticket: das Billet (die Fahrkarte) 
  • truck: der Camion (der Lastwagen/der Lastkraftwagen) 
  • fireplace: das Cheminée (der offene Kamin) 
  • hairdresser: der Coiffeur (der Friseur) 
  • conductor: der Conducteur (der Schaffner) 
  • retail: der Detailhandel (der Einselhandel)  
  • garage: die Garage (die Autowerkstatt) 
  • vest: das Gilet (die Weste) 
  • ice cream: die Glace (das Eis) 
  • wash basin: das Lavabo (das Handwaschbecken) 
  • upper limit: die Limite (die Obergrenze) 
  • beer mixed with lemonade: das Panaché (das Radler) 
  • stationery shop: die Papeterie (die Schreibwarenhandlung) 
  • ground floor: die Parterre (das Erdgeschoss) 
  • tyre: der Pneu (der Autoreifen/der Fahradreifen) 
  • chicken: das Poulet (das Huhn) 
  • desk: das Pult (der Schreibtisch) 
  • return ticket/round-trip ticket: das Retourbillet (die Rückfahrtkarte) 
  • distinguishing features: das Signalement (die Personenbeschreibung) 
  • hospital: das Spital (das Krankenhaus) 
  • (window) blind: der Storen (die Jalousie) 
  • tuna: der Thon (der Thunfisch) 
  • tram: das Tram (die Strassenbahn) 
  • pavement/sidewalk: das Trottoir (der Gehweg) 
  • bicycle: das Velo (das Fahrrad) 

Other helvetisms can be understood immediately, but might make you doubt, whether you have actually learnt the more usual German word correctly.


  • grill/barbecue: grillieren (grillen) 
  • grandchild: das Grosskind (das Enkelkind) 
  • within: innert (binnen, innerhalb) 
  • mashed potatoes: der Kartoffelstock (das Kartoffelpüree) 
  • rent: der Mietzins (die Miete) 
  • park: parkieren (parken) 
  • renovation: die Renovation (die Renovierung) 
  • pocket knife: das Sackmesser (das Taschenmesser) 
  • school trip: die Schulreise (die Klassenfahrt) 
  • waitress: die Serviertochter (die Kellnerin) 
  • pasta/noodles: die Teigwaren (die Nudeln) 

Finally, there are helvetisms whose meaning is far less obvious. Here are a few which I consider important.

  • until now/so far: bis anhin (bisher, bis jetzt) 
  • hardship/painstaking work: die Büez (Strapaze, die Plackerei) 
  • slippers/indoor shoes: die Finken (die Hausschuhe) 
  • waste: der Kehrricht (der Abfall/der Müll) 
  • mobile phone: das Natel (das Handy/das Mobiltelefon) 
  • peperoni: die Peperoncini (die Peperoni) 
  • paprika/bell pepper: die Peperoni (die Paprika) 
  • pleasure: der Plausch (das Vergnügen) 
  • postman: der Pöstler (der Briefträger, der Postbote) 
  • cream: der Rahm (die Sahne) 
  • carrot: das Rüebli (die Möhre, die Karotte) 
  • sound (verb): tönen (klingeln, sich anhören) 

On top of some distinctive words, Swiss High German is also written a little differently than the High German we are more accustomed to. More on this in a later blog post.

By the way: Schweizerisches Hochdeutsch (also called Schweizerisches Standarddeutsch, i.e. Swiss standard German) is in itself a helvetism. In Germany and Austria the same language is called Schweizer Hochdeutsch.

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svensk version 

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Källa: Wikipedia Schweizer Hochdeutsch och Helvetismen

1 comment:

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