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«Chuchichäschtli» by Tito Lorenzi
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«Chuchichäschtli»

by Tito Lorenzi

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A mini-glossary of Swiss German, focusing mainly on the more picturesque or charming items of vocabulary. (To recap, Swiss German is not the same as Swiss Standard German, the form of German used in Swiss media, publishing and politics. Swiss German is a separate language altogether, though related.)

The booklet's title is probably the single most famous word in Swiss German, mainly because it's so notoriously difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce, and hence has become a kind of Swiss shibboleth. In standard German, those chs are either ‘palatal’ (/ç/, as in ich) or ‘velar’ (/x/, as in ach), depending on whether they come after a front vowel or a back vowel; but in Swiss German, they are all velar – indeed in many dialects, they are pronounced even further back in the throat, with the tongue right up against the uvula. The word means ‘kitchen cupboard’, and you can hear a couple of Swiss people saying it here.

One thing to note in Chuchichäschtli is that ending in -li, a very common Swiss German diminutive form which crops up in all their most ‘iconic’ phrases. I also note for example Chäferli ‘sweetheart’, or the even more delightfully economic Schmutzli, which means ‘Santa's little helper’.

To mention some others at random: we have the classically Swiss (Traichlä ‘cowbell’), the weirdly specific (Huscheli ‘an easily frightened woman’), along with the expected (Zmorgä ‘breakfast’) and the unexpected (Wobi ‘cow’ – where on earth does that come from?).

The wordlist includes German as well as English translations, which is useful for comparison. However, it's in no way a comprehensive dictionary and it does not include even basic information like noun genders. Still. As a personable sample of the language it's got its merits, and given the relative lack of literature on Swiss German, this booklet is a welcome introduction. ( )
  Widsith | Oct 21, 2013 |
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