Posts Tagged ‘power words’

Swiss Swear Slurs

June 29, 2014

I’m pretty sure it has happened to you in one of your weaker moments. To impress a brand new acquaintance with acceptable curves who babbles at you in a foreign language, or to hack your fast way into the picking order of peer pressure at some late night bar in an exotic city, you ask your opponents to teach you the major swear words in their language, just so that you don’t appear too educated when overcome with the sudden premonition of becoming marginalized as a downright snob. You’re aware that you’re falling prey to a very cheap trick and that there are better ways to practice and exercise your cultural sensitivity. But you do it anyway as if a dark force with a vulgar but irresistible gravitational pull has gotten the better of you. Well let me tell you that you’re not alone and you’re in very good company. The immigrant workers of Switzerland, the Turks, the Italians and the ‘Yugos’, they all have not only learned to live orderly like the Swiss, show up on time and greet with a hearty voice and a stern look into the recipient’s eyes, they also have mastered the elaborate art of Swiss swear words. While even after decades of cultural absorption they still struggle with the subtleties of the complex grammar of Schwiizerdütsch, they have adopted the vast vernacular vocabulary of their new homeland and execute it with perfect pitch and pronunciation.

The Swiss live cleanly at the forefront of modern day wired and virtual consumption. Their shopping temples are equipped with every imaginable technocratic product in multiple incarnations and lure you into the sublime and celebrated state of material bliss, where the proverbial freedom of choice, credo non plus ultra of the modern day consumer, reveals its true face as a senseless confusion of choice, which makes you linger amongst the overwhelming display of merchandise way longer than you had ever intended. When it comes to swearing though, even the most up-to-date denizen of the urban wasteland reveals itself as a down and dirty farm boy with thick coats of cow dung falling off his boots at each and every step. Let me take you on a short linguistic research expedition into the flowery landscape of Swiss swear words.

The second trainer in my short and furious career as a DHL delivery driver in northern Switzerland comes from a little village in the bone-dry Turkish hinterlands. So remote from all civilization was his native hamlet that his birth certificate shaves a full year and a half off his true age. So long did it take his family to register his birth, to them a most cumbersome bureaucratic endeavor, which implied a strenuous journey across jagged mountain ridges and crocked crevices towards the nearest township. Infant mortality was rampantly high out in the solitary countryside and it was an efficient use of their time to wait until they could be reasonably certain that the new member of their tribe had a sufficient foothold on life before making the timely and costly investment of obeying the mandates of officialdom.

Erkom is his exotic sounding name and he now sits straight-backed behind the steering wheel of the roomy Volkswagen Transporter in flashy yellow color, just a minute or two after showing me the latest secret entry into the backdoors of a giant industrial complex in the eastern suburbs of Basel. Time is tight. We’re not yet half way through the jam-packed maze of cardboard boxes behind our backs and we’re speeding down a tight city street, when a shiny black sedan pulls out of a parking spot in front of us, only one hand of the female driver on that vehicle’s steering wheel, while the other one presses a smart phone to her ear. Erkan steps on the breaks and a tumble rumbles from the loading deck behind us, letting us know that the carefully stacked delivery order of our packages has just been destroyed by rapid deceleration. “Dummi Chue!”, exclaims Erkan raising his right hand Italian style towards the hot blue summer sky. ‘Stupid cow’ is the literal translation of this exclamation, and I’m starting at the decent end of things here. Declaring that heavy-set horned grazers and milk producing ruminants of dubious intelligence are now roaming the city streets, my co-worker obviously vents his frustration that not everybody participates in the high adrenaline rush of the post-industrial rat race, but he also incurs in the age old but ever futile effort of the human being to ascertain his intellectual superiority over the animals he managed to subdue into serving him for the pressing domestic needs while escaping the precarious existence of the nomadic hunter gatherer. From here it’s a down hill slope until it all bottoms out where there exist no more ups and downs.

The next obstacle in our hectic run through the busy city streets gets called an ‘Arschloch’, which simply refers to the bitter end of our digestive tract, also in English a well-loved term we use all too often to slap on things or beings we don’t reach very well with our understanding. And of course once the cat is out of the bag there is no holding back with our collective anal fixation. The next mishap happens to be called ‘Schiisdräck’, which is the stinky substance that comes out of the ‘Arschloch’, and where all this is deposed also becomes an exclamation if things go awry, as they unfortunately do quite often: ‘Scheisse!’, Erkan shouts after having taken a wrong turn that adds two minutes to our itinerary. Literally he means that emotionally he feels trapped inside a toilet bowl. Strangely enough this term is generally pronounced in its High German form even in the common dialect, as if calling one’s misfortune with Teutonic emphasis elevates one’s magic powers!

To bring a fitting end to this linguistic mudslinging fury of very vulgar proportion we have to land once more in the stinky end product itself, but this time the one of our milk producing servants: ‘Mischt,’ exclaims Erkan after our meeting with the feeder truck, with honest repulsion written all over his unshaven face, ‘iitz het üs doch dä blööd Schoofseckel wider zwöi Päckli mitgäh wo Gopfertami nid uf öisere Huerä Rutä si!’ On American TV this would have to be translated as: Beep! Now this beep beep gave us again two little packets that beep are not on our beep route! On the other hand a liberal interpretation in British English goes something like this: I don’t fancy it at all mate, but this rubbish of a bloke has again given us two packages that are bloody not on our blinking route! The truth is that my good friend Erkan in his verbal tirade has touched on all of the fundamental semantic pillars of swearing. We’ve already covered the fascination with fecal matter, but just to make things clear, he starts out with the Swiss German term for ‘cow dung mixed with straw to be used as a fertilizer on the fields’, to verbally underscore his disgust. Then he returns to our initially mentioned belittling of human nature by defining it equivalent to one of our domestic animals, but doubling it up with our impulsive attraction to the genitalia. ‘Schoofseckel’ means the testes of a sheep, and this term is used generally for talking about third persons we deem guilty of minor misdemeanors. The Swiss, like the New Zealanders on the opposite face of the earth were and still are skillful breeders of sheep and put their many products to excellent use. Now if those sheep would not be ‘blööd’, which is yet another word for stupid, we would quite obviously not have been able to herd them into our stables and rob them of their clothing periodically once or twice a year. By calling those innocent beings with their life force diluted by very selective breeding stupid we might be reflecting only on our own coefficient of intelligence.

Next in our juicy sample sentence religion is pulled into the mix, with the Swiss version of the hearty goddamn, where the speaker wishes the rage of the creator upon him or her self but then lets that wishing bounce off his or her shoulders and throws it right back onto the adversity itself as if clearing throat by spitting into the face of any and all offending issue. Somewhere between religion and the genitalia, or half way between god and sex, there lives the bipolar realm of prostitution, another emotionally charged grey area with magical powers if properly called upon. It is evoked a million times in the life of every German Swiss. ‘Huarä’, or ‘like a whore’ is put before any word that needs a special emphasis, just as ‘fuck’ and ‘fucking’ is in English of all class and creed all over the world.

There’s much more to the naughty vocabulary of the diligent Swiss, but I have to cut our sampling short way before the collection nears completion. Because I’m doing grave injustice to my pal and tutor in the art of worldwide package delivery. Erkan is a noble soul, in spite of his rocky verbal skills. His swearing is always done with a joyful undertone; irony and wit are right in tow. Nothing remains from the raving bitterness and crooked righteousness of many of his hosts from whom he has after all learned the precise pronunciation of all those verbs of power, exclaimed most of the times in high hopes of being able to right the many wrongs in our daily struggles against the odds of destiny.