It’s chips with everything

January 8, 2011, 12 Comments

Last week I decided to see which English words I’d see and read in one normal day. Of course, I excluded the fact that I work in an English Bookshop and just counted things like reading the paper, watching Swiss TV, going shopping and taking the tram. I guess it wasn’t too much of a revelation to discover that English words pop up everywhere, but what did surprise me was that even on serious programmes like the main evening news, English was dropped into sentences all over the place: Standing Ovation (said as if it was all one word), Burnout and Comeback all featured in various reports. Oddly enough, all seem to be acceptable German words, at least according to my online dictionary.

English can also be seen all over the shops: Spring Collection, eReader, Fine Food, and Shopping itself. This is possibly because it’s forever trendy to use English in marketing, but it’s also a very Swiss trait. Since Switzerland is a multilingual country it’s often easier, shorter and cheaper to use one English word instead of a German, a French and an Italian one. Many shop windows at the moment have Sale in big letters; so much catchier than Ausverkauf/Saldes/Soldi.

But what I hadn’t really registered until now is how much English has crept into newspaper stories and everyday speech. And I’m not talking about Swinglish words like Handy or mobbing (which featured in a previous post). Here are some of the ones I found without even looking too hard, written as they were, which usually means lots of extra hyphens:

  • Bodyguards
  • Tennisracket
  • Hardcore-Fan
  • Party-Facts
  • TV-Guide
  • Bling-Bling
  • Computer-Generation
  • Make-Up
  • Open Air
  • Cover (of a magazine)
  • Westside
  • Party-Outfit
  • Happy-End

And my favourites: No-Name, as in someone who is a complete unknown, and Shakehands, used as a noun – ‘after the Shakehands…’ As for Glamour-Beauty, I’m still not sure what it means exactly but it sounds good.

To round it all off I saw my favourite advert on television, where three Swiss workers from Zweifel go to England to learn how to be British just so they can make proper salt & vinegar crisps. The silly thing is that over here it’s the American ‘chips’ that is used instead, so the voiceover says, “Only those who have experienced Great Britain up close can make our really British salt & vinegar chips.” How ironic. Striving to make something really British, only to use a word from that other English language. Then again, no-one here would understand what a crisp is. So in Switzerland it really is chips with everything, and there’s nothing more British than that.

12 Comments on "It’s chips with everything"

  1. Rahel Sunday January 9th, 2011 at 02:51 PM · Reply

    Ah- yes. Here in Israel chips are french fries. French fries in swiss german are called Pommes Frites, chips in swiss german means potato chips or as you wrote crisps… which always makes my daughter confused when using those words- and honestly- me too.

    • swisswatching Sunday January 9th, 2011 at 07:30 PM · Reply

      I know. Chips go with fish and are hot. And they’re fatter and soggier than French fries, which as you say are called Pommes Frites in Switzerland. In the German-speaking part though they’re usually referred to just as ‘Pomm-es’ and pronounced as two syllables.

      • Martin Friday May 18th, 2012 at 04:41 PM · Reply

        Actually, it also used to be Pommes Frites in Swiss German part of Switzerland, years ago. Though, since Pommes are a favorite with juveniles and younger people tend to be parsimoniously with words, it became Pommes. Not to forget the German impact how to use new terms: Swiss watch a lot all the German channels, what is vice versa absolutely not true.

        • Martin Friday May 18th, 2012 at 05:34 PM · Reply

          and btw: the pronounciation of Pomm-es is extremly typical for Germans, what indicates the truth of my assumption.

          And of course, there is also a different way how Swiss Germans and Germans speak out the term ‘Pommes Frites’.

          Since we, as Swiss, are aware of that the term originates in the French language, we also speak it that way…something like: “pomm frett” (English adaptation) or “pomm fritt” (German adaptation). However, I often heard some Germans, though not all of them, say: “pommES fritES” (German adaptation), meaning they speak out all the characters. – Always a good reason for us to cultivate our ambigious attitude against Germans in general, and to silently and hiddenly smile in (some small) disgust when we hear it ;). At least for one occasion, their normally as superior percieved usage of the German language seems to struggle thoroughly.

  2. Marlyse Comte Monday January 10th, 2011 at 05:22 PM · Reply

    Glamour-Beauty versus Natural-Beauty. The one includes perfect makeup, possible Paperazis and holding up on a red carpet while the other blows you away with no-makeup perfect skin and a glow of healthiness, possibly carrying her surf board (or snow board).

    • swisswatching Wednesday January 12th, 2011 at 08:40 AM · Reply

      Maybe using some Bling-Bling and Make-Up, changes someone from a No-Name into a Glamour-Beauty?

  3. Bob Kerns Tuesday January 11th, 2011 at 11:26 AM · Reply

    Just spotted another example: Whistleblowerinnen – on the SF Tagesschau site at

  4. jofurniss Tuesday January 11th, 2011 at 06:26 PM · Reply

    It’s very kind of Zweifel to bring us proper British crisps/chips – I don’t care what they call them, they’ve made my expat life more Britishy and I’m grateful! Now they just have to issue them in British-sized bags and not these GIANT ones. After all, you can’t stop eating them once you’ve started, can you. Or can you?

    • Tinu M Tuesday July 24th, 2012 at 03:43 PM · Reply

      Haha, you just made me laugh! I always get annoyed at having to buy 3 small bags of crisps rather than one decent/Swiss) sized one:P

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