A Brexit dictionary for the Swiss

March 6, 2019, No comments

The Swiss cantonal tree in London

It isn’t easy to explain Brexit to the Swiss. For people in a country that has a referendum every three months, it’s hard to understand how one such vote can cause three years of chaos. For a country with a political system built on consensus, it’s difficult to comprehend why the two main British parties can’t talk to each other. For a nation that loves British comedies, it’s impossible not to see Britain today as a Monty Python film featuring Mr Bean and Benny Hill in the lead roles.

Perhaps the best way to explain the almost unexplainable is to do it in German, or at least in ten German words that crossed over into English. They retained their original definitions but with Brexit they have each taken on a new meaning.

Abseil: to throw oneself off a cliff attached to a rope, also known as (or aka) Mrs May’s approach to Brexit. Her deal is the rope but she has no idea how long it will hold and what sort of landing she’ll get but she’ll throw herself (and the country) off the cliff anyway.

Angst: a general feeling of anxiety produced by uncertainty, aka what most of Britain is feeling right now. Apart from Brexit extremists who love the smell of angst in the air.

Doppelgänger: a body double, aka the British Prime Minister, who has long since been swapped for the Maybot, incapable of rational thought or lateral thinking.

Ersatz: a replacement that’s inferior to the original, aka Brexit itself, which has manifestly failed to show that it is better than EU membership.

Hinterland: a remote area away from major centres, aka what Britain will become politically after Brexit.

Kaput: broken or ruined, aka the British economy in the event of no deal.

Kindergarten: an infant school, aka the British parliament where toddler MPs have their tantrums with barely a responsible adult in the room.

Poltergeist: a mischievous ghost that makes a lot of noise, aka Boris Johnson, the pseudo-Trump who huffs and puffs but is no use to anyone.

Schadenfreude: pleasure in another’s misfortune, aka what the rest of Europe is secretly feeling about Brexit. Not because they’re anti-British but because they know that it could’ve been them instead, if Britain hadn’t jumped first into the abyss.

Waltz: a formal dance, aka what the UK and EU have been doing together for the past two years with both partners endlessly going around in circles.

Then again, perhaps the best word is an English one that German-speakers often use but is hardly ever used by English-speakers themselves: shitstorm. That really does sum up Brexit perfectly.

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