Speaking English 2.0

English is everywhere. It’s on signs, advertising, names of stores and in the spoken language, too. But English isn’t always really English. Sometimes more like Germish or maybe we have just moved to the next level, into English 2.0. I hear and see it so much these days, sometimes I don’t even notice it anymore. Then again, some days I wonder why I even bothered learning Swiss German. There is a lot of English out there.

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs…

Some of the signs are normal and mean just what they say, like “Parking” or “Sale”. Sometimes they conjure up wonderful visuals like the signs that pop up every summer along the country roads: “Self-Pick”. I know I smile every time I see a “Self-Pick” sign. The idea itself is wonderful; going out into a field and cutting your own flowers. They can’t get fresher than that! You leave the money in a can, but the terminology “Self-Pick” needs some work.

“Self-parking”, well, okay still that might be a bit over-kill. I’ve never seen valet-parking here, maybe I just don’t frequent the right places.

Sometimes the signs in English mean something completely different. Go into any grocery store and there is no getting around the word “Action” (spelt with a “k”, Aktion). The word has absolutely nothing to do with movement. It’s another word for sale, reduction or special similar to buy 3 for the price of 2. Come to think of it, maybe it does have to do with motion “get over here and buy this!”

What made me stop and pick my jaw up off the ground was when I was walking past a bakery. They had a huge sign in the window: TAGESHIT. I thought, and that in a bakery? In essence it’s not quite as bad as it looks. It’s a combination of German and English. In German “Tages” means “daily” and the English word “Hit” which is used in the sense of being a success. But still, what a difference a hyphen would make…

Official Names

Company names have to be creative to get people’s attention and what better way than to use English? I’d like to think that our company name is an exception. After all, I am American so I’m allowed to use English, right? We answer the phone: “abc, Armstrong and Bonauer Consulting”. Once someone actually complemented me on my English!

Not all shops and business with English names have anything to do with English. A large hardware chain is called “Do it Yourself”. Although most people just call it “Do-Do”, we know one person who called it “Yourself”. One Swiss version of a mall near Berne is called “Shoppyland” (sounds like an amusement park), another is called “Westside”.

The abbreviation of a regional bus in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland certainly demands your attention. Ferrovie Autolinee Regionali Ticinesi is called FART, oops, excuse me.

While in a bookstore once I saw a book in the German section called “Bad Guides”. Who would have guessed it was a book about bathrooms? If you ask me, that was a “bad” choice of mixing languages.

In the Language

As with the signs, in everyday language sometimes English words means the same as they do in English, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the words with the correct English meaning often have a different pronunciation. For example: penalty (in soccer), jogging, discount, brain storming, call-center and happy hour.

A word that sort of, but doesn’t quite have the same use is “team”. People where I worked like to think of themselves as a team. I tried to explain to them a team is “us” against “them”. But we are all working together and not against anyone, so that makes us a “crew”. After years of trying I finally gave up, the team was bigger than me.

Completely different meanings

If you were to order a pepperoni pizza you might be disappointed. You would get a pizza with red and green peppers on it. I suppose if you wanted pepperoni you would have to order a salami pizza. A “Box” in Switzerland can produce good sound because they are loudspeakers. A “handy” is handy. Practically everyone has a “handy” here, mine is an i-phone. A “Home trainer” sounds like a personal trainer but it is just a stationary bike with a fancy name. Don’t worry if you are asked if you want a “pony” at the beauty shop. No one is going to drag in a small horse, you’ll just get your bangs cut.

A “Public Viewing” has nothing to do with funerals in Switzerland. It is a live broadcast of a program. It is usually held outside for events like soccer games where lots of people come and watch. I guess that would be a “public showing” in English. While dealing with funerals and the likes, a “Body Bag” in Switzerland is a bag (purse) you wear on your body. It is similar to a backpack and not a bag to put a deceased body in.

I think the worst is knowing that Roger Federer is an ass. Yep, you read correctly. An ass. Of course, it’s pronounced a bit differently and it means “ace” but that is the way it is spelled. Go figure.

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