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Home | 2017

The Swiss, God bless 'em!

Posted by Thersites on UTC 2017-06-07 07:07.

Swiss marketing gurus are always good for some innocent fun when they do their branding in English. The name has to have 'Switzerland' or preferably 'Swiss' in it, of course, because that is the Swissness brand. Then the fun begins.

The Grand Tour of Switzerland

Innocent foreigner drivers will follow the Grand Tour signs and be taken along some of the busiest stretches of motorway and some of the most annoying and tedious other roads in the country. A grand tour it is not. The mother-tongue speaker of English would find 'The Expensive Thrash Round Switzerland' more accurate.

An interesting stretch of the Swiss Grand Tour - leave plenty of time to enjoy it.

This stretch of the Swiss Grand Tour gives a new meaning to the phrase 'Are we there yet?'. 'Watch the speed camera! Oops, too late…'.

The Swiss government is currently pondering the politics of adding a huge surcharge on petrol (shsss! – don't mention d****l) in order to save the planet. Oh, and you will need to stump up 40 CHF in order to be allowed to drive on the motorway sections. Happy motoring!

Swiss Knife Valley

The Swiss Knife Valley must have the most repellent name of any tourist destination worldwide, with the exception of Death Valley.

Here's what a knife valley looks like.

Not really a valley, but have your knife or a can of mace handy at all times. Concealed carry of a penknife is allowed.

It is not even a valley, it's the unexciting basin around the town of Schwyz, which is the home of Victorinox, the makers of what used to be called in real English the 'Swiss Army penknife'. The company is paying for the branding, so 'Swiss Knife' or 'Swiss pocketknife' [yuk!] it is. A language disaster of the first order, too late to undo.


A recent arrival is the Gents range of products. The principal member is 'Gents Swiss Roots Tonic Water', which is bad enough, but has to compete with the ultimately unparse-able 'Gents Swiss Craft Ginger Brew' and, worst of all – whisper it softly – 'Vermouth de Gents' ('Swiss Roots And Herbs Wine'). Let's leave 'Herbs Wine' with its echoes of the 'Tijuana Brass' to one side. The Swiss bonbuvant is obviously untroubled by the lack of apostrophes and is probably leaning on the bar, fingering his cravat and thinking of Steed and Mrs Peel in the Avengers TV series (Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone, 'with umbrella, charm and bowler-hat' as it's known in the German speaking world – yet another language disaster to add to our list).

You can't judge a drink by the label. Yes, you can.

No idea what the aeronautical motif is doing on the label of the tonic water. Fact check: the yellow gentian is otherwise the basis for the French apéritif 'SUZE', a not unpleasant drink which was at one time a popular snifter in Switzerland. The plant is growing wild in fields a short distance from my current location.

In contrast, the English person – the scruffy one in the corner – is sniffing the glass suspiciously, quite put off by the thought of the gents in the Dog and Badger at chucking-out time, when probably even the dog and the badger have been in there. It gives a further dimension of meaning to the phrase 'toilet water'.

Presumably 'Swiss roots' is intended to mean 'plant roots' as in 'root vegetables'. The multicultural mind of the young English person in the corner just thinks of 'roots' as in 'I got no style, I strictly roots'. 'Jerk Tonic Water', perhaps – or probably not…. Move on quickly. This stuff is actually a particularly nasty example of cultural appropriation.

Swiss (the airline, not the people)

Possibly one of the worst branding disasters in recent Swiss history was the transformation of 'Swissair' into 'Swiss'. It is true that, after the embarrassment of the grounding of Swissair, the embarrassed ones were in a bit of a rush to come up with a name for its successor, but using an especially complicated adjective/noun country/people identifier as a simple name was never going to work. No one in their right mind would rename Lufthansa as 'German' or 'Germans'. 'I'm flying with "Swiss"' is just as ridiculous to the English ear as 'I'm flying with "German"' or 'I'm flying with "British"'. Too late.

Swiss takes to the skies.

An aircraft flying the Swiss flag, labelled with the nationality of the occupants. The owners are Germans.