Folk etymology (Was Re: Swiss enchiladas)

Gregory {Greg} Downing gd2 at IS2.NYU.EDU
Mon Nov 1 02:04:01 UTC 1999

At 04:02 PM 10/30/99, Beverly Flanigan <flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU> wrote:
>I don't know who "they" are, but a former student of mine from die Schweiz
>told me the term 'Schwyzertueuetsch' is commonly used (and note his
>spelling, with 'y' and a doubled umlauted vowel, presumably to signal
>lengthening ['ue'  substitutes for my lack of the umlaut diacritic--how do
>you get that, Greg?]).  Trudgill, in his _Sociolinguistics_ (1995 ed., p.
>101) uses this spelling also, but he does note that his example is "based
>on Zurich speech."  My student taperecorded T's example for me, with
>wonderful intonation and very prominent vowel lengthening; I play it every
>year for my Sociolx class.

"They" include a 70-year-old who has lived in Z. his entire life, and has
published extensively on language and literature. But that doesn't mean he's
right. He's probably just trying to emphasize to a gringo like me that the
*range* of "Swiss Deutsch" and the precise parameters of "Z. Deutsch" are
not identical. I notice that your informant seems to spell and pronounce the
term for "Swiss Deutsch" differently from my informant. That may well say
something about the lack of uniformity in "Swiss Deutsch," which seems to
vary from speaker to speaker even in regard to the term itself. Wny, it
makes as much sense to say "Swiss Deutsch" (singular) as it does to say
"American English" (singular)! Add your own emoticon here....

Why should I know or care about Swiss dialect(s)? Because Z dialect shows up
in Joyce's _Finnegans Wake_. He stayed in Z several times from 1904 (age 22)
through 1941 (he died there in that year). It's the only version of "Swiss
Duetsch" he'd have known in any depth.

I can't make diacriticals with my email software, but I knew I had the
German terms in a word-processed document. I just went and cut and pasted
the wording into the email I was writing. If I need a diacritical in an
email, I type the character in WordPerfect or some word-proc system, and
then cut and paste it into the email. I don't do it unless I think I have
to, because I know some email systems and email lists cannot handle
non-ASCII stuff and therefore will turn the character into a bit of
"two-character garbage." But I know that ADS-L accepts and transmits the
common European diacriticals. So I can do it here.

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing at or gd2 at

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