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From ‘cabbage’ to ‘soft pear’: Ten Swiss-German insults you need to know

The Swiss-German language is known for its creativity along with its penchant for the weird.

From 'cabbage' to 'soft pear': Ten Swiss-German insults you need to know
Heads and food feature prominently in Swiss insults. JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Here are ten Swiss German insults, put-downs and swear words that you can keep in the top drawer for a special occasion. 

Schnure/Schnorre – as in “Halt d’schnorre

Translating literally as ‘mouth’ or ‘trap’, Schnure/Schnorre is frequently used in common with ‘halt die…’ – i.e. shut your trap. 

Existing somewhere in between ‘shut up’ and ‘shut the hell up’, it’s best saved for comfortable situations where you know the intended recipient. 


Mainly popular in the canton of Jura and surrounding regions, it can mean limp beak (as in a duck’s beak) but in reality it means limp penis.

We should probably leave it there – just keep in mind that this is less a medical condition and more of something someone might yell at a football game, so be careful when talking to your doctor. 

READ MORE: Nine surprising Swiss-German words you need to know


As a relatively religious country, at least traditionally, it stands to reason that insults involving religion have found a foothold – as blasphemy-loving English speakers no doubt know. 

The best possible translation is probably ‘goddamnit’. As with pretty much anything in Swiss German, there are loads of variations – including Gopfertoori, Gopfridstüdeli, Gopfertami, Gopferteli. 


This insult – based on a real Swiss surname and probably inspired by a real Swiss Bünzli – applies to those boring people who follow all the rules and make sure everyone else does too.

A Bünzli is the sort of person who would never cross the street when the light is red, who never stays out too late and never gets too drunk.

A Bünzli is also the person most likely to complain to the building president when you dare to do your washing on Sunday, or to ring the police when he sees someone parked in front of a fire hydrant.

The best English translation is probably a ‘goody two-shoes’, although in this case the more likely attire is socks paired with Adiletten. Yep, you get the idea.

Socks and sandals – topping the Bünzli fashion trends for the tenth year running. Image: Depositphotos


Translating perhaps most literally as ‘beanpole’, a Lulatsch is someone – usually a man – who is tall, clumsy, most likely sloppy and with little control of their limbs. 

There are few theories on the origin of this word, but safe to say that if someone refers to you as a Lulatsch, they don’t mean you’re tall, dark and handsome. 

Geistig unterernährt

Translating literally as mentally undernourished, this one probably doesn’t need too much more of an explanation. 

When it comes to taking care of your brain, the Swiss believe you are what you eat – and if someone says you’re mentally undernourished, they’re saying you’ve been pigging out on junk food. 

This guy has the right idea – sort of. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Remember, friends don’t let friends forget brain day – so remember to take good care of your most vital organ. 

Which brings us to…


Literally translating as ‘soft pear’, a Birreweich is someone who doesn’t have it all together upstairs. Unlike in English where your brain might be your noggin or your noodle, in Swiss-German your brain is otherwise known as your ‘pear’. 

So if a friend calls you a soft pear, it unfortunately doesn’t mean the opposite of geistig unterernährt (mentally undernourished). It means your friend thinks your brain is mush – and it also means you should get some new friends. 


Meaning cabbage in English (or Weißkohl in high German), Kabis is also slang for nonsense. If someone says “don’t give me that Kabis!” they’re unlikely to be referring to foodstuff. 

In the same vein, Pfyffetechu/Pfyffedechel (tobacco pipe lid) also means nonsense – so now you’ve got two variations. 

Nonsense, delicious nonsense. FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP


This Swiss-German insult – which is also common throughout much of Germany – is similar to the terms ‘bimbo’ or ‘blonde’ in English. This term is reserved for the kind of person who might care a little too much about their appearance and less about pretty much anything else. 

It’s also undoubtedly sexist, as it’s rarely if ever used for men. 

Apparently inspired from the legend of Tusnelda, Tussi entered the Swiss-German and German mainstream vernacular in the 1990s and has stubbornly remained. 

Honourable mentions: Joggi, Globi, Löli, Tschooli, Glon

While some of the above might get you into trouble, depending on the company you keep – there are plenty of light Swiss insults which are likely to build friendships rather than destroy them. 

Each of the above – Joggi, Globi, Löli, Tschooli and Glon – are all relatively nice ways of saying someone is silly, without really saying that they are that silly at all. 

Joggi, which literally means jester, while Glon is a translation for clown. Löli and Tschooli means that someone is nice but clumsy, while Globi is perhaps Switzerland’s most beloved cartoon character – a blue parrot in a black beret who has a knack for getting himself into silly situations. 

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German word of the day: Die Affenhitze

As Switzerland continues to swelter under a heatwave, give today’s word of the day a go if you decide to step outside and brave the heat.

German word of the day: Die Affenhitze
Boy, that heat sure isn't monkeying around... Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

After a week or so of soaring temperatures, do you find yourself running out of ways to talk about the weather with your friends and neighbours? If so, then the word “Affenhitze” may come in handy. 

This noun, which translates directly as “monkey heat”, may seem a little strange to English speakers at first.

READ ALSO: Six German words you'll need this summer

But the word is a German staple for small talk in the summer, often used to refer to sweltering heat and excessively high temperatures.

In English, you’d probably use terms such as ‘boiling’ or ‘scorcher’ rather than simply ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ when the mercury really starts to soar.

Affenhitze, as this tweet implies, is known to be so strong that it discourages going outside. 

Similarly, the word “Affenhitze” in German marks a step up from the noun “Hitze” (heat), and is usually reserved for when the heat becomes particularly unbearable. 

READ ALSO: Germany records hottest temperature of year as country braces for more heat

But what do monkeys have to do with heat waves? 

Well, it is thought that the term originated in Berlin at the end of the 19th century. Back then, the Berlin Zoological Garden was home to a monkey house (Affenhaus) known for its blisteringly hot temperatures.

During hot weather people then began to speak of a “Hitze wie im Affenstall” (heat like in the monkey house) and the phrase was eventually shortened to “Affenhitze”, a term now used across German-speaking countries today.


Was für eine Affenhitze!

What a scorcher! / It’s absolutely boiling!

Morgen herrscht wieder eine Affenhitze.

We’re in for another scorcher tomorrow.

This story first appeared on our sister site, The Local Germany on a particularly hot day in August 2020.