After falling in love with a hunky Tirolean working in the UK many moons ago, I upped sticks and left the suburbs of London to follow my heart to Tirol. As a non-German speaker, it was a baptism of fire and I was immediately confronted with the weird and wonderful Tirolean dialect in its many forms. No language course or dictionary in the world could have prepared me for what lay ahead.
However, after almost 30 years of living in the Zillertal Valley around 70 kilometres southeast of Innsbruck, I would say I have pretty much got the gist of the local lingo and grown to love the quaint phraseology; expressions that reveal the inimitable mind-set of the Tiroleans and offer a better understanding of their deeply engrained culture.
The list is truly endless, but I hope you enjoy my random selection:
“Bis zum Heirat’n wird’s wieder guat!” (Everything will be okay by the time you get married!)
I can’t profess to this applying in my case, as there wasn’t even enough time to say “Auf Wiedersehen Pet” in-between meeting and marrying my Tirolean squeeze. The insinuation here, however, is that whatever pain you are going through or troubles you are experiencing; it will all be water under the bridge by the time you tie the knot.
“Wie man in den Wald hineinruft, so schallt es heraus” (What one shouts into the woods, is what will echo back).
I like this, because it is so very true – and it isn’t about standing on the edge of the forest yelling at the trees. This basically means: “The way you treat others, is how others will treat you”.
”Des isch kupft wia gsprungen“ (It makes no difference if you jump or leap)
Two alternatives are equivalent or indifferent, so the outcome is the same whatever you choose. We, of course, would say, six of one and half a dozen of the other – but the Tirolean version has a cute ring to it, don’t you think?
“I hu an Ohrwurm” (I’ve got an earworm)
How my sisters back in the UK laughed when I once said I had an earworm. This is the danger of taking a German word and translating it literally into English. You know when you can’t get a tune out of your head – that, my friends, is the proverbial earworm!
“Doi hot Holz vor der Hütte“ (He or she has wood stacked in front of the hut)
This, in fact, is rather ambiguous. Said to a female wearing traditional “wench look” attire, it is a compliment referring to her buxomness. Addressed to a male, it normally insinuates that he was enough wood (money) to burn.
“Was der Bauer nit kennt, isst er nit.“ (What the farmer does not know, he does not eat)
This certainly applies to many of my husband’s older relatives – who are sceptical about more-or-less everything they don’t recognise. The funny thing is that they will chow down on raw and slimy black slugs to treat a stomach ulcer – but will run a mile if I offer to cook them “moules marinières”.
”Die Katze ist schon ummen übern sölder“ (The cat has already walked around the balcony)
The cat has already walked around the balcony? Heaven knows how they came up with this one, but it actually refers to a woman being past her prime and childbearing years. It can also be used to refer to situations that are beyond changing.
“Nit gschumpf’n ist globt gnuag!“ (Not being told off is more than enough praise)
I have to say, the Tiroleans I know can sometimes be reticent in offering their praise. So remember as a rule of thumb, if you don’t get a ticking off, you’re probably doing the job alright.
„Am Abend werden die Faulen fleißig“ (Only the lazy get busy in the evenings)
The Tiroleans are, without doubt, a hardworking folk. Days are often regimented with the hardest tasks being tackled first thing in the morning, followed by easier ones later on. According to the gospel preached by my mother-in-law – and one often directed at me as I would start getting busy at around 6.00 p.m., “Only the truly lazy get busy in the evenings”.
Not a whole phrase – but a word with great implications. It describes the quaint tradition of a young man climbing up a house facade a night, to kiss his sweetheart waiting on the balcony.
“Mal den Teufel nicht an die Wand” (Don’t paint the Devil on the wall)
There are lots of phrases that focus on the Devil around here. I don’t know if it is because of the staunchly prevailing Catholicism, or the fact that mountain folk are generally more superstitious than any other people I have ever come across. Not painting the Devil on the wall means, “If you talk of the Devil, the Devil will appear”.
About the Author
Kate is in Tirol by accident – after falling in love with a hunky Tirolean almost 30 years ago.
Originally from London and a keen sailor, it took Kate a while to learn the lingo,to ski, to conquer her fear of heights, to acquire a taste for sauerkraut and get her mother-in-law to like her – but she loves the outdoor lifestyle Tirol offers and would rather live there than anywhere else in the world!