WSJ editorial board member: "Winfrey probably doesn't speak Swiss"


I speak German, but I don’t speak Swiss either… Egads!


Calling it “Swiss” is not that far off. He could mean Swiss German, which is basically a separate language from German, or he could mean Romansch, which is the original “Swiss.”


So I guess Taranto doesn’t speak Romansch either. I’d place bets on him not speaking German, French, or Italian, the other national languages of Switzerland. I have my doubts that he understands English too.


Maybe it is because Switzerland moved… sneaky swiss!


The flip side of this is that many Americans treat the rest of the world, including sophisticated European ones, like a Disney-esque theme park without regard for cultural norms or customs.


LANA, Dangerzone, blah blah blah

(getting it over with)


Certainly, the lack of insight here is stunning on a few levels at once.

Still… Race completely aside, one has to wonder at the quality of thought that drives a shop owner who sells $40k handbags to hire anyone incapable of recognizing Oprah on sight.

Surely the clientele likely to make such a purchase is a list short enough that one might commit them all to memory?

Excuse me, stewardess, I speak Swiss.


Obviously, the writer’s knowledge of foreign cultures is full of holes.

On the other hand, their surmise is correct: she doesn’t speak Swiss. Swiss is a nationality, and a cheese, and arguably an army knife. It’s not a language.

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I don’t think Romansch is widely spoken in Zurich. Zurich is mostly German.

In the German version of Airplane those guys speak Bavarian. Both are equally incomprehensible to most Germans.



In my short experience with Swiss hospitality, I found their facility with languages amazing. In the course of 5 minutes, a desk clerk would switch between German, French, Italian and English with no visible problems at all.


I think it might be a joke.

Of course, the incongruity of a grey haired white women knowing Bavarian is not as incongruous as a grey haired white women knowing Jive. Still, it’s a novel choice on the part of the translator.

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I wish it were a joke - it would actually have been kind of funny. But the rest of the linked editorial suggests that it was not intentional humor


And of course the only time the Wall Street Journal wants to talk about class is when they are trying to dismiss claims of racism or sexism.

Or when they want to make claims of “class war” for suggestions that Wall Street should be regulated to the extent that they are no longer quite so capable of crashing the entire world economy in pursuit of their own short-term and obscene profits.


If any of you actually read James Taranto’s column regularly (and it’s pretty clear that few of you do), you would immediately recognize this as a tongue in cheek reminder of the time President Obama said he didn’t know a particular word in “Austrian.”

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Yeah, I had to google to find out what the Austrian thing was about. Has James Taranto really been harping on that for the last four years?

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Actually the store clerk was italian (or at least from Ticino, swizerland’s “italian” province):

La commessa era italiana, non sapeva bene la lingua


(My translation would be “The clerk was italian, and didn’t know the language that well”)

and as stated multiple times above, in Swizerland they speak multiple languages:

  • Swiss German
  • Italian
  • French
  • Rumantsch (one of the few still spoken Rhaeto-Romance languages)

Most people in Switzerland speak at least two of those languages (often also three), and nearly all of them speak English too.

BTW, I’m always stunned by how many people believe that the clerk did this to “spite Oprah” because she’s black: no one considers that the clerk probably didn’t recognize Oprah, as she’s not that known around here. Probably the clerk just saw an arrogant customer like many others.

(I personally live a few km from the swiss border, and my native language is ladin, which too is a Rhaeto-Romance language)