Archive | November, 2011

The Viennese dialect

26 Nov

I am working in Slovakia this weekend and have discovered the root of  a word in Viennese dialect (not so surprising given that Bratislava is only 60 km from Vienna and was part of the Austrian empire off and on for centuries). I knew about some of the food terms that have slipped into Viennese, like “Golatsche” (what we call a Danish pastry in U.S. American English). In this case it was not a food term, and I discovered the connection completely by chance.

Yesterday evening I was working with a group of Slovak managers and had them drawing pictures to illustrate a certain point we had been talking about. As one group was presenting their picture one participant broke into Slovak and asked a question about what was on the dog’s head. I don’t speak Slovak but when I heard the word “Mascherl” I jumped. Then I repeated it and said “You’re talking about the bows in the dog’s hair, right?” They were much less surprised than I was and said calmly, “Yes, is it the same in German?” and I said, “Only in Austrian German. In Germany a bow tie, for example, is a ‘Fliege’.”

Linguistic fun!


“We are the champions”

7 Nov

This was the title last Friday of an article in the free city newspaper Heute (Today). The subject of the article? The recent WorldSkills fair in London (, where people between the ages of 17 and 25 compete to see who is best at his or her job. Austrians won three Gold, one Silver, and two Bronze medals. One of Gold medals went to a fine pastries chef, Stefan Lubinger, so you may think that Austria simply used its natural advantages to good effect. 😉 In fact, what probably helped this small country (only 8 million inhabitants) to do so well is the ongoing belief and investment in vocational education (I’m consciously not using the word “training” because it is, in fact, an education).

The apprenticeship system–where students spend a certain part of every school week in the classroom learning the theoretical part of their trade and what they need to one day run their own small business and the rest of the time practicing in a work environment under masters–is alive and still relatively well in Austria and serves a real purpose. It makes sure that pupils who do not want to go on with academic subjects have a viable alternative in the educational system and also that the population has a pool of extremely well-qualified stone masons, plumbers, electricians, waiters, chimney sweeps, office admin staff, pastry chefs, and so on.  Truly seems like a win-win situation to me!