Glossary

For a long time I’ve been meaning to write up a glossary for the Viennese concepts I find hard to translate. This seems like a good time to get started. (I’ll add to this as I go along.)

Gasthaus – an eatery; in terms of the function it fills it is similar to a diner in the U.S. but that is where the similarity ends. A Gasthaus can be respectable or rather seedy, mid-range or really inexpensive, the food can be (really) good or rather tedious, the staff can be friendly or morose. In any case, it is a traditional Austrian restaurant.

Grätzl – a word I learned (as I have learned so much else) from my friend, Conny, “eine echte Wienerin” or true Viennese. You could translate it as “neighborhood”. In any case, the way I use it most often it refers to the immediate area around a person’s home and if you call someone a “Grätzlmensch” (as my friend Conny calls me) you are saying that this person likes to stay close to home–shop nearby, go to a hairdresser’s nearby, and so on.

Magistratsabteilung or MA – a city office responsible for a specific task, e.g., the MA 48 is the city sanitation office.

Melange – a kind of coffee typically made from espresso, hot milk, and milk foam. Anyone who has ordered a melange knows, however, that this is not carved in stone. (In fact, it’s somewhat disputed.)

Schmäh – a special kind of Viennese humor that should come with a winky emoji.

Trafik – a small store with a special license to sell cigarettes, tickets for the public transportation, and lottery tickets, for example. The practice started after the First World War, if I remember correctly, to create jobs for wounded veterans.

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