Grüezi! And welcome to another blog post in our new blog series on Swiss German. In the introductory blog post on Swiss German, we learned to distinguish between Swiss German and Swiss Standard German. We also learnt that there are so-called Helvetisms in Swiss Standard German, i.e. linguistic features that are not used in Germany or Austria, for example.

Today we want to look at one of these Helvetisms: “Peperoni”. At the same time, we want to clear up the confusion surrounding words like “Paprika”, “pepperoni” with a double P and “pepper”.

“Peperoni” equals “paprika”

“[A] vegetable that is usually green, red, or yellow, has a rounded shape, and is hollow with seeds in the middle”. This is the definition of “pepper” (also “sweet pepper” or “bell pepper”) that appears in the Cambridge Dictionary. In Germany and Austria, they are called “Paprika” whereas in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, they are called “Peperoni” (after the Italian word “peperone”). So, for example, the classic stuffed peppers are called “Gefüllte Peperoni” in Switzerland and “Gefüllte Paprika” in Germany.

“Paprika” equals paprika powder

But it is not quite that simple. The word “Paprika” is also used in Switzerland, but with a different meaning. In Switzerland, “Paprika” is a spice. However, in Germany, the spice is callled “Paprikapulver”. “Paprikapulver” is made from red peppers.  Funnily enough, these red peppers are called “Peperoni” in Germany.

Good to know: the peppers used for paprika tend to be milder than chillies.

And what is “pepperoni” with a double P?

As a matter of fact, “pepperoni” with a double P is English. It is an American sausage made from beef and pork and seasoned with paprika or other chili pepper. In German we would say “Peperoni-Salami”. That’s why you should be careful: A pepperoni pizza is a pizza with salami, not a pizza with peppers.

“Pepper” equals “Pfeffer”?

Let’s stick to English and ask ourselves whether the English word “pepper” is the same as the German word “Pfeffer”. As mentioned before, “pepper” (or “sweet pepper” or “bell pepper”) is a vegetable that, in Germany, translates as “Paprika” and in the German speaking part of Switzerland as “Peperoni”. However, “pepper” also is a hot-tasting spice that we use – together with salt – to flavour our food.

Swiss vs German vs Austrian food differences

Finally, a small selection of other food-related terms that differ to some extent in Switzerland, Germany and Austria:

English term Switzerland Germany Austria
grapefruit Grapefruit Pampelmuse Grapefruit
leek Lauch Porree Lauch
orange Orange Apfelsine Orange
corn salad Nüsslisalat Feldsalat Vogerlsalat
beetroot Rande Rote Beete Rote Rüben
croissant Gipfeli Hörnchen Kipferl
whipped cream Schlagrahm Schlagsahne Schlagobers
savoy cabbage Wirz Wirsing Kohl

Do you know any other Helvetisms?

If you know any other similar words, I would love to read about them in the comments!

See you next time and: Einen guten Appetit! Einen Guten! Mahlzeit! Where do you think they say what?

Nelly Müller – Sprachen Akademie

back to Part 1
next to Part 3