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How language caused the death of a moose burger

My Swiss roommate from my first year in college came to visit. She actually just left, and most of her trip was in the company of one of our other roommates (there were 4 of us in the university dorm room).

What I learned from the Swiss Miss when we were all roommates is that Switzerland has 4 official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh (yeah I’d never heard of it either). She’s from the German side of Switzerland and so she speaks German and Swiss-German (which is apparently like German, but if you only spoke German, you’d frequently be confused around Swiss-German speakers).

So when she brought friends along for this visit, I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t understand them (I barely track with Spanish, and I’ve lived around Spanish-speakers my whole life). She’d also told me that one of her friends had written and published a few books in German in Switzerland. She’d neglected to tell me the title, which would have prevented my snickering.

The book is titled Die Moosburger and it’s by Marco  Rota.

I’ve seen The Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob explains his tattoo, so I knew “die” wasn’t intended as a command, but “moosburger” was entirely new. And as with all new things, I created a meaning that made me laugh for a long time, mostly because I couldn’t think of any specific thing a burger made of moose meat would do to deserve death. All I had were half thoughts running through my head. Perhaps it was attacking, or cursed, or spoiled, or…? If you come up with a coherent action that would result in a moose burger death, let me know. I’m still snickering and I can’t think clearly through the humor haze.

Turns out, though, that “moosburger” means “Moss Castle” in German, which makes the title very funny in 2 languages. (Maybe the moose burger was haunting a moss castle?) The Swiss Miss was quick to point out that castles in Switzerland are not the fairytale castles many of us in the U.S. think of – they’re stones stacked into the shape of a large house. If you haven’t looked at pictures of real castle’s, or heard Eddie Izzard’s bit about them, ask Google.

The Moss Castle is entirely in German, so if I ever learn how to read German, I’ll post a review of the book here. Same deal if it comes out in English. But that’s the story of how an old college roommate killed a moose burger through language.

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