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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Switzerland: English loses one

L'Express, 2007-06-20 p. 5

Postboxes in Switzerland have traditionally been yellow and marked with the name of the post office in the predominant local language: “die Post” in German, “La Poste” in French, and “La Posta” in Italian. With deregulation and the breakup of the once monolithic PTT, the spun-off mail service has re-branded itself “PostMail” opting, PostMail logo like many Swiss business and government entities, to solve the problem of multiple languages by choosing the “neutral” alternative of English. (Some opt for the more historically justified and classy Latin, but that is increasingly rare.) Rather than maintain three differently labelled postboxes for the linguistic regions, the post office decided to use their new “PostMail” logo on all of them.

They didn't reckon on a popular uprising of defenders of the national languages, many in the canton of Neuchâtel, who clamoured, “Don't mess with our mailboxes!”. Chastened, PostMail capitulated, according to this story in L'Express for June 20th. Although the new logo will continue to be used for the enterprise, the postboxes will continue to bear the original language-specific labels, at least until 2010. One of the ringleaders in the campaign not only deplored “PostMail” as a “nasty anglicism” but pointed out that it was also a pleonasm. You know you're living in a place with more than a pretension to cul-chah when you encounter the word “pleonasm” in the daily newspaper—look it up!

Posted at June 21, 2007 00:24