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Abbreviations deciphered: nothing is more frustrating than listening to a conversation and suddenly losing the thread because of a mysterious abbreviation or acronym. Here's an alphabetical list of often-heard Swiss-German shorthand.

Did you see GC on SF2 last night? He belongs to TV-Urswil. She gets IV since the accident. He's away doing his UOS.

These kinds of sentences are annoying for us foreigners. We understand German (or French or Italian) fairly well, but what on earth are these people calking about?

The same thing happens when we read a newspaper article that refers to EDA and DEZA or skim a report peppered with odd groups of letters like z.B. and d.h. Hopefully, the list below will help to solve a few puzzles.

AG = Aktiengesellschaft

Refers to a company that is traded on the stock market. In French and Italian, the "A" stands for anonymous. French: SA, Italian: SA

AHV = Alters- und Hinterlassenversicherung

This is the Swiss old age insurance that both employer and employee contribute to. French: AVS, Italian: AVS

BAG : Bundesamt fur Gesundheltswesen

The Federal Ministry of Health is referred to as "Bahg" not the B-A-G. French: OFSP, Italian: UFSP

BIZ = Berufsberatung- und Informationszentrum

Refers to one of the publicly funded career counselling centres that can be found throughout Switzerland, French: OP, Italian: OSP

BSV = Bundesamt fur Sozialversicherung

The Federal Social Insurance Department is responsible for retirement pensions and other types of social welfare payments. French: OFAS. Italian: UFAS

BUWAL = Bundesamt fur Umwelt, Wald und Landschaft

Like BAG, BUWAL is referred to as a word, not a list of letters. The Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape remains very active, despite recent budget cuts. French: OFEFP. Italian: UFAFP

BVG = Berufliche Vorsorge Gesetz

This is how German-speaking Switzerland refers to the compulsory company pension funds to which both employer and employee contribute. Also called "the second pillar" of retirement. French: LPP, Italian: LPP

CS = Credit Suisse

The bank calls itself CS in all the Swiss languages and in English.

CVP = Christlich-demokratische Volkspartei

The Christian Democratic People's Party guards its two seats on the Federal Council (presently filled by Ruth Metzler and Joseph Deiss) against the jealous claims of the Swiss People's Party (SVP). Traditionally a conservative Catholic party, the CVP today tends to be relatively liberal on issues having to do with social services and is less conservative than the SVP. French: PDC, Italian: PPD

d.h. = das heisst

Or "in other words." Used in German where we might use i.e.

DEZA = Direktion fur Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit.

The Swiss Agency, for Development and Cooperation is the branch of the Swiss foreign ministry that promotes and carries out projects to help developing countries. French: DDC, Italian: DSC

DRS = (Radio der) deutschen und rathoromanischen Schweiz

The radio service for German- and Romansch-speaking Switzerland. The French-language counterpart is RSR; the Italian, RSI.

EDA = Eidgenossisches Departement fur auswartige Angelegenheiten

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is currently headed by Federal Councilor, Micheline Calmy-Rey. French: DFAE, Italian: DFAE

EG = Erdgeschoss

You will see EG on an elevator button, meaning "ground floor." And don't forget UG, which stands for Untergeschoss or basement.

ETH = Eidgenossiche Technischehochschule

Literally, this translates into "technical high school," but in fact it refers to one of the federal institutes of technology, the ETH in Zurich. The French-language equivalent is the EPF in Lausanne.

EvB = Erklarung von Bern

This NGO (whoops! non-governmental organisation) works to promote more equitable relations between the world's haves and have-nots. French: DB, Italian: DB

EVP = Evangelische Volkspartei

The Evangelical People's Party is a small voice in Swiss politics. French: PEV, Italian: PPE

FCB = Fussball Club Basel

Anyone living in Switzerland who got through the 2003 Champions League games without noticing that FCB is Basel's main soccer club must have had his or her head in the sand. Particularly when FCB played ManU (and if you don't know what that stands for, you're really out of it!)

FDP = Freisinnig Demokratische Partei

Literally translated, this right-of-centre, pro-big-business party calls itself the freethinking democratic party in German. The "R" in their French-language name stands for "radical," while in Italian they manage to be both liberal and radical. Think, rather, Conservative-Lite. French: PRD, Italian: PLRT

FIFA = Federation Internationale de Football Associations

This apparent mix of French and English is usually pronounced "fifa," rather than referred to by the four letters of its name. Since it sponsors international soccer competitions, you'll be hearing about it with increasing frequency as the 2006 World Cup in Germany approaches.

FMH = Foederatio Medicorum Helveticorum.

One of the chief responsibilities of the Swiss Medical Association is to supervise the education of medical interns after they've completed their state examinations. You'll see the letters FMH after the names of doctors who have been certified by the association.

GC = Grasshopper Club

Zurich's top-level soccer club.

GP = Grune Partei

Switzerland's Greens have 10 representatives in the Parliament's Lower House, six of them women. French: PE; les Verts, Italian: i Verdi

GSoA = Gruppe fur eine Schweiz ohne Armee

Founded in 1982, this political organization was not taken seriously until it mobilized over 1 million people (or 35.6% of Swiss voters) to vote in favour of Switzerland eliminating its army. Since then, GSoA has continued as an army watchdog and a peace movement. French: GSsA, Italian: GSsE

HEKS = Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz

This Protestant-oriented nonprofit organization does a great deal of development and charity work in the Third World. It also promotes the integration of asylum-seekers and immigrants into Swiss society. French: EPER

IP = Integrierte Produktion

Food products marked "IP" are not organically grown but are nevertheless produced with special attention to the environment. Farmers in Switzerland receive government subsidies based on how environmentally friendly their agriculture is.

IV = Invalidenversicherung

This abbreviation refers to the disability insurance fund that both employer and employee contribute to. Someone who "gets IV" receives a disability pension. French: AI, Italian: AI

Jh = Jahrhundert or century

A German encyclopedia may refer to the 19Jh, as an English-language reference book might abbreviate the 19c.

KMU = Kleine und Mittelere Unternehmungen

This is a shorthand reference, often used in business reports, to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). A certain politician or pending regulation be perceived as pro- or anti-KMU, for example. Or a consulting company may advertise KMU business services.

KAPO = Kantonspolizei

This reference to various cantonal police forces comes up frequently in newspaper articles. The acronym KRIPO (for criminal police) is familiar to anyone who watches the German-language "Krimis," or detective stories, on television. The French or Italian equivalent would be "POCA," but it doesn't seem to be widely used.

LID = Landwirtschaftlicher Informationsdienst

This PR service for farmers offers excellent information on all aspects of agriculture in Switzerland, and its graphics are striking. Check out the website: French: ICA, Italian: SIA

LKW = Lastkraftwagen

Just another way to say truck or lorry. Sometimes used with PKW, Personenkraftwagen, which is simply an automobile.

m.E. = meines Erachtens

People write this in a report when they want to make it clear that they are expressing their own opinion. In English you might write, "As I see it" or "to my mind".

MWSt = Mehrwertsteuer

The British call it VAT or value-added tax, the Americans just call it sales tax. In any case, it's included in Swiss prices and mentioned on your receipts: "Inkl. MWSt." The tax on food products is 2.4%; on most other items, it's 7.6%.

NZZ = None Zurcher Zeitung

This Zurich newspaper is considered to be the best written of any in Switzerland. It's a bit dry, perhaps, but its monthly magazine, Folio, is great fun.

OP = Operationssaal

Referring to the operating theatre of a hospital, OP is often used in references to medical specialties, as in "She's an OP nurse".

OR = Obligationenrecht

This is the Swiss civil code, which obliges you to follow certain procedures in business. The abbreviation might be used as follows: According to OR, employees have to give two months notice when they quit.

OS = Offiziersschule

If you choose to become an officer in the Swiss Army, you have to go to officer's school. And before that comes UOS or Unteroffiziersschule, which trains corporals. French: EO, Italian: SU

PC = Postcheck

You set: this used in references to a PC-Konto, or post office checking account, as in "Pay CHF 20.-into PC-Konto 203040-5".

PLZ = Postleitzahl

This is the Swiss equivalent of a zip code, which is always written before the city: 8052 Zurich, for example. You are often asked to provide your PLZ When filling out Swiss forms. French: NPA, Italian: NPA

QS = Qualitatssicherung

A buzzword these days, QS means quality assurance or quality control. You almost can't avoid references in business publications to QS symposia, QS specialists, and so on.

RS = Rekrutenschule

In the recently revamped Swiss Army, all 20-year-old Swiss men (and any women who want to participate) undergo 21 weeks of basic training or "recruit school." For generations, the RS has been a rite of passage that Swiss men of all backgrounds share. French: ER, Italian: SR

SBB = Schweizedsche Bundesbahn

All three abbreviations for the Swiss Federal Railways are marked on the side of its railway cars. French: CFF, Italian: FFS

SD = Schweizer Demokraten

Do not be deceived; the party calling itself the "Swiss Democrats" should really call itself the Swiss Extreme Rightists. However, it has no representatives in either the Upper or Lower Houses of Parliament at present. French: DS, Italian: Lega dei Ticinesi (the TI equivalent)

SDA = Schweizerische Depeschenagentur

The first Swiss news agency, founded in 1894 and still generating bulletins today. French: ATS, Italian: ATS

SF = Schweizer Fernsehen The German-speaking Swiss television stations are SF 1 and 2.

SP = Sozialdemokratische Partei

Switzerland's social democrats currently hold 52 out of 200 seats in the Lower House of Parliament, more than any other party. But they have the fewest seats (6 out of 46) in the Upper House. French: PS, Italian: PS

SPI = Swiss Performance Index

A measurement of how well Swiss companies' shares are doing. This and other performance indices of the Swiss securities market are offered by SWX, the Swiss Exchange.

SRI = Swiss Radio International

It broadcasts in English, German, French, Italian, and Arabic for Swiss around the world and anyone else who wants to listen. Another of its services is swiss-info, a website providing Swiss and international news in nine languages.

SVP = Schweizerische Volkspartei

This is the party of farmers, small businessmen, and anyone who yearns for "the good old days." Its MPs are the second largest faction in the Lower House, and the party's popularity is growing. The SVPs most controversial MP is billionaire Christoph Blocher, a demagogue who uses the Swiss fear of foreigners to win votes for his party. French: UDC, Italian: UDC

TCS = Touring Club Suisse

This Swiss equivalent of the AAA in the US offers advice on any kind of travel, information about car insurance, help with breakdowns, and more. A similar, but more environmentally friendly version of the organization is the VCS or Verkehrsclub Schweiz.

tgl. - taglich

Everyday. You are most likely to see this abbreviation on a timetable, along with wo. or wochentlich (weekly).

TGV = Train Grande Vitesse

The French high-speed train runs non-stop from several Swiss cities to Paris. Even the German-speaking Swiss call it the Teh-Jeh-Veh, with a soft instead of a hard "G" sound.

TV = Turnverein

Thousands of Swiss, young and old, belong to these local sports clubs.

u. M. = uber Meer

2000 M. u. M. tells you that something is 2000 metres above sea level.

Uni = Universitat

Not You-knee, but Oo-knee. Switzerland has 10 cantonal universities, two federal institutes of technology, and seven universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen, Hautes ecoles specializes, or scuole universitarie professionali)

usw. = und on weiter

And so on. We would probably write "etc."

UBS = Union Bank of Switzerland

The world's largest private bank, UBS has offices in over 50 countries and 311 branches in Switzerland alone.

UEFA = Union of European Football Associations

Among other competitions, this soccer organization sponsors the famous Champions League, whose annual winner is considered Europe's best football club. In 2003 it was AC Milano.

UNO = United Nations Organization

In German, French and Italian, the UN is called the UNO, pronounced like the Spanish word for "one."

v. Chr. = vor Christus

Just like our BC, AD, which is from the Latin Anno Domini, is used in all the Swiss languages as wall as English. French: av. J.C. Italian: a.C.

vgl. = vergleiche

Used to mean "compare to something else". In English we'd probably write "see," as in: See Smith's 1997 publication.

WM = Weltmeisterschaft

The World Championship. You can have a WM in anything, but when a man says those two letters, he is usually talking about soccer.

YB = Young Boys

Another soccer club with a silly name, this time Bern's top team. Referred to as E-beh, not ypsilon-beh!

z.B. = zum Beispiel

For example. Used as we would use e.g.

z.T. = zum Teil

In part or in some cases. Used in sentences like the following: Passengers were z.T. badly injured in the train wreck.

z.Z. = zur Zeit

Used to mean at this time, presently. He is z.Z. abroad.
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Title Annotation:Expat Advice
Author:Hays, Kim
Publication:Swiss News
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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