Asterix in Switzerland: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 16 - Asterix in Switzerland


The story: In Asterix in Switzerland, there are numerous gags about the Swiss. Fortunately, Professor Ibrox has lived in Zurich and can explain them. Here are 4.

Fact #1: The Swiss are quietly smug


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"The Swiss aren't very showy and modesty is definitely a virtue. But they're sure their way is best and can be quite smug about it. Ask a Swiss banker what his bonus was, and he'll smirk and say, 'It was in line with my performance.' And that'll mean a billion francs or something."

Fact #2: The Swiss clean up during parties


"This might not make sense to anyone from Poland or America. But I went to loads of parties in Zurich where everyone would clean up after themselves the whole time. I had to stop my maid service because I ran out of money. So I started having weekly parties to make sure the flat got tidied up."

Fact #3: The Swiss love their paperwork


"They love paperwork. The tax collection rate in Switzerland is 100%, and that's because the Swiss love filling in the forms. In the eighties, a left-wing town introduced a standardised suicide note to make bureaucracy a bit easier. They lost half the population in a week."

Fact #4: Food and drink-related punishments are rife in Switzerland


"If you don't cheers someone before you take a swig of your beer, you can't marry them or anyone in their family. If you don't look someone in the eye while you cheers them, they have the legal right to take all your livestock. If multiple people are cheersing, their arms mustn't cross. Otherwise, there's a risk of full protonic reversal, which is punishable in some cantons by two weeks in jail. If you drop your bread in your fondue, you have to swim naked in the lake and buy drinks for everyone. If you eat fondue in summer, no Swiss person will have sex with you. If you burp before, during, or after eating, you're chained to a radiator and the only way out is to cut your arm off with a Swiss army knife.

"Strangely, if you bring beetroot to a girl's flat you are almost guaranteed great sex."

/end exploration of Swiss culture

For more about Switzerland, see our article on the popular Swiss ezine Newly Swissed.


The story: Far from home in beastly France, some bored Romans pass their evenings by having world-class orgies. Governor Varius Flavus explains why his orgies are so great.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"Varius says that he gets the impresario Fellinus to organise the parties. I don't know why Andrew needs me to explain this. It's a reference to Federico Fellini, who made debauched films like Casanova."

Andrew Girardin whinges: "I interrupt these explorations of Latin jokes to complain about my life.

"I lost a bet with my Spanish friend, and had to go to a movie of his choosing. If I'd won, it'd have been something fun, with robots and space lasers. But he chose Fellini's Casanova, which was in Italian with German subtitles. Two languages I don't know. It was about four hours long. After a twelve-hour work day. I nearly tore my own eyes out. There wasn't a break to buy beer, even though the stupid little arthouse cinema was attached to a bar. God! And I had to pay for his ticket, too. It was torture. Never bet with a Spaniard."



The story: Asterix and Obelix have to go to Switzerland to get some Edelweiss, a plant made famous by the movie The Sound of Music, which was set in Austria. They beat up an officious border guard. The other guards choose to stay neutral.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"Maior e longinquo reverentia is from a brilliant but grumpy historian called Tacitus and means 'distance lends enchantment to the view.' In this case, the legionaries mean that Switzerland seems nice until you get there and people start beating you up.

"Things being more beautiful from a distance reminds me of this woman I saw in a bar in Zurich. Oh, and one in Greece. Oh, and that one in Bogota. Ah yes, and that one in Minsk. And..."



The story: The Romans are chasing Asterix and Obelix, who have jumped into Lake Geneva.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"First, the legionary asks if he should take his caligae off. Caligae are the sandal-type shoes worn by the Romans. They seem to be in fashion again.

"Then the centurion tells them to jump into the lake and yells 'Nunc est bibendum!' It's from Horace, who was celebrating the death of Cleopatra. The English translation is 'Now we must drink.' The Glaswegian translation is 'Let's get smashed with cheap booze.'

"It might help your foreign readers to know that a body of water can be called 'the drink'. As in, I got smashed with cheap booze and nearly fell into the drink. That's why the centurion says it here."