Or in English, the Riddle of Räterschen.
First things first, this is NOT the Räterschen Rätsel. This is just a nice little spider snacking on a bug she caught:
But I took the snap in the tiny village of Räterschen, just outside of Elsau in North Central Switzerland – and that is the mystery!
For you see, in the North of Germany, the diminutive form of nouns in German is “-chen” appended to the end of the noun. (Example: Mädchen = little Hamburg girl.) As you head south, the “-chen” is replaced with “-le.” (Example: Mädle = little Schwabian girl.) As you head even more south, the “-le” is replaced with “-li.” (Example: Mädli = little Swiss girl.) If you keep heading south, nobody really knows what happens, because you run into the area called Wallis – and there they speak a form of German that is so hugely different than anything else, even to this date linguists have never really figured it out; some linguists even believe that due to the majestic, magnificent Swiss Alps in this area, the locals have no words for the concept of “small.”
And so the mystery is: why does a tiny village nestled deep within North Switzerland have a North Germanic name?