In the U.S., we have an expression “like Swiss Cheese”, which means “full of giant holes”. People may say that a liar’s story or a weak security system is “like Swiss cheese”. In the movie Real Genius, a scientist joked that a space laser could be used to “create enormous Swiss Cheese”.
In my travels, when I visit a place that has a food named after it, I’m always interested to find what it is actually like to the locals. For instance, in Kentucky I checked out the Fried Chicken (not bad, but nothing special). In Maryland I had the crab (turns out I don’t like the species they eat there). In Philadelphia, the Cheese Steaks (awesome though it feels like asking for a heart attack).
When I visited Switzerland, my first interest was to find Swiss cheese. Which I assumed they would call by some other name. (This is not always the rule, though — every American can show you where to buy “American Cheese”, although few of us realize it’s actually just mild Cheddar. The re-branding dates back to the Revolutionary War, when it sounded traitorous to admit liking England’s most popular cheese.)
When I asked Swiss people about Swiss Cheese, though, the most common offerings were Gruyère, Raclette, Tilsiter, Luzerner Rahmkäse, and Berner Alpkäse. And when I asked about “the one with the holes in it”, I was mostly shown something with tiny holes, not the big finger-sized holes we think of as “Swiss Cheese” in the US.
Eventually I gave up, thinking the whole thing was some kind of ruse. There’s nothing French about French Fries or French Dressing (names created to create an impression of elegance). So, I thought maybe there’s nothing Swiss about cheese with big holes after all.
It is now ten years later, and I finally solved the mystery! Emmentaler is the product I was looking for! (According to Wikipedia, “Swiss Cheese” has United States as its Country of Origin… probably because the Swiss call “cheese with big holes” by its local name.)
- When your business makes claims about the origins of its offerings, or what goes into them, how honest are those communications?
- Do you say things are “artisanally crafted” when they’re automated?
- Does your “team” page include peripheral people but present them as full-timers?
By now we have all seen tech companies use “Artificial Intelligence” as a synonym for “clever” (rather than a truly adaptive self-learning system).
Everyone wants to present their strongest possible interpretation, but it’s important to be aware that exaggerating too much will set off alarms with savvy customers.