There has been much less borrowing going on in the other direction, so I was quite surprised to discover that a trendy new drink in Toronto bars this summer is a "radler". Radler is the southern German and Austrian word for a mixture of beer and lemon-lime soft drink. "There's nothing radder than a good ol' radler" proclaimed a headline in the Toronto Metro this week. Radlers are now available with other citrus flavours, for instance blood orange and grapefruit.
The story behind this word is quite entertaining. In the late 19th century, shortly after bicycles were invented, Germans found that their favourite tipple (beer, naturally), downed in haste by a thirsty cyclist on an energetic outing, was a little too strong, and resulted in impaired cycling.
Diluted half and half, though, it was refreshing and not inebriating. Well, less inebriating anyway. In German, a bicycle is a Fahrrad, literally a "travelling/riding wheel", and a cyclist is a Radler. The word for the person became the word for the drink.
If you wish to order one of these in Northern Germany, however, they have a different name: Alsterwasser. The Alster is the lake in the centre of Hamburg.
I suspect that the water in the Alster was not drinkable, and that this name was originally a derogatory commentary on the adulteration of pure beer.
Of course, we have a perfectly good name in English for this drink: "shandy", derived from "shandygaff", unfortunately of unknown origin.
Do not be confused by British dictionaries which describe shandy as "beer and lemonade". They are using "lemonade" not to mean this stuff:
Tune in next week to find out what the French call this drink (oh, ok, yes I do drink shandies everywhere I go) and what it has to do with assertiveness.
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