Schmäh: A Lesson in Austrian humour
From the polished society of the ball room to the jovial crowd of the alpine hut, Austrians are proud of their Schmäh. This word has many meanings like a sense of a humour and wit.
The word Schmäh (pronounced 'shmay') has many meanings: it can denote a joke, a trick or a lie but also regional or personal charm, sense of humour and wit.
It is a good-natured yet snide kind of banter with a subversive historical background: Schmäh has its roots below stairs, originating from servants' mockery of the high-strung, pseudo-courtly lifestyle of their burgeois masters. Part melancholy, part comedy, it often mixes gallantry with persiflage, flattery with ridicule.
Every region and every Austrian has a unique type of Schmäh. It is sometimes mistaken for moodiness or impertinence, but it has always been a friendly, ironic sort of naughtiness, with very simple rules of engagement: roll with the punches and enjoy a harmless - if slightly anarchic - battle of the wits.