Interested in a little brain-twisting?

Sometimes I get caught in some hard-to-explain brain-twisting from out of nowhere. Curious?

A main topic of this issue of ZKG Cement Lime Gypsum is quality control. This combination of words evokes two different associations in me: while “quality” is generally positively connotated with something good and desirable, “control” generates a feeling of uneasiness – at least in my German-socialized brain. The German word “Kontrolle” is often used as a translation of the English term “control” – which is maybe a literally correct translation, but does not really express the intended meaning. English-oriented minds understand control more in a sense that would correspond to the German term “Führung”, which again might be translated into English as “guidance”. Yes, it is complicated, even without speculating whether the terms “Kontrolle” and “Führung” – used solitary or in combination – would have a special connotation especially for Germans.

And we can take it even further to a level beyond mere translation. As interesting evidence for how language determines our thinking, the term “quality control” reveals further twists. When interpreted the English way, (understanding “controlling” in the sense of “guiding”), controlling the quality means to take the result of a quality checked sample in order to guide the production process into a better state, thereby producing a better quality. Hence, for “English-minded” people, quality control implies feeding the result of the quality check back into an optimization of the production process. In the “German interpretation” this task of active improvement may fall short – which in reality will, of course, never happen because professional Germans will always try to improve things! Still no German talks about “Qualitätsführung” – which would be “quality guidance”.

Now – before I take all the hits from the German readers because of my obvious disrespect for the “German-minded” – let me correct this picture: The famous English proverb “All that glitters is not gold” would mean in strict logical translation, that gold couldn’t glitter, which is probably exactly what is not the case. The German corresponding proverb “Nicht alles was glänzt ist Gold” seems to be much more correct: “Not everything that glitters is actually gold”. But that is too long!?

So what do we learn from all this brain twisting? Two things:

Life gets interesting if you dive into it!

We love our English friends – even after Brexit!

I leave you with your thoughts …

Matthias Mersmann
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