Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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146 words

Just an amusing difference in languages that came to my attention recently. In English there’s concurrence, the meaning of which is pretty close to what you’d suspect from seeing Latin con – with/together – and currere – run – come together. It’s used to tell us that things happen at the same time or that people share the same opinions. It’s quite a positive thing.

In German, we have the word Konkurrenz as well but it isn’t anywhere as positive as it means competition. You can still see how it comes from the same origin but just has a different spin, though.

Finally, we also have Mitläufer in German where Mit is ‘with’ and Läufer is ‘runner’, so it’s essentially the same word again. And it’s not entirely positive either as it’s used for referring to people who join a movement without really meaning it.


March 31, 2006, 0:03


Comment by Scott: User icon

Are you sure that “concurrent” carries with it a positive connotation? My sense of the word is that it is pretty neutral and simply describes a more or less physical/mechanical situation: two things moving along at more or less the same time. And while it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two things are competing with one another, it can indicate that they are competing with one another. On the other hand, “compete” means kind of the same thing as “Konkurrenz”—striving together/with/against one another.

March 31, 2006, 17:25

Comment by ssp: User icon

I wrote as positive (without the emphasis) which was supposed to be mildly ironic but a second reading suggests that this detail was probably lost in the text.

I think I get the positive impression from the fact that concur is also used to express agreement with someone else. While technically people competing in the same area also agree on something, the focus in that situation seems to be more on crushing the opponent… thus being destructive rather than constructive in an extreme reading.

P.S. You should listen to ‘Turn Into’ on the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album… if only for the opening lyrics.

March 31, 2006, 17:56

Comment by Carl: User icon

English has these same sorts of things. “Manuscript” means “hand” + “writing,” but “handwriting” is a different word on its own account.

Japanese also does similar things, with Old Chinese taking the place of Greek/Latin. Seppuku means “cut stomach” in fake Chinese, but harakiri means “stomach cut” in classically derived Japanese.

April 5, 2006, 1:32

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