anecdote

From Merriam-Webster: a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident. Synonyms: story, tale.

The artful placement of an anecdote is key to being persuasive in the American culture. Stories are convincing. They speak to our experience. Storytelling. Great leaders in business, politics, culture know how to speak to the imagination of their audience. Listen to former President Bill Clinton speak at the funeral service for Aretha Franklin:

The Byzantine official Procopius wrote three historical works in Greek. In the first two, he dealt with wars and public works projects, but the third was something of a departure from this kind of history. Referred to as “Anekdota,” from the Greek a-meaning “not,” and ekdidonai, meaning “to publish,” it contained bitter attacks on the emperor Justinian, his wife, and other notables of contemporary Constantinople. 

Clinton’s nominating speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention nominating Barack Obama for a second term as president is considered a masterpiece in persuasion. It is full of fascinating anecdotes.

German language aggressive?

An American woman in Germany: “This video was so fun to make! German gets made fun for sounding aggressive (but it’s not if you watch this video!), but little did we know, French had some unexpected funny moments too for sounding so short 🙂 Watch and see what I mean.”

YouTube comments:

“The German guy was so friendly and seemed so huggable! I really liked him. I’m learning German so I know sometimes there’s a stereotype about Germans being grumpy but I know it’s totally not true.”

“As a German I actually laughed at some German words for the first time. Because every time I watch comparison video they speak German way too aggressively but here the pronunciation is true to the original, which actually makes stuff like gums vs. Zahnfleisch funny to think about.”

Longer! Longer! Longer!

Christoph Waltz, an Austrian who often makes jokes about Germans in a rather gratuitous way, puts Jimmy Fallon to the test with a quiz on the definitions of long German words, like Bezirksschornsteinfegermeister.

YouTube comments:

“For non German speakers: The reason our words are so long is that you can basically string as many words as you want together and it would still count as long as it makes sense.”

“Can we just appreciate Waltz’s unwillingness to go along with Jimmy’s horrid fake laugh? He just stares at jimmy until he stops lol. An absolute icon.”

“You know you’re German when you don’t think the words are long at all.”

More False Friends

Deutsche Welle – Languages borrow words from each other all the time. But if the meaning gets changed along the way, things can get pretty confusing. Meet the Germans presenter Rachel Stewart takes a look at some more English words that have been given a new meaning in Germany.

Rachel is on a mission to investigate the idiosyncrasies of daily life in Germany. Every two weeks she explores a new topic – from beer to nudity to complicated grammar.

Rachel moved from the UK to Germany in 2016. As a relative newcomer she casts a fresh eye over German clichés and shares her experiences of settling into German life. You’ll find more from Meet the Germans on YouTube or at dw.com/MeettheG

English words used wrongly

Deutsche Welle – There are lots of English words the Germans use wrongly. A German “Public Viewing” is great fun. An English public viewing? Not so much. These are typical false friends.

Rachel Stewart takes a look at some English words that have taken on a whole new meaning in Germany. Rachel is on a mission to investigate the idiosyncrasies of daily life in Germany. Every two weeks she explores a new topic – from beer to nudity to complicated grammar.

Rachel moved from the UK to Germany in 2016. As a relative newcomer she casts a fresh eye over German clichés and shares her experiences of settling into German life.

Beraten vs. Dienen

The Germans use the word service very often, and in many different situations. But, service is not native to the German language. The German equivalent for service is dienen. And the word dienen can be traced back as far as the 8th century. At its root dienen was in connection with Läufer (runner), Bote (messenger) or Knecht (farm laborer or servant). Dienen means simply to be helpful or to be useful. 

But, it also means (and is often felt by Germans to mean) service in the sense of servitude, subjugation or subordination of one person to another person, to the one served, assisted or helped. Especially if one is serving exclusively the individual needs, wishes or interests of another person, one can feel a loss of independence and autonomy. One is captive, no longer free. 

However, if a common goal or common purpose is being served, something for the good of all, then serving is understood as positive. This might provide an indication for why contemporary Germans avoid using the term dienen, and prefer the English word service, or a combination of a German and an English term (i.e. Kundenservice = customer service).

The German term beraten, on the other hand, means to give someone advice about what they should do. The root is Rat, which means counsel. To beraten with another means to discuss and consider together, to hold council on a specific issue, situation or problem. A Berater is a consultant. 

The original definition of beraten means to take precautions, in the sense of food and provisions in a household: Hausrat (household things), Vorrat (supply, reserve, stock), Gerät (tool, utensil, appliance, device). Beraten (to give advice, to consult) is oriented, therefore, towards a future action, something to be done. Beraten serves the purpose of preparing someone for a future or possible situation. 

Gracious. Helpful. Selfless.

The English term service implies graciousness, helpfulness and to a degree selflessness. To serve is to be humble. Serve stems from the Latin word servitium, which meant the condition of a slave. Service, at its roots involves one person serving another or several. It is inherently personal. The term service in the context of American business involves the notion of servitium, to respond to the needs of your customer, to serve that customer personally and individually.

But service also anticipates compensation: payment, customer loyalty, growth of the business. Service is both personal and commercial. They go hand-in-hand. Impersonal service seldom leads to commercial success. Personal service without fair compensation is servitude. And, indeed, some business relationships are so one-sided that the one serving feels more like a slave than a free person.

To consult means to seek advice, to refer to, to take into account, to consider, as one would consult an attorney or a physician. To consult also means to exchange views, to confer. As with service the term consult has its roots in Latin: consultare, meaning to deliberate, counsel, consult or take counsel. To consult means to advise, to recommend, to suggest, to provide an opinion about what could or should be done in a certain situation or in response to a certain problem. 

The consultant, therefore, is the expert applying their knowledge and expertise to improve the situation of a customer. But, essential to consulting a client is understanding their needs, their situation. This is done by first consulting with, meaning listening to that customer.

Cliché

A phrase or expression. Boring from much use. Not fresh or original. Something that has become overly familiar or commonplace. French, literally, printer’s stereotype, from past participle of clicher. (MerriamWebster)

Bureaucracy

1. Non-elected government officials. Administrative policy-making group. 2. Specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, hierarchy of authority. 3.A system of administration marked by officialism, red-tape and proliferation. From French bureaucratie: bureau desk and –cratie a kind of government. (MerriamWebster)

Constant Info Flow

Information: For a close collaborative effort between customer and supplier (consultant, vendor, etc.) to function effectively in the American business context a high level of communication between the two parties is essential. 

Information flow is guaranteed via short-term feedback between customer and supplier during the entire business relationship. This allow customers to modify their requests depending on changing situations.