Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Word of the Month: Der Tatendrang

Word of the Month: Index

Taten is the plural of Tat, which means "action" or "deed", and Drang means "urge" or "drive"—it refers to a strong inclination to do something. In combination, the terms indicate a pronounced psychological disposition towards action. But note that this state of mind is not the same as mindless activism: Yes, people full of Tatendrang get fidgety when something can be done to remedy a situation or when adventure beckons. But that does not mean that they plunge headlessly into action, no matter what the consequences are. Rather, they prefer an active over a contemplative life style, but may well be able to keep their impulses in check when the situation demands it.

Drang is perhaps best known to English speakers in the combination Sturm und Drang, a German literary movement of the late 18th century. The name is usually translated as "Storm and Stress" in English, but that is really a mistranslation because Drang does not mean "stress": a Drang comes from the inside and is not imposed from the outside. So, why does this mistranslation prevail? I don't know. Yes, "Storm and Urge" sounds strange and does not have the catchiness of the German original, but what's wrong with "Storm and Drive"?


Marlene said...

This was very interesting. After I read what you wrote, I looked the term up on the Web and saw that Goethe was a prominent figure in the movement and thought that sounded kind of crazy But then I remembered Sorrows of Werther and realized it had to be the young Goethe,who was into Sturm and Drang.

Maybe Drang got translated as "stress" because stress can also come from the inside. But I agree, the translation is misleading.

Ulrich said...

Marlene: A Drang is a strong urge and comes always from the inside. I don't really see how "stress" could be similar, even if coming from the inside. I always thought "Storm and Stress" was chosen (by whoever coined it initially) because of the alliteration, which makes it snappier (although there is no alliteration in the German original).