Every now and then I am reminded of this:

English: great minds think alike.
German: Zwei Dumme, ein Gedanke (roughly: two idiots, one thought)

What I find fascinating here is that it embodies two completely opposing views on a kind of spontaneous consensus. The British mindset apparently sees it as a suggestion that there is something to it, while the German reacts with suspicion.

The matter is complicated -and simplified - by the fact that both expressions are often used to describe the ...

... speaker.

In the German form, calling you and other people with the same idea stupid is self-depreciating, but tends to be laughed off and one moves ahead with the idea anyway. If the phrase is applied to other people, however, it's taken more seriously.

In English, self-deprecation is a far more common form of communication than German, so clapping yourself on the shoulder by applying the phrase to yourself almost has to be taken with a good dose of irony.

In that sense, the ...


... expressions are much more closely related than is immediately apparent.

However, on the face of it, there is a fundamental difference.

In the somewhat humorous pop-science book Watching the English, social anthropologist Kate Fox compares British politeness and restraint with that in Japanese culture, and speculates that the relative confines of both Island nation boundaries have led to a kind of habitual self-deprecation, as a prevention mechanism for open conflict.

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It's way outside my area of expertise to comment on that seriously.

But it might explain why the English expression on the surface lauds the consensus, while the German is more obviously offensive.

I'll leave that up to you to decide.

All I really wanted to remark on is how different the expressions are. And look at me go, four toots down and nothing much learned 😂

I better stop while I'm ahead.

@jens The Norwegian version would be "To sjeler en tanke, to rasshøl én planke"

or "Zwei Seelen, eine gedanke, zwei Arschlöcher ein Brett" which probably dates back to the times before water closets, and probably is more like people that are close together (e.g using the same toilet) usually think alike, and with the added implication that we can all be assholes some times :p

huh, that's interesting. In #Dutch we also have "twee zielen, een gedachte" (two souls, one thought), but I was unable to find a reference to the second part (two assholes, one plank?) ever being used. I guess when the proverb was adopted to Dutch, they/we never bothered to translate the second part. I at least wasn't aware there originally was a counterpart.

@FiXato @jens It might also be that we took it from Dutch through the Hansa thing and added the second part, I don't know :)

@FiXato @sotolf @jens literally the same in Danish: “To sjæle, en tanke” (two souls, one thought).

@sotolf @jens Thank you for rasshøl - Duolingo never taught me that, for some reason.

@jens It's worth saying that the traditional reply to "great minds think alike" is "...and fools seldom differ."

@y6nH Yes, @mhd mentioned that. I rarely heard it, but it's quite possible that is more indicative of who I hung out with.

@jens I think the interesting thing here is like with many of the idioms, not all of it gets said all the time, so often part will get forgotten some generations down. The version I know in English is "great minds think alike, fools thoughts never differ." Which in itself specifically encourages the "move on" thing because it implies that it's either genius or stupidity to do so.

@jens An expression I've used often in English in such circumstances is "two bodies, one brain". On the surface it looks like it's praise. Brief thought, however, indicates that I'm saying we're both half-wits.

Dad's influence is pretty obvious. :D

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