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 ...
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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