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.

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 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.

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