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Bean counter

In the German article on Erbsenzähler I wrote that the concept can easily be translated into English with the word bean counter. Reading the definition on my Merriam-Webster´s I realise that this is not exactly true, as it reads:
 ¨noun. a person involved in corporate or government financial decisions and especially one reluctant to spend money.¨ 
The German term does not necessarily refer to a person responsible for financial decision in a corporation or in government, it can also be a trait of character completely independent of the profession of the poor affected moron. In this case the right translation could perhaps be a nit-picker. Therefore, a bean counter would be a nit-picker in charge of financial decisions in government or in a corporation.
Despite this subtle difference, it seems evident to me that that kind of person exists all over the world, be it in government, in corporations or in the pub around the corner. And still Spanish seems unable to express that thought in a single word. Spanish speaking people do not seem to count beans, nor peas (that is the meaning of the German Erbse), nor garbanzos (chick-peas) nor lentejas (lentils). Why not? Do speakers of Spanish not feel the urge to tell the bean counters that they don´t like what they are doing, the way they are? That this is an odious personality trait? That they are a nuisance and a pain in the ass? German has a great variety of related words (Erbsenzähler, kleinkariert, Korinthenkacker, Kleingeist, Kleinkrämer, pingelig, Krittler(in), Paragraphenreiter and several others with many dialectal varieties), French has pinailleur, (-euse), perhaps better translated as stickler or wonk though, but still not bad, only Spanish seems to lack a suitable term. Could somebody give the Spanish language a hand? Spanish-speakers might be thankful. And who knows, bean counters themselves could be thankful too, after all, as this documentary on professional guidance counselling shows, they clearly need help! A well defined clinical term to describe their condition might be a welcome first step to overcome this pathology.
Don't count your beans before they are hatched
BTW: Did Jupiter Jones from the Three Investigators not win the right to use a car (a Rolls Royce, if my memory does not fail me) whith a chauffeur (luckily for him, as he and the other investigators were too young to drive themselves) in a contest organised by a supermarket by correctly guessing the number of beans in a jar? I guess that is the sort of pun on Jupiter Jones´ bean counter mentality that gets lost in translation.

Now let me send my greetings to Knöllchen-Host, a German citizen nobody would like to have in the vicinity or in the family. Just the right example for all those who like to cultivate prejudices. Today: against Germans



Am 09.03.2014 um 10:09 von Bill George
After a quick check with my household native German speaker, I would like to underline that an "Erbsenzähler" is not just a penny-pinching accountant type: he or she is simply generally "pingelig" or generally a "hair-splitter" in everything they do. The expression describes a general character trait, and not just how the person "goes around" (umgeht) with his money (isn't "mit etwas umgehen" also quite difficult to translate?)
Am 09.03.2014 um 10:47 von Jordi
Hello Bill! You are right, as I think I indicate in the post. Erbsenzähler seems to be a broader concept than bean counter, and both are an annoying character trait, not just an accident that happens once.

And yes, ¨mit etwas umgehen¨ can be difficult to translate indeed. The difficulty in writing the posts for this blog is not so much finding a word that is hard or subtle to translate, I have a long list already, but rather writing a commentary that is both interesting and not completely false. Would you like to give it a try? Gastbeitrag, cameo appearence, artista invitado, they are all welcome.
Am 17.03.2014 um 06:32 von Susana
Qué tal lo del "cuadriculado" para "Erbsenzähler"? Además me parece una palabra muy bonita, muy descriptiva.

Am 26.02.2017 um 09:35 von Jordi
Buena idea. Preguntaré al próximo alemán que vea si le gusta que le llamen cuadriculado y si le parece una palabra bonita ;-) Yo creo que tienes razón.

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