Storm over stress

I meant to include this bit in my last post but forgot. Since I don’t run ads here, you know I’m not trolling for page views.

During my interview on Mac Power Users, I mentioned that my nom de net came from the German word for stress. Since then, a few actual German speakers (which I am not) have alerted me on Twitter that I’m full of it. They’ve been very nice about it, but insistent. “Urge” seems to be the favored translation of “Drang.”

Such is my arrogance, though, that I refused to concede the point fully. There has to be a (possibly old-fashioned) technical meaning that’s close to stress, I claimed—perhaps “force” or “pressure.” My basis for making this argument is the title of a well-known early 20th century German text on stress analysis, Drang und Zwang.1

Drang und Zwang

Drang und Zwang was written by the father/son team of August and Ludwig Föppl. August was an eminent professor of mechanics at the University of Technology, Munich, a post he’d taken over from Johann Bauschinger (of the Bauschinger effect). He’d been a student of Otto Mohr’s (of Mohr’s circle) and was the thesis advisor of Ludwig Prandtl (who was the first to describe boundary layers and was, in turn, the thesis advisor of Theodore von Kármán). What I’m getting at here is that August Föppl was a pretty big deal in engineering mechanics, and he certainly didn’t write a book about urges.

The most authoritative translation of “Drang und Zwang” I’ve been able to find is from Karl-Eugen Kurrer’s The History of the Theory of Structures. He translates it as “Pressure and Restraint.” So instead of Dr. Stress, I’m Dr. Pressure. I can live with that. At least the units are the same.

One of my Twitter correspondents told me of a current, non-engineering use of Drang that absolutely delighted me:

@drdrang @evanbrewer Dunno. Everyday meaning really is ‘urge’, ‘push towards’, there’s even a medical term for the urge to p.. with Drang:-)
  — M__lt (@m__lt) Mon Jul 23 2012 2:11 PM CDT

That my chosen pseudonym is part of a medical term describing the urge to shit may be the best thing I’ve ever learned. Here’s the full phrase:

@drdrang @m__lt Urge to shit = der Drang zu scheißen, just in case you need to work that in somewhere.
  — evanbrewer (@evanbrewer) Mon Jul 23 2012 2:25 PM CDT

Who says the internet is a waste of time?

  1. There’s also Sturm und Drang, which I’ve always seen translated as storm and stress.