Famous English saying baffles the natives

Im Stern von dieser Woche zitiert Heinrich von Pierer, der angeblich ein englisches Sprichwort zitiert (die deutsche Version reiche ich vielleicht nach), etwa “Nur Säuglinge in nassen Windeln lehnen Veränderungen ab”. Was für ein Sprichwort ist das überhaupt?

bq. From the Observer column in today’s Financial Times:

bq. Sticky feeling
Who said German companies needed to catch up? The giants of Germany’s corporate scene are already miles (kilometres?) ahead of counterparts in the English-speaking world.
How else to explain comments on cutting labour costs by Heinrich von Pierer, chief executive of electrical engineering group Siemens, in yesterday’s Stern magazine?
Summing up the general reluctance of people to accept change, he referred to what he described as an “English saying” that went: “The only ones who like changes are babies in wet nappies.”
An English saying? Really? Observer would love to meet von Pierer’s tutor. Can anyone enlighten us? Or should the gruff German join Shakespeare in the book of English proverbs?

A later poster points out that Google reveals ‘Only wet babies like change’ and other variations with the word ‘diapers’, that is, an American saying. Is that right?

(Thanks to Robin Bonthrone for this contribution to the pt group at Yahoo, which I repost with permission).

5 thoughts on “Famous English saying baffles the natives

  1. I think the guy is pulling the wool over the listners’/readers’ eyes and attempting to sound erudite while really making himself look rather foolish Margaret. The only phrase/saying I could find was “Have diaper bag, will travel” .. not much of a match! Nothing remotely about nappies or the like in Oxford Book of Quotations either (not likely to be).


  2. It looks like there is a management/business book Only Wet Babies Like Change: Workplace Wisdom for Baby Boomers. When you google the words wet babies like change (no quotes so the phrase isn’t restrictive) and filter out the book and its author, you only get a handful of ghits.

    My guess is it’s the case of a management-speak cliché, probably originating with or extrapolated from the book, that von Pierer picked up somewhere presuming it was more widely used than it is.

  3. I like that. It leaves von Pierer looking slightly foolish but sounds likely. The filtering-out technique sounds good, too. Previously I have only used filtering out e.g. for filtering out prostitutes when I was translating a church guide and had to search for nuns.Paul: did you see the Danish explanation of the gas stove problem in the earlier entry (return to blogging)?

  4. Thank you Margaret …. gas stove problem solved. I wish I could get gas here actually …cookability and all that….am fed up with things boiling over and leaving nasty stubborn grunge on my ceramic hob…


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