David B Williams wrote:
I assume you mean that "a" German translation is Menschenauflauf (if so, this is a bad translation). Is it truly impossible for a German to combine two nouns, the first of which serves as an adjective? There must be a way for a German to express the idea of a very rapid gathering of people. They can say augenblink, after all.

Well, Menschenauflauf was the translation by Hans Maeter in the 1981 Heyne edition, and it's not very good. Of course German has the ability to combine two nouns, it can even combine a lot more : Dauerarbeitlosigkeitsbekämpfungsgesetz, oder, the most famous one, Donaudampfschiffahrtgesellschaftkapitänswitwenrentenansprüche.

More to the point, there are a lot of combinations of two nouns, "the first of which serves as an adjective". There is even one that's quite similar to Flash Crowd, and known all over the world : Blitzkrieg. Indeed, "Blitz" means "flash" or "lightning" in German ("Krieg" is "war"), and it is the obvious choice for translating "flash".

The problem is the second component, "crowd". To the best of my knowledge, there is no word in German that unambiguously refers to a group of people. There are two words, "Menge" and "Masse", but both are also often used for quantities of animals or things : eine Menge Geld (a lot of money), eine Menge Fleisch (a lot of meat), eine Menge Arbeit (a lot of work), "eine Menge Leute" (a lot of people) or "eine Menschenmenge" (a crowd); eine Masse Bücher (a lot of books), die Menschenmasse (the very big crowd).
In other words, from the words "Blitzmenge" oder "Blitzmasse" it's not clear at all that the story is about a crowd, "Blitzmasse" could also refer to the minimum quantity needed for a certain type of fireworks or explosives ... and "Blitzmenschenmenge" is too cumbersome to be used (reminds me of the word "timebomb" in Latin : machinamentum stato momento temporis explosurum;chances are that you are dead before you finish your warning).

That's the reason why the translator shifted from a static description of a group of people (crowd) to a more dynamic view : "Menschenauflauf". That word indicates a very quick, unexpected and nonviolent (which is not the same as peaceful) gathering of a lot of people, sometimes just to watch a strange spectacle, sometimes to protest against something that has just been announced. To the best of my knowledge, English does not have an equivalent for this : "stir" is the movement within an already assembled gathering, and "riot" is always violent.
So the word "Menschenauflauf" is not bad at all, the problem is that "Blitzmenschenauflauf" doesn't sound right. "Blitzauflauf" is better, but here we are confronted with the second meaning of "Auflauf" : oven dish, mostly of something that has to rise. In that context, "Blitzauflauf" evokes in my mind a picture of an oven dish rising much too fast and even exploding in the oven because of too much yeast. You see, translating "flash crowd" is a daunting task, and, quite paradoxically, part of the problem resides in the fact that German already had a word to describe the phenomenon, and English had not (until Larry Niven coined "flash crowd").


on the water
the reflection
of a wanderer
Last Edited By: Sarnidac the Dwarf Jul 17 08 3:48 PM. Edited 5 times.