Monday, 20 February 2012

The CERN Compromise

When Britain and France teamed up to build the supersonic airliner, Concorde, they had a practical problem to solve.  Which language would be the official language of the project?  In a typical European compromise they concluded that they would use both languages.

Concorde - the result of a good compromise.  Image from here.

It is said that it was official policy for all the engineers to speak in their own language.   The English spoke English and understood French spoken by the French.  The French reciprocated.  This was deemed to be the best way to minimise the likelihood of misunderstandings.  It was known as 'The Concorde Compromise'.

After all, the plane worked pretty well - at least until failure to upgrade and maintain one of the French planes let down a great design.

It is also said that another big European technological project has adopted a different solution to the same problem.

'The CERN compromise' is different.  It requires the French to learn English, and the English to learn to shake hands!

Small note - It is customary in France to shake hands with your colleagues at work every day.  In England it is customary to shake hands with a colleague once - the first time you meet them - and almost never again.  Aren't both of these options strange?

1 comment:


Ummmm I wouldn't say it's customary to shake hands with colleagues every day in France, no. Yes, more than in the UK though. There have been times when I've been over there that I've stuck my hand out when meeting somebody and being met with a blank stare - is it odd for a woman to do so? Been out of the UK too long to remember, clearly.

The Belgians, now, are compulsive hand-shakers. There, the morning ritual of 'le shake-hands' is - from what I hear from the 'source' (as in a Belgian) - pretty much a ritual.

Found this, which you may find amusing (and bears me out on the Belgian theory)