German for 'accidental expert'?
September 1, 2007 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know the German word that means, roughly, 'accidental expert'?

I was once told a word by a German speaker that describes my career path: I have no formal training for what I do, didn't study particularly relevant subjects at university, instead drifting, via a rather circuitous route, into my current occupation.

The word in question - a compound word, maybe? - translates as 'accidental expert' or, more wordily, 'one who has ended up an expert in a certain area contrary to expectations based on their initial career ambitions'. It definitely expresses a concept more complex than 'self-taught', anyway.

Any German speakers have any ideas as to the word I'm on about? I've tried chucking related terms into Babelfish and skimmed a German-English dictionary to jog my memory, to no avail...
posted by jack_mo to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There is Quereinsteiger -- which means means you climbed in laterally, i.e. you made a career move horizontally and not vertically. Not quite "accidental expert", it means literally "cross-inclimber".
I just made up the word Zufallsexperte, which would mean "accidental expert". There are 3 Google hits. Not very promising.
posted by creasy boy at 7:46 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sorry, jack_mo. The closest I can get is Inselbegabung, (idiomatically, "Island-gift,") the German equivalent of Savant Syndrome.
posted by Iridic at 7:46 AM on September 1, 2007

"idiomatically?" I meant "literally".
posted by Iridic at 8:11 AM on September 1, 2007

Quereinsteiger it is.
posted by homodigitalis at 8:43 AM on September 1, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks creasy boy - Quereinsteiger is the word in question! I guess I misremembered the details of what was a slightly tipsy conversation, or misunderstood at the time.

Is it a commonly used term in German? I can't imagine it being used all that often, but you hit on it so quickly...

Thanks also, Iridic - Inselbegabung is certainly more euphonious than Savant Syndrome. Fortunately (unfortunately?) I work in an area where dropping a German word for no good reason would not necessarily be seen as overly pretentious, so I'll add it to my Big List Of Words To Deploy When In A Fanciful Mood.
posted by jack_mo at 8:57 AM on September 1, 2007

Is it a commonly used term in German?
Yes, it is, although I think the verb (quereinsteigen) is used a bit more often.
posted by snownoid at 9:43 AM on September 1, 2007

Yeah it's used pretty much as often as the opportunity presents itself, which for me at least is not all that often, but still it's not an obscure word. And anyway those kind of compounds are readily understandable even to people who've never heard them before. I mean, I understood it upon hearing it.

jack_mo: then you can also add Doppelbegabung to your list -- assuming you're bi-gifted.
posted by creasy boy at 10:37 AM on September 1, 2007

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