In the below sentence (drafted around 1860)

"Der Begriff des absoluten Systems, nicht als ein Ruhekissen, auch nicht als eine in wüste Irrfahrten hinausstachelnde Bremse, sondern als eine ruhige, durch die volle Wirklichkeit sich fortbewegende Entwickelung genommen, enthält so erst die reale Möglichkeit eines wahren bewußt-humanen Verhaltens sowohl gegen die Systeme der Vorzeit, als gegen die verschiedenen gleichzeitigen, mehr oder weniger wissenschaftlichen Ansichten"

I have problems with understanding "hinausstachelnde Bremse". "hinausstachelnde Bremse" seems to me to be a "contradictio in adjecto":

I interpret "hinausstachelnde" to have to do with "spurring" (f.i. a horse); i.e. increasing the speed, while "Bremse" (brake) has to do with reducing the speed. But I am probably mistaken?


while "Bremse" (brake) has to do with reducing the speed. But I am probably mistaken?

Yes, you probably are totally mistaken regarding the translation for Bremse as brake in that context.

"hinausstachelnde Bremse" seems to refer to the insect called gadfly or horse fly in that context.

  • 1
    While the participle (hinausstachelnd ['stingerstabbing']) suggests this reading, it would be a bad metaphor as a gadfly does not have a stinger. However, the quote is 160 years old, there are likely many connotations with the phrase that have been lost over time.
    – collapsar
    Oct 2 '19 at 21:33
  • @collapsar What would you expect from a text 160 years old, regarding the attribute of a Stachel? We meanwhile well know that horse flies don't have a sting. So what? The OP asks about that old text. Oct 2 '19 at 21:40
  • 3
    @collapsar But many gadflies or horse-flies can bite, and that bite hurts quite a bit. So people of earlier centuries probably misinterpreted which end of the fly brought the pain (and bloodloss). In German, we still speak of a "Mückenstich" (gnat bite), even though that insect uses it mouthparts as well. Oct 2 '19 at 21:45
  • @πάνταῥεῖ If I knew what to expect, I'd have added it to my comment, or would have turned it into an answer. I just hinted at a (imho) strong piece of evidence against your suggestion that you appear quite convinced of.
    – collapsar
    Oct 2 '19 at 21:49
  • 1
    @collapsar I haven't read the whole text the excerpt is from, but I'd read "eine in wüste Irrfahrten hinausstachelnde Bremse" as an antipode to "Ruhekissen" (a cushion to rest on). According to the excerpt, the term "absolutes System" isn't to be used as a "Ruhekissen", but not as a "Bremse" either. It shouldn't sooth you (like the "Ruhekissen"), and it shouldn't agitate you (like the gadfly biting you here and there and everywhere and making you flail all over). Oct 2 '19 at 22:16

Here, in this context, »Bremse« does not mean »break« but horse-fly. It is an insect that became rare in 21st century, but was very common when I was a child, and I guess horse-flies existed in an even bigger number 100 years before.

Those insects look like very big flies and are very annoying, because they suck blood from warm-blooded animals (including us humans), and when they bite you, you instantly feel pain similar to a wasp's sting. And because of this sting-like pain many people believed that horse-flies have stings (which is not the case) (I did believe this when I was a young child). So the words »Bremse« (horse-fly) and »Stachel« (sting) live in a semantic neighborhood, although horse-flies don't have stings. And from this semantic neighborhood inspired is the verb »hinausstacheln« (to out-sting), which I believe to be an invention of the author of your text. From the context I would conclude, that »hinausstacheln« means: to fly away fast and in an erratic course.

So, I would translate this nominal group this way:

eine in wüste Irrfahrten hinausstachelnde Bremse
a horse-fly erratically bustling away in harsh wanderings

  • @vectory What have airbags (pillows for breaking) (Bremskissen), acupressure pillows (Stachelkissen) and sleeping pillows (Ruhekissen) to do with my answer about horse-flies? Oct 7 '19 at 19:03

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