boot(-)strap » boots-trap

Classification: English – resyllabification

Spotted in the wild:

  • Germans have the strength and the will to pull themselves out of a crisis by their own boots-traps, if only they believe themselves capable of doing so. (Address by German President Roman Herzog, Apr. 26, 1997)
  • The information for notification group defines the set of objects to generate SNMPv2-Trap-PDU’s. The well-known traps group defines the set of well-known boots-traps. (Raj Jain, "Network Monitoring Fundamentals and Standards", Aug. 14, 1997)
  • One would run into a trapped, self-referential problem if the “test” result were scrutinized in the same way as normally done with an external measurement equipment where a prediction value is acquired to estimate the validity of the result. No wonder that algorithms of the iterated Bayesean type are called “boots-trapping methods” and associated with hermeneutics. (Hans H. Diebner, "Dasein's Edge on its Description", Nov. 21, 2004)
  • Quantified gene expression levels were subjected to several supervised and unsupervised bio-informatics analyses and boots-trapping procedures to determine differences or degree of similarity between matching pairs of one patient. (San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium Abstracts, Dec. 8, 2004)
  • After boots-trapping the start-up of the JXTA platform, for which there are two options, the GUI application will want to instantiate one instance of the net.jxta.instantp2p.PeerGroupManager class. (JXTA Demonstration GUI)

Some examples make an explicit link to “traps” or “trapping.” Appears to be a common reinterpretation among German writers using technical English.

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/08/11 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Chris Waigl , 2005/08/11 at 2:48 pm

    The Herzog quote is very instructive in this regard. In the German original of the speech, President Herzog said:

    Die Deutschen haben die Kraft und den Leistungswillen, sich am eigenen Schopf aus der Krise herauszuziehen - wenn sie es sich nur zutrauen.

    [… to pull themselves out of the crisis by (a tuft of) their own hair …]

    This is an obvious reference to the Baron von Münchhausen, who, in the German version of the story, was said to have pulled himself out of a swamp, in which his feet were trapped, by his own hair. “Sich am eigenen Schopf aus dem Sumpf ziehen” (to pull oneself out of the swamp by a tuft of one’s own hair) is a very very common German idiom.

    The version where he uses his bootstraps to achieve the goal appears to be an American re-telling, unknown in Germany outside scientists’ circles. (Frankly, it makes even less sense physically — wouldn’t he topple over and fall back in head-first?)

    I even seem to remember that my childhood book of the Münchhausen stories mentioned his boots staying trapped in the swamp. Or maybe that’s the way I imagined it.

    Apparently, the translator wanted to use the appropriate English idiom and got confused about the image behind it.

  2. 2

    Commentary by Ken Lakritz , 2005/08/11 at 3:37 pm

    A google search turns up about 30 instances of ‘boost straps’ in place of ‘boot straps’. More evidence that the metaphorical use of the phase has displaced the literal.

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