Mobility isn’t mobility

Living in Germany, especially in a city as car-obsessed as Stuttgart, you’re constantly bombarded by advertising messages relating to modern travel, life on four wheels and Mobilität. Mobility? What, old people with walking problems desperate to get about more? Well pimp my scooter.

Not Mercedes mobility

Not Mercedes mobility

Fine in German. But please don’t produce new materials in English with the word translated directly into “MOBILITY”. No. In German it may be ok to talk about the future of “mobility” to mean “how we’ll get about”.

But search the English-speaking world and you’ll notice the word that some Germans are using in their direct translations, here in the cradle of the automobile, is dragging cars and the concept of travel to the grave of “mobility”.

In the UK we have things like the website on the right promoting “mobility”. Which I think is far from the messaging the German car companies are trying to convey.

Ford in the UK works with a mobility programme, Motability, “a national charity helping disabled people, their families and carers become mobile”.

Source: Ford website screenshot

Source: Ford website screenshot

And even Mercedes uses mobility in a different sense in the US, ie the original sense, for people with “special transportation needs (who) require mobility equipment”.

The city of Stuttgart, which has toyed with various marketing campaigns in the past, is now promoting mobility in a wider sense of modern travel infrastructure, which I feel just slightly more comfortable with. But I still think of zimmerframes and electric wheelchairs when I hear the word.

I do wonder if some managers here have got hold of the wrong end of the stick on this word – maybe even the walking stick.

Alex Woodruff

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