Our “Common” Language?

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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Watching the World Cup final reminds me of that old adage about Americans and the English being divided by a common language. For example, you can’t get much more divided than two completely different games — both claiming the name “football.” Soccer was not widely played here when I was in school, although Milwaukee had (and has) an active adult league with teams from many ethnic groups.

Fast forward to the early 1990s; the Milwaukee Kickers youth soccer club boasted 10,000 members and applied for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Count me among the legion of indulgent suburban parents who had to learn the sport so our children could play it. It was almost like acquiring a second language — and not just to placate the “futball” snobs who insisted upon scheduling “matches” for the local “pitch” at 8 AM of a Sunday.

(On the plus side: while viewing the recent World Cup final, my decades-ago “training” enabled me to detect those crucial offside violations before they were belatedly called by game officials.)

In some ways, we have the same problem in gear nomenclature. I spent a few minutes on the phone with a client recently, trying to resolve some geometry problems he ran into. Things took much longer than expected because he was working in module, and my old brain needs things converted into diametral pitch.

Eventually we got the trouble sorted out, but it reminded me of the need to avoid over- reliance on jargon when explaining gear design. Years ago someone gave me a “Rosetta Stone” file with gear terms in English, German, French, and Russian. It has come in handy on occasion, but doesn’t really bridge the Imperial/metric divide, or overcome the use of homegrown terminology for various gear features.

For example, saying a part is “long addendum” makes some people assume the whole depth is larger than “standard.” AGMA considers “fine pitch” to begin at 20 NDP (1.27 module), despite those teeth seeming to be “huge” to the instrument gear makers. AGMA and ISO have put a great deal of effort into maintaining detailed gear nomenclature standards. We owe it to each other to adhere to these standards as much as possible.

Confucius put it this way: “The beginning of wisdom — after all — is calling things by their proper name.”

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