Press Box

Wankers and the Wall Street Journal

On the op-ed page of today’s Wall Street Journal, “Business World” columnist Holman W. Jenkins Jr. explains the biggest challenge facing DaimlerChrysler CEO Jurgen Schrempp:

[Schrempp will] have to convince himself that his teutonic wankers [emphasis added] can match the former Chrysler team for guessing where American consumer tastes were headed and risking the capital to design cars the public didn’t yet know it wanted.

Teutonic wankers? As in German masturbators? Or did Jenkins commit an unfortunate typo of the word “Wankel,” as in the ill-fated rotary engine of German design?

Via e-mail, Jenkins confides that the sort of wanker he was referring is:

A person who engages in unproductive and ineffectual activity–see any Chrysler person’s complaint about the Germans and their long indecisive meetings, followed by long indecisive meals, followed by long indecisive memos. … It comes to my attention that this definition was derived from a prior meaning, i.e. “one who masturbates.” Normally we at the Journal don’t use that word or any of its synonyms. All I can say is the derivation simply escaped my mind until I was reminded (repeatedly) today.