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splitting client/consumer's hairs

English translation: customer (no special relationship between purchaser and seller); client (long-term, somewhat personal relationship between purch

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
Spanish term or phrase:cliente
English translation:customer (no special relationship between purchaser and seller); client (long-term, somewhat personal relationship between purch
Entered by: Manuel Cedeño Berrueta
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10:04 Aug 12, 2002
Spanish to English translations [Non-PRO]
Law/Patents / translators unsatisfied with simple answers
Spanish term or phrase: splitting client/consumer's hairs
Hi, Paul.

I see I am not alone in the “splitting hairs” hobby/style of life.

The good thing of this site is the discussion, not the points.

Your point (or issue, to avoid confusions) is most interesting. All of us agree on this as a general rule, but let consider this:

In this particular translation I am working on now:

On the one hand, the electricity company that is buying my services is my client, and I know the people of the legal department who handle translation/contract matters;

On the other hand (or from another point of view) the same company provides me with the electricity service, and although this is a long-term provider-user relationship, I am just one unknown user among millions, and there is no kind of relationship with the people who operate the equipment;

There is no problem in Spanish: “cliente” in both cases. I know I am a user/consumer, but, in English, am a client or a customer for the company?

Saludos cordiales,
Manuel
mcedenoberrueta@cedenocarpio.com
info@cedenocarpio.com
Caracas, Venezuela
Manuel Cedeño Berrueta
Local time: 02:05
customer
Explanation:
The way I use the words, you're a customer of the electricity provider. Not because what it supplies is a good rather than a service (indeed, some would argue that it's a service, not a good). Not because the electric company has millions of users. But rather because the nature of your particular relationship with the electric company is "faceless" (one user among millions, as you put it), with no special glue holding that relationship together.

But, again as I use the terms, another user of the electric company's product could be a client. Consider an aluminum producer that, in a deregulated market, has a choice among three electricity suppliers. If one of those suppliers lands the aluminum company and enters into a long term supply contract, you can be pretty confident it will consider the aluminum company to be a "client" and treat it as such.

It's true that purveyors of goods more likely have customers than clients. It's true that purveyors of prefessional services more likely have clients than customers. But many service providers properly-speaking have customers, not clients. Barbers, for example. The corner beauty shop. Re the latter, the proprietor may refer to her clientele (interesting that this word works for both clients and customers--there is no such thing as "customerele") as clients rather than customers, for any of a number of reasons. Because she's snooty. Because it sounds more personal. Etc.

I for one am glad that there are two words in English for gradations of the Spanish "cliente". Geez, as a lawyer I can, if I want to, even get in a subtle insult of a client by referring to him as a customer.
Selected response from:

Paul Slocomb
Local time: 01:05
Grading comment
As always, I have learned a lot from your wisdom.
Thank you indeed.

Manuel
mcedenoberrueta@cedenocarpio.com
info@cedenocarpio.com
Caracas, Venezuela
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
5 +5customerfernandoar
4 +2customerPaul Slocomb
5buscarle tres pies al gatoHerman Vilella


Discussion entries: 2





  

Answers


35 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +5
customer


Explanation:
The OED gives the following definitions:

Client: a person using the services of a lawyer, architect, social worker, or other professional person.

Customer: a person who buys goods or services from a shop or business.

I would highlight two points in connection to this:

1. The difference, in my experience, revolves around the issue of professionality; the electricity you receive from the electricity company is clearly a good or service, as is the translation you provide for them. However, English views the translation as a service from a professional trade, but does not see the provision of electricity in the same way.

2. A minor point which is not covered in the OED definition is that both terms do not simply refer to people, they refer to companies as well.

As with all languages, there are undoubedly exceptions to this rule, but in this case you are definitely a customer of the electricity company.

Espero que esto sea de ayuda


fernandoar
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:05
PRO pts in pair: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  xxxR.J.Chadwick
16 mins

agree  Russell Gillis: Exactly. "Client" is used mostly for professional services.
35 mins

agree  Robert INGLEDEW: I agree with you and with Russell.
1 hr

agree  Refugio: good distinction
3 hrs

agree  MikeGarcia
4 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
buscarle tres pies al gato


Explanation:
When you split hairs with client/customer (both are "clientE" in Spanish) you are looking at the minute legalistic details, normally to be obstreperous or - in case of bureaucracies - just plain ornery.

Herman Vilella
Local time: 08:05
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in SpanishSpanish
PRO pts in pair: 344
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

5 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
customer


Explanation:
The way I use the words, you're a customer of the electricity provider. Not because what it supplies is a good rather than a service (indeed, some would argue that it's a service, not a good). Not because the electric company has millions of users. But rather because the nature of your particular relationship with the electric company is "faceless" (one user among millions, as you put it), with no special glue holding that relationship together.

But, again as I use the terms, another user of the electric company's product could be a client. Consider an aluminum producer that, in a deregulated market, has a choice among three electricity suppliers. If one of those suppliers lands the aluminum company and enters into a long term supply contract, you can be pretty confident it will consider the aluminum company to be a "client" and treat it as such.

It's true that purveyors of goods more likely have customers than clients. It's true that purveyors of prefessional services more likely have clients than customers. But many service providers properly-speaking have customers, not clients. Barbers, for example. The corner beauty shop. Re the latter, the proprietor may refer to her clientele (interesting that this word works for both clients and customers--there is no such thing as "customerele") as clients rather than customers, for any of a number of reasons. Because she's snooty. Because it sounds more personal. Etc.

I for one am glad that there are two words in English for gradations of the Spanish "cliente". Geez, as a lawyer I can, if I want to, even get in a subtle insult of a client by referring to him as a customer.

Paul Slocomb
Local time: 01:05
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in pair: 351
Grading comment
As always, I have learned a lot from your wisdom.
Thank you indeed.

Manuel
mcedenoberrueta@cedenocarpio.com
info@cedenocarpio.com
Caracas, Venezuela

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  MikeGarcia
2 mins

agree  Russell Gillis: Very good explanation as well!
49 mins
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)




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