A quartermaster is a low-level or mid-level military administrator responsible for supplies and equipment, not some kind of high-level official trailblazer for projects.

The equivalent Dutch word for the petty officer role, the military pen-pusher, is kwartiermaker. It has however been adopted and transmogrified in management jargon to mean a customer-facing, high-level initiator of projects (the idea being to distinguish the role from a more hierarchical project manager). But not in English!

  • coordinator, project coordinator
  • initiator, project initiator
  • official trailblazer (well, maybe…)
  • quite possibly with an explanatory sentence needed

People just get out their online dictionaries and don’t consider that the newer meaning may not have been adopted in English. And indeed that the overtones are wrong.

Prevalence: low. Management jargon only.
Frequency: very high. Every time, virtually. A rare case of Dutch bla-bla not being English-based.
Native: no. We just see a jarring context – an old-fashioned term for a petty officer.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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