Procrustean bed

Was ist das? What is that?

In seiner Weltgeschichte berichtet der alt-griechische Geschichtsschreiber Diodor (1. Jahrhundert v. Chr.) Folgendes über den Unhold und Wegelagerer Prokrustes:

Prokrustes bot Reisenden ein Bett an. War der Wanderer groß, gab er ihm ein kleines Bett und hackte ihm die Füße ab, damit er hineinpasste. War er eher klein, gab er ihm ein großes Bett, zog ihn in die Länge und reckte ihm die Glieder auseinander, indem er sie auf einem Amboss streckte.

Das Prokrustes Bett im Mail-Art-Museum, Einbeck, - im Hintergrund ein Gemälde zur Wende 1989


Derived meanings

A Procrustean bed is an arbitrary standard to which exact conformity is forced. Sometimes the term is applied to the pan and scan process of cropping motion pictures for television and home video.

Procrustes analysis is the name for the process of performing a shape-preserving Euclidean transformation to a set of shapes. This removes variations in translation, rotation and scaling across the dataset in order to move them into a common frame of reference. This is generally the precursor to further statistical analysis. A related problem in linear algebra is the orthogonal Procrustes problem of finding the closest orthogonal matrix to any given matrix.



Cultural Dictionary

Procrustes [(proh-krus-teez)]

A mythical Greek giant who was a thief and a murderer. He would capture travelers and tie them to an iron bed. If they were longer than the bed, he would hack off their limbs until they fit it. If they were too short, he would stretch them to the right size.

Note: A “procrustean” method is one that relentlessly tries to shape a person, an argument, or an idea to a predetermined pattern.