It is a truth sometimes acknowledged in private but not publicly discussed that the only English translation of the most famous work of twentieth century historical sociology is seriously defective. The purpose of this paper is to establish the nature of the defects and to suggest some of their causes and consequences. As I shall seek to show, these involve rather more than matters of technical linguistic competence in German. Although Parsons' translation of Weber is indeed littered with a continuous stream of individual mistranslations, misprints and omissions of up to clause-length which can destroy the meaning of entire paragraphs, a mere catalogue of these would serve little purpose. Nor can one do more than mention his persistent disintegration of Weber's extraordinarily dense and over-burdened sentence structures, which have an average length of something like 8–10 lines: the desire to render Weber into readable English is evident, but so, too, is the damage which necessarily occurs to the meaning and argumentative sequence of the original. In justice to Parsons we must accept that his pioneering achievement was based primarily on an intellectual construction of Weber's meaning; linguistic and stylistic considerations were quite secondary. This order of priorities is one that, rightly, has been observed in almost all subsequent translations of Weber, and one that the present writer also adheres to. On the other hand, precisely the same cause underlies the bulk of Parsons' mistranslations of Weber, since he always believed that the latter required ‘a certain amount of construction’ to bring out his meaning fully [Camic, 22 cf. SOSA 501]. In what follows, then, I shall seek to isolate a series of systematic intellectual distortions occurring in the English-language version of the Protestant Ethic, although this series is selective rather than comprehensive.