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For the Love of a Dictionary Gotham Translator Aug_Sep2011 v2

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Review of Beauty Talk Dictionary of Perfumery, Cosmetology & Beauty Products

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For the Love of a Dictionary Gotham Translator Aug_Sep2011 v2

  1. 1. August/September 2011For the Love of a Dictionaryby Agnes Meilhac ranslators love words. We are undergo stringent scrutiny and review, progress in the 1980s and the communica-T like fine art collectors, always in awe of the sheer beautyemanating from language. No wonder especially by the very professionals for whom it is intended. The dictionary has considerable value and appeal, but it also tion revolution of the World Wide Web and mobile telephones in the 1990s. Once a scat- tered cottage industry, cosmetics havedictionaries have such a magnetic pull shows weaknesses. grown into a multi-billion dollar businessover us. To language buffs, dictionaries by adapting to this changing market envi-represent treasure chests full of riches, the Background ronment.things we most admire. Once in a while, For many years, the only bilingual French- The industry is now heavily dependent onthe discovery of a new dictionary will take to-English and English-to-French reference R&D and innovation, the two driving forceson an epic meaning in the life of a veteran for cosmetics and beauty care was a thin behind growth in any sector. In line withwordsmith, and the rarer the work the glossary2 published by La Maison du general expectations of constant upgradesmore dramatic its impact. Dictionnaire, also the publisher of Beauty and improvements, cosmetic products have Talk. The limited scope of this earlier com-For French and English translators working fallen into the same incessant and repetitive pilation may have simply reflected a lack ofin the cosmetics industry, the publication of interest for an area of translation regarded pattern of new launches, relaunches andthe Beauty Talk Dictionary of Perfumery, by some – similarly to the industry of cos- redesigns, gaining a reputation for notori-Cosmetology & Beauty Products1 was a metics itself – as somewhat frivolous and ously short life cycles. Today’s market-savvymajor milestone on the road to gaining shallow. cosmetic consumers want to be impressedgreater attention and recognition in this with new breakthrough formulas on a regu-field. Although published by a reputable Yet, the beauty care and cosmetics industry lar basis. Gone are the days of a simpleFrench publisher of multilingual and spe- has experienced far-reaching growth, mak- three-step skin care routine consisting of acialized dictionaries and books on ing incredible leaps in the past three cleanser, toner and face cream. We are nowtranslating, Beauty Talk is a point in case of decades. The changes it underwent were in the era of high-performance multi-pur-why a specialized work of reference should partly due to the whirlwind of technological pose and multi-functional products that can1 Beauty Talk Dictionary of Perfumery, Cosmetology & 2 Lexique de lesthétique et de la cosmétique français- purify, moisturize, fight the aging process, Beauty Products, Michel J. Husson and Sylvie M.C. anglais de Jean-Marc Blot, éditions La Maison du Husson, éditions La Maison du Dictionnaire (2008), Dictionnaire (2007), 95 p., €16.50. and nourish the skin all at the same time. 498 p., $250 (amazon.com)10
  2. 2. The Gotham TranslatorAlong with these technological advances the great paradox of this dictionary – its blooming bud with a retractable needlecame a proliferation of specialized terminol- unabashed delivery of word-for-word trans- positioned as close to the flower as possibleogy and hence the need for expert linguists. lations aimed at final users whose without touching it. The molecules emittedProduct claims, written by business profes- professional mantra is to avoid them! by the flower are collected with the needle,sionals trained in technical writing, must be providing a computer with an accurate In terms of scope, Beauty Talk is a relativelysubstantiated by evidence obtained from reading used to define a fragrance profile, comprehensive up-to-date guide todocumented pre-clinical and clinical trials. which is in turn used to recreate the fra- cosmetic lingo. The straightforward entry-These claims are later translated into many grance. The scented atmosphere per-entry equivalents in terminology givedifferent languages, along with other mar- immediately surrounding a flower is called access to a wealth of knowledge. However,keting documents produced in the process "headspace." some vocabulary items are supplementedof guiding a product from the test tube to with definitions that can only be described This fascinating technique would requirethe final consumer. Most cosmetics compa- as direct translations. Modern-day transla- research if referenced in a document to benies eventually look beyond their original tion theory perceives literal translation as translated. Having Beauty Talk as a handycountry of business to increase market one of the more noticeable breaches in lookup tool, with the correct French andshare, creating the need for highly focused, understanding the translation process. Even English terms only a page-turn away, makesprofessional translation services. clients are now indiscriminately using the translator’s life easier. Yet reading theThe Good, the Bad and “word-for-word” as a catchy description for definitions associated with those termsthe Beautiful translated material they are not happy with. proves a great disappointment: We can only hope that La Maison duA long-overdue reference text that fills an « Une technique qui consiste à capturer Dictionnaire3 will take a closer look at this l’arome dégagé par une plante en crois-undeniable void in the arsenal of tools avail- issue for future editions of Beauty Talk. sance. L’air parfumé est analysé enable to cosmetic translators, Beauty Talk utilisant une chromatographie (cf.) au gazsuffers from an unfortunate number of crucial qui détermine la composition chimique de la A good example of this literalness is the def-flaws. The apparent lack of input from native fleur pour reproduction en laboratoire. inition of “headspace” or “living flower L’idée est d’obtenir une senteur aussiEnglish speakers seems to be in part respon- technology” (“technologie de la fleur proche que possible de la fleur vivante sanssible for these shortcomings. Beauty Talk is altération causée par la chaleur durant le vivante” in French). Developed bythe brainchild of a marketing and sales pro- processus d’extraction. » International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., thefessional and a former international press and “A technique used to capture the aroma technology captures the fragrance of livingpublic relations manager with Dior. While given off by a growing plant. The scented flowers by placing a large glass globe over a air is analyzed using a gas chromatographyboth stress their multi-cultural background which gives a breakdown of the flower’sand linguistic proficiency, the native fluency chemical composition to be reproduced in the lab. The idea being to capture a scent as 3 Founded in 1973, La Maison du Dictionnaire is astandards demanded of translators are clear- famous French publisher and bookseller of specialized dictionaries with a landmark shop on Boulevard dely not reflected in their work. This has led to Montparnasse in Paris. (continued on page 12) 11
  3. 3. August/September 2011(continued from page 11) commended for its relative versatility. the names of different shades (moonlight close as possible to the smell of the living Cosmetics is an industry sector with a high- white, mallard blue, russet brown, misty plant without alteration due to heat during gray, honey yellow, etc.). Similarly, there is a ly technical discipline-specific vocabulary the extraction process.” and codified terminology. However, the lan- dazzling panoply of descriptive adjectivesEven to someone with the most rudimenta- guage of cosmetics is also very expressive for the skin, hair, nails, product textures andry knowledge of French, the English and imaginative, giving free rein to creativi- fragrances. This dictionary is teeming withtranslation is very much a trace-paper ver- ty. There is never only one way to convey an great ideas that can be used to jump-startsion of the source text. idea. Some of the more science-based terms imagination and creativity. may be confined to strictly one-on-oneIn another example, “ptosis” is defined in Cosmetic translation is an engaging and equivalents, but a vast majority of market-Beauty Talk as “falling of some organ parts; vast field with tremendous potential to be ing concepts used to sell cosmetic productsthe drooping of upper eyelid caused by the a profitable source of income, a great way are based on a wealth of evocative syn-paralysis of the muscles holding it.” While to learn and hone one’s craft, and an outlet onyms and idiom-like expressions, whichthe Greek term ptosis means “falling” or for creativity. While waiting for a revised are not true idioms but figurative colloca- edition of this long-awaited dictionary, we“fall” (from the verb piptein), to refer to the tions. can only hope that it will help foster grow-condition as “falling of some organ parts” ing interest in this area, serving as abrings to mind gory images of spilling To its credit, Beauty Talk does a good job of starting point for beginners and a quick, at-innards. The “falling” would in fact be more showcasing – and making available – the a-glance reference for the more seasonedaptly referred to as “abnormal lowering” or richness of the language of cosmetics. The translators. I“abnormal downward displacement” of an sheer volume of entries in the dictionary isorgan, particularly an eyelid. Similar awk- impressive. Each language section is divid- ABOUT THE AUTHORward examples abound. ed into a general dictionary and a series of Agnes Meilhac is a graduate of Ecole “themes”, in which entries are categorized Supérieure d’Interprètes et de TraducteursA second source of disappointment in using (ESIT) in Paris, where she earned a degree as follows: body, botanical ingredients, col-Beauty Talk is the unfortunate number of in translation. She also holds a Master of ors, essential oils, eyes, face, hair, lips, Arts in German literature from University oferrors. These, in addition to lax punctuation Pennsylvania and a Master of Arts in French packaging, perfumes, skin and sun.and grammar, exceed the acceptable limit literature from New York University. In 1997,for typographical gaffes. Greater attention she started working full-time as a freelance Many individual entries and sub-chapters translator in Paris, specializing in theto detail would have made this dictionary a of themes (e.g. “A perfume can be…”) list cosmetics and beauty care industry. Overmore valuable resource. descriptive qualifiers that are a wonderful the past 14 years, she has translated for many leading companies in the field. She is source of inspiration. Six pages are devoted also the current editor of the New York Circle to the color palette, listing not only descrip-Speaking of Beauty of Translators’ newsletter, the Gotham Translator. Please write toIn spite of its failings, Beauty Talk can be tive qualifiers of colors in general but also agnes@beautyterm.com with any questions.12

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