In Vogue: shades of grey, parenting and fitness for busy people

I was looking through Vogue magazine last night, the British version, and a couple of articles caught my eye: one on “over-programmed” children whose days are packed with so many activities that they’re “over-stimulated, over-pressured, stressed right out”; one on personalised fitness for busy people showing a drawing of a man using a cycling machine while working at his desk, a trainer at his back urging him on; and one entitled “Shades of Grey”.

All topics of interest to Vogue readers, especially with “Fifty Shades of Grey” opening in cinemas this month. Except that the issue I was leafing through dates from November 1989, and the “shades of grey” refer to the colour of unbleached babies’ nappies “free from the [highly toxic] dioxins that are a by-product of the chlorine bleaching process”. The film being reviewed that month was “When Harry Met Sally”. I wonder which will better stand the test of time…

Plus ça change

Fashion may have changed since 1989 (those shoulders!). But 25 years on, we’re still concerned about children being rushed from one after-school activity to another by over-anxious or over-competitive parents. Some of us are so worried about our sedentary lifestyles that we’ve installed standing or treadmill desks. And dioxins are still a health concern (these two articles provide more information: Tampons and Asbestos, Dioxin, & Toxic Shock Syndrome and Dioxins and their effects on human health).

Context, context, context

From a language perspective, I wonder when, if ever, we’ll again be able to use the expression “shades of grey” to represent subtle distinctions, without triggering any sexual connotations. A reminder, if one were needed, of the importance of context and connotation in writing, translations included. That’s one area where human translators beat machine translation hands-down.

The fitness article also had a couple of language/technology nuggets in the description of one trainer’s relationship with his clients: “I gradually become as indispensable as a car-phone or a word-processor” (my italics). Remember when word processing was all that most of did on our computers (those of us who had a computer, that is, back in 1989)? To the extent that we used the term “word processor” to describe not just the application but the device itself. And I wonder who uses car phones now?

A note for fashionistas

The models featured on the  fashion pages of the November 1989 edition of Vogue included Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, while the cover had Tatjana Patiz. Good to see that they’re still going strong.

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By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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1 Comment

  1. When word-processors first arrived, they were single-purpose machines. That was all they could do. As I recall, we didn’t call them “computers” (even though they were).

    In the Computing Science department at Stirling, the secretary had a word processor, while we post-grads and the staff used proper computers. We did write documents on them but usually using a special “typesetting” language (called LaTeX). Many academics STILL prepare papers using LaTeX-based systems, particularly when specialist notation is needed (eg in mathemetics)…

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