Fuzzy research / Druckkennlinie

Today, a guest appearance by Joe Bryan, our intern for three months, on what we call „fuzzy research“ (i.e. approaching the translation of a specific term from a variety of angles rather than going for a straight one-for-one rendering):

Since working for a top inks manufacturer, we’ve been getting to grips with the language of printing. And many of the specialised terms aren’t in traditional resources, so fuzzy research is sometimes the only way forward…

Take Druckkennlinie.

We looked this up on Wikipedia:

“Eine Druckkennlinie ist die grafische Darstellung der Tonwertzunahme für verschiedene Druckverfahren und unterschiedliche Druckmaschinen, Bedruckstoffe und Druckfarben.”

And Google confirmed that it’s a common term (it gets 5,200 hits).

So where to next? Druckkennlinie wasn’t in our specialist German-English printing dictionary – dead-end number one. Wikipedia (German version) suggested we look at an article on the Murray-Davies-Formel. But neither Murray nor Davies could point us in the right direction.

The web-based dictionaries (Leo et al) couldn’t muster a single English version between them – another cul-de-sac.

Linguee’s literal offering of ‘print characteristic curve’ scraped barely a few hundred Google hits, and, sure enough, the top results were (dodgy) translations of originally German sites.

We tried a different route: using Google Images to find a graph like the one on Wikipedia. This led us to ‘tone value’.

Returning to our specialist dictionary (PONS, with original English definitions), ‘tone value’ was defined as the “degree of tone of a colour” and translated as Tonwert…a word that appears in the Wikipedia definition of Druckkennlinie, you’ll remember. Now we were getting somewhere – we just had to pin down the best definition.

In most online printing glossaries there was an entry on ‘tone value’ but – and here’s the catch – Googling ‘tone value graph’ returned no results. Then something caught our eye: several of the online references mentioned ‘dot gain’ in the same context. We compared the English definitions of ‘dot gain’ (on Wikipedia and in PONS) with Tonwertzunahme – and they corresponded exactly. Back on Google Images, honing our search, we discovered a ‘dot gain curve’, which when re-Googled reached 31,100 hits.

Finally, this was the translation we were looking for: the English and German definitions matched in all our sources and the term is evidently the most frequently used.

No dictionary could have told us that.