Translatable But Debatable - Minimizing Exposure

Translatable but Debatable
Minimizing Exposure

Thirty years ago I was in Herzliya writing a brochure for a machine that transferred pictures from computer memory onto photographic film.  The company’s CEO was not a micromanager, but he did make one firm request:  nowhere was the brochure to refer to exposure.  “Exposure is what perverts do in public parks,” he said.

So having written about the production of a photographic image without referring to exposure, I’m here to tell you that you can avoid the word if you try hard enough.  And Anne Horenstein sent in an e-mail last week asking for some synonyms, not because of the word’s bodily meaning but because of its overabundant metaphorical meaning.

“In addition to the standard terms, ‘exposure to sunrays’ and ‘exposure to harmful chemicals,’ now we are being ‘exposed’ to many subjects in other fields,” she writes. 

For example, in a document about a management development program:
‘And indeed, over two years, the program exposed us to many varied topics.’
‘...the students would be exposed to the professional “secrets” of experienced business people.’
In a document about airport safety:
‘...the trainees are exposed to all technical measures that are used at airports…’

In Hebrew, this is חשיפה and while on the one hand it does in some contexts remind people of baring the body — so that, for example, we prefer to call an archaeologist an ארכאולוג rather than using the proper Hebrew term חשפן — on the other hand, as Anne noticed, it receives a sheer quantity of usage in Hebrew that becomes distracting in English.  In that way it resembles framework, which was in this column a while ago, and world, which Jeff Green mentioned in response.

Both חשיפה and exposure are odd concepts in that they are not necessarily affected much by a reversal of directionality.  For example, if a rabbi exposes his sense of humor to his students, he has also exposed his students to his sense of humor and the phrasings differ little in their meaning.  I suppose the difference is in a choice of emphasis:  on the thing that has previously remained in concealment, or on the people who have previously remained unaware.

That possibility of reversal doubles the availability of synonyms.  Returning to the examples above, we could say that over two years, we touched on (rather than were exposed to) many varied topics under the program.  As an example of a direct synonym, we could say we were introduced to (rather than exposed to) professional secrets, and the trainees were introduced to the technical measures, or learned about them, or perhaps observed, encountered, or experienced them as the case may be.

Have you too found that the term exposure is overexposed?  Do you have some good versatile synonyms for it?  Please use the comment space below.  No one asks you to register in order to comment, but we do ask you to stick to the subject, so that the material remains well organized for future reference.  If you’d like to suggest that we cover a point that isn’t quite on the topic of exposure, just write to me at ]]

Mark L. Levinson

Born 1948 a few trolley stops from Boston, Massachusetts. Bachelor's degree from Harvard College. Moved to Israel in 1970. Worked and learned Hebrew on Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet. Moved to Haifa and worked teaching English to adults. Did similar work in the army. After discharge, turned to technical writing, initially for Elbit. Then promotional writing for Scitex, and more technical (and occasionally promotional) writing for Edunetics, Daisy Systems (later named Dazix, SEE Technologies, and Summit Design), Memco, and Gilian. Also translated from Hebrew to English, everything from business articles to fiction, filmscripts, and poetry. Served as local chapter president for the Society for Technical Communication, editor of several issues of local literary journals, occasional political columnist and book reviewer for the Jerusalem Post, and husband & father.