Translatable but Debatable — Trends and Fads

The Henkel company offers the Israeli market a detergent named Soad. It’s a good name in Hebrew, meaning “secret” and perhaps hinting by sound-association that the detergent is ysodi, or thorough. But even with the “a” that Henkel inserts in the name to make the “o” obviously long as in “load,” “road,” or “toad,” the name “Soad” wouldn’t work for a detergent in an English-speaking country. In the USA and Canada, Henkel markets a detergent called Trend, which is a good name in English.

A trend is “a general direction in which a situation is changing or developing,” according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary.  A trend is a current carrying us into the future.  Elsevier, the big science publisher, distributes journals called Trends in Neurosciences, Trends in Genetics, Trends in Plant Sciences, etc.

The word “trend” has recently reproduced itself in Hebrew, but with a mutation.  In Hebrew, “trend” (טרנד) means “fad.”  

To translate טרנד into English as “trend” in those cases would make no sense, even though it’s the same word.  For example, to say that vegetarianism is not just a “trend” in the Hebrew-language sense is to imply that it’s very much a trend in the English-language sense.

In English the difference between a trend and a fad is pretty clear; it’s measurable in staying time.  A trend grows and persists for an undefined amount of time; a fad is there and then gone, possibly having had no reason to exist at all.  An article in English about a new development in golf apparel marketing asks, “Will this be a trend or a fad?”

Maybe the reason the Hebrew language chose to import the word “trend” rather than “fad” is that “fad” transfers much less elegantly into the Hebrew alphabet.

But even the English language demotes the concept of a trend into the concept of a fad in many cases.  If someone is trying to sell you something new, certainly they won’t tell you it’s a fad.  They’ll claim it’s a trend.  Take verjus, for example.  Touted in Haaretz as “the latest trend in vinegar,” is it really a trend?  Is it really even halfway to being a fad?

When we call something “trendy,” we tend to mean it reflects brief trends, even fads, rather than serious trends.  Similarly, a trend-setter isn’t someone who will determine what happens into the very far future.  And when Twitter or Yahoo tells you what’s “trending,” it could tell you something else a minute later. 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but one thing I think is very much not a trend is a field of concentration at school.  In Hebrew it’s called a megama (מגמה), which means “trend” in the sense of “a general direction in which a situation is changing or developing.”  But in English no sense of “trend” means the direction in which a student chooses to focus.  On the web, the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University mentions “students in the Humanities and Social Sciences Trend” and “students in the Mathematics and Exact Sciences Trend.”  And Ramon High School in Hod Hasharon says it “offers trends, which cater to weak learners, and bright learners alike.”  (They’re fond of commas in Hod Hasharon.)  But I think those are simple mistranslations.  I trust Nina Davis, whose glossary says that the words to use are “track, stream, majoring in, xxx-based curriculum.”

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