Dictionary Review

Dictionary of Packaging

Overall rating: Good

Author: Johannes Hoffmann and Erich Krämer.

Publisher: Hülthig Buch Verlag GmbH, Heidelberg, Germany.

ISBN: 3-7785-1772-4

Date of Publication: 1990

Price: DM 388.

· Number of Pages/Entries: 1093 pages, 4580 entries.

· Languages: D-E-F-I-R-S.

· Quality of Paper & Print/Typeface: The paper is acid-free and the print is extremely clear. Avery visible boldface Courier is used for the main entries, whereas the regular type is adopted for explanations, grammatical information and comments.

· Quality of Binding: A solid hardcover.

· Readability: Excellent.

· Convenience of Look-up: The main index is numbered according to the German listing. Single cross-indexes are provided for the latter languages.

· Grammatical Information: The gender is consistently provided for German, French and Italian entries. The Spanish terms are irregularly annotated.

· Contextual and Encyclopedic Information: Explanations are offered for some terms, without a perfect correspondence within the various languages. Spanish synonyms are often in parenthesis without dear motivation. References to related or obsolete terms are indicated only under the German listing.

· Appendices: None.

· Percent "filler words": None.


The previous edition of Fachwörterbuch Verpackung appeared in 1974 and has long been out of print. While in Germany, I found the second enlarged edition, published this July. Its price is quite high (roughly $240 at the exchange rate of July 10, 1990), but the uniqueness of the reference well justifies the expenditure.

This work is based on the pioneering effort of the late Johannes Hoffmann and it has been extensively revised and updated by Erich Krämer, including the German DIN 55405. In view of both the absence of an equivalent ISO standard and the fragmentation of the available ASTM references, the DIN compilation represents the only true systematization of this relevant field.

As noted, the Dictionary of Packaging is organized in columnar format according to German alphabetical order. Some main entries are followed by brief explanations in almost all of the languages. Here, the inner consistency is often lacking. For instance, "exhausting equipment" is rendered as "impianto di aspirazione" in Italian, "equipo de aspiración (para la eliminación de polvo)" in Spanish, and "groupe dépoussiéreur' [2nd meaning] in French. Thus, the vacuum equipment appears in French and Spanish as being exclusively dedicated to dust removal, with complete disregard for its gas elimination function which is implicit in the English and Italian renditions.

The string "carded products" is translated as "petits objets fixés sur un support (en) carton" in French, "objetos de pequeño tamaño fijados sobre una plancha o soporte de cartón" in Spanish, "piccoli oggetti fissati sopra un supporto di cartone" in Italian. The reduced size of the products appears to be expressed by the leading German "Kleinwaren auf Kartonunterlage," but every consumer can testify that the dimensions of carded products can often be quite cumbersome.

Conversely, where a brief clarification could be quite relevant, none is given. "Hülse" and "Versandhülse" are rendered respectively as "sleeve, hull, jacket" and "shipping sleeve, mailing sleeve." "Versandhülse" is further translated into English as "mailing tube" and all three meanings are converted into the French "gaine," the Italian "guaina" and the Spanish "funda, bolsa." The lack of distinction between a (soft) SLEEVE and a (rigid) TUBE is quite surprising. In fact, on the same page, "Versandrohr' and "Versandrohlle" are both rendered as "shipping tube" or "mailing tube" in English and as "tube" in French and "tubo" in Spanish and Italian.

Some pairings are doubtful. "To clog" is rendered in Italian as "ostruire, intasare," but also as "insudiciare." The latter choice, although peripherally correct, is commonly coupled with the English "to dirty, to soil" and is not used in conjunction with the constellation 'to clog," 'to become clogged," 'to obstruct," the only exception being its reflexive form "insudiciarsi, sporcarsi." Other shifts are equally difficult to follow. The German noun "Verstrebung" maintains its grammatical connotation in French [entretoise], English [reinforcement], Spanish [puntal] and even, I believe, in Russian. In Italian, it becomes the verb "rafforzare, fissare" instead of the expected "puntale, rinforzo." Similarly, the internationally known "Kraftliner" is rendered as such in every other language, except Italian, appearing instead as "prova di flessione" [sic!] or bending test.

A few terms require a roundabout research. "Isothermal package" is absent and I had to search the Italian, Spanish or French indexes in order to discover that this string is presented in English as 'tropical and artic package." I can only surmise that the anonymous English contributor must be a British subject, as witnessed by: (1) the overall spelling; (2) the absence of common American expressions such as "label glueing machine" (presented as "label gumming machine") or 'tamperproof" (replaced in 3 out of 4 instances by the quaint "pilferproof"); and (3) the presence of colorful expressions such as "silent salesman," a synonym of our better known "display box."

In exchange, the Dictionary of Packaging offers several brilliant solutions to terms and expressions which I have seen translated in the most nefarious ways.

A few proofs: "domed" is rendered as "bombé," "bombato" and "bombeado." "Leaker" becomes "boîte metallique non-étanche," "barattolo metallico con difetto di tenuta" and "envaso métalico no estanco." "Useful effort!' is "rendement' in French, "efficienza" in Italian and "rendimiento" in Spanish. "Net load" becomes "charge utile," "carico utile" and "carga útil." "Non-slip" is translated as "antidérapant," "antislittante" and "antideslizante."

The choice of synonyms is often overwhelming. Looking up "display package,' I have counted 9 French, 3 Italian and 9 Spanish renditions.

All in all, this dictionary is a solid reference which covers every type of package and packaging method, in addition to several related fields, from quality testing to merchandising. I highly recommend it!