From "The thirty-nine steps" by the Institute of Translation and Interpreting ("Questions you need to ask yourself when undertaking a translation"):

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Does this word "bromides" relate to "charge"? I doubt it.

Does it relate to "special presentations"? Does it mean: "for instance, a presentation about bromides"?

Or is there some other sense? I looked up "bromide" in the dictionary and found that it can mean "a platitude" or "a dull person with conventional thoughts". I can't apply this meaning here, but maybe it is used in some way?

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    I think it means a special surcharge for having to search for target-language counterparts to commonplace sayings such as "A stitch in time saves nine".
    – TimR
    Feb 2, 2017 at 20:21
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    I think @TRomano is on the right track. When I read bromide, I think of a class of chemical, but in this context that doesn't seem right. It makes sense to me that if a client wanted something other than a word-for-word translation of an idiom in the source, you might charge more.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 2, 2017 at 21:06
  • @ColleenV I can see that now, but in this example, the wording is very awkward. "Special presentations" doesn't mean "a special surcharge for having to search for target-language counterparts to commonplace sayings such as "A stitch in time saves nine" to me, but I get that it is more than possible.
    – WRX
    Feb 2, 2017 at 21:24
  • @Willow I wonder if 'presentation' has a specialized meaning here. It might mean a particular instance of a translation. There are many ways to translate a work, and I wonder if each variation could be called a presentation. I'm on my phone, do I can't research properly.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 2, 2017 at 21:31
  • @ColleenV, I think TRomano and Peter are right, and if CowperKettle agrees, I'll delete my answer to avoid confusion by future readers. There's no point in confusing anyone.
    – WRX
    Feb 2, 2017 at 21:48

5 Answers 5


I think "Bromide" here means a kind of photographic print.

The only sources I've been able to find are a few instances in the British National Corpus. In a source identified as "[Miscellaneous articles about desk-top Pub]. Budget, Henry and et al. u.p., n.d., pp. ??. 4427 s-units." (1985-1998) there are the following:

supplied a typeset bromide and quoted 20 ex delivery for the job.

While all the other samples were clean edged both of those from The Setting Studio were torn off larger pieces of bromide. If we had actually wanted to use them we would have had to do some tidying as the area of the bromide was somewhat less than A4.

Bromide # a photographic print made on bromide paper.

The only disadvantage in moving across is the fact that you need to process the resulting film or bromide photographically

And in another source, identified as "[RAFA journal and miscellaneous info]. u.p., n.d., pp. ??. 1811 s-units." (no date), we see

Please supply final film/artwork in the following format: # Positive Film # Negative Film # Bromide (Please tick one box)

At first sight, this interpretation doesn't seem to make much sense, but if you read it in the context of other nearby "steps":

  1. Will there be an additional charge for complex layout? e.g. multiple font changes, complex tables…

  2. Will there be an additional charge for unusual difficulties? e.g. poorly legible text, contact with foreign informants…

I'm pretty sure that this is what it means. (Note that this is a British document).

  • 7
    Here's another: Business Dictionary: "bromide print: Standard photographic paper print of an artwork or design. Also called just bromide."
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 2, 2017 at 23:05
  • Poor OP, he may have to go back to source to figure this out. That aside -- how very interesting!
    – WRX
    Feb 2, 2017 at 23:07
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    I would think this answer completely off track for a document that says "Questions you need to ask yourself when undertaking a translation", if it weren't for the presence of the word presentations, which makes me think that my own suggestion (which relates to things that are difficult to translate) could be completely off track.
    – TimR
    Feb 2, 2017 at 23:21
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    @TRomano, that's what I wondered, until I looked at steps 23 and 24. That's why I've reproduced them above.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 2, 2017 at 23:48
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    Also note that step 25 is among a list (steps 22-28) of things that add significant effort and expense to the job, such as travel or complex print layout. A requirement for photographic prints (or other expensive media) seems to belong in that list, and this seems to be where it occurs.
    – David K
    Feb 3, 2017 at 2:35

The OP's quote is written in the technical language used within the book printing industry.

"Presentation" means the physical form of the material to be supplied to the printer.

"Bromide" means a photograph printed on silver bromide paper. Before computers and desktop publishing, the contents of a page containing several images and printed text would be printed on separate pieces of paper, then assembled into an image of the complete page and re-photographed. Silver bromide prints had a fine grain size, a strong (often described as "cold") black color, and high contrast, which was more suitable for this process than other printing papers that were commonly used by photographers for "artistic" reasons, with lower contrast and a "warmer" slightly reddish or brownish tint.

In other words, the quote is a reminder to check if somebody - either the originator of the material supplied, or the book printing company itself - will have to do additional work to prepare the available materials for printing, at extra cost.


Colin Fine has the right idea.

A "bromide" was a generic name for a photographic print in Australia and I guess throughout the commonwealth though specifically it referred to one made with bromide paper. As a Finished Artist, compositing artwork and typography for print publication before the use of computers was widespread, 1987 or so, I often used a bromide camera. See the image of the "repro camera" on this linked page.

The negative paper came in large flat packs and was fixed to a glass plate at the top of the camera, firmly held in place by a heavy weight or vacuum. The artwork was placed below and illuminated by the side lights, similarly sandwiched flat by glass and vacuum. The size of the reproduction was set by cranking the artwork up and down (or pushing buttons on very fancy cameras) in relation to the lens. After the right exposure (and all the usual photographic tricks applied - over/underexposure, moving, screening etc.) the film paper could be sandwiched with a piece of print paper and was processed through a bath machine, basically a series of rollers bringing the paper into contact and through chemicals that handled development. After washing the finished image was used. Both positive and negative repro paper and film was available. Large dot matrix screens could be used as an intermediate step in the photograph to process continuous tone images into dot matrix images for single-color reproduction.

The common use case for the bromide camera in finished art was taking a messy pastiche of black and white images prepared with white gouache (white areas) and rubylith (red-colored film, clay-colored paint both photo-opaque - so black areas) and bits of glued- or waxed-down paper and reducing them to a nice flat image at the correct size ready for sending to a printer.

Another use was for preparing large-format black & white reproductions for display in meetings. In the bureau I worked at this kind of job came up fairly frequently, sometimes we even prepared model-name registration plates for car model launches, mounted to registration-plate-sized foam board.


I cannot be sure, but this sounds to me like the word "bromide" probably means link an element. So, if the seminar is on chemistry, the person asking is inquiring if there's an additional charge for particular talks, for example, one on bromides. There might be another on isotypes, or some other speciality.

Well it seems I was wrong and that

"Bromide" means a photograph printed on silver bromide paper.

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    Ah. I see. So I simply over-analyzed this phrase. Thank you! Feb 2, 2017 at 19:56
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    @CowperKettle perhaps not TRomano and Peter have other ideas.
    – WRX
    Feb 2, 2017 at 20:26
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    No, it is specifically about the process of reproducing photographs in the printed book.
    – alephzero
    Feb 3, 2017 at 2:33

a bromide - a trite and unoriginal idea or remark, typically intended to soothe or placate.

In your case, a bromide is an extra piece of work as an example being asked of the translator, which they will charge for doing. For example, a translator will usually translate word for word from one language to another, but an interpreter may give examples to explain idioms. This is listed in the section of "things to charge for" on your link to The Institute for Translating and Interpreting.

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    I think your answer is the best if you would edit it to explain why translating a bromide or idiom is an extra cost.
    – mstorkson
    Feb 2, 2017 at 22:03
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    @mstorkson this answer is just wrong. The meaning is to do with photographic printing.
    – alephzero
    Feb 3, 2017 at 2:01
  • A translator using bromides in this sense, unnecessarily, should be paid less.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 3, 2017 at 13:23
  • And I believe "bromide" in this sense refers not to silver bromide, used for photo printing, but potassium bromide, fed to soldiers in their tea, to dampen sexual excitement. Clearly not the sense intended in the question! Feb 4, 2017 at 12:55

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