Is the term "blind spot" peculiar to the English language, or is it likely to be well understood worldwide, even by people who don't have English as their first language?

Some background
I'm currently searching for a term I can use in some software I'm developing. The feature in question allows the user to draw rectangles over an image to denote areas they'd like to ignore in a later analysis of the image. I need the user to be able to create and delete as many of these areas as they like.

Currently, the areas are called "exclusion areas", but that causes problems when you've got a button labelled "Remove exclusion area". We've seen people being tripped up by the double negative.

One thought was to rename the "exclusion areas" to "blind spots". However, do you think this will cause more problems for non-native English speakers?

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    Actually, what does "Remove exclusion area" do? Does it remove the exclusion area in the sense that there is no longer an exclusion area, so the entire image is processed? Or does it apply or enable an exclusion area, indicating that from now on that area should be excluded from processing? (For what it's worth, blind spot would be really make me have to think about what you were saying, and would sound like a poor translation from, say, Japanese to English.) – Wayne May 17 '11 at 19:45
  • The former. That is, it removes the exclusion area in the sense that there is no longer an exclusion area, so the entire image is processed. – Mal Ross May 20 '11 at 11:00

I like @horatio's answer, the common term for what you're doing is masking unwanted parts of the image, so it could be called a mask rectangle.

I tried to come up with a better word, but I think there's a deeper problem: what the word removed means. What does a button labelled "Remove Exclusion Area", "Remove Blind Spot" or even "Remove Ignored Area" do? To me it sounds like it will actually remove the area the rectangle covers from the image. It sounds like, no, what it does is remove the rectangle denoting what parts of the image are to be ignored.

That's why I would go with mask. It's specific enough to refer to what's doing the covering, not's what's underneath. "Remove Mask" should be understood in English, although I'm not sure how it translates.

  • This is a great summary of what seems to be the best solution, but can anyone else give input on how well it translates, please? – Mal Ross Feb 24 '11 at 9:25
  • I asked in the original question, and I think it's applicable here, too, since you mention it. Is the intention to disable an existing exclusion area, removing it so that that area is no longer ignored? Or is the intention to create, designate, or enable an area to be ignored. Mask definitely helps. – Wayne May 17 '11 at 19:49
  • Even better, unmask. – TRiG Oct 21 '11 at 16:58

Knowing if non-English speakers know the term "blind spot" is nearly impossible for a native English speaker, for obvious reasons. A more technical alternative for you might be image mask and the button might read "remove selected mask"

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    I dunno - Photoshop's extensive use of "mask" to mean all sorts of things is one of the things that makes it hard to learn and use. – Marthaª Feb 23 '11 at 15:44
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    "mask" is a term of art that predates photoshop. I have applied masks as a liquid with a brush, cut them out of paper or acetate, and (of course) used masking tape. (google images: "masking fluid") – horatio Feb 23 '11 at 15:48
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    @Martha I have lots of criticisms for Photoshop, but I'm not sure what you mean. A quick search of the help files shows that mask is indeed always referring to… well to use the technical term, masking things. You might as well complain about Photoshop's extensive use of the word "size." – ghoppe Feb 23 '11 at 22:40
  • @horatio - We do have rather a lot of non-native English speakers here though. – T.E.D. Oct 7 '11 at 13:44
  • but the question is "something that only native English speakers would understand", and in fact "blind spot" in this context is confusing to begin with. In any event, this question was answered long ago. – horatio Oct 7 '11 at 14:05

I don't think so. It is certainly idiomatic, but it is rather frequently encountered in writing (newspaper articles, in particular). It is well-documented in dictionaries, and neither slang nor informal. I would not expect to cause any particular difficulty to a non-native speaker.

FYI: I'm not a native speaker.

  • I'm a non-native speaker, but only came across the term when in the UK. I think it is very common in the UK, esp. when taking a driving test :) but I agree - a non-native speaker should reasonably guess or figure out what it means. – shinynewbike Feb 24 '11 at 5:46

My first and second languages are Galician and Spanish (not sure what order), and literal translations of "blind spot" make total sense in both, and are often used in the context that you describe. I don't see any problem with the phrase, other than perhaps sounding a bit too techie.


Blind spot, at least when it means the part of the eye without photo-receptors, seems to have exactly the same name (or with the words reversed) calqued in a large number of different languages: point aveugle in French, Blinder Fleck in German, অন্ধবিন্দু in Bengali, bintik buta in Malay, 盲点 in Japanese, and many more.

So I suspect a mild and fairly obvious metaphorical use in English should not be too much of a problem. Some people may expect it to be a small area.

  • I will add that blind spot is also used in Italian, and the Italian expression is the exact translation of the English one; the only difference is the order of the words, which is similar to the one used in French. – kiamlaluno Feb 23 '11 at 20:53

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