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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Mouton April 25, 2022

‘Instafashion’, ‘adeventures’ and ‘gals on the go’: The creative use of English in Greek fashion magazines

  • Ioanna Seiti EMAIL logo and Constantina Fotiou


This paper examines the use of English in Greek fashion magazines. It assesses the frequency of the use of English in these media, uncovers its discourse forms and functions, and illustrates why English is being used in the first place. As it is shown, English mainly takes the form of naming and headings and what characterizes its use is creativity and innovation. Through language play, intertextual references, clips, deliberate spelling mistakes, and alternations of the intended meaning of idiomatic phrases, English has a variety of functions such as creating emphasis and attracting the reader’s attention. Like other settings where English bears a non-official status, the use of English features capitalizes on the symbolic and indexical value of this language. English is used because it symbolizes progression, innovation, and success and because it indexes knowledge of and association with globalized fashion and beauty discourses and styles circulating worldwide in fashion magazines, on social networking sites, and platforms. The findings of this study can be used to examine the extent of the homogenization of the fashion discourse worldwide while similar studies can be conducted with different types of media to compare the way that English is used in a variety of contexts in Greece and elsewhere.

1 Introduction

The use of English in the media of non-English speaking countries – used here to mean countries where English has no official role – is not unexpected. Indeed, it is quite the contrary; its absence would nowadays count as a surprise. This paper adds to the literature on the use of English in fashion magazines from a setting that is greatly under-studied: Greece. In an article written almost twenty years ago on the impact of English in Greece, Oikonomidis (2003) noted:

If a reader browses through an issue of a Greek magazine it becomes very easy to find some salient examples of showing-off by the writers of that article. In most cases, the English words are entirely unnecessary in the context of the articles, yet the people who write the articles insist on using them. (Oikonomidis 2003: 56)

However, Oikonomidis (2003) does not provide any kind of analysis of the use of English in this context. His article should therefore be seen as an impressionistic overview of the use and status of English in Greece, while it is also obvious that he is rather critical of the presence of English in Greek magazines. Here, we are not interested in whether English is needed in these magazines, nor do we wish to condemn its use. No one doubts that the editors and authors of a magazine could refrain from using English. Using English is a matter of choice; the result of carefully planned, well-thought-out choices. What we are interested in is to examine this deliberate and creative use of linguistic resources in such magazines and uncover its functions. The question is, in other words, what kind of English linguistic resources are implemented in the magazines, where, how, and how often they are used, and what their functions are both at the textual and the sociolinguistic level.

Greece is a typical expanding-circle country where English has no official status but is considered vital for ‘surviving’ in today’s globalized world (Sifakis 2009). English has the general status of a foreign language in Greece and, as Harissi (2010: 43) notes, this is arguably the status of the default foreign language selected by the Greek state. Until the 1950s, however, English did not enjoy this position in the Greek educational system or society. It was French that was the main foreign language taught in both public and private schools (Harissi 2010: 43). Things changed further in the 1990s due to Greece’s accession to the European Union (EU) in 1981, leading to a rise in the number of English language teaching hours in public education. English was introduced into primary education in 1993 from the fourth grade of primary school onwards, and in 2003 from the third grade onwards (Harissi 2010). Today, English is taught as a foreign language from the first grade of primary school (2 h per week which increases to 3 h per week in the third grade). According to a new Law passed on June 12, 2020, English has now been introduced to public kindergartens in the form of a pilot project.[1]

This study is important because the Greek context is greatly understudied. It is uncharted territory when it comes to the presence, use, and status of English in the country (see Berns 2019 for a relevant discussion). In fact, besides Oikonomidis (2003), we are aware of only three other studies from the Greek context that examine the use of English in the media. First, Sklika (2019) analyzed the forms and functions of English borrowings in the headings and subheadings of the Greek online press to assess the influence of English in this domain. She concluded that all headlines show signs of borrowing from English and that this is evidence of “Greek journalists’ effort to keep up with international trends” (Sklika 2019: 1171–1172). In another study, Xydopoulos and Papadopoulou (2018) investigated the use of fashion Anglicisms. Anglicisms are here taken to be not just borrowings, but also calques and hybrids which are rendered either in the Greek or Latin script. The data they examined come from online sources: web pages of online shops, online fashion magazines, Facebook and Instagram accounts of stores, and fashion magazines. The authors note that while from the 1960s until the late 1990s the main source of fashion borrowings in Greek was French (Anastasiadi-Simeonidi 1994 cited in Xydopoulos and Papadopoulou 2018: 168), this position is now held by English, which “is undoubtedly the dominant language of the fashion world” (Xydopoulos and Papadopoulou 2018: 181). Their study is valuable since it provides an up-to-date account of the various English words and phrases that are nowadays used in fashion discourse in Greece, such as leggings, denim, and dress code. In a similar study, although wider in scope, Papadopoulou (2020) examined the influence of English on Greek by focusing on Anglicisms in a variety of domains – not only in the fashion domain. The data she studied originate from a variety of sources such as Greek dictionaries, Greek text corpora, and a array of websites and blogs. Both studies are important for enriching our understanding of the role and influence of English in Greece nowadays, but they are different from what we do here since they mainly follow a lexicological approach.

Overall, apart from Oikonomidis’ (2003) study which only mentions the use of English in Greek magazines in the context of a general discussion on the use of English in Greece, to the best of our knowledge, there are no studies in the Greek context that examine the discourse form, use and function of English in print (fashion) magazines. As such, this study aims to fill a gap in the literature and contribute both to our understanding of the use of English in Greece nowadays, and to our understanding of the use of English in contexts where this language has no official status.

The rest of the paper is structured as follows. Section 2 reviews the literature on multilingual practices in print media, while Section 3 discusses the theoretical framework adopted in this study and outlines the research questions. Section 4 describes the methods used in this study with a focus on the material collected and how the data were analyzed. Then, Section 5 outlines the results of the data analysis and answers the first two research questions, while Section 6 offers an overall discussion of the findings and answers the third research question. Finally, Section 7 concludes this paper.

2 Literature review

This section reviews work conducted on multilingual practices in print media. The traditional stream of scholarship on such practices has mainly focused on oral discourse and paid less attention to written discourse (Sebba 2012). Yet, to claim that there is no work on written multilingual practices available in the literature would be false, as Fotiou (2017) also asserts.[2] Scholars have, for example, studied multilingual text messages (Sebba et al. 2012), scripts of theatre plays (Sebba et al. 2012), print and online newspapers and magazines (Fotiou 2017; Graedler 1999; McClure 1998; Onysko 2007; Xydopoulos and Papadopoulou 2018), prose fiction (Callahan 2004; González Cruz 2017), fan fiction, personal notebooks, shopping lists and letters (Sebba et al. 2012), as well as advertisements (Bhatia 1992, 2009; Bhatia and Ritchie 2004; Lee 2019; Martin 1998, 2002, 2007; Piller 2001, 2003; Vettorel and Franceschi 2019). Further, there are now also many studies in the literature highlighting the creativity and innovation displayed in print and other media as the result of using English, along with other languages (e.g. Gazzardi and Vásquez 2020; Rivlina 2015; Vettorel and Franceschi 2019) giving credit to Bhatia’s (1992: 201) thirty-year-old claim that “[t]he global use of English has set the stage for linguistic innovations […]”.

However, work on multilingual practices in print media (magazines and newspapers) that do not focus on advertisements is limited (Fotiou 2017). McClure (1998) examined Spanish, Mexican, and Bulgarian magazines for multilingual practices involving English. She found that such practices were mainly found in the Spanish and Mexican magazines and that they served a variety of functions such as emphasis through repetition, as well as setting an ironic tone. In another study conducted in Norway, Graedler (1999) investigated the use of English in a monthly entertainment guide. She noted that English mainly took the form of what is referred to here as “English on top” in terms of its spatial arrangement and that most instances of English were names, formulaic language, and quotations from interviews. In a more recent study, Amorim et al. (2017) examined the presence and influence of English in the Portuguese financial media. The authors examined both the perspectives of the readers and some of the journalists working for these media regarding the use of English via the distribution of online questionnaires. The analysis of those questionnaires revealed that the use of English in the newspapers under study is an accepted practice whereby English is used as a gap-filler because it is perceived as a simpler and more accurate choice, and also because of its prestige. The authors concluded their paper with the suggestion to examine the use of English in other settings, especially in comparatively smaller communities such as the Greek and the Finnish setting.

As Fotiou (2017) notes, many of the studies on written multilingual practices “did not develop or adopt a theoretical framework that takes into consideration the specifics of written discourse” (Fotiou 2017: 5). Exceptions to this trend are scarce. Working with the framework of “English on top” (Androutsopoulos 2012), Fotiou (2017) examined the use of English in newspapers and magazines of another Greek-speaking setting, Cyprus, and found that the presence of English in the mainstream Greek Cypriot print media comes in a variety of forms (e.g. set phrases, idioms, mixed forms, names) and exhibits a variety of functions (e.g. creation of emphasis, catching the reader’s attention with the use of formulaic, set phrases, display of cultural overtones, as well as literary functions such as rhyming and paronomasia). Fotiou (2017: 9) showed that English is used more frequently in magazines than in newspapers and that the topics of ‘fashion, beauty, and style’ as well as ‘information technology and business’ favor the use of English in the media.

Since there are no other studies in the Greek context that examine the discourse form, use, and function of English in print (fashion) magazines, our work contributes to filling this gap in the literature, to our understanding of the use of English in Greece nowadays, as well as to our understanding of the use of English in contexts where English does not have official status.

3 Theoretical framework

This paper examines the form and functions of English features in Greek fashion magazines. In doing so, it orients to viewing the use of English in such magazines as the use of a set of linguistic resources which can have different forms and functions (both discourse functions and sociolinguistic functions). This study is thereby based on a theoretical understanding that views language not as an abstract linguistic system but as a set of linguistic resources (see Blommaert 2010; Heller 2007). According to Blommaert (2010: 28), “people make different investments” in these linguistic resources, and “attribute different values and degrees of usefulness” to them, depending on the context in which they occur and on those who encounter them, i.e. their recipients. Sometimes, one language may be used in a particular context where it is not expected – or even desired – to be understood as a linguistic sign but merely as a semiotic one because of its emblematic and symbolic function (see Blommaert 2010: 29–32; Tan and Tan 2015: 74).

We also draw from ideas that have long been noted in the literature regarding the symbolic value of English: a language that can potentially symbolize modernity, coolness, progression, internationalism, innovation, openness, individuality, leisure, success, lifestyle, fun, and trendiness (Androutsopoulos 2012; Cheshire and Moser 1994; Fotiou 2017; Gritsenko 2016; Haarmann 1989; Martin 2002; Partsch 2017; Piller 2003; Tan and Tan 2015; Ustinova 2008; Vandenbroucke 2016). At the same time, this work also highlights the fact that the use of English resources can also have indexical value. The notion of indexicality (see Blommaert 2010; Silverstein 2003), as Moore (2020: 10) explains, draws our attention “to the central importance of sign forms […] that function not by representing, describing or naming things in the world (including participants in discourse) but by pointing to them, which is to say, indexing them”. In other words, indexicality foregrounds “the relation of signs to some aspect of their context of use” whereas “the symbolic dimension of signs emphasizes their conventional, or arbitrary, nature” (Androutsopoulos 2012: 232). In many cases, the use of English in the media serves as a “hint (a pointer or index) to the linguistic practices of certain groups or places that are deemed important for the interpretation of the on-going discourse” (Androutsopoulos 2012: 232). For example, the use of features from ‘hip-hop English’, (stylized) representations of African American or Jamaican English, and so on, index associations with and knowledge of these styles (Androutsopoulos 2012). Another example is the use of English phrases in German skate-boarding magazines (Deppermann 2001 cited in Androutsopoulos 2007) to index knowledge of and association with the “globally leading US skater scene” (Androutsopoulos 2007: 223). Similarly, the use of English resources from the fashion and beauty discourse does the same job: it indexes knowledge of and association with globalized fashion and beauty discourses and styles. In other words, particular linguistic resources have certain indexical values (Blommaert 2010: 12) and their use helps readers “imagine themselves as participating in whatever globalized lifestyle trends are being described and indirectly advertised” (Gazzardi and Vásquez 2020: 12).

Against this theoretical background, this study adopts the “English on top” framework (Androutsopoulos 2012) which concentrates on planned written discourse addressed to a large number of audiences. It concerns settings where English is not the official or the second language but a foreign one, and, as such, not the language expected to be adopted by the media (Androutsopoulos 2012: 210). The focus is on the actual use of English resources at the text and discourse level, and the framework accounts for the use of English in addition to the predominant language in terms of both quantity and space.

“English on top” is seen as a discourse strategy. English features are used at specific textual positions of more salience or visibility in spatial and/or content terms rather than the main code (Androutsopoulos 2012: 210). They can take three forms: naming, heading, and bracketing. Naming is associated with the names of media products such as the title of a magazine. Bracketing refers to cases in which English features bracket a textual unit and demarcate where it starts and where it ends (Androutsopoulos 2012: 220). Headings occupy conspicuous positions in a textual unit and play a significant role, since not only do they attract the reader’s attention, but also summarize the content of the article (Ifantidou 2009) and “form the lens through which the remainder of the article is viewed” (Bell 1991: 170).

“English on top” favors the use of formulaic expressions, intertextuality, and linguistic elements which stem from specific English varieties and styles (Androutsopoulos 2012; Fotiou 2017). These English language features play a variety of functions at the discourse level. They create emphasis, catch the reader’s attention, express opinions, and provide a summary. The use of common formulaic expressions can build rapport, or highlight a foreign cultural overtone, while directive slogans can be used as a call to action (Androutsopoulos 2012; Fotiou 2015, 2017).

In terms of the sociolinguistic functions that these English resources have, an instance of “English on top” can have symbolical or indexical motivations or both. Framing the discourse symbolically enables and facilitates its interpretation, and by linking that discourse to specific social groups or domains of practice it is framed indexically. Nevertheless, the classification of “English on top” instances as symbolic or indexical may not always be overt. So, in order to overcome such a challenge, it is useful to examine any “on top” instance for indexical pointers (such as intertextuality, use of non-standard English) while taking into consideration its context, that is, its genre, cultural domain, target audience and so on (Androutsopoulos 2012). As mentioned above, in fashion/lifestyle magazines, the use of English indexes knowledge of and association with this context. For example, various English occurrences refer to types of clothes, accessories, and beauty products, such as the little black dress, or peep-toe-heels, that are part of an international fashion discourse familiar to people who are involved or interested in beauty and fashion (Fotiou 2017: 22). Opting to translate them is possible but comes at a cost: they would be removed from the international discourse to which they belong (Fotiou 2017: 22).

4 Methods

4.1 Research questions

This study aims to answer the following three research questions: (1) How frequent is the use of English in the data at the “on top” positions when compared to those which use only Greek and those which use both languages? (2) What are the discourse forms and functions of the “on top” English features in the data? (3) Why is English used in these magazines in the first place? In other words, what are the sociolinguistic functions it fulfills?

4.2 Materials

For the data collection, all fashion magazines circulating on July 7, 2019, were purchased from a convenience store in Rhodes, Greece – the hometown of the first author – following a similar methodology adopted in Fotiou (2015, 2017. This was done to ensure that the selection of the fashion magazines was random. The corpus of the data consists of four fashion magazines: Mirror, Miss Glitter, Celebrity, and Miss Bloom. Magazines with an international circulation (e.g. Cosmopolitan) were not included in the sample. We aimed to study the use of English resources in magazines that are designed and edited exclusively in Greece, not the use of English in magazines that circulate globally and are usually adapted and translated from their English counterparts. It should be pointed out here that the description and analysis of these magazines offered in this paper is an expanded and, in some ways, altered version of Seiti (2020).

The following cases of “English on top” were noted down as the data for the studyː the four names of the magazines, the main headings on each magazine page (92 generic and 164 thematic), and two instances of bracketing. Subheadings were not included in the data since just focusing on the main headings provided us with enough data to analyze. So, for example, as shown in Figure 1, only Guideline and EASY BREEZY were counted in our dataset. Any headings in those positions that were in Greek were also counted. The advertisements are excluded from the analysis and discussion of this paper due to space limitations.

Figure 1: 
Generic versus Thematic headings (Celebrity 2019: 84). Reproduced with permission of Myrto Mitsiou.
Figure 1:

Generic versus Thematic headings (Celebrity 2019: 84). Reproduced with permission of Myrto Mitsiou.

Following Fotiou (2017), headings are divided into generic headings, which are permanent or regular columns and are associated with the genre of the magazine, and thematic ones, which are head articles that relate to specific topics of a particular issue. Generic headings are generally placed on the upper left part of the page, in less prominent colors and smaller typeface when compared to the main thematic heading of the article, thus rendering them less noticeable (see Fotiou 2017 for similar findings). Figures 1 and 2 illustrate this trend. In contrast, thematic headings, which head articles relating to specific topics of a particular issue, are written in a more salient typeface in terms of size, font, and color contrast, allowing them to stand out from their immediate textual environment (also Fotiou 2017; Sklika 2019). They are usually short, incomplete sentences that carry new information quickly and innovatively which usually make use of injunctive discourse and the imperative mood (Sklika 2019), such as the phrase KISS & MAKE-UP (Figure 2).

Figure 2: 
Generic versus Thematic headings (Mirror 2019: 96). Reproduced with permission of Myrto Mitsiou.
Figure 2:

Generic versus Thematic headings (Mirror 2019: 96). Reproduced with permission of Myrto Mitsiou.

4.3 Data analysis methods

To answer the research questions of our study, the following steps were taken. As the data were manually inserted in an Excel file, they were divided into four different categories: names, generic headings, thematic headings, and instances of bracketing. Then, we subdivided these data into those that were exclusively in English and Greek and created a third category for cases that involved both languages (mixed). In this way, we were also able to measure the frequency of the English instances in comparison to the Greek and mixed cases. To reveal the discourse forms that English takes in our data, we examined all the English and mixed instances of the three categories to find patterns in the data. Unavoidably we focused our attention on the English and mixed headings since naming and bracketing did not provide us with rich data. Our examination of the data resulted in different discourse form categories, such as instances of language play, instances of intertextuality, use of fixed phrases and idioms, and use of clips and hashtags which we then compared with the categories revealed in other studies. Our discussion of the discourse and broader social functions that our data plays were guided by the data, as well as our theoretical framework and similar studies in the literature.

5 Results

In this section, we illustrate the results of the data analysis and answer the first two research questions of our study. We start by showing the frequency of the use of English in the data at the “on top” positions when compared to those that use only Greek and those which use both languages. Then, we illustrate and discuss the discourse forms and functions of the “on top” English features in the data, starting with the generic headings, before we move on to the thematic headings and instances of bracketing. The third research question of this study is addressed in Section 6.

5.1 Frequency of English in the data

To start with naming, all magazines in the sample bear English names: Mirror, Miss Glitter, Celebrity, and Miss Bloom Trend book, even though the corresponding Greek names for each are available. Why is English chosen for the magazine’s names? To answer this question, we need to bear in mind that magazines are products to be sold to as many people as possible. As Bhatia (2009: 606) claims, “product naming and company naming is the domain for which English is the most favored language” (see also Fotiou 2017: 9). Opting for English in the domain of marketing is not a surprise. English is preferred for reasons such as perceived trendiness, internationality, modernity, technology, prestige, innovation, and fashion (Androutsopoulos 2012; Fotiou 2017; Gritsenko 2016). This is true even in contexts where “familiarity with and literacy in English is minimal” (Bhatia 2009: 606). One does not need to understand what the name of the magazine means; it just needs to be perceived as valuable, trendy, and modern enough for customers to buy it. As Kelly-Holmes (2000) argues for the genre of advertisements, the intelligibility of a language is not needed for an advertisement to be effective because a word/phrase in a foreign language is not only used for its denotational meaning but perhaps more importantly for its connotational and symbolic value and meaning.

English is also the preferred language for the headings in these magazines. Generic headings are 59% in English, 13% in Greek and 28% of them are mixed (raw numbers 54, 12, 26, respectively). When it comes to thematic headings, 66% are in English, 28% in Greek, and 6% are mixed (raw numbers 109, 46, 9, respectively). In the case of generic headings, these findings are in line with Fotiou (2017). The results differ when we consider the thematic headings, where Fotiou (2017) concluded that the reverse is noticed (i.e. Greek is more dominant). She argues that thematic headings are specific to each magazine issue and convey the main idea of the article they head. Being in Greek ensures that all (Greek) readers understand them. This difference is most likely because our magazines are aimed at a younger audience. The intended readership of Celebrity and Mirror is women in their late twenties and early thirties.[3] We can infer that Miss Bloom is aimed at young women because it is designed to bring the world of Instagram and magazines together (Miss Bloom team 2018).[4] Miss Glitter is also designed for young women and girls.[5] A final observation is that the last two magazines include the title Miss as part of their names.

5.2 Discourse form and functions of generic headings

This subsection is devoted to illustrating the discourse form and functions of generic headings. To start with, many generic headings include the name of the magazine, such as Miss Bloom Fashion, Miss Bloom Styling; or include the initial letter of the magazine name, such as G Best of, or G Get the look, where G stands for Glitter. This common practice links the articles together and serves as a way to advertise the magazine (see also Fotiou 2017). Other generic headings include clips and hashtags. A lot of them are entirely in English such as instafashion#style, while others are hybrids such as instafashion#κοσμήματα (‘instafashion#jewels’). In such cases, we also witness script mixing (Bhatia 2009: 609), since Greek and English do not use the same script. The first part of such headings functions as a means to organize the section as a group and informs readers about its overall theme (here instafashion), whereas the word that follows the hashtag introduces a more specific topic. The clipped form insta comes from Instagram; Instagram is one of the most popular social networking platforms today and that explains the use of hashtags in the generic headings. The primary function of hashtags in social networking platforms like Instagram and Twitter is their role as search entries for a specific topic. With so much content available online on social networking platforms, it becomes incredibly hard for someone to find what interests them without the use of a hashtag. This, of course, begs the question of why they are used in print magazines, to begin with. Certainly, a person cannot use these to find what interests them in the same way they can do on any social networking platform. Thus, it can be argued that both clips and hashtags function as symbols of and indexes to the domain of Instagram, Twitter, and similar platforms, which are very popular nowadays. This gives the magazine a modern and fresh outlook.

As mentioned before, 13% of generic headings are in Greek (e.g. Σώμα, ‘Body’; Κάτι Νέo, ‘Something new’). Most deal with announcements and topics that may be more serious, topics like health-related themes or purely informative ones (see also Androutsopoulos 2012; Fotiou 2017). The use of Greek renders them accessible to people whose knowledge of English is limited or absent (Bhatia 2009); health-related topics are also associated with older ages (Raman et al. 2008), who are less likely to know English (well).

5.3 Discourse form and functions of thematic headings

Many thematic headings reveal the linguistic practices that the press media follow, such as language play through the use of rhyming, alliteration, hybrid forms, and creative orthography. Language play shows creativity, entertainment, and humor as shown in many other studies from around the world (see Bhatia 2009; Gerritsen et al. 2007; Martin 2002, 2007; Vettorel and Franceschi 2019). These practices attract the reader’s interest, highlight information, and render the message they want to convey memorable (Bhatia and Ritchie 2004: 539). One example of language play is Hair Majesty which alludes to a title of respect referring to a queen, i.e. Her Majesty. The heading exploits the similarity of the words hair and her – they both start and end with the same letters – and the fact that they sound almost the same. This adds value to the product by invoking connotations of royalty and thus, arguably, succeeds in grabbing the reader’s attention. Another example of wordplay is the heading Rumble in the Jungle! which exploits the rhyming effect of rumble and jungle and the use of a well-known set phrase. However, the phrase is not used for what it refers to since this phrase refers to a historic boxing event in Kinshasa, Zaire. In this context, it is placed in the center of the page and is surrounded by items in animal print.

Another practice often adopted is the deliberate misspelling or alternation of words. Again, the purpose of this is to catch the careful reader’s eye and render the words memorable (Sternkopf 2005). One of the most successful ways of attracting the reader’s attention is by “breaking rules and conventions of visual, social and linguistic usages” (Ustinova and Bhatia 2005: 501, see also Bhatia 1992: 213). One example of this practice is the thematic heading Pin-Terest, which refers to the well-known image sharing and social media platform, Pinterest. The addition of the hyphen is a smart way to attract the reader’s interest and curiosity. The presence of the image of the pin functions as a contextualization aid in revealing the true intention of the section, which is about a new trend, i.e. pins. At the same time, the author indirectly expresses the opinion that this new trend is an interesting one through wordplay because the word interest is part of Pin-Terest. Another interesting example is Outdoor adeventure, which heads an article on clothing for visiting the countryside. At first glance, there is a spelling mistake. Yet, on closer inspection, the addition of the letter ‘e’ is understood to be intentional because it creates the word event (adeventure). This seems to imply that even the simple and informal activity of visiting the countryside should be considered as an event. In other words, the magazine here promotes a specific lifestyle according to which modern women need to carefully consider what to wear and to devote time and effort to everything they do.

Getting the attention of the audience is a challenging problem for advertisers. One of their most successful strategies is breaking the rules and conventions of visual, social, and linguistic usages, or the so-called rule violation, grounded on “relevance” (Bhatia 2000: 121; Leech 1966: 175). The plurality of tools that publishers have at their disposal is unquestionable. Another prominent attention-getting device is the use of hybrid forms which are realized in various ways. For example, the heading Denim το Τρομερό (‘Astounding Denim’) is successful in drawing the reader’s attention because it is in a hybrid form. People who are interested in fashion are aware that ‘denim’ is another way to refer to jeans. The heading is also an allusion to the film Dennis the Menace [6] by making use of the similar sound of Dennis-Denim (also a pun). If it were in English only, only a limited audience would be able to understand the association, because in Greece the title of the film circulated was mainly in Greek (e.g. Ντένις, ο Τρομερός, ‘Dennis, the Menace’). Generally, translating film titles is a common practice in Greece and is considered the norm when the target audience is children whose knowledge of English is assumed to be limited.

Despite the frequent use of language play in the English headings of the magazines, it would be wrong to suggest that this strategy is used exclusively in headings with English. The thematic headings Φουλ της ρίγας! (‘Full of stripes!’) and Κοκτέιλ με τζιν (‘Cocktail with gin/jean’) are representative examples of how the national language is also employed in a very creative and playful manner. The first example can be seen as an allusion to a set phrase from Poker (φουλ του ρήγα, ‘full of kings’; ρήγας, ‘king’) and it is also the name of a Greek music band.[7] Here, it is employed to introduce striped clothes (ρίγα, ‘stripe’, which is homophonous with ρήγα, ‘king’). The second example is a pun smartly exploiting the homophones gin – jean.[8] At first glance, it seems to refer to a kind of alcoholic beverage whose base ingredient is gin, but the adjacent image functions as a contextualization aid, and the reader understands it introduces types of jeans (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: 
Language play in Greek (Mirror 2019: 48). Reproduced with permission of Myrto Mitsiou.
Figure 3:

Language play in Greek (Mirror 2019: 48). Reproduced with permission of Myrto Mitsiou.

Other central aspects of “English on top” are fixed phrases and idiomatic constructions with a conventional communicative purpose (Androutsopoulos 2012). These derive mostly from oral everyday speech (Sklika 2019) and many people find them enjoyable (Martin 1998: 178). Idiomatic phrases in “on top” positions function as openers (e.g. greetings), concluders (e.g. farewells), and directives calling to action (e.g. Get/Copy the look, Keep calm and wear red). Other functions include the creation of familiarity, emphasis, and change of topic (Androutsopoulos 2012). Thus, they are an effective tool with multiple functions. For example, the thematic heading The beach is calling exploits a very common phrase, somebody is calling, that arguably comes from the message that used to appear on the screens of older generation cell phones when they received an incoming call. It functions as an announcement because it invites or reminds people that it is the ideal time/season to visit the beach. Another phrase often noticed in fashion magazines is Copy the look (see also Fotiou 2017). Such directives attest to the homogenization of fashion and to the fact that magazine articles are, in fact, advertisements for fashion and beauty items and for a certain lifestyle.

More interesting perhaps than the use of such phrases is the fact that all magazines brim with set and idiomatic phrases that are not used for their actual idiomatic meaning. Their meaning instead derives from the meaning of the individual words that compose them. This practice was also noted in Fotiou (2017) and it would be interesting to see if it also applies to other settings besides Greece and Cyprus. To begin with, the heading In her shoes smartly exploits the common phrase in somebody’s shoes not in its idiomatic meaning but to introduce new trends of shoes – the same phrase with the same meaning was also found in Fotiou (2017). Similarly, Go with the glow! is an adaptation of a very common phrase, go with the flow, which means that somebody should do what the majority does. Here, however, it expresses an opinion and encourages women to select products that bring about a glow effect on their skin. Note also how the use of alliteration, with the repetition of /g/, renders the message more memorable. Another example is Gals on the go! exploiting a very common phrase, ‘somebody on the go’, which describes somebody’s mobility or somebody ready for action. The choice of the word gals which is an informal way to address young girls mainly in Northern Britain probably intends to target younger women. The last point is enhanced if we consider that the article does not deal with describing any person’s daily life but promotes skincare that is packaged in such a way that can be carried (hence on the go) by any woman who is as active as young women are in their everyday life. Apart from drawing the reader’s attention – note again the use of alliteration – it also creates a sense of familiarity and can be seen as friendly advice.

Overall, idiomatic phrases are utilized as attention getters as also noted in other studies (e.g. Androutsopoulos 2012; Cieślicka 2006; Cuddon and Habib 2013; Fotiou 2017). However, some are used with a “more transparent semantic meaning” (Fotiou 2017: 14) in which they are supposed to make sense by looking at the meaning of the individual words that compose them and not their holistic meaning as formulaic sequences (see Nattinger and De Carrico 1992). As Fotiou (2017: 15) explains when discussing such phrases in her corpus: “[l]ess English pragmatic context and situation-specific knowledge of English is required. The functional role of English in such cases seems to be related to transparency and literateness which does not (necessarily) require knowing these phrases as formulaic sequences but perhaps for those readers who do know them as such, these headings catch their attention”.

The use of English also links a text with other prior texts and contexts. Li (2019) argues that in the context of media texts and advertisements, intertextuality is incorporated to provoke a particular audience response and to reinforce persuasive effects while decreasing the appearance of commercial nature. For instance, the heading Beach hair don’t care (also found elsewhere as Summer hair, don’t care) succeeds in attracting the reader’s attention by adapting a slogan of the hippy movement – long hair, don’t care – which aimed to dismiss the prudish and conservative attitudes of previous generations. It is possible that younger generations may not make such an association, but the heading is successful anyway because it also makes use of rhyming effects.

Reference to popular English songs is another common strategy to draw the reader’s attention, and create a sense of proximity (Sklika 2019) and phatic rapport (Androutsopoulos 2012: 228). Classic and diachronic songs are preferred because they are more likely to be recognized. Hence, the heading builds on something that has already been proven successful. For instance, the phrase Let’s get physical is placed under an image of a woman in sportswear surrounded by sport-related items to facilitate comprehension. More importantly, the woman depicted is Jane Fonda back in the 1980s. We believe that the choice of this particular picture is not random but corresponds with the heading which refers to a very popular song of the same decade, Physical sang by Olivia Newton-John (Newton-John 1981),[9] and which was included in Fonda’s fitness videotapes of that time. As such, it functions as a contextualization cue (Gumperz 1982) to reinforce the function of the heading as an attention-getter. Overall, the use of rhymes, songs, alliteration, and intertextual referencing succeeds not only in grabbing the reader’s attention, but in making a heading and its message more memorable (Bhatia 2000: 208).

As in the case of generic headings, some thematic headings include hashtags that have similar functions, i.e. they are symbols of and indexes to social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. For example, the heading The #Fitfluencers presents an article on women who are active popular athletes, and the column demonstrates their fashion preferences rendering them examples that should be followed not only because they are fashionable, but also because they promote an athletic and healthy lifestyle. The heading expresses that by creating a portmanteau coined from the combination of the words fit and influencers in addition to the use of the hashtag (see Figure 4). It should be noted that the practice of using hashtags was not documented in Fotiou (2017) because the data in that study were collected in 2009, a time when the use of the hashtag as a metadata tag was not yet popular.

Figure 4: 
Thematic heading with hashtags (Miss Bloom 2019: 90). Reproduced with permission of Ioanna Zaga.
Figure 4:

Thematic heading with hashtags (Miss Bloom 2019: 90). Reproduced with permission of Ioanna Zaga.

5.4 Bracketing

There are only two instances of bracketing in this dataset and both are illustrated below:

Καλοκαιράκι, ζέστη, ξεγνοιασιά […] τίποτα λιγότερο. Be happy, Be you! (‘Summer, heat, carefree mood […] nothing less. Be happy, be you!’) (Miss Glitter 2019: 53)

The ending Be happy, be you! exploits the repetition of the word be at the beginning of these successive clauses (Cuddon and Habib 2013) and builds on the success of a popular perfume Be You. Due to the use of the imperative mood, it could be claimed that the heading has a directive function and provides a piece of advice.

Υπάρχει μια απόχρωση του κόκκινου […] στο φινάλε των συλλογών του. Keep calm and wear red! (‘There is a shadow of red […] in the final part of his collections. Keep calm and wear red!’) (Miss Glitter 2019: 88)

The ending Keep calm and wear red makes use of the established set phrase Keep calm and […] which has the flexibility to connect with certain words in various contexts. The original slogan is “Keep Calm and Carry On”,[10] which appeared on a poster commissioned by the British government in 1939 in the lead-up to World War II. Again, we notice the use of the imperative mood which shows that the heading has a directive function.

In sum, in our data bracketing occurs at the end of the text as a closing remark, evaluation, or voice-over. In cases of single-sided brackets, the heading could be considered the other bracket, even if it is not directly adjacent to the main text body. It is clear from these examples that the repetition of a word be or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses (Cuddon and Habib 2013), intertextual evocations, and formulaic expressions keep calm and […] are the main aspects of the functional role of English and its dominance in the language of these magazines (Androutsopoulos 2012). While in our dataset as well as in Fotiou’s (2017) bracketing is scarce, this practice thrives in other contexts (Androutsopoulos 2012; Kytölä 2014).

6 Discussion

This study set out to examine the use of English resources in Greek fashion magazines and answer the three research questions outlined in Section 3.1. In response to the first research question, this study has shown that English is a popular language for naming and headings confirming the findings of other studies in the literature (e.g. Androutsopoulos 2012; Fotiou 2017; Gazzardi and Vásquez 2020; Graedler 1999; McClure 1998). Names and headings are salient and highly visible elements in a given text and act as framing devices (Goffman 1986, see discussion in Androutsopoulos 2012: 230–231) which frame how the rest of the text is to be interpreted. The role of the use of the English resources in these “on top” positions of salience and visibility is dual since, as has been shown in this paper, both the symbolic and the indexical value of English are exploited. The symbolic and indexical value of English has been repeatedly highlighted in the literature on print media and advertising (Androutsopoulos 2007, 2012; Blommaert 2010; Cheshire and Moser 1994; Fotiou 2017; Gritsenko 2016; Haarmann 1989; Martin 2002; Partsch 2017; Piller 2003; Tan and Tan 2015; Ustinova 2008; Vandenbroucke 2016), as well as more recently in the literature of linguistic landscape (e.g. Lee 2019; Tan and Tan 2015) in settings from all around the world.

As noted earlier in this paper, the role that English plays in the Greek context has not been examined extensively in the literature so far except in the study of Xydopoulos and Paradopoulou (2018) and Papadopoulou (2020) on the use of Anglicisms in Greece, as well as studies that concentrate on the role that English plays on the island of Cyprus (Buschfeld 2013; Fotiou 2012, 2017, 2018, 2019; Tsiplakou 2009). This study has shown that similar to other settings where English bears a non-official status, the use of English features in Greek fashion magazines capitalizes on the symbolic and indexical value of the English language and the “prestige perceptions of English that are dominant in Greek society” (Xydopoulos and Papadopoulou 2018: 166). In fact, Papadopoulou (2020: 141) argues that the domain of fashion (along with that of sports and IT) is a domain where the influence of English in Greece is “rather strong”. The findings of this paper give credence to their argument.

In response to the second research question, this study has revealed that English features can take a variety of discourse forms and have a variety of discourse functions in the magazines under study. In particular, we have seen many examples of language play and creative use of English with the use of hybrid forms, rhyming effects, paronomasia (mainly homophonic), common formulaic expressions, and set phrases that draw the reader’s attention and convey a variety of messages. Intertextuality is another creative function of English that links a text with prior ones and from a plethora of contexts (e.g. a magazine’s heading is linked to a song title that was in circulation at an earlier time). It is possible for an instance of intertextuality to have various interpretations and it is up to each reader’s subjective reading and knowledge to create their own interpretation. Moreover, idiomatic phrases are central aspects of English “on top” and function as openers, concluders, directives calling to action. Other functions include the creation of familiarity, emphasis, and change of topic (Androutsopoulos 2012). These findings confirm the findings of other studies in the literature (e.g. Androutsopoulos 2012; Cieślicka 2006; Cuddon and Habib 2013; Fotiou 2017; Gazzardi and Vásquez 2020; Graedler 1999; McClure 1998; Rivlina 2015; Sklika 2019; Vettorel and Franceschi 2019).

The third research question focuses on the reasons why English is used in these magazines in the first place; in other words, it aims to shed light on the sociolinguistic functions that English has. To start with, it is important to highlight that the creative use of English resources noted in these magazines plays an important role in “product recall and information primacy effects” (Bhatia and Ritchie 2004: 539, see also Li 2019). This can be considered as one of the reasons why English is employed in these fashion magazines. Such magazines are full of (indirect) advertisements for products, clothes, accessories, and a certain lifestyle that they aim to promote. The power of English through its symbolic and indexical value is exploited to that effect. It has already been argued that foreign languages can be used in a variety of contexts symbolically and that sometimes the literal meaning of the words used does not matter (Kelly-Holmes 2000, 2005; Piller 2001). In particular, for English, Piller (2001: 163) explains that “even if the audience does not understand the denotational message of the English […] they will recognize that the message is in English, and they will activate their stereotypes about English”. Hornikx et al. (2010) reveal that in print ads easy English is preferred to the local language and, even when English is difficult to understand, it is appreciated as much as the equivalent one in the native language. Along with Gerritsen et al. (2010), they conclude that although comprehension affects appreciation, the symbolic use of English works even in cases where comprehension is not achieved. As we noted earlier in this paper, English can be seen to symbolize modernity, coolness, progression, internationalism, innovation, openness, individuality, leisure, success, lifestyle, fun, and trendiness (Androutsopoulos 2012; Fotiou 2017; Gritsenko 2016; Martin 2002; Partsch 2017; Piller 2003; Ustinova 2008).

Additionally, English is used indexically (Androutsopoulos 2012; Blommaert 2010), confirming similar observations in other studies (Androutsopoulos 2007; Fotiou 2017; Gazzardi and Vásquez 2020). It expresses and promotes knowledge of and association with fashion and lifestyle on an international level. Terms for fashion and beauty items are indexical choices that contextualize the ongoing discourse by being part of or associated with specific sites of cultural practice. Phrases like Get/copy the look and Stylish Pieces are extremely common. They are noticed in both local and international fashion and lifestyle magazines, and index knowledge and participation in a global fashion discourse. As Barnet and Cavanagh (1994: 15 cited in Bhatia and Ritchie 2004: 530) note, “[t]he new world economy rests largely on Global Bazaars, the Global Shopping Mall, the Global Workplace, and the Global Financial Network” and English has already taken the place of French as the language of fashion, cosmetics, and beauty (Bhatia and Ritchie 2004: 534). When someone reads a fashion magazine or a fashion blog or watches a video on YouTube or TikTok on a new fashion or beauty trend where English resources are exploited and familiar terms such as copy the look, jeggings, and clutch bags are used, they (can potentially) become a part of that globalized lifestyle trends and discourse that is being described to them as Gazzardi and Vásquez (2020) also explain. The producers of these texts and media (i.e. journalists, influencers, etc.) position themselves as part of the globalized discourse of fashion and beauty when they are using these English resources.

However, we should not forget that English is not the sole language of beauty and fashion discourse. Besides creativity and innovation, another thing that characterizes the use of these English resources is their spatial arrangement at ‘on top’ loci and their presence in the periphery. They are used alongside other linguistic resources, and not exclusively. In other words, English is not the only language that contributes to the globalized fashion discourse (Lee 2019; Lorusso 2019), what Lorusso (2019) playfully calls the Global “Wordrobe”. As Blommaert (2010) aptly explains:

The world has not become a village but a network of villages, and the villages are organized very much like individual villages, with their own, relatively autonomous and self-regenerating rules and codes. […]. There is an influence from the global […], but the local is quite resilient as well and local criteria and norms define the processes of change. (Blommaert 2010: 23)

As such, if one sets out to fully grasp the ways English is being used around the world in different domains, we need more research from a variety of settings where English is being used worldwide.

7 Conclusion

Greece is a typical expanding-circle country where English is considered to be a very important – if not the most important – foreign language (see Harissi 2010; Sifakis 2009). With only a handful of studies in the literature on the use and function of English in this context (Oikonomidis 2003; Papadopoulou 2020; Sklika 2019; Xydopoulos and Papadopoulou 2018), Greece is considered to be uncharted territory regarding this object of inquiry. This study has contributed to filling this gap in the literature. The data under study came from four Greek fashion magazines and mainly consist of the magazines’ names and the main headings of each magazine page.

This study examined the frequency of English used in this dataset in comparison to the use of Greek and uncovered the discourse forms as well as the discourse and sociolinguistic functions of the use of English in this dataset. In sum, this work showed that English resources are more frequently used in this dataset than the local language. Their use exploits the symbolic and indexical value of the English language as is the case with other settings where English does not have official status. English features are creatively used in these fashion magazines in a variety of and with a variety of functions confirming findings of other studies in the literature.

The findings of this study have further implications for future research in this field and context. To begin with, similar studies can be conducted with the same methodology but with different types of media (e.g. sports magazines, newspapers, fashion blogs) to compare and contrast the way that English is used (if at all) in a variety of contexts both in Greece and elsewhere. Also, the findings of this study can be used to examine the extent of the homogenization of the fashion of discourse all around the world. Do journalists in other parts of the world use the same discourse forms with the same functions when they write about fashion? What is the role of the local linguistic resources in this discourse? Finally, this study enriched observations made in Fotiou (2017) regarding the use of English idiomatic phrases in the print media of other countries which are not meant to be read as idiomatic phrases. It is interesting to see if this practice is evident in other parts of the world and whether it is a practice that is used in English-speaking countries as well such as the UK and the US in similar contexts.

Corresponding author: Ioanna Seiti, Department of Humanities, School of Humanities, Social and Education Sciences, European University Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus, E-mail:


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Received: 2020-10-30
Accepted: 2022-03-25
Published Online: 2022-04-25

© 2022 Ioanna Seiti and Constantina Fotiou, published by De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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