Hello dear readers of Kev’s blog, and The Editor’s Column, after an untimely absence on my part.
In a nutshell, this has been due to receiving a letter from our Spanish electricity company that only took three weeks to arrive, and threatened to cut us off. This was because we hadn’t been at home when they turned up, without warning, to change the meter. Sadly, neither of us is psychic so guessing when Endesa may pay a visit is not on our list of top skills. So, this month we have been exiled in Spain hoping they may pull their idle fingers out. No result as yet. More on my own blog this weekend.
But onto today’s topic. Following on from my previous post, I want to pick up on more of the linguistic differences between English across the pond.
One of the frequent complaints I come across is from British authors who have been criticised by American reviewers for their spelling or their strange use of words. But I don’t hear the reverse. Is this because Brits know Americanese is different but Americans expect all the world to be written in one form of English?
For me, the diversity of the English language is enriching. I don’t want to see everything morph into one blur.
A thong in Australia is not the same as elsewhere.
Then, we have multiple names for a pick-up in the English-speaking world. Or truck. Or bakkie. Or ute.
But increasingly I see discussions on forums about whether or not to write in American English to hopefully attract more sales, because America dominates ebook sales. It’s very much a hot topic.
And I see British authors using more and more American words or styles.
- Ass instead of arse
- He looked out the window, rather than he looked out of the window, or walked out the door instead of walked out of the door
- Movies not films
- You guys
- Cupcakes (fairy cakes when I was a kid, because they were small – like fairies, prettier name too, bring back fairy cakes!)
- Making out (I can never work out where that is on the scale between snogging and sexual intercourse)
But, I find it somewhat confusing to read a book set in London, with British characters speaking American. I wouldn’t expect an American author to have an American in Louisiana speaking English! The author told me she threw in the Americanisms because that’s where she expects to sell her books, yet reading it, the writing style and grammar were basically British. What a hotch potch. Surely, if someone is tailoring their book for the American market, they should also be following the American style guide? (Usually Chicago for fiction.)
It’s not just Brits. Apparently Australian authors do it too. Again, with an eye on ebook sales. The idea of Australians speaking American strikes me as quite funny, but it is negating a very rich culture. Believe me mate, I’ve been there. Fair dinkum.
Most of us know (or maybe not?) the different words across the pond like:
rubbish/trash or garbage
In fact, I was always perplexed about the obsession of American women with their purses. Nothing wrong with looking after the money, but I did wonder why they just didn’t stick their purse in a pocket … or … a handbag.
But some of the more difficult words that sound the same are not easy to get right, again, as language travels across the pond and infiltrates.
Here are a few more examples:
British first, American second
- Axe, ax
- Grandad, granddad
- Jewellery, jewelry
- Carat, karat
- Moustache, mustache
- Pyjamas, pajamas
- Pedlar, peddler
- Plough, plow
I saw a non-American get soundly berated on a forum for using pyjamas not pajamas. The whole premise of the original poster’s comment was belittled on the grounds he was using ‘incorrect’ spelling.
Food is a great one:
Pitta bread, pita bread
Tartare sauce, tartar sauce
Still on food, my British style guide tells me we have scrambled egg and mashed potato, while Americans (sensibly) refer to them in the plural. One scrambled egg wouldn’t go very far. Actually, I think in our home we use both in speech – although we normally refer to scrambledies.
Let’s end with a drink. In the UK Scottish whisky is spelled without the ‘e’. Only Irish whiskey is referred to as whiskey. In America all whiskies are called whiskey as standard with whisky as an acceptable variant.
Cheers. Slàinte mhath.
And if you do read books with spelling, words or grammar you aren’t used to, remember the richness and variation of the English language and enjoy it before reaching for a red pen. These examples only touch the surface of the many detailed differences between British, American English and all other English-speaking countries. I hope those differences don’t disappear in the scurry for authors wanting to tap the American market.
Next post, I’ll take a look at the pros and cons of beta readers.