Here’s a little insight into the workings of one complicated mind. MINE. Brace yourselves, because this may not be pretty.
When I started writing, I decided to set my first book in Australia because, well, I’m Australian. Please don’t hold that against me. We’re not all binge drinking, stubbie wearing (short shorts) drongos (idiots).
I figured it would be easier to write what I know because I wouldn’t have to worry about remembering to drop the U out of colour, favour, habour, labour … you get the point. I wouldn’t have to remember that realise has a Z in it. I was also starting out and didn’t have the money to hire a proper proofreader who would change these things if I messed it up.
But the more I write, the more I realise there’s no way I’m going to be able to write a book set in America because I am TOO Australian. For instance, I had no idea ‘How ya going?’ was not a universal thing until a beta reader laughed at it and asked ‘Huh?’ (Translation: How are you today?) A yobbo is an idiot (notice we have a lot of words for idiot?), a prawn is a shrimp (yes, if we had a Bubba Gump Shrimp over here, it would be called Bubba Gump Prawn … not as catchy, really) and the boot of a car is called a trunk. Don’t even think about calling someone a bogan. And what about fairy bread? What is this, you ask? Only the best invention ever. Bread, butter, sprinkles (Also know down here as Hundreds and Thousands). Go. GO EAT THIS DELICIOUSNESS RIGHT NOW!
I have an awesome editor now (who is actually American), and if I set my mind to it, I really could set a series in the US. But I’ve taken it upon myself to educate my readers about the awesomeness of the broken English we call Aussie slang. So I think I’m gonna stick to writing about Australian’s who say random stuff that make my readers whip out Google.
‘on ya, mate. (Translation: Good on you, friend.)
So, having said the above, there are a few Americanisms I have adapted to my writing, and here are the reasons why:
Ass. That’s right, ladies and gentleman. Ass is spelled arse over here. One of my favourite things to do is call someone an arse, and singularly, I prefer arse to ass. (I don’t think I have typed the word arse/ass so much in one damn paragraph.) However, put it together with other lovely terminology of name calling and what do we have?
- Arsehole (that just looks wrong)
- Jackarse (umm wha?)
- Dumbarse (you get where I’m going with this)
So, my original idea was to adapt whole words like asshole, jackass, and dumbass, but keep arse for singular.
But what about the inconsistency?
Dammit, what’s a girl to do when she is faced with such large life dilemmas like choosing between using the word arse or ass?
I referred to the number one rule of writing. Okay, maybe not THE number one rule. There is no one rule that beats out all the others. There’s a billion rules, all of which aren’t set in stone, that all make my head hurt if I think about them too hard, and … okay, I’m getting off track. One of said many, many, many, many rules is to stay consistent. And this is how my brain decided to use ass over arse. (Are we having fun picking apart how my mind works yet? No? Let’s keep going!)
Living room. What most Australians call a lounge room, I tend to gravitate towards the more universal word of living room. Everyone knows what it means with little explanation.
Thongs/Flip-flops. You know what? None of my characters wear thongs. It’s just easier that way, because calling them flip-flops in Australia is just WRONG. And calling them thongs makes Americans think we wear underwear on our feet (when we all know, we only do that when we’re at home alone.) I try to make my characters wear boots or heels.
Tank top. In Australia, we call tank tops singlets. After finding out that’s what Americans call wrestling outfits, I decided to take on tank top as part of my written vocabulary. I assume most Aussies know what a tank top is, but not everyone knows what we mean when we say singlet.
I’m positive I’ve taken on more than the ones stated above, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind, because they’re ones that are used often.
I’ve heard it’s a trend right now for UK English writers to adapt to US English spellings, creating a sort of mix breed of English. AKA Canadian English. OOH SNAP! Hi Canadian friends. I love you.
When it’s all said and done, language barriers can be a pain for writers, but sometimes even moreso for readers.
I’ve had readers complain that while my books are set in Australia, not all the language fits with being Australian. But I’ve had way more reviews tell me they want my books translated to American because apparently the Australian language doesn’t make sense.
To which all I have to say is:
Strewth, there must be kangaroos loose in the top paddock for ’em not to get what I’m sayin’. My writing’s chockas with bloody ripper words. Deadset, mate.
Anyone care to translate?