OVERT TEXT AND OVER HERE: AMERICANISMS IN BRITISH BOOKS by VALERIE LAWS
|'I SAID, NO PINK BITS, NO SWEARING, NO VIOLENCE, NO AMERICANISMS, NO LANGUAGE!'|
Welcome back! Well this month I’m blogging about a related phenomenon. Readers pointing out and punishing author errors - or are they errors? I’ve a tootsie in both camps here, in the sense that I’m a right cleverclogs and tend to spot errors of fact, grammar, plot and procedure in other peoples’ books, although I write my own. I can’t help it. Because I do tend to notice errors, I try really really hard to avoid them in my books, especially my crime fiction. I do a lot of research and a lot of checking.
THE OPERATOR (BRUCE AND BENNETT CRIME THRILLER 2) has just launched, and right up to the wire I was checking with a lovely surgeon what medical staff, as opposed to ordinary bods, would call modern, non-latex surgical gloves, and making sure the correct terms were properly assigned yet clear to readers. (I didn’t tell him then that the book was about surgeons being murdered and mutilated to mimic the operations they perform...)
But there’s such a thing as being too clever for your own good, and I must plead guilty to that, hem hem. Getting it right can still be the very thing that pushes a reader’s buttons and gets them plucking back those Amazon stars like some kind of martial arts film in reverse. Some UK readers object to what they regard as ‘Americanisms.’ This is a problem for readers, and hence for writers, because willy nilly (deriv. 'will he, nill he', old English usage), many terms of US origin are over here, and here to stay. My first crime novel THE ROTTING SPOT contains a dramatic scene early on, where Erica Bruce finds a drunk Geordie lass about to give birth in a filthy alley by a night club with someone leaning over her...
|'SORRY, MY WHISTLE'S CHARGING.'|
Another issue: using ‘CSI’ for, well, crime scene investigators in the UK instead of ‘SOCO’. I have checked, as I did before the book was published, and CSI is the correct term now, and has been for some years. It’s a better term, as some of the investigators may not be ‘officers’ - the doctor, the pathologist, various experts etc. I love the richness of UK and US English, and all the regional variations. I love hearing the American voices in my head when reading Raymond Chandler, Sara Paretsky, Anne Tyler, Robert B Parker. I don’t like it when modern US authors write cosies set in, say, Victorian England, and use modern US slang. But then they’re mostly writing for a US audience who might not realise. I just don't review them.
Misuse, or supposed misuse, of grammar generates ire in many readers. I wish I had a dollar, I mean pound, for every time I’ve seen someone laying into a writer, sometimes in vicious terms (especially in ‘comments’ below online newspaper articles), for saying eg ‘...the werewolf and me’ when according to them, it’s ‘...the werewolf and I’. Erm not always, not if it’s the object of the sentence. A little knowledge is a pain in the ass. I mean arse.
|ABOVE: AN ASS, AND AN ARSE. CAN YOU TELL WHICH IS WHICH?|
|'DID SOMEONE MISUSE AN APOSTROPHE?'|
THE OPERATOR (BRUCE AND BENNETT CRIME THRILLER 2) IS
ON KINDLE UK
KINDLE IN & all Amazon platforms
THE ROTTING SPOT (A BRUCE AND BENNETT MYSTERY) IS
ON KINDLE UK
KINDLE IN & all Amazon platforms (& in paperback)
MY AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE with links to my other books: UK US
Follow me on Twitter: @ValerieLaws
We DO REALIZE (even if we use "z" instead of "s"). I am "with you," Valerie. We in the U.S. hate "modern US slang" as much as you do in inappropriate contexts. The incorrect use of subjective case pronouns in place of objective case pronouns will trigger three-star reviews and copious emails to the authors who request reviews containing same from me. Likewise, incorrect of the subjunctive drives us grammarians to distraction, unless of course it is used in the dialogue of a character who speaks in the vernacular.
julia, incidentally, has decided to replace foclse with forepeak. which is, i'm afraid julia, seriously arguable. fortunately, i can't be bottomed to argue...
Chris, Catherine, I agree, I do notice errors but I ignore them if the story's carrying me along or is good. Some readers actually enjoy catching the author out I think, there's a triumph about it, 'gotcha!'
As for 'gotten' it is indeed English usage, now out of use here except in regional English, but retained in the US. It's no different to bit/bitten.
Jan, Julia, do keep focsle, I love the castle on the ship idea! I see no need for three apostrophes really, a lot of books use the full spellings of nautical terms so the reader has to be 'in the know' to pronounce them properly, which I don't like so much.
You're clearly meticulous when it comes to choosing your words and configurations, Valerie, and I think that's important. They're our tools. A painter friend says it's fine to break the rules of line, colour, tone etc. but only if you've proved beforehand that you can draw.
talking of gaelic, one of my few sentences in irish was 'ta an gadhair og ar an mohair'. in donegal it means there is a puppy on the road, and in kerry there is a young goat on the road. time for a lie-down i think.