Although we’re geographically isolated here in Australia ( everyone on the other side of the Equator thinks we’re down under but we don’t) we’re exposed to many variations of the English language in books, movies and on TV. I find all these differences fascinating because I love words and language. Australian written English is basically British due to our colonial heritage and for the same reason we have more connection with England in our language and usage. Accent is another thing altogether.
When Australian authors write for the American market we’re required to use US spelling and change words or phrases so our readers understand what we mean. This may sound like a gripe but don’t be offended, it isn’t. This is just how it is in the US. The market is large enough to demand such things. It’s easy enough for us to use the US spell check to make sure all the ‘ise’ endings turn into ‘ize’ and the ‘u’ s disappear from colour and favourite. They all look horribly wrong of course!
Fortunately for me Avalon is open to maintaining the Australian flavour of my writing which I very much appreciate. I’m familiar with many of the differences:
Eg sidewalk = footpath, fall = autumn, flashlight = torch, elevators = lifts.
Every now and again the editors will query something I thought was standard usage but turns out to be Australian.
I was surprised to learn that ‘capsicum’ was an unfamiliar term --it’s a ‘bell pepper’ apparently -- and that most Americans wouldn’t know what ‘spag Bol’ referred to.( Spaghetti Bolognese, of course.) In my December release Outback Hero, my hero, like every Aussie farmer or all round Aussie bloke, drives a ute. You’ll find there is a little snippet of dialogue explaining naturally (I hope) what that is. I’ve discovered dialogue is the easiest way to introduce something my US readers may not understand.
In my April release ‘Stuck’ my editor asked me to explain the Australian school system because I’d referred to the hero’s twelve year old daughter as just starting high school and for Americans this doesn’t make sense. We start Kindergarten at five, then do six years of Primary School and six years of High School. That was a tricky one to bring in naturally but I think I managed it.
Then there is the thong. Here in Australia thongs are the most popular summer footwear. Just about everyone has a pair of rubber thongs for slopping about in the holidays. Flip flops I suppose they’re called elsewhere. The ones with a divider between the big and second toe, vee shaped straps and a floppy rubber sole. Some of my characters wear thongs to the beach so think feet when you read that! People do wear the other type of thong under their clothes of course but if you say ‘thongs’ here, people assume footwear.
Years ago a friend played in a band every weekend in a pub that had ‘Thong Clapping’. Everyone took off their thongs, put them on their hands and clapped along to the music. Mmmmm. Some thongs and some feet…no thanks.
Despite our language quirks and the things that seem downright weird or hilarious to everyone else what we all understand is a good story, likeable characters and a satisfying ending.
Share with us some of the language things that have got you into trouble or made you laugh, abroad or even at home.
Visit me at www.elisabethrose.com.au