Thursday, June 2, 2011

American Views of Internationalisms

Here we are back again to look at what Americans think when they are faced with fiction from across the ditch - or across the globe. Again, I've gathered some quotes with lots of views and ideas:

International spellings don't bother me...they make me feel smart. Especially the er/re interchange, because then I can say words like theatre as thea-tray and I can just feel the sophistication dripping from the pages. But international lingo trips me up sometimes. After all, "I'm mad about my flat" in America means "I'm angry about a tire puncture," but in Great Britain it means "I'm really excited about my apartment." Colloquialisms easily get lost in translation.
Keven Newsome,

The spelling makes me pause, but I get over it. I still have to remind myself that torch means flashlight and boot means trunk. I actually wish Americans would adopt petrol instead of shortening gasoline to gas, because gas means something specific in science (state of matter). I'm sure there are other expressions I don't even know have tripped me up because I just go on in ignorance.

It doesn't bother me at all. But I was a lit major, so I was used to reading a lot of material with the British spelling. I even tend to use that spelling myself without thinking Theatre instead of Theater or Colour instead of Color. My last book presented some interesting conversations between myself and the editor. I work with a Canadian company and my editor is in the UK but our line editor is in the US. Sometimes I would use some common "Americanisms" like "kiddy cops" for academy cadets or other types of American pop culture references that she didn't know. It was frustrating at times, but since ebooks (and really all books today are sold online around the world, regionalisms do need to be carefully considered before being used in a product that may be bought by someone on the other side of the planet.

Sometimes I use UK spelling simply because I like it better. I don't think there will be any objections. (I do have a problem with my spell checker since it is set for American.) Maybe it is because I have read the KJV Bible so much. --- smile --- My question is, what are the UK readers going to think about my American style of writing and the dialogue of the hillbillies of North Alabama in 1950?

I love British writers. At this moment I'm reading The Hobbit, at my leisure so I can take in all the scenery. In the beginning the spelling and single quotation marks caused me to stop for just a second but I got used to it fast enough. I think they (British authors) are wonderful story tellers. The other series I just finished was CS Lewis' Space Trilogy. Another great story teller while showing. GP Taylor is another one I enjoy, on occasion--like Shadowmancer--though a little too young of a read for me.
I have no problem with English culture, except that there seems to be an awful lot of pubs (aka bars) around. But then again, not much different from American life.

I rarely notice British spelling. I suspect this is thanks to reading so much C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, etc. Occasionally I even slip into British spelling myself. Most literary references to British culture are fascinating. I enjoy reading about people assuming & doing things differently from the way with which I'm familiar. My main problem with British writing is attempting to decipher the meaning of an unfamiliar term from the context.
Sherry Thompson, author of Seabird

The whole culture and language thing fascinates me. I like reading books written with the spelling that is true to the author, but if a word is something I've just never seen--like pajama spelled pyjama--it can trip me up. Even so, I don't think the author should necessarily change it to please a certain audience. But if the meaning is going to get lost, then sometimes you have to make changes. For instance, I read that J.K. Rowling wanted the American version of Harry Potter to contain the traditional British spelling of "Mum"--but of course most Americans have an understanding of that. However, she had to change "jumper" to "sweater" because the American definition for jumper is completely different and wouldn't have made sense.
Kat Heckenbach,

So there we have it, folks. Any Americans reading this, what do you think about all this?

P.S. When I asked for input on this topic, I got so much that I'll need to do another post! So look out for that on Saturday :)


  1. This has been an interesting and insightful two days! I was instructed by my publisher (American) to change all international spelling to American standard. It is also easier in terms of one's computer ... but I still prefer my 're' spellings especially. :)

  2. Delightful! I'm still smiling about the "I'm mad about my flat" translation.

  3. QUOTE: "Especially the er/re interchange, because then I can say words like theatre as thea-tray and I can just feel the sophistication dripping from the pages".
    You may feel sophisticated but it might not sound it as we still pronounce it "theater" even if we spell it "theatre">
    . . . Who said International English is simple? :-) Loved this discussion. Well done Grace.