Wednesday, 9 December 2015

I come from the land Down Under...PLUS a GIVEAWAY

Thongs, barbies and vegemite sandwiches

This week, after seeing a post on a fellow author’s Facebook wall, I posted the same photo and a question of my own."What do you call these?"

After reviewing the 120+ comments, the results of the survey are in and it’s probably hardly surprising that it's almost a tie between thongs and flip flops.

Here’s some other terms you may have never heard of:
  • Jandals (we can thank our New Zealand friends for that)
  • Bongers (yes really)
  • Slippas (in Hawaii apparently)
  • Double pluggers (only one vote for that name)
  • Havianas (brand name, often used by younger people)
  • Chinese Safety boots (my favourite)

The comments were quite fascinating and got me thinking. As an Aussie author writing Australian stories set in Australia, why do I use American spelling and American terms? It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot.

It’s a good question. And a question which even brought some good debate on my Facebook post.
When I started writing, I was adamant I wasn’t going to use ANY American spelling EVER. But I heard horror stories of writers being picked up for their incorrect grammar and spelling and given 1 star ratings by American readers. I’m not sure if that is true, but I didn’t want to put myself in that position so when my publisher told me to use American spelling, I happily obliged.

So, why are some of us writing for an American audience in terms of our spelling and grammar?

One person commented on my post (and I agree with her), hopefully American readers are smart enough to know that we spell words differently. But unfortunately not all readers do know that. It seems our language, our spelling and our Aussie-isms can be confusing to other readers. 

So what do we do? Do we write two different versions of our books? One for Aussie readers and one for the Americans? That doesn’t make sense to me.

My books have taken a bit of a hybrid approach. Momentum, my publisher, made the choice to use American spelling and grammar and I don’t have a say in that. I do, however have a say in some words that are just glaringly American. For instance, there are no cell phones, no trash cans, no counters and no pickup trucks. Instead I was allowed to keep ‘phone’, ‘rubbish bin’, ‘bench’ and ‘ute’. (That was a hard one to get past my editor who kept trying to at least get me to agree to go with 4WD).

I am currently editing Life Support, book 3 in the Escape to the Country series (my Australian medical-rural romances), coming out in February 2016 and I’ve just found a small problem.

Here's an excerpt:

"Emma fired questions at him, trying to gain vital information about his medical history. He met every question with the same answer. “You’ll have to ask my wife.”
“Sats seventy-eight percent on room air. Heart rate fifty.” Cath reached with one hand for Jeff’s pulse while with the other she grabbed an oxygen mask out of a box attached to the wall. “Pulse is thready.”
“Blood pressure?”
“One-ninety-five on seventy.”
Cath attached the oxygen tubing to the nipple on the wall and slipped the mask over Jeff’s face. Shoving her stethoscope in her ears, she listened to Jeff’s chest, her face serious. With one hand, she yanked off her stethoscope and glanced at Emma. “Decreased air entry. Widespread crackles to the bases.”
“You think APO?” Emma asked.
Cath nodded and pulled a face. “I’d say so.”
Acute Pulmonary Edema. Not good. Emma wiped sweaty palms down the front of her scrubs as she stared at the green lines tracing across the screen on the ECG machine.
“Hold still Jeff,” she instructed.
Seconds later she stabbed at the button on the machine and waited for it to spew out the printed page. She stared at it for a second then sucked in her breath before handing it to Cath. Cath’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. Neither nurse needed a cardiologist to interpret the squiggles running across the red graph paper. The waveform wasn’t called a “tombstone” for no reason. As well as being in APO, it looked like Jeff was having a STEMI – an ST-elevation myocardial infarct – a heart attack – right in front of their eyes."

And here’s the problem: in Australia we spell oedma with an “O’. (Hence, APO – Acute Pulmonary Oedema.) But if we use American spelling, oedema becomes edema and it doesn’t work with my dialogue. So, what should I do?

In my Christmas novella, Operation White Christmas which comes out on the 17th December, I’ve used both Australian and American spelling because I have an Aussie heroine and a Canadian hero. When I’m in my Aussie POV, I use the Australian spelling and Australian terms, and I use the American spelling and American terms for my Canadian’s POV. I did it that way intuitively when I wrote the book and my editor liked it as a concept so we’ve stuck with it. I’ll be interested to know if anyone even notices!

On a side note, I sent the manuscript to a Canadian friend and she tweaked a few things that sounded American instead of Canadian. One of them was the word tuque instead of beanie. I stuck with beanie!

So, readers and writers, what are your thoughts? Is our lingo as clear as mud or not? If we allow America to take over our English language, will we cark it?

You tell me. Are you going to carry on like a pork chop, get aggro and scream blue murder that by jingoes we'd better stick to fair dinkum true blue Aussie spelling? Are you going to insist we use every opportunity to educate Americans (and others) about blowies and bathers and barbies and brass monkeys?

OR, are you going to shut your gob, stop grizzling and realise (or realize) words are just words and at the end of the day we’re all speaking the same language?

My advice this Chrissy is don’t be a misery guts, don't be a party pooper and definitely DON’T chuck another shrimp on the barbie (or you’ll make a galah of yourself). 

But DO get yourself the best possie, grab a cuppa and a vegemite sandwich or smear some dead horse on your snag, sit down and prepare to enjoy a little escape to the country in Operation White Christmas.

I reckon it’s a bonza book and you won’t have to lash out and pay much as it’s just 99 cents. Pretty much mate’s rates right there, no worries about it. And at that price, I won’t be making a quid I can assure you.

If you’re looking for other ridgie didge Aussie stories, you might like my first two books Intensive Care and Emergency Response – I’m not pussy footing around when I tell you they’re great!


Hope I’ve rattled your cage today and you don’t have a go at me for my shonky blog post. And if I’ve created a bit of a ruckus, then my response is “You beauty! What a ripper”. 

Purchase links for my books can be found here!

While you're on my website, please sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win this gorgeous necklace that Jim gave Hollie.

And of course, don't forget to leave a comment here, even if it's just to say G'day!

The best reply(s) will win a e-copy of one of my books (your choice!).


  1. Good post. I think many Americans have no idea about the differences. Many Canadians spell like we do especially in some areas and the older generations. Even in Australia many are spelling like the Americans. I think it depends who your target audience is. Australia is a very small audience but if you crack the American audience it is so much bigger and if you want them you are right sometimes you do need to choose your battles.

    1. Thanks Jenny. I am often staggered how many Americans don't have any idea that we spell differently, drive on the other side of the road and have opposite seasons, but I think that's partly because we are so educated on how others live because of movies. I wonder if it's the same for UK writers. And re: choosing battles, I agree. I have had more than one reviewer comment that I should be using Australian spelling because my books are set in Australia. It's hard to explain that's my publishers choice. And at the end of the day, as long as people understand what we're saying, does it really matter? Conversely, I've had some fabulous reviews from North American readers LOVING the Aussie lingo and actually having to look words up to see what they mean. How cool is that?

    2. I think some of it is the population of Australia is similar to the population of New York. Just an example that we are a tiny speck in many ways and there country is so populated. They rarely have information of other countries. What they do know is mainly from books like A Town Called Alice, and a few movies. Oh and McClouds Daughters (I have several who loved that show over there).

  2. Fun post Nicki. I think if you're writing specifically for the American market, it makes sense to use American words and spelling. It doesn't really matter to me if Sally gets something from the store and puts it in the trunk of her car or whether she gets something from the shop and puts it in the boot.

    However, if the Australian aspect of the story is important, then I'd see it as more important to keep the Aussie-isms by jingo. For example, one of the reasons the American version of 'Kath and Kim' bombed is that it had a very Australian sense of humour that just didn't translate well. Kath's hunk-of-spunk was always going to be funnier as a sausage king than a gourmet sandwich maker! Good food for though (and not just the sausages and sandwiches) :)

    1. Thanks Nola. I'm not sure I AM writing specifically for the American market, but my publisher (and I) certainly didn't want my books to tank over there. I've tried to use generic terms where possible so I avoid having to choose between 'boot' and 'trunk', 'shop' and 'store' etc. It's not always easy.
      Very true about Kath and Kim - even we have trouble understanding their humour/humor so the poor Americans must have wondered what hit them!!

  3. One thing that threw up a flag for me was your mention of being told some horror stories about US reviewers, etc. Just as with emotional FB posts or (as it was) fallacious emails that did the rounds (some of which I passed around, to my eternal shame), we have to be careful about what we believe and why. Should we perhaps do some serious research into whether US readers are really that stupid (or ego-centric) and make sure that we are not being manipulated into doing something out of fear (there's no fear in love, remember?). I, for one, am quite happy to come across a word in a book that I'm not familiar with and have to look up. Let's not dumb down our material too much, and credit our readers with some intelligence. Of course, I'm not actually published yet, so I could be talking out of an embarrassing hole in my head.
    Surely there are people who read books in the UK? Don't they have a rather dense (not thick) population, too? And perhaps Europe? It's not just a choice between Australia and the US, right?

    1. I can't remember specific titles, but I've certainly seen reviews on which comment on spelling and grammar "errors" in books written in Australian and British English. There may well be equivalent reviews on complaining about US spelling . . . but I rarely read Amazon UK reviews.

    2. It's sad isn't it, but obviously there's some truth in those 'rumors/rumours' and horror stories.

  4. I'm sure other authors could verify the horror stories. And perhaps that was years ago before Aussie films started being so huge. Personally I've met many Americans who literally have no idea we spell differently, we drive on the other side of the road, we have opposite seasons etc. One woman actually asked me once "when do you celebrate Christmas then if it's summer in December?" I kid not.
    I too happily look up words I don't understand, but in terms of spelling, in Australia we are very used to both American and British English spelling and we read it quite easily but it's not familiar to the eye of an American reader and I've been told (more than once) that the average reader will put a book down because they say the spelling is atrocious. Is it true? I don't know. I'm sure UK authors must ask the same question.It's funny how it does seem to be just a choice between UK and US spelling. Interesting....
    At the end of the day, I'm going to stick with my hybrid approach of American spelling for my international (I hope) audience. Aussie terms will stay and I hope my American readers will love learning new things about our awesome country just as I've enjoyed (over my years of reading), learning about different parts of America.
    Thanks so much neosuziq for your comments :)

  5. Fun post!

    I've already read Operation White Christmas . . . and thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn't even notice the spelling was different between the two characters, which shows I really got into the story.

    My review will post on the 18th :)

  6. Hey thanks Iola! Glad you enjoyed it and really interesting you didn't notice the different spelling. When Hollie referred to her mother, she said Mum and when Jim refers to his mother he says Mom. I used lots of other little things like that too. Looking forward to your review. x

  7. Very much an eternal discussion! And I'm sure there are as many opinions as there are readers. You're right though, Nicki - if traditionally published, you have to adhere to your publisher's preference.Going Indie? Then it's all about audience although that still doesn't make it an easy decision. At the end of the day,do what you need to do to sell books - there's no point in being culturally oversensitive if you're aiming for the U.S. market.

    Love the post - made me chuckle :)

  8. Me again. This has really got me thinking. Here are a couple of things I found:
    Reading some others: as you alluded to, it can be a very emotive subject. Phew! I even have to fight that myself. I wonder why that is? Strange, isn't it?
    Bless you!

  9. How fun! I was so corrected on telling me daughter her thongs were cute! Oh my! It was MOM! ! ! These are flip flops! I'm certainly not often politically correct for this generation... I do enjoy reading books by Australian authors. I love how they talk.. in the books & in person :)

  10. I did sign up for your newsletter but the link you shared does not go to your books, it's photography.. G'day to you!
    dkstevensneAToutlookD otCoM

    1. Hi Deanna. Sorry about the link going to the incorrect site. I thought I'd fixed that. The correct link is

  11. Ha ha, Nicki Edwards. Do you conscript your husband and kids to come up with that rather large slab of Aussie slang! BTW, I've recently read several American novels who featured Spanish, French, Italian and German characters. they often blurted phrases in their language. Sometimes I understood, sometimes not, and if I felt I was missing something from the plot, I looked it up, otherwise, I just let it slide. Cultural education. Being a minority culture, will we succumb to the pressure of the giant American culture to just submit to their language idiosyncrasies, or should we wave our cultural flag and say, it's fun, come learn and enjoy our language. When sales are involved I wonder if I have the courage.

  12. Nicki, great post! I agree with what others have said about the importance of knowing your target audience. Your readers are paying money to buy your book, and you want to deliver a product that meets their expectations.

    I work in retail and we talk about stores, not shops. My Aussie kids talk about cell phones, and they don't call them mobiles. There are also big regional differences to consider in Australia. I've never heard of dead horse on a snag. I presume it's tomato sauce, which my kids will call ketchup. Go figure! :)

    At the end of the day, the context of the word in a sentence and paragraph should give the reader a clear idea of the meaning. If a reader in your primary target audience has to keep opening a dictionary, you're dragging them out of the story and they may not appreciate the disruption. I was able to keep the word 'brumbies' in one of my Heartsong books because I defined them as wild horses within the context of the paragraph.

    1. Dead horse is rhyming slang for Sauce. Just like your China plate is your mate. Probably more common for my generation. Its like in SA we have Fritz which is devon in the eastern states.

  13. Great post about thongs and flip flops. I grew up, many years ago, with the term thongs. And my husband is from Hawaii and yes, the term slippas was and is his reference to them. When he uses that term, all I can think of is bedroom slippers.

  14. Sonja, Deanna and Neosuziq, I'd like to offer all three of you an e-book of your choice of one my books.


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