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.”
“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”.
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