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Graeme

colloquialisms and related topics

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What are the recommended guidelines on colloquialisms?

For example, because I'm Australian, I tend to use Australian spellings (though Word likes to push me to American spellings too often) and Australian phrases. I noticed in Grasshopper's Please Say Something that he used a lot of phrases that seem to be unique teenagers and young adults.

I read once that an author should try to use enough to give a flavour of where the story is set, but not so much that the reader is lost as to what is going on. Again, using Grasshopper's story as an example, there were several terms that I had never seen before, but I could guess at their meaning from the context.

One of my concerns is using Australian colloquialisms without realising. For example, Blue picked up on the term "barracks" as an synonym for "supports", but when I wrote that, I didn't realise that it wasn't a term that would be recognised in the USA. I understand that this is partially the role of the editor (thanks Blue!) but I was wondering how far I should adjust to the predominantly USA reader population base.

Another example is in the original draft of New Brother, I used the metric system for all measurements. It was recommended that I change to Imperial measurements, as more readers would understand this.

Any comments?

Graeme

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I think the measurement system used, at least to me, adds a certain flavor to the story. For example, I used the metric system in Heaven's Wrath because, at least to a US audience, it still has an unfamiliar futuristic feel. This effect is probably lost on an audience outside of the US.

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The only real guideline is to use what fits the story and characters in their time and place.

So you can have very standard language that any English speaker would accept as good English. Or you can have very colloquial or slang-filled language, even in the narration, if it suits the story.

That doesn't help much; it's too general, right? Think of several genre pieces or novels and movies you like best. The characters use styles of speaking, thinking, and writing that fit them.

The rules for novels, poems, plays, and creative writing are a lot more flexible than for a formal non-fictional essay or technical report. In creative writing, you can use nearly anything. In non-fiction, you have to use standard formal writing.

OK, all that's still too general. Let me get really specific.

You're writing about Australian teens, young adults, or adults. They are going to use regular Aussie speaking styles. Sometimes that will include words and phrases that Americans (or non-Australians) may not know. A few of those are standard Briticisms, like "jumper" or "singlet" or "boot" or "car park" -- or the metric system. People should be able to find those in any dictionary or should be able to figure them out from context within the writing.

But because you're writing about Australians, including younger Aussies, it's natural for you to use expressions any Aussie would use daily, whether they are from the suburbs, the inner city streets, or some station in the bush, or even way in the outback. That lets us know, learn, and enjoy a taste of somewhere different. Dewey's point about the metric system is well taken. I'd say further that people need to learn about other regions.

Your readers want and expect at least a little of that. What teen isn't going to use cool slang with his friends? What Aussie would never use an Aussie expression? The only interesting thing about that might be why he didn't.

You haven't been too formal, too neutral, or too colloquial, although I'd say you have a little room where you could include terms from the land down under.

It is only a problem if it becomes too much too often for people to read through it. Yet it can be woven into the story unobtrusively. You can give a clue or a brief sentence that explains a term. You can include a footnote in the chapter or a separate glossary file that grows.

Your editors and beta-readers can help with that. They will know what is unfamiliar and needs explanation. That might be Australian words, customs, or plants and animals, for instance.

Beta-Reader: Someone who reads a written piece in draft form, to offer suggestions for improvement to the author. A fan-fiction term by analogy with Beta Tester.

Grasshopper's stories, especially his "Please Say Something!" and the "Aeschylus: One Iced Dude" (I think I may have missed the name and title, sorry) use current teen slang, including a mix of a few terms that may be local to where he is. They fit his story and his characters. -- There were a couple I hadn't heard, like "iced," but then again, I'm not a teen and not where he is. -- They were all understandable from context, and didn't get in the way.

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Blue pretty much covered it. I've noticed a few in your stories - "barracks", "joey", "cuppa", etc. - but it's never obtrusive. Personally, I like the kind of story where it takes a few second-thoughts to really understand what's being said. I've always found it fun to kind of speculate on the origins and adaptations of the word.

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Blue pretty much covered it. I've noticed a few in your stories - "barracks", "joey", "cuppa", etc. - but it's never obtrusive. Personally, I like the kind of story where it takes a few second-thoughts to really understand what's being said. I've always found it fun to kind of speculate on the origins and adaptations of the word.

It's funny, although I am American, I've got English (UK) so ingrained in my head, words like "cuppa" and such don't even gain my notice and here you've gone an mentioned them.

-- wbms

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Well, of course a joey is just a young kangaroo or wallaby, old enough to be in the pouch or out of it. That's actually the correct term, like deer have fawns.

It's funny though, I've seen a couple of Aussies use "y'all" recently.

I suppose we're seeing what people are used to, and maybe a little merging of terms as people get familiar with terms from other places, thanks to this strange new world wide web. (If we can call it new anymore.) -- Anyone remember how Blade Runner mixed words from all over? It's likely that will really happen as the world "shrinks."

::: Haha, the radio just had a commercial for the Outback Steak House, with their usual Christmas ad, Aussie style. Bloomin' Onion, anyone? :::

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My family was involved in an exchange student program at one point, so I learnt a few of the words that have different meanings in the two countries. The one that has always stuck in my mind was the story of the Australian exchange student in the USA who turned to the girl behind him in the schoolroom and asked for a rubber.

He was extremely embarrassed once he found that the word "rubber" is NOT a synonym of "eraser" in the USA, and so naturally the girl assumed that he was asking for a condom....

Oh, and no, she didn't give him one.

The other main one, which I have been caught on a couple of times when I've been in the USA, is "Lemonade". In Australia, this is the generic name for the flavour of soft-drink such as "Sprite" or "7-up".

Graeme

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Canadians call an eraser a rubber also. In high school, a newly transferred Canadian girl asked me for a rubber...she was testing the waters. I knew she was teasing, and did have to ask what she meant, 'cause I knew she wasn't quite *that* brazen. Anyway, we both got a kick out of it. She wasn't quite hoping for a date, though.

Lemonade, that's interesting. It wouldn't occur to us that a lemonade might mean a lemon-lime soda. ...Then again, where I am, a "Coke" can mean almost *any* soft drink, although that seems to be disappearing.

OK, I'd better stop, before I hijack the thread onto a "regional word" tangent.

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Well, of course a joey is just a young kangaroo or wallaby, old enough to be in the pouch or out of it. That's actually the correct term, like deer have fawns.

Had no idea. All I know about Australia I learned from reading AwesomeDude.

...Then again, where I am, a "Coke" can mean almost *any* soft drink, although that seems to be disappearing.

Heh, I've actually seen guys come to blows over this.

"It's called 'pop', damn it!"

"I'm tellin' you it's 'soda', and that's that."

"Just call it 'Coke', y'all..."

"Coke!? Oh, that's it!" *suckerpunch*

All in all, best family reunion ever.

He was extremely embarrassed once he found that the word "rubber" is NOT a synonym of "eraser" in the USA, and so naturally the girl assumed that he was asking for a condom....

Yeah, no one really uses "rubber" any more, though. At least, not around here. It's got kind of a negative psychological effect: "Rubber? That's like something my parents would say. Aw jeez, now I've gone and pictured my parents' birth control habits..."

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The other main one, which I have been caught on a couple of times when I've been in the USA, is "Lemonade". In Australia, this is the generic name for the flavour of soft-drink such as "Sprite" or "7-up".

Graeme

Actually, one of my very favourite drinks is Lemonade -- both the US and UK (also, apparently, Australia) versions. Schweppes Lemonade kicks ass and is freaking AWESOME. It tastes like a very lightly carbonated US Minute Maid lemonade. White's isn't so bad either, though Sainsbury's has too much sugar.

After my first trip to the UK, I fell in love with it. Schweppes may not sell their Lemonade in the US for some technical reasons. I learned this from Coca Cola UK. After much begging, they finally agreed to sell me one case of one litre bottles. Price of the Lemonade was about $10 (?5) and shipping was almost $150. Worth every dime dammit.

Ask me about Mars Bar vs Mars Bar. Oh, shit, I'll just TELL you. The US Mars Bar is called a "Milky Way" over there and vice versa. I never did figure that out. But, damn, the chocolate over there is SO much better. Smarties ROCK -- not the nasty US candy, but the real ones. As a side note, all Canadian chocolate is sold as, and tastes like, the UK version. And you can still get Aero bars!

-- wbms

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My family was involved in an exchange student program at one point, so I learnt a few of the words that have different meanings in the two countries. The one that has always stuck in my mind was the story of the Australian exchange student in the USA who turned to the girl behind him in the schoolroom and asked for a rubber.

He was extremely embarrassed once he found that the word "rubber" is NOT a synonym of "eraser" in the USA, and so naturally the girl assumed that he was asking for a condom....

This exact thing happened to me my senior year in high school. We hosted a New Zealander girl and she asked me for a rubber. I was so confused.... :mrgreen:

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The biggest surprise for me was when the australian girl who was the receptionist at a facility I was working at noticed me putting on my jacket, and asked me if i was going out to "smoke a fag." I must have given her quite a look, because she hastily explained that by fag, she meant a cigarette.

She also mentioned that in Oz, a piece of candy is actually a lolly, while candy is a reference to someone we might call a slut or a ho, over here.

cheers!

AJ

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