Thursday, March 10, 2016

Oh what a beautiful mo(u)rning?

My question is about what formatting to use when querying from outside of the U.S.

Some of us folk writing on the other side of the world feel that o's are very lonely without their u's, and that z's need to stop being so rough around the edges. As a result, we end up with words like colour and analyse. And don't even get me started on the use of single quotation marks over double quotations.

So my question is: If you are afflicted with this fear of lonely o's, quotations loitering in pairs, and the 26th letter of the alphabet, what do you do when querying a U.S. agent? (So that's where those u's and s's went!)

Do you and your cool-blooded brethren ignore this in understanding (I'm thinking this is a no), or should the writer adapt the formatting to fit the style of which the agent is used to?

Holy zedonkulas!
or should I say Holy Zedounkulas?

Most agents are quite comfy with reading novels written in Brit.
Most of us have spent some time reading books with extra u's, and rounded zeds. Agatha Christie. Jane Austen. The Brit editions of Lee Child (which are available a good month before the US edition, just FYI.)

We even know that when you're standing in the garden, you're not actually standing on plants and barkdust. And we know that the bonnet of your auto doesn't have a hatpin.  We're still a little embarrassed about what you think a fannypack is, but we'll just never mention that word again, ok?

If your book is set in the UK and the characters are UK speakers, you'd be nutso to make them all sound like Americans even to American readers. And one way to convey character is word choice, and in this instance word spelling.

Now, if you plan to write a novel about Americans and set it here, you'd be wise to strip out all the UKisms.

In other words, let the language and spelling you use reflect the book you're writing. We'll get it.

As to your query, it's better to just write with your normal spellings. We aren't going to be flummoxed by your insistence on using u to prop up that slacker o. 



Claire said...

On a related question, OP - if your book has a UK setting and is written in British English, would it make more sense to query London-based agents rather than US ones? (Or maybe you're in Aus/NZ/SA.) It just seems like that might be a more natural fit. And then let your agent worry about spelling issues when she's selling the foreign rights for megabucks :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

If you live where I live, New England, our er is ah as in, how you pahk your cah. Thank God we don't have to write like we talk unless our MC is a lobsta fisherman.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh my, I misspelled lobstah. Can't even spell north east speak right.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

O(u)pie, lo(u)ve your humo(u)r and the Shark's po(u)inted respo(u)nse about tho(u)se slacker o's.

And please do keep the Brit spellings and use some of the Brit/Scot/Oz words that might confuse an American. Yes, I'm a bit of an Anglophile. But, diversity? Although that's not strictly what publishers or literary agents mean when they ask for diverse books.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

In fact, today I just learned the word puggled from a UK friend.

"Nae breaks, just puggled. I'm draggin masel aboot the hoose! The flaer is a foot deep in treacle"

InkStainedWench said...

One of my great pleasures in life is coming across the occasional Britishism that slipped past Lee Child's editors.

That doesn't say much about my pleasures in life, does it?

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I once had a short story editor vociferously reject a story of mine because of "all the spelling mistakes". (He must have been having a bad day.)

Normally, one should not respond to reject letters, but I had to. "Mate," I replied, "You do know I'm Australian, right? We spell British style."

E.M. Goldsmith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
french sojourn said...

2nn's Being a Mainiac, I can tell you it's Lobstah in Maine, and it's in Bahston; where they "pak dah kah".

Most of my British friends, not only spell differently but have different words for a lot of things:
Their what we call a weed wacker. (Which they love where they hear it for the first time.)
If someone is larry, they're odd. If somethings ropey, it's not built well.

But for the funniest difference in their accent, I would recommend listening to "The two Ronnies" and their bit called "Four Candles". I consider it the "Who's on First"
of British comedy.

Hopefully this will link to it.

the four candles

cheers Hank

Colin Smith said...

Brit spellings remind me of home, and the way I used to spell. As y'all have probably noticed, while I am British by birth, I have adopted--and seemingly become quite comfortable with--the spellings and phraseology of my adopted homeland. I've been in the US for nearly 24 years now, long enough for Brit accents and spelling to look foreign. But I, like millions of others in the US, still understand what's being said. Thanks to the Internet, Downton Abbey and Doctor Who, more Americans are Brit-speak savvy, so I wouldn't sweat it Opie. Don't let it bother you. Any potential misunderstandings in your manuscript can be sorted by editors later. :)

nightsmusic said...

Oh, great QOTKU, you have a spammer on yesterday's comments. A long winded one. I much prefer to hit him/her with an old fashioned flame thrower but alas, I have no control over them...

OPie, I would LOVE to read your book as originally spelled. That gives much more character to the characters when one can read the story and the spelling adds to the voice in my head. I am one of those though who doesn't have a problem with 'our' and 's for z' and dinnas and couldnas and those quirks that make the character more lifelike. I have a marvelous Aussie friend who has multi-pubbed romances. I love them, her characters and stories are great, but her American publisher has 'Americanized' her stories so I miss the things that make her stories uniquely hers as far as the spelling, etc. So write on! In your own style. And good luck to you :)

Colin Smith said...

BTW, be aware that even within the UK, there are lots of local sayings and words for things that people outside that region may not get. And accents? Some broad Geordie and even Cockney accents can sound foreign--even to other Brits!

MVB said...

That's a very interesting and reassuring response. I write and speak UK English and American writers I've exchanged with have picked up on my spelling (more than once). They strongly recommended changing my query to American spelling for US agents. I had been considering it, but it's more than just the spelling... even though the languages are so similar, there is a different idiom. There is even a different syntax...

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I know I can be an outlier for my peers with my "books read" list, but I spent a lot of time reading Dickens, and James Herriott, and Roald Dahl (that one's more familiar to them), and feel, as a reader, I can roll with word selections like that (admittedly, "tyre" at first stymied me. But I feel like "variant" language is maybe more accessible to younger readers, who are learning everything anyway). It's troubled me at least once when I couldn't figure out where a book was supposed to take place, Australia or England, because the author didn't use "good enough" indicator words.

(While I've read books which take place in Australia, I think I've read only one book of Australian origin, 1988)

It didn't occur to me Lee Child's books were published in UK first. Silly me. Which editions do you prefer, Janet? ;)

Lennon Faris said...

But what about biscuits and chips? So important not to confuse those.

Heidi (Your Grace), your reply to the editor cracked me up.

Colin Smith said...

MVB is right. More than any changes in accent, the thing my family back home pick up on about the way I speak now is word choice. My vocabulary and phraseology has Americanized. :) But they still understand me.

Remember yesterday's new rule? Be Yourself. I guess that also means, if you're a Brit, be a Brit in your query and your novel! :)

Jennifer: I have the Harry Potter books is both US English and the original UK English. Book 1 is particularly rife with Britishisms that were changed for the American market. I don't have it with me at work, so I can't cite examples, but if I remember, and QOTKU doesn't threaten me with Carkoon for over-commenting, I'll be glad to provide some later. :)

Colin Smith said...

Lennon: Yup. Here in the Southern US, asking for tea and biscuits will not get you a nice warm brew with some Jammie Dodgers. :)

Amy Schaefer said...

I think this another case where we should give the reader credit. Surely any agent worth her salt has read enough book to recognise UK/Canadian/Australian English.

While we were in Australia, my girls learned a lot of Australian vocab. I loved collecting words there. Shonky (dubious or suspect) and chook (chicken) were my favourites. But the word that always slayed the kids was 'thongs' (flipflops). Even two years in, a male classmate asking "Has anyone seen my thongs?" would leave them in desperate laughter.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I must learn not to comment until after coffee. This post gave me a good laugh to start the day. Loved Heidi's response to the American editor.

And I do believe most serious English readers can handle UKisms. The world is smaller than it once was and like Colin rightly pointed out, Americans are familiar enough with Brit English if only due to BBC shows. He didn't mention Sherlock, but I am sure it was an innocent oversight. But yeah, Dr. Who is consumed by wide swath of Americans. And some of us purposely purchased all the UK editions of the Harry Potter books simply to get even more UKisms as Janet calls them.

nightsmusic said...

Amy, I'm old and always called the flipflops 'thongs' until my oldest daughter corrected me. However, I spent tons of time growing up with my Scots and English grandparents and had a somewhat difficult time assimilating to kindergarten because of it. And a lot of those things I picked up then have stayed with me all of my life.

I think when we query, when we write, our voice is the most noticeable thing people see and if we change our voice to fit the market, we lose something of the charm in the process. Most of the time. But that's just me.

Donnaeve said...

I expect our Canada buds to chime in here about this, but since I worked closely with those north of the border for about 25 years, I'll note that Canada also uses Brit English.

Actually, I think Americans are the only ones who don't use British English spellings world wide, but, then again, we insisted on driving on the right-hand side of the road, and moving our steering wheel to the left as well. :) Before the mid 1700's, there was no standard for English spelling. Americans sometimes used ou's and British sometimes dropped the u's, and vice versa and what a spaghetti bowl of spelling it was.

Then along came Noah Webster, and some other guy over in the UK who began the work to standardize. It didn't stop with just the ou's, and the s's/z''s quite extensive. There's a flip on some words ending in er/re. (centre/center) and ce/se, and on and on.

I don't care about the spellings, it's about the story!

Kitty said...'s better to just write with your normal spellings

Just don't use Italics ;~)

Celia Reaves said...

I agree that it makes a difference where the story itself is set. If the characters or the setting are British/Australian/NZ or any of that family, then I would expect British spellings and word choices. Especially in the query. Were I an agent, I would find it reassuring that an author writing about things English would be at least comfortable with the English way of using language. Yes, an editorial decision later might Americanize everything for an American edition, but that's a bridge to burn later. I'm not English myself, but as others have said Americans are generally OK with British spelling and usage, from reading and from TV shows and movies.

Sometimes, though, it doesn't work as expected. My personal favorite English expression that throws Americans into an absolute tizzy is "knocked up" meaning woken up, as in "I knocked her up at 10:00 this morning."

Donnaeve said...

Oh, just saw the thing about thongs. When I was growing up, I called flipflops thongs. I also called a winter hat a toboggan.

Mom's from Maine. (yep Hank, a Maniac!) and Dad was from here. I don't know if my usage of those names for those things was from his side, or Mom's.

Dena Pawling said...

While I agree that most US readers can figure out spellings and common UK-type terms like lift, flat, lorry, petrol, and nappy, I do believe there are probably words that will just look wrong to US readers. If I saw today's subject header in a book - oh what a beautiful mourning - and the book was not in the POV of Death or a similar ghoulish narrator, it would definitely throw me out of the story, or at least I would sit up and notice the use of the creative spelling, more than just acknowledging a “UKism”.

But I do think that if the entire query and MS/book consistently use UK conventional spellings and terms/words, the reader will understand. Just be consistent and don't switch between UK and US conventions in the same book. For me at least, that would also throw the reader out of the story.

Laura Mary said...

Ah, if you want any info on Potter, come see me! I have an embarrassingly large collection (stopped counting at 250 books...) covering most languages it was translated into, and whilst I can't tell you anything much about the Russian version, I have read the American and thought it lost a lot of it's charm! I don't mind so much the spellings of words, but when you start swapping 'holiday' for 'vacation' and 'pavement' for 'sidewalk' it creates a different feeling entirely.

Oh, and as for fannypacks... we know what you guys think they are, but the word never ceases to shock and delight!

Ps Over here they are called bumbags. Or they were. We had a mass burning in the 90s and collectively agreed to pretend they never happened.

Anonymous said...

We have a couple Brits as regulars in the chatroom. I'm fluent in typoese, but even I occasionally get lost when an excited Brit is trying to share something. It's funny. The chatroom stops dead, until I say "Paul, could you translate that for us?"

I have no problem reading UKisms. Although I'm still not entirely sure what "bangers and mash" is.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: Samuel Johnson was the creator of the dictionary in the UK.

There's a wonderful episode of Blackadder involving Samuel Johnson (played by Robbie Coltraine) and his dictionary. It's in Season Three. Look it up, folks. So funny. But it's Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie. How could it not be? :)

nightsmusic said...

Audrey, bangers are sausage and mash is the potatoes. :) And I love it!

Colin Smith said...

Bangers and mash: Sausage and mashed potatoes. But British sausage. Not German sausage. My wife assures me you can't quite get the same kind of sausage in the US as you get in the UK (I've been vegetarian for 26 years, so I wouldn't know).

DeadSpiderEye said...

Oh what, no Jammie Dodgers, oh man that's just not right, please tell me you can at least get a garibaldi. I did find out they don't have cooking apples: So what do you make those apple pies out of?' I asked.


'Just ordinary apples, don't they taste a bit bland after they've been cooked?'.

'Oh no, you add plenty of sugar,' she said. Right not so tangy then, I wonder how rhubarb or gooseberry crumble would go down? Well at the very least, surely we must share some common appreciation for spotted dick topped with custard?

Colin Smith said...

Oh and about Americans using Britishisms in novels for character/voice etc. (And I know I'm commenting a lot--sorry, this is a topic close to my heart!)

BE VERY CAREFUL. I have rolled my eyes at a couple of novels where the American author had an English character that, to me, sounded very unauthentic. It was as if the author watched Mary Poppins and took cues from Dick Van Dyke.

Here's what I would say: BE YOURSELF. If you're an American, use American spellings even if your novel is set in the UK. Keep the Britishisms for dialog(ue). And with those Britishisms, get yourself a Brit beta reader to help you nail the speech patterns. I was born in the UK, I speak to family regularly, and watch a lot of Brit TV, but I wouldn't trust myself to get it right after 24 years in the US. If I were to write a novel with contemporary Brit characters, I'd have my brother beta read for me.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Hank, I so miss Maine, used to have house they'yah. North Anson.

In Connecticut we eithah tawk like we're New Yawkahs, if we're from Stamford and points south, or and like everybody else because were probably from somewhere else.

The only word in Connecticut we call our own is poedayduh as in mashed or French fried which I am sure Hank knows all about.

How does a Mainer actually end up in France anyway?

OP spell it the way your characters learned it, speak it and write it.

Amanda Capper said...

My phone, when I'm texting, constantly corrects to US, causing my sister palpitations which in turn, causes me anguish because sister thinks I should correct them before sending them to her. Poppycock.

Considering we're all pretty good at reading backwards, sideways, right to left, and all sorts of other ways Facebook says makes us geniuses, I can't see what it matters. As long as our query letters are consistent, and we aren't typing colour one minute, and color the next, I think an agent will consider content more important. And certainly not importanter.

Colin Smith said...

DSE: My Mum made apple pie for us the last time she visited during Thanksgiving, and it tasted like the apple pie she used to make when I was a child. I'm not sure what kind of apples she used, but it seems you can get apples that are more suited to cooking. You can get rhubarb in the US, but it's not as common. It's very hard to grow rhubarb here in North Carolina, sadly--something about the climate and the soil. And I've not seen gooseberries since I've been over here. Man, now I want some gooseberry crumble. My Mum made delicious gooseberry crumble. With custard. FirstBorn has learned how to make custard that's even better than Bird's... but I digress... :)

No, you won't find garibaldis in your average grocery store, either. Nor custard creams, nor Hobnobs, nor Digestives, nor Rich Tea... *sigh*

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Amy S. I love your thong story.

At work we were discussing underwear, don't ask me why, maybe we were bored, fresh or both. Anyway when the subject of thongs came up I said, "if you see me wearing a thong it means I have a flipflop stickin' out my butt.

Sorry Janet couldn't resist.

My apologies. I am over my limit, way OT, so to the queen's delight, I'm outta heyuh.

Colin Smith said...

"if you see me wearing a thong it means I have a flipflop stickin' out my butt."

And there's our sub-header of the week. :)

S.D.King said...

Last year I did a phone interview with Martha Collison, the Great British Baking Show darling. It was a good thing she agreed that I could tape it, because I was mesmerized (mesmerised?) by her voice and colloquilatisms.

I only wish I could have better captured her charming "voice" in my article.

And speaking of voice, Brits should just not try to do American. Even my beloved David Tenant set my teeth on edge with the Americanized Broadchurch - as if American's couldn't follow the original series.

BJ Muntain said...

I'm Canadian. I use Canadian spellings and style. That means we use the -ize endings that the Americans do, but the -our spellings the Brits do. As I understand it (and when I have more than a few minutes, I'll look for a better source than my tired memory), the difference stems from the different ways Canadian and the US became independent. The US fought its way out of the Empire, and some patriots (like Noah Webster) decided they didn't want anything to do with the 'oppressors', and thus changed a lot of things, like spelling, to show their independence. Canada, on the other hand, is still in the Commonwealth, though now independent. We've accepted some of the American changes (particularly the ones that came to be AFTER we became independent), but are perfectly happy to keep the older English spellings and style.

And yes, I've had critique partners and others say, "They're going to reject you if you don't spell properly." Well, this *is* properly. "You HAVE to change for the market." You know what? Until I have an editor (who has or will soon pay me) insisting on my changing my style, I'm not going to.

Thanks, Janet, for giving me something I can point these people to.

Amy: And yet, in Canada, thongs are what those shoes were, until the last twenty years or so, I think. I still cringe at 'flipflops'. That term seems so... sloppy.

Donna: Up here, a toboggan is a sled, one of those long ones you can fit a few people on. The hat is a toque. :)

Dena: 'Mourning' is not a normal UK spelling for morning. Janet threw the 'u' in for effect. :)

DeadSpiderEye: Jammie Dodgers are available, I'm sure (at least, in Canada, they are), but they're not called 'biscuits' across the pond. They're cookies.

BJ Muntain said...

SD: But if properly trained, the Brits can do American just fine, and the Americans can do British. But it does take proper training.

I don't know. I thought Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit sounded pretty American (of course, I'm Canadian. What do I know?) I was floored when I heard him speaking in his normal accent.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh Colin, hahahaha, you naughty boy.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Colin, your next week's sub-header cracked me up!

OT now, this is a topic I've been mulling over, during the last week. As a true blue Aussie, I've written with u's propping up my o's, s'ed every 'z' etc. But when I've finished editing, I'm planning on querying American agents, and had been thinking exactly this: my MS may possibly be more palatable if the more obvious Brit-Eng-isms were absent. Thanks for clarifying, Janet, how "youze guys" feel about it :)

Colin Smith said...

Brits putting on US accents: Hugh Laurie.

BJ: You might find Jammie Dodgers in "foreign food" stores, and some supermarket aisles in the "world foods" section, but they aren't commonplace in the US. Maybe in Canada, given your Commonwealth status, you have access to more Brit produce.

Kregger said...

Let's not forget boob tubes.
In my vernacular, that's a telly or is it tellie?

Our spelling rules and word usage is also a two way street.
I entered a contest a few years back and received a lowered point total from UK judges for spelling a bank instrument as "check" instead of "cheque"(even spell check hates it).

The adolescent child in me sprang into life and I told them what they could do with their budgies and shag carpet...well, let's say the conversation devolved from there.

Needless to say, it was counterproductive.
So yes, we need to adapt to their skill set and vice versa.

In the nearly immortal words of Tom Lehrer in "It Makes a Fellow Proud to be a Soldier"

...Our Captain has a handicap to cope with sad to tell
He's from Georgia and doesn't speak the language very well...

(What else would you call 'oat rounds'?)


Bethany Elizabeth said...

I second Colin's movement for sub-header.

This whole thing reminds me of when I lived in Lyon. One of my best friends was another expat, but she was from Australia. I went to meet her at 'Maccas' once, and she was there with another Australian friend. Before I so much as opened my mouth to say hello, her friend looked me up and down and said, "You look so American!"

She was a little embarrassed when it turned out that I was, indeed, American. Jeans, sneakers, and a pink t-shirt - who knew they marked us so clearly? If I'm forcing my similes here, I could say that spelling is like the apparel of novels.

You know what's weird about Wisconsin dialect? They call water fountains bubblers. That's weird. Kinda cute, though.

Colin Smith said...

I'm not picking on you, Kregger but, Argh!!! "Cheerio" is one of my pet peeves. Correct me if I'm wrong, Brits in the audience, but people in the UK don't say this--not as part of common speech. You'll more often hear "bye," or "goodbye," or some regional valediction. I don't think I ever said "Cheerio" except when putting on a posh accent.

Just... please... don't sign off on your Brit query with "Cheerio." You'll blow your cover. :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Hugh Laurie indeed. In House, if you didn't know he was a Brit... Whoa! I love that man. He is fabulous in everything he does and a great musician to boot. *Sigh*

I went to school in London. I auditioned for a production of A Streetcar Named Desire. The director went all gushy over how dead on my American accent was and so authentically southern. I seriously could not convince him that I was, in fact, a southern American for the longest time. He thought I was one of them method actors. It was pretty funny.

Drove my roommate crazy. She was from Glasgow and couldn't do an American accent to save her life. I was equally bad at mimicking British accent, and I still haven't the faintest idea what spotted dick is (and where my mind goes with that is far beyond Carkoon), and I couldn't understand why people kept bringing me cookies when all I wanted was a buttermilk biscuit. Ah well.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and "cheers" is NOT an abbreviation of "cheerio"--that's another one I've seen (and heard) over here. "Cheers" can be used in place of "thank you," as well as what you say when you clink pint glasses with your fellow taverners.

I'm way over-commenting, I know--sorry. But did I say this is a topic near and dear to me? :)

Anonymous said...

Colin's correct about dialects. Georgie and Scouse can sound incomprehensible (especially if the speaker's drunk). I'm not to bad with Glaswegian, though. A southern friend worked for a construction company there and when they discovered she was struggling with the language differences, hammed it up even more.

You don't even need to go far. I moved about 100 miles west of where I grew up, from Southampton to Bristol and learned a whole load of new vocabulary. I can now point to me daps, while smoothin ee cat, then it's off to the slider, but watch out for jaspers or you'll end up in stingers. Gurt lush.

I do remember the great bumbag fires of the 90s. Good times.

Kae Bell said...

Having lived in London for six years, back in US, I cringe whenever I read/see/hear the word 'pants' used to describe trousers. 'Pants' are underwear over there.

Oh, and 'On the job' and 'Do the business'. I'll leave that there.

Colin Smith said...

wordsofrablack: Bristol! I grew up in Hereford--not too far away in miles, and quite close in terms of accent, though I never had a Herefordian, or even anything close to a West Country accent. I went to a posh school where everyone talked proper, like. :) But, yeah, I remember people referring to our little buzzy friends as "jaspers." :)

In case you didn't know: Dave Prowse, the guy who actually donned the Darth Vader costume in the original Star Wars trilogy, was from Bristol. He had a very thick West Country accent (think Hagrid from Harry Potter). Imagine if he had voiced Darth Vader too... :)

LynnRodz said...

Is there something in the air? This is the second time in 24 hours that I heard the words weed wacker. I overheard a conversation yesterday and had no idea what they were talking about. I thought, who would take their weed and whack somebody with it? I guess I'm a city girl through and through.

Colin Smith said...

... and in centuries to come, kids in history classes will be writing essays on "The Great Bumbag Fires of the 1990s." File that one away, all you sci-fi and spec fic writers... :)

Megan V said...

I think Colin makes an excellent point!

The thing about words, colloquialisms, general expressions (and even spellings) is that they don't just cross international boundaries, they cross very narrow regions.

I was born and raised in southeast Wisconsin. Years ago, when I visited the Georgia Aquarium, I asked the information desk where I might find the bubbler. They asked me if a bubbler was a fish or an exhibit.

Likewise if I ask around my current city for a "time machine" (spelled T.Y.M.E. machine), I get the strangest looks and responses.

The same goes for Brits. When I interned in London the accents and expressions in Streatham were far different from those used off the Ken Gardens.

Laura Mary said...

Colin - I actually hear 'cheerio' quite a lot, but suspect it is a generational thing, as I can't think of anyone under 70 who says it! I get a 'cheerio then bye!' on a weekly basis, along with 'ta-ta pet'.

Celia - I have never heard that use of the phrase 'knocked up' before!!!! Wonder if it's a regional thing. Or was someone pulling your leg? Puts me in mind of the subtle but crucial difference between 'getting off' and 'having it off' with someone!!!!
I best go now before it all gets a bit blue!

Karen McCoy said...

I'd love to see the Harry Potter examples, Colin!
I'd say "cheerio," but...

Colin Smith said...

Karen: If Janet hasn't banned me and banished me to Carkoon by the time I get home, I'll post some. :)

As Laura Mary points out, you can say "Cheerio" if you like. Forgive me if I misjudge your age by a number of decades. ;)

Laura Mary said...

Karen - some of the Potter changes are quite surprising - Dudley's first word is changed from 'Shan't' to 'won't' and Dumbledore's password to his office was changed from 'Sherbet Lemon' to 'Lemon drop' in the Chamber of Secrets, but not in Goblet of fire which lead to all sorts of shouting and conspiracy theories on the internets!
I have a spreadsheet somewhere with these nerd things saved... apparently I don't need it!!!!

Lucie Witt said...

When I saw today's post, I decided to leave and check back in after Colin had time to comment. He didn't let me down!

**off topic**
For those interested, MSWL is happening today on Twitter (for those unfamiliar, agents/editors tweet about books they'd like to see).

Colin Smith said...

Laura Mary: I've said it before, but the change of book title floored me. It makes no sense. HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE works as well in the US as the UK. Hermione explains what the philosopher's stone is in the book. OK, so maybe saying "Sorcerer's Stone" helps US kids get that it's not a book about philosophy. But why would UK kids think differently? OK. Rant over. There are lots of comments already, and many of them mine, so I'm going to shut up. If you have examples to hand and want to post them for Karen, be my guest!

Karen McCoy said...

Laura Mary, I'd love to see that spreadsheet!

And I agree, Colin--PHILOSOPHER'S STONE works just as well.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Laura Mary, I'd like to see that spreadsheet too! Sounds really interesting. :)

I think in one of the earlier versions of TGoF, the 'ghosts' came out of Voldemort's wand in the wrong order. But I might be remembering that wrong. (Also, spoilers, I guess? How long until the spoilers warning is no longer necessary?)

Nate Wilson said...

I would just like to state Carolynnwith2Ns doesn't speak for everyone in Connecticut.

I've lived here my entire life, and I, for one, have never said "poedayduh."

Nate Wilson said...

...It's probably because my parents were from New York, isn't it?

Donnaeve said...

BJ, you crack me up. You remind me of one of my best friends in school.

I am actually aware that a toboggan is a long sled. I've been on one. :)

Kae Bell - if you use underpants, we'll know what you mean. I say underwear though.

CynthiaMc said...

That brought back nightmares. I never got marked down on spelling until I went to school in British Columbia where they used British spelling for everything. Then I got marked down again when we moved back to the States for using extra letters and weird terminology.

Lee Child blew his cover in the last Jack Reacher book I read with parcels and shopping trolleys. Hated that.

Christina Seine said...

I've a question, and I hope it's not a silly one. What are the pros and cons of having an agent that does not live in one's same country?

Other than having a really good reason to travel someplace cool, obviously.


*searches for agents living in lush tropical locales*

CynthiaMc said...

It's Maine. When we moved from ew York where a toboggan was a sled to Maine, where it was a hat, that threw me.

"Where's your toboggan?"

"In terms garage."

"It should be on your head."

"Why would I put my sled on my head?"

CynthiaMc said...

New York. I type too fast for my phone. Moving around a lot was an adventure learning the language - even when it was 52 forms of English.

Kae Bell said...

Donnaeve, See, but pants by itself, no under, makes me giggle. "Come shopping with me, I need new pants for my interview."

Nate Wilson-Ditto. Middle Connecticut, no accents to speak of.

Barbara Etlin said...

As a Canadian who uses a mix of British and American spellings, I had two sets of my manuscript ready to submit to agents, depending on where they lived. My manuscript was set in Canada and the Netherlands.

I chose a Canadian agent, but we submitted to both sides of the border, and I was ready.

CynthiaMc said...

Whoever invented Stealth Word Replace should be shot.

Translation: the garage

NotJana said...

English is my second (third, but can't remember 2nd) language.

Technically, I've learned it in school but, in all honesty, only got to anything resembling fluency once I've move to the UK. Since then I've been reading plenty of American and British books & watching a proper mix of American and British TV shows and movies. I've even been known to talk to people now and again - basically, I've learned English on a balanced diet of American and British influences.

It took an interest in writing down the stories living in my head and a lot of time to realise that I'm basically writing in AmTish. Or is it Brican? The spelling isn't an issue, it's easy enough to double-check on extra 'u's and soft 'z's and stay consistent. I like consistency. But the different names for the same thing bit? That is huge! Most of the time I've no idea if I'm using the American or British version. Sometimes I may not even realise that there is an American and a British version. Mixing American and British English in a sentence? I do that without even trying... Let's just say I'm glad I'm currently more interested in reading about publishing then being published. But, on the plus side, it also means I don't care if a book is in American or British English or even AmTish/BriCan. As long as it's consistent I'm happy.

Kregger said...

At the risk of a reply from you that may get you exiled...
I was trying out Hank, Hank with his salutation "Cheers" which is a sit-com set in Boston.
I believe I heard "Cheerio" from a character named Col. Crittenden played by Bernard Fox in Hogan's Heroes.
That, of course, makes it completely valid.
Does anyone know where I can get back those years I wasted in front of the tube?

Donnaeve said...

Here's another one for those of us sharing various words usages.

The summer after second grade, we moved to Michigan for two years. When I met my Aunt Isabel for the first time, she bent down eye level with me and said, "Would you like a pop?"

I backed away from her, almost in tears. "Mom, why does she want to hit me?"

Of course they laughed. "No, no, honey, Aunt Isabel is asking if you want a Coke." And I was thinking, well, why didn't she just say do you want a Co-cola? (which is what I USED to call it.)


french sojourn said...

Kregger, if you want all those years back go to Cheers, cose everyone knows your name!

2n's, Most of my neighbors were French Canadian. Well, at least they spoke like they were from Canadia, ayuh. I probably moved here because of French Canadian withdrawl, due to living in LaLaLand, Califorinificatia for 20 years.

Cheerio Guvnah!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Colin: plenty of rhubarb and gooseberries right here in the upper midwest. Can't quite remember if our gooseberries are the same as UKs. Green with stripes, sour as the dickens, and then ripen to soft purple over here. And not a bush to tangle with, barbs and prickers all over.

Apples: Haralsons are the best, in my estimation, for apple crisp and pie. Solid and tart, in a good way.

NotJana: love your mix of BritCan, AmTish.

Celia Reaves said...

Laura Mary: It might be that "knocked up" used to mean waking someone up is old fashioned. I think I read it in a Sherlock Holmes book as a teenager and giggled for weeks, and I've been hanging onto it ever since.

CynthiaMc: If you hadn't told us about the phone-typing issue (oh, I SO sympathize), I would have thought ew York was a bit of social commentary, reflecting the attitude of the folks in Maine. It kind of works!

Yes to the nomination of Carolynn's flipflop-in-the-butt line for this week's subheader!

nightsmusic said...

Donna, it will always be pop to me! :) soda, no co-cola, just plain, simple pop!

I'm a Michigander, can't you tell?

Elissa M said...

I am an Army brat, born on the Autobahn (on a median by a no-stopping sign). My father spoke seven languages (and his mother was British). I grew up, married a Soldier, and continued the gypsy life until we retired to a state with two "official" languages.

So... yeah, I've learned to adapt to the language of the locals wherever we lived.

When I was growing up, we called flipflops "zori", and I often still do.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I was born and bred in the US from an ancient American family. However, as an adult I've moved to Australia permanently. I still have an American accent. So much so, that strangers will often ask me how long I'm staying. "Oh, probably another twenty years or so..." I'll say. No matter how hard I try, I can't lose the accent.

What really bemuses my Aussie husband is the vocabulary I've picked up. Because I learned it from native Ozzie speakers, that's how I pronounce it. I'll be rambling on about something in my strong American accent (Midwestern Neutral with a touch of Appalacian) and this dinky-di Ozzie word pops in. The sudden, strong, shift in accent bemuses him to no end.

It must be a me thing, because my Colombian cuñada (sister-in-law) tells me mi accente es muy Mexicana. Of course I sound like a Mexican. I learned Spanish from a Navaho.

Even the British need translators between the various accents...

Coming back to the original topic: I have a fantasy novel series that's based somewhat on 19th Century America. When an editor was going over it, she noted I had mixed spelling. Her advice to me was to convert all spelling over to US spelling to be consistent with my worldbuilding.

I think we are global enough that if our worldbuilding belongs to a certain place (even if it's Otherworld Fantasy) that spelling and vocabularly should reflect that. I thought the Americanization of Harry Potter was a travesty and Scholastic should have kept it much closer to the British version.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yeah Nate, I don't say it either. My grandmother and all my aunts and uncles did, Connecticut Yankees all, but we moved around so much it wasn't our "poedayduh".
I'm middle CT too and you'd never know where I'm from because I'm from everywhere.

nightsmusic said...

Oh great QOTKU, your spammer is back on yesterday's comment thread...I could answer her in a language that is universal, but I'll behave. For now...

Anonymous said...

I've always thought of the o/ou and er/re thing as being a French influence, not British. Although, of course, it's both. I used to be a champion speller until I studied French for several years (I'm American, have never been to Europe at all). I even used to dream in French for a while, which was wonderful. But it completely messed up my spelling ability. I've finally resolved the er/re thing (I think), but there are still some words that just don't look right without that u. Like colour and humour and neighbour. So people just think I'm weird. Or pretentious.

I agree with Janet on this issue. I've read so many books with British/Canadian/Australian (or Spanish/Italian/Greek/whatever) spellings and -isms that it's not confusing and doesn't throw me out of the story at all. It's charming. I love learning words/slang from various parts of the world (and yes, I look them up). I do wish publishers would stop trying to Americanize things. Give us some credit for discernment.

I love this discussion. It's interesting, talking about pronunciation. My mom is of Norwegian/Swedish ancestry (grew up in MN) and, even though she spells them "correctly," she flips the hard z/soft s sounds in words. And she pronounces antibiotic as antiBEEotic. Maybe the weird thing is that I don't. :)

AJ Blythe said...

Timely article because I've just been angsting over my ms and Aussie-isms.

What fun comments today =) Lately I haven't had the time to read them, but today I couldn't resist and hid my work under my keyboard.

I remember when I was a teenager and my family went overseas. My Dad is really ocker (speaks with a broad Aussie accent and uses lots of Aussie terminology) and buckets of times people couldn't understand what he said. They thought he must have been speaking a language other than english.

Kelsey Hutton said...

The fear for us non-Americans of being rejected based on our non-Americanisms does run deep.

I remember being about 11 or 12, dreaming of being a published writer, but also agonizing over what would happen if an editor asked me to only use American spelling--or worse--rejected my book for not being set in the States (I'm Canadian). Would I be forced to only write stories set in generic cities? Or, write about places I knew but only publish in my province?

Now that self-publishing has considerably opened up a writer's options--and, I think, readers' appetites overall--I'm a lot less worried about this stuff. But I distinctly remember that fear. It's hard to forget.

Craig said...

The hatred of Brit-speak isn't as strong these days as it was when the Scotch-Irish finished the trashing job for the Puritans and Pilgrims. In fact the head librarian at a branch library I frequent has a serious love of British mysteries. There might even be a fifty/fifty split between American and Brits books in there.

Off topic:
Does anyone know what you are supposed to do with cheese curd?

A friend brought me two pounds of the stuff and all I can think to do with it is chuck it on salads.

CynthiaMc said...

That made me laugh. My first day of school there was hell. The kids laughed every time I opened my mouth. I couldn't understand a word anyone said so the teacher thought I was stupid. I got excited when it started to snow because when it snowed back home school was closed. That first day pretty much was ew New York. Thankfully it got better after that.

Megan V said...

EAT THE CHEESE CURDS ON THEIR OWN! YUM! YUM! If they're fresh, they squeak. :) You can fry them too. Or add dill. Or bacon-wrap them. Or you can send all two pounds to a fellow Reider...

Colin Smith said...

Okay. As promised, here are a couple of HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE/SORCERER'S STONE changes:

Chapter 2.
UK: Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair and bright green eyes. He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Sellotape because of all the times Dudley has punched him on the nose (p. 20)

US: Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair, and bright green eyes. He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Scotch tape because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose. (p. 20)

Note the Oxford comma in the US version. Also, Sellotape and Scotch tape are brand names in their respective countries.

UK: At that moment the telephone rang and Aunt Petunia went to answer it while Harry and Uncle Vernon watched Dudley unwrap the racing bike, a cine-camera, a remote-control aeroplane, sixteen new computer games and a video recorder. (p. 21)

US: At that moment the telephone rang and Aunt Petunia went to answer it while Harry and Uncle Vernon watched Dudley unwrap the racing bike, a video camera, a remote control airplane, sixteen new computer games, and a VCR. (p. 22)

Note the different spelling of "airplane," and the Oxford comma in the US again.

Interestingly, on p. 22 of the UK edition, there's a reference to Harry wanting to "have a go" on Dudley's computer. In the US edition, p. 23, this is unchanged. Wouldn't a US editor prefer "have a turn on" Dudley's computer?

UK: It was a very sunny Saturday and the zoo was crowded with families. The Dursleys bought Dudley and Piers large chocolate ice-creams at the entrance and then, because the smiling lady in the van had asked Harry what he wanted before they could hurry him away, they bought him a cheap lemon ice lolly. It wasn't bad either, Harry thought, licking it as they watched a gorilla scratching its head and looking remarkably like Dudley, except that it wasn't blond. (p. 24)

US: It was a very sunny Saturday and the zoo was crowded with families. The Dursleys bought Dudley and Piers large chocolate ice creams at the entrance and then, because the smiling lady in the van had asked Harry what he wanted before they could hurry him away, they bought him a cheap lemon ice pop. It wasn't bad, either, Harry thought, licking it as they watched a gorilla scratching its head who looked remarkably like Dudley, except that it wasn't blond. (p. 26)

Note the variation in punctuation, "ice lolly"/"ice pop", and "scratching its had and looking..." vs. "scratching its head who looked..." I don't see why that last one was necessary..?

UK: They ate in the zoo restaurant and when Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory wasn't big enough, Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first. (pp. 24-25)

US: They ate in the zoo restaurant, and when Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory didn't have enough ice cream on top, Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first. (p. 26)

UK: Dudley quickly found the largest snake in the place. It could have wrapped its body twice around Uncle Vernon's car and crushed it into a dustbin... (p. 25)

US: Dudley quickly found the largest snake in the place. It could have wrapped its body twice around Uncle Vernon's car and crushed it into a trash can... (p. 27)

OK, there's a sampling from just a couple of pages. :)

Kate Larkindale said...

You think calling flipflops thongs is difficult to understand (or the other way around), think how confused you'd be when someone referred to that particular kind of footwear as 'jandals'. Because that's what they call them here in New Zealand... Don't ask me why because I don't know. Maybe a brand name somewhere back in the dark annals of history?

nightsmusic said...

Colin, I think your pointing out the Oxford comma is interesting. Seems even Oxford thinks it's optional according to their definition and we're stuck on using it more than they. I actually got into an interwebs argument with someone about it. Showed them the articles from Oxford discussing the optional nature of the comma to which they told me Oxford was wrong... *sigh*

Tamlyn said...

I read a book a while back by an Australian author set in a Australia but who had an American agent and publisher. It had been Americanised, all the way, and it meant the Australian place names jarred horribly. These characters were American. It wasn't just a couple of spellings, they'd been made American.

I gave up on the series. In the acknowledgements there was a comment about her Australianisms so maybe the characters could pass for Australian to American readers? I don't know. They certainly couldn't pass to me.

On fanny, there have been times I've been reading something and I stop and go, "Okay, that's a little more... intimate then I expected, but how is it even physically possible?!?" Then I remember.

As to why to query an agent outside your own country... well, I'd run out of agents after two queries if I stayed inside my borders. I've accepted that if I get an agent, my characters will have to be Americanised. There is a reason I never mention a country name >> I might be better off going for UK agents, but I haven't figured out how to query them. All the information on the internet seems to be for US agents.

Of course at this stage having hundreds more options doesn't seem to help much :P

BJ Muntain said...

Craig: Yes, cheese curds can be eaten on their own. They can also be used in poutine, which is a dish that originated in Quebec, Canada. The recipe: Take french fries, put the cheese curds on them, then pour gravy over top. Or you could put the gravy on first and the curds on top, but that makes it harder to mix it all together.

A friend calls it 'heart attack on a plate'. People who haven't tried it often look askance. But man, is it tasty... The best poutine I've had (at least, since having to go gluten-free) was a place called Pommes Frites in NYC. It used to be in the East Village, but it was in one of those buildings that exploded last year. I understand it's moved to a different neighbourhood now. :(

nightsmusic: The Oxford comma, also called the serial comma, is not really affiliated with Oxford. There are those who say to only use it when necessary, but you'll have to pry that comma out of my cold, dead, and lifeless hands.

Claire said...

Tamlyn, lots of online resources for UK agents (the querying process is slightly different to that in the US so it's definitely worth doing your research) - and are good places to start.

nightsmusic said...

BJ, no, I should have clarified that as Oxford Press (shame on me!) but here is their explanation in brief of the comma and its usage:

The 'Oxford comma' is an optional comma before the word 'and' at the end of a list: We sell books, videos, and magazines. It's known as the Oxford comma because it was traditionally used by printers, readers, and editors at Oxford University Press.

The Oxford Comma

So, I usually don't use it in lists. Since I was not taught it in school, it never became a habit for me. I see it used and unused and I don't think there is a right or wrong way to use it since even from the horse's mouth, it's optional.

Craig said...

Megan V. you just bite into cheese curd? I tried that and the damn thing screamed. It had a high, squeaky voice that freaked me out

nightsmusic said...

Craig, that' means they're fresh! Not to be confused with "come on over here and bite me"

Okay, I hit my limit on posts and then some. I'm outta here.

Tamlyn said...

Thank you, Claire! I'll have a look when I've got some time.

Sam Hawke said...

I'm Australian but I queried mostly in the UK and US - I had 3 versions of my query and my MS - one Aussie, one Brit, one US. I probably wouldn't have bothered so much if I had been writing something set in Australia but as it's secondary world fantasy I would have been relying on the agent just noticing that I had an Australian address. I didn't want them to read my pages and have small things register (even unconsciously) as 'errors' because of the different spellings or formatting.

Bethany Elizabeth - we have bubblers here too. Not sure if it's Australia wide or just my local area (the words we use for things vary widely depending on where you are).

Maggie McT said... example is slightly x-rated and very embarrassing. In Ireland to 'root' for something means to search for it by poking about - e.g. 'I rooted around in the back of the cupboard and I finally found an old tin of baked beans.' In Australia however....root has a slightly different meaning. When I told my new colleagues on a Monday morning that my husband and I had had a good root around in the garage of our new home....urgh. First everyone just looked embarrassed and awkward. Once they realised I hadn't meant to discuss my sex life at 9am, at work, with almost-strangers ...well then they couldn't stop laughing. It certainly broke the ice!

John Frain said...

Sorry, leaving for Spring Break in 2 minutes (and it's not a story anyway)

Blue sky in morning, sailor take warning…

“She’s crashing down on us, lads! Starboard. Double-time!”

The sea was a tempest, unleashing its fury on our courage. No calm announced this storm. Salt bit into my scarred lips.

“Hold fast,” I called to anyone who could hear above the squall. Safety an afterthought, I gripped the wheel. The rudder screamed below.

“Land ho, boys, it’s lunch time.”

“Aw, Amy, it was just getting –“

“Thanks, mom! Dad’s making me tread water for the waves.”

“Need to add chlorine for the weekend, dear. And no dead batteries before the nephews arrive.”

BJ Muntain said...

Nightsmusic: I figured you meant Oxford Press. But just because it's sometimes called the 'Oxford comma', doesn't mean they get to tell us whether to use it or not. It's more properly called a 'serial comma', and that's how I originally learned it.

I find the serial comma adds clarity in most situations. Even at some previous jobs, where their style followed the 'only use it if it adds clarity', I always used it. Because using it doesn't confuse the reader, but not using it can. And sometimes only the reader can tell you if that's so.