Deep Thoughts, Love & Writing

Lost in Translation

One of the peculiarities of writing very British romance – and in this case, Welsh, actually – but being published by an American publisher is that I spell everything wrong.

The old cliché states that the UK and the US are two countries divided by a common language. And that common language is still evolving, every day, bringing us closer together or pushing us further apart. But really, as long as the meaning of my words isn’t changed, does it matter if I spell it ‘grey’ or ‘gray’?

I’m happy to conform to the house style and have my spelling Americanized. I have no problem with my characters moving toward things instead of towards. Hell, they can do math instead of maths if they have to. It doesn’t change my story.

But the one that’s really baffling me is the little note from my editor that says ‘you could omit this’ next to the word ‘of.’ Do people really say ‘couple years’ instead of ‘couple of years’? Really?

It only comes up a couple of times (See? There? Could you really cut the ‘of’ and still make sense?) and I don’t imagine it’s a major issue at all. My feeling is, where it occurs in dialogue, my characters would say the ‘of.’ Because they’re British and we do. So I’ll keep it there. Elsewhere… I’m open to debate.

Edits. Baffling in ways I never expected. And probably I should be working on the parts that matter – like beefing up a skinny subplot – rather than obsessing about missing words.

But really. Not saying ‘of’? It’s weird, guys. Sorry.

Photo Credit: TheDreamSky 

6 thoughts on “Lost in Translation”

  1. HI, Sophie, MM the Queen of English here, American English to be specific. Punctuation in dialogue is also different from the way Americans punctuate dialogue.

    I had a critique partner from Perth, Australia, for a while. In one of his submissions, he used a word — looked French to me — that neither I nor the other partner could figure out.

    When we asked him during the critique chat, — a pastry, to be be exact a cream puff — That’s what he had meant.

    I still smile when I think about that. The two Americans were completely clueless, and the Aussie was just as flabbergasted by our ignorance.

    MM the Queen of English

    1. Hi MM!

      I’ve also caused some confusion over naming terms in this manuscript – for instance, what do you guys call a large catering dispenser that allows you to serve your own tea or coffee by holding down a button – the sort you’d find in hotels at conferences and the like? Since I can’t get two people in the UK to agree on what we call them over here, I’m not holding out for a consensus in the US…

  2. I’m an Australian with an American publisher. Yes, math not maths, toward not towards – I can live with that, too. ‘Couple years’ makes no sense to me and ‘off of’ makes me cringe. But there is so much more. In Australia ‘chips’ are what the Yanks call ‘fries’, but then ‘chips’ can also be what others call ‘crisps’. The pastry thing in the previous comment resonated with me. I remember one American ordering a ‘mince pie’ in a coffee shop and scratching his head when he got a hot meat pie, not the cold, fruit mince pie he expected. Ah, vive la difference, non?

    1. I think I’ll be learning new differences for quite a while. And the mince pie thing is confusing, I suppose, to the uninititated! It’s surprising how many terms and usages we take for granted as common knowledge. I’d put in a mention of the WI, to my editor’s utter bafflement. Will have to explain the long and fascinating history of the Women’s Insitute…

  3. I’m a Canadian targeting an American market. Our English is a combination of UK and American, salted with the vast amount of American television available in Canada. I used to consider myself a great speller, but I’m not so sure anymore – accepted spellings of various words vary by locale and audience.


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