Otter wrote:I don't see this a lot in Xena fic, but when characters who are very American, suddenly call their mother 'mum'. Now, being Aussie, that's how I spell it myself, but I find it insanely distracting when I read it in fic with American characters (mostly in the Buffy-verse).
Does anyone on the other side of the world find it hard to read when words are spelt in Queen's English (colour, realise, gaol etc...)? Not that anyone actually spells jail as 'gaol' anyway, but...you get the idea...
Scotti wrote:For some reason it quite distracts me when I read the "English" spelling of American based fan fiction, With s' replacing z's and the added u, I don't know why this annoys me so but it does. It's not as if it incorrect. Also using English vernacular, but I guess writers are so used to spelling and using words and phrases that are common to them. I just tell myself its good to learn a new turn of the phrase, I can always use it on my European friends and hope they think I am well versed. Mark it up to being well read Otter. If it is ever your turn to try your hand at an "English" based fan fiction you can sneak in some Americanism to even the tally's.
Now, I have to admit, when I first read these posts, I was a little peeved.
Fortunately, I had to go out, and in the meantime my ruffled feathers had time to settle down. After all, if I was to pick a top peeve, it would probably be American writers making me cringe with their depictions of/dialogue for English or other European characters. (Also, totally unrealistic naming of English characters, although this isn’t just a fanfic thing, there was a recurring character on CSI: NY called Payton and every time she appeared, I’d just shake my head and think ‘An English woman called Payton, I thought this show had lots of researchers, couldn’t they do better than that?’)
So, I can hardly criticise anyone else for having equivalent feelings about the efforts of English writers, but…
… there have been some very even-handed defences of things listed as pet peeves on this thread, so in the spirit of this, I hope you’ll permit me two points… One.
Please bear in mind that unless you’ve spent a lot of time in America, it’s actually pretty hard to know which descriptors, phrases, even grammatical points, are particularly ‘English’ and would instantly stand out to an American as, well, not American. Of course, there are famous examples of words with different meaning (e.g. pants, fanny, bum, pissed etc.), and thanks to pop culture English people probably know American idioms better than Americans know English ones, but, even so, you write with the language you speak and if you’re an English writer, you naturally going to write not just using English spelling, or English words, but using an English style (even if you’re intending to be all-American!). I suppose, you may be thinking, ‘but if this is an American story, surely they should just find an American beta to correct any errors?’ My feelings on this would be, yes, this would probably be a good idea in order to write ‘believable’ American dialogue (thus keeping Mums out of America), or of you need someone to point out things like, ‘Use the word Laundromat, not Laundrette’ or ‘Say parking lot, instead of car park’, or if you want to pull a Hugh Laurie and fool the reader into believing you are American. But what if you don’t want to pull off Laurie, or like me, you know you couldn’t if you tried, because English idioms are an integral part of your narrative voice? Should a storyteller change their language in order to fit their audience? I’m just trying to say, I don’t think an English writer should necessarily try to write like an American just because they write of
America, anymore than I an American writing about France should write in French. Which leads me to point…Two.
Point Two is a question, and relates also to those who rank ‘bad grammar’ as their pet peeve. Does variation make us richer or hinder communication? The World Wide Web is a fantastic tool of communication, and it functions at its best when language is standardised, because this enables communication to be global, or at least to head in that direction. If your aim, then, is to communicate your story to the greatest number of people, then, in the case of the Athenaeum, your best bet is to use the language of the majority, i.e. standardised American spelling and grammar. On the other hand, it can definitely be argued that TV, the web and other forms of mass media accelerate the rate at which regional and national cultural variation is eroded. As you can probably guess, I quite like identifying as English, rather than America (and I’ve lived in America, so I’ve had plenty of practice), but, as my Mum loves to remind me, thanks to TV, books etc. the language I use sounds a lot closer to American than someone of her generation. My Mum thinks this is a loss; I’m inclined to agree, except when she’s correcting my grammar
. I consider the people who use this forum and open-minded sort of bunch, so this is my pitch for openness towards linguistic variation. I include ‘bad grammar’ in this pitch. Hear me out! When people write in a manner which might be considered grammatically incorrect, it is usually because they are writing the way they speak. We all speak differently; we use different phonetics, we use different idioms, we use different grammar. If someone uses a ‘simplified’ form of grammar and can still communicate effectively, you could argue that that is smarter not dumber than using the standardised form (Warning: Do not try this argument with your teacher). I will concede that if your grammar is so divergent from the standardised form that your writing is incomprehensible, then clearly there is an issue, but, generally speaking, this is not the level of divergence I’m talking about. The rich dialects of England are dying out, in part because they include forms of English which widely considered wrong and therefore, stupid. Where I come from the use of the form ‘I was stood’ is commonly used rather than ‘I was standing’, although this is ‘wrong’ according to standardised English grammar. Sometime I use it when I’m writing and then agonise over whether or not to change it. It is ‘my voice’, but I don’t want people thinking I’m stupid. If this is a forum for people to explore their voices as authors, we shouldn’t get peeved when people use their own voice, even if their ‘accent’ differs from ours, in fact, we should welcome it.
Ok. Here ends my little soap box moment.