Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Wondrous Words: When English is (Really) English

 

I often see new, wonderful books coming out in Canada or Australia or England, and I'm sad to see they are not coming here to the US any time soon. 

I wonder if part of that has to do with vocabulary. Words. Wondrous words, if you will.


I just finished a fabulous book. Leonard and Hungry Paul. My review is here.

It's the first book of Irish writer Rónán Hession. Ireland was, for a long time, part of the UK. So this book is written in English, and that's about as English as you can get.

Why, then, are there so many words that look funny to me?

There are the words that just look misspelled, like colours and neighbour and favours and encyclopaedias and maths and pyjamas

There are words that I know but are used in different ways, like boot and jumper and bloody and biscuit.

And then there are new words I've never spoken, like loo and queued and funfair and pub

This is English. Right?

It certainly explains why it's tricky to publish books in the US that were originally published elsewhere. Even books originally published in English.

 


Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative! It was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion and is now hosted at Elza Reads.




39 comments:

  1. As a child, I noticed and valued these more exotic spellings and incorporated them into my elementary school papers. When circled in red, I indignantly brought an English book in to complain. In retrospect, I might have got them to take me seriously if I hadn't also been using green or purple ink with little circles over the letter i.

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  2. I just finished a book by a Scottish-American author that was set in Scotland. It had some phrases that I just could NOT figure out. I chuckled over the characters' use of "bog roll," which I *think* means toilet paper.

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    1. Hi Susan,

      'Bog' is a really terrible slang word for toilet, usually reserved for use by the 'chavs' (another good word for you to look up! :) ). Therefore 'bog roll' is indeed toilet paper to the rest of us! :)

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    2. That’s hilarious. And, again, isn’t it funny when we run across English we English-speakers can’t understand?!

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  3. They do say that we are "two countries, divided by a common language", which is sometimes much more obvious than at others.

    When books written in US English began to take precedence on the shelves here in UK bookshops, it was initially quite unnerving. However now I don't really give it a second thought, although I will always automatically change a US author biography into UK English for my posts.

    I think I get more annoyed that UK authors have begun writing books in US English for your marketplace, although I suppose in retrospect, that is no more than reading a book which has been translated from any other language.

    For such a small country we have so many different dialects, many with words which are unique to the area, that the 'Queen's English' is fast becoming a thing of the past!

    What an interesting post, thank you for sharing :)

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    1. Yvonne, you have given me a lot to think about in your comment. I think both those events—-when US English books began to take precedence over UK English books, as well as when UK authors began writing books in US English—-are things that would be jarring and, maybe, disappointing to UK folks.

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  4. I am also saddened when an author's book is delayed in coming to the US. Jonathan Stroud's new series, The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne was one of these. Luckily I was able to order a copy from UK that was reasonably priced. I always enjoy the variations in word usage that you described, as well as peoples names from other countries.

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    1. I wonder what things are changed when a UK-published book is published in the US. I commonly see units of measures changed. I wonder if there are other usual changes.

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  5. I read just enough British books that I occasionally stumble over the spelling of some words. "Gray" vs "grey" is probably my most common problem. I watch the Great British Bake Off and can't figure out what they mean sometimes. They need to publish a dictionary to sell on our side of the pond! "Claggy?" "Stodgy?" Does one of those mean doughy? I've (halfheartedly) tried looking them up but haven't gotten a clear answer yet. And that brings me to pronunciations. Hearing Paul Hollywood say "Celebrate-uh-ree" for "celebratory" always makes me giggle. It sounds so wrong to my American ears! I'm sure that my accent and pronunciations would be good for a laugh in the UK though. It's all in good fun!

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    1. Food words! Yes, that could be another whole post.

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    2. Claggy and stodgy are jndeed doughy and thick. Not nice, lol.

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  6. Hi Debbie!

    You have just made a very valid point and cleared something up for me. You know that less than a 100 years ago, South Africa was a British Colony? So guess what language we speak here to this day? British English and not American English. That's probably why I prefer to read British novels! Ha. Makes sense to me now.

    I also spell words like colour and flavour the British way. And I hate it when Google tells me I'm wrong!

    Oh we also talk about a loo and not a toilet. LOL!!!

    English is my second language, but I do try my best to uphold the Queen's language.

    Great post Debbie! And thanks so much for always taking part in WWW! I loved your comment on my blog and will try to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance soon!

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    1. It explains a lot, doesn't it?

      Thanks for hosting WWW, Mareli.

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  7. I was born in Canada, but moved before I began school, so I find it interesting that somewhere along the way, I learned to spell words like color and neighbor with the extra "u." Did I learn that from my dad? My mom is American, so she didn't write them like that. Who knows! Gray and grey are always confusing to me, too.

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    1. You could have simply soaked up the differences. Interesting.

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  8. It is English and is right your the ones who spell it wrong, Yvonne@fiction-books is right in what she tells you. Even I can have problems understanding someone from Newcastle and my wife who comes from Scotland tells me you could never understand a Dundonian. Mind you Cockney rhyming is a language all of it's own

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    1. You wrote: "It is English and is right your the ones who spell it wrong." Is it proper British English to spell "you're" as "your"?

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  9. Yes, I get that since on Twitter and FB I have friends from all over the world and every once in a while a word will come up that I don't understand or think is spelled wrong. But mope, it's just how they spell or how they call certain things by different names.

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    1. I love seeing all the different words people use for the same thing.

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  10. Over here, we spell with the extra u and jewellery is jewelry! We say "I want to speak to you" but you say "speak with you" !

    When my cousin, a professor, sent her publication in perfect UK English to an American University, she was asked to improve her grammar!

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    1. What a funny story! I hope the person who made this suggestion was corrected.

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  11. The Harry Potter books are a famous example of British and American differences. The American editions replaced some of the most unfamiliar English words with the American words. Like English "jumper" was replaced by American "sweater." Many other edits occurred as well, mostly not earth-shaking.

    The history of the spelling changes you mentioned is also interesting. Some of the spelling choices were due to Noah Webster. The hard and fast spelling rules that now are in effect were much more fluid until the 19th century, which led to different choices in the various British "colonies."

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  12. It's odd but I use most of those unspokens in regular conversation. And sometimes refer to biscuits for cookies. And I spell if I've been reading too many Brit books. I love Mae's comment, too!

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  13. Here in Australia we use UK spelling also. I think books should be published as written. Americans shortened many words over the years as originally they had the u in these words you mention. Moving to Australia from USA I had to learn to remember with words with c to change to s. Example: S if a verb, C if a noun. Eg My doctor owns his practice. He practises medicine every day. Always learning.

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    1. I think all the little differences are fun, if a bit jarring. It's good to have little differences.

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  14. I'm more familiar with these spellings, living closer to GB. I read a lot of British authors, watch British shows, love the Brontës/Gaskell with the Manchester phrasing (OMG, Joseph in Wuthering heights), love Sean Bean's thick Sheffield accent in the Sharpe series (great historical series by the way, from novels by Bernard Cornwell), or David Tennant with his Scottish brogue : such a great way of travelling with words and accents :)

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    1. We watch a lot of GB shows, too. I like the pacing.

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  15. This is such an interesting topic. I've always wondered why some British and Australian books don't get published in the US, and I think you've hit the nail on the head. I've always thought it was so fun to see the different spellings and try to figure out what some of the different sayings mean, though. But I can also see that as a drawback for some people.

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  16. It's always interesting to see the various different spellings and definitions for words. I'm always intrigued by that.

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  17. I'm very curious about Leonard and Hungry Paul. The title and cover are hard to resist.

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  18. I've always read a lot of American books and used to try to look up the unfamiliar words or just ask someone, but I spent YEARS confused by the baloney sandwiches that always seemed to get mentioned, as I had it somehow as bolognaise! Now it's easier to look things up or ask a US friend of course!

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  19. I was reading about the Stella Prize recently and noticed how many books from Australia don't seem to make it over here or at least are not as well publicized. So could this be part of the reason? Who knows but makes you wonder!

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  20. As a commonwealth country, Australia uses British English language rules and spelling. I know that often Australian authors are expected to Americanise their work for the US market but it rarely seems to happen in reverse. I don’t think it’s the differences that are a deterrent to publication so much as the general disinterest of American readers in places outside of their comfort zone.

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I love to hear what you think.