General

You Say “Favourite,” She Says “Favorite”

Americans, Americans, Americans. πŸ˜‰ Let’s have some fun. An interesting tweet here the other day from a Canadian writer:

Over the course of the last century, American-English speakers have of course heavily impacted English in media and entertainment, including in literature. That should be no shock. Today there are some 330 million Americans, nearly all of whom speak at least some English, so they are a huge potential audience.

I will always remember what I was told after I revealed in 2013 I was writing Passports and showed the initial draft first to my (English) Mrs., and then to an English woman friend. Having read it, separately they both noticed that I was inadvertently mixing American-English language forms and British-English. At the time, I’d been living here in Britain nearly 15 years, so I was doing it without even realizing – realising – it.

[In the pub garden, The Brocket Arms, Ayot Saint Lawrence, Hertfordshire, England. Photo by me, March 24, 2019.]

Once they pointed that out, I decided to make certain my narrative (in every book) is always in American-English, my native tongue:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

Dialogue, though, is another matter. My rule there is conversation spellings and other localisms reflect the speaker. So Americans speak in American-English:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

And British always speak in British-English:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

Then there are – in my books – the French:

[A famous landmark. In the foreground, a singer of some unidentified nationality was shooting a music video. It is now the front cover of a familiar novel. Photo by me, 1996.]

Obviously since my novels are primarily in English, French are written in English most of the time even if they are described as speaking in French. When they are clearly speaking in English, however, that English is based on how/where the French character may have learned it:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

Then there are times it is necessary to describe a non-fluent speaker battling with our often difficult English language:

[Excerpt from Distances: Atlantic Lives, 1996-1997, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

And occasionally it is also fun to overcook matters deliberately:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

I don’t generally write in accents (they can look and read too stereotypically), but I may write now and then in β€œmuddled” English if I’m making a particular point:

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

There is also the way Americans say “non-English” words. Our tendency towards “flat” pronounciation means our tongues don’t seem to roll around certain accents without some extra effort:

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

And none of this is actually really new between British and Americans in particular; it existed even two centuries ago too:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

We should remember too that this is not just about Americans any longer, of course. There is an even larger country now that has hundreds of millions of native English speakers: India. I will always recall reading some years ago an Indian author pointing out that he believed English is now as Indian a language as is, say, Hindi.

Bringing India into this post is too much for this morning, though. I’ll leave that newer issue to English-speaking Indians. Have a good day, wherever you are… and however you speak English. πŸ™‚