Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Language Differences in Stories

August 24, 2021
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My current read is My Ghosts by Mary Swan, the book I found in a small bookstore while traveling. I am enjoying the author’s style and get a real sense of the main protagonist and her plight. It is of particular interest to me as I too emigrated. Getting to know the customs, language and manner of another country is a remarkable journey for anyone. The novel character’s are from Scotland and travel to Toronto, Canada, while I was from England and came to Edmonton, Canada. You might think that there could be no language differences, but you would be wrong. For example, in England the front of a car is a bonnet but in Canada a hood, or the rear is a boot but here a trunk. I know a sidewalk as a pavement and a wrench as a spanner. This last item puzzled my Canadian work colleagues, when I first asked for one, but when I described it, I was informed the item was indeed a wrench not a spanner.

Languages are a combination of settlers and native inhabitants own language, which is assimilated into common use over generations. Accents are closely related to specific areas, where the majority of inhabitants are from a common location that influences dialect development. This can be from invasions, an influx of settlers or workers to the area and in modern times the use of slang has become incorporated. Another influence is class, where an upper class person will speak differently from a lower class person. It is the influence of their peers that affects their accent.

While writing a story, a writer has to be conscious of the dialect of an area they are writing about or indeed the origins of the character. I find no problem in writing English dialects and accents as I have known them for most of my life. However, as I write my Canadian detective series, I am conscious of word usage and slang. I have to check with my author friends as to the names of certain things. Once example is I use dado rail in a paragraph, but no-one knew what it was until I described it. Then it was clear the word I needed to use was chair rail.

Some author’s have a ‘key’ at the back of their fiction books, most commonly found in fantasy stories. However, I am sure that most readers can understand the ‘new’ words due their context within a sentence or paragraph and the repeated use. Obviously, we are used to a glossary in a non-fiction book, whil ewe study a subject.

Have you read a book with noticeable language differences to your own?

Did you find it easy to read or puzzling?

Was there a glossary at the back of the book? Did it hinder your reading or help?

2 Comments

  1. Here in the US, different terms are used in different regions. On the East Coast, Boston area, they call a drinking fountain a bubbler and a park a common. These are only two of many examples throughout the states.

    Liked by 1 person

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