Thursday, February 28, 2008

Words With International Flare

The hubby and I have the travel bug bad. When we bought our house ten years ago, we looked in a price range not hampering our travel habit. All our houseplants can last three weeks without watering (or they died long time past). We obviously don’t have pets as travel is our top priority.

Travel is good and bad for writing. The good includes exposure to many different cultures and people. The bad is that… well… I get so exposed that I absorb these different cultures into my life, part of that culture including regional specific words.

I refer to construction as road works. Some of my favorite expressions include Crikey! and Oi! A gutter is an eavestrough. Taxi is transport (picked that one up in Thailand). Giving someone THAT look is called giving cut eye.

I didn’t realize how much lingo I absorbed until a freelance editor looked at my work. She skimmed through the first chapter, and promptly emailed me, asking what country I was targeting. Yep, it was that bad.

Writers have to be especially careful with characters and their dialogue. Although a real life non-Aussie might use crikey (too much), a fictional character can’t. Not without an explanation as to why and how she picked up that expression (and who needs that sort of unnecessary backstory?). The reader will otherwise assume the character is from Australia. Using crikey is a short cut, a cheat, a way to show rather than tell.

I’ve listed some of my faves. What words do you read or use that scream “I’m from another country” to you?

Kimber Chin's first novel Breach Of Trust will be released May 2008 from Champagne Books. She wasn't able to purge all the international flare from Breach Of Trust. The hero, Philippe Lamont, is from France.


writtenwyrdd said...

I say 'dude' a lot. In Maine. I've lost the lingering echoes of Hawaii, the South, and California, but I still say 'dude' and receive funny looks. Deal, people. Just deal.

Kimber Chin said...

Dude. I love that word. It invokes sunshine and the smell of the sea. That alone is worth the strange looks.

I 'cuss a lot in different languages. Like it doesn't count if no one understands the word.