If you follow Ann Summerville’s blog, Cozy in Texas, then you know she wasn’t born in Texas. She was born in London, lived in California, then made her way to Texas twenty years ago. She writes the Lowenna series and graciously agreed to talk about the English language.
When I first moved to Texas I was shopping in Sears and the sales clerk asked where I was from. When I told her I had moved from England she sighed and said she had travelled extensively, but was concerned with not knowing other languages. She then asked what language they spoke in England. I looked at her for what seemed a full minute trying to judge if she was joking. She wasn’t.
But English, whether written or spoken, can be different, which became even more evident when I started writing my first novel, A Graceful Death.
As the book was based in Cornwall, I wrote it with all the English phrases using words like car park instead of parking lot, windscreen wipers instead of windshield, frock instead of dress, lorry instead of truck – you get the picture. It was when I began to read in front of a critique group that I realized many of the English words and phrases were completely baffling the listeners. I decided to write for an American audience and what resulted was a mixture of English and American English. Hopefully, my English readers won’t be too critical and my American readers will be able to read the story without stopping to try and understand what a bin man (trash collector) or bonnet (car hood) is. Any uncommon words to the American ear, I described or elaborated upon. The word grey was replaced with gray (except Earl Grey tea) and towards was replaced with toward.
Then there’s the punctuation. Again, I used American punctuation. What’s the difference you may ask? In England single quote marks are used and the full stop (period) comes after the quote mark.
And the young sales girl? After explaining that they spoke English in England, she then divulged all the places she had travelled to: East Texas, West Texas and South Texas. Where, apparently, they all spoke English.
Thank you Ann.
Ann Summerville lives with her son, two boisterous dogs and an elusive cat. She is currently working on the third novel in the Lowenna series, Gwinnel Gardens. Her latest novel, The Berton Hotel was published in 2011.
Here's an excerpt from The Berton Hotel
Welcome to Crystal Wells. Lily glanced at the sign, wondering if her great grandmother, Ermenia, had passed here before leaving and if she’d thought about the young daughter she’d left behind. Vanished, without a trace, disappeared into thin air. Lily conjured up all the phrases used when her great grandmother was mentioned.
She’d had three days of driving to think about her decision. But what was the force pushing her toward this desolate town? To solve the mystery of Ermenia’s disappearance, to get away from a disastrous relationship, to advance her career? Lily was still unsure.
The Darth Vadar theme blasted from her bag, and with one hand on the wheel, she fumbled between the lipstick case, receipts, antibacterial gel and credit cards before feeling the smooth mobile phone.
“Stop calling,” Lily yelled into the phone without connecting to the call. She snapped it shut with a finality she did not feel.
As far as she was concerned there were two types of men. Deserters like her father and control freaks like Eric. Lily tossed her phone and it fell amongst the jumble in her bag.
You can find The Berton Hotel on Amazon, in both print and for the Kindle.
Before you zip off to Amazon, though, leave a comment or question for Ann – but type slowly since, well, you know she wasn’t born here. And also, by the magical powers of the Internet, I'm over on Ann's blog today. Drop by and say hi to me, too.
6 months ago