I had an email over the weekend from Helen, who is a little frustrated at the removal of Australian terms from romance novels set in Australia:
I have a topic to suggest. International heroes, or, false advertising: why are
you labeling him Australian, giving him an American name and calling him a
American cultural imperialism! It drives me crazy. Corrugated iron roofing
is called ‘ripple iron’, properties or stations get called ‘ranches’…
and dear God almighty, a Sheriff? I hope he’s flown in from the USA cos
I’ve never met one in Australia.
Why do editors assume that Aussie authors have to be ‘translated’ for the
US reader to comprehend – and then even in Oz, we have to read the
Americanized version! With the Crocodile Hunter, Curtis Stone and those fake
Aussie steak houses, surely you can cope with the odd unfamiliar word. I’ve
never seen a bowl of ‘grits’ or been to the strangely named ‘homecoming’
but I can cope when my characters encounter them.
Do you reckon we could persuade editors to stop sucking all the flavour out
of books and let authors write with a bit of local lingo? Here’s the
example that ticked me off below: Masters of the Outback – I can’t get over how American the blurb
sounds – but I ‘m sure you could find a sqillion others:
These powerful Australian men are ready to claim their brides! A rugged rancher – Clay has come home to restore his family’s ranch and find a wife. Virginal Caroline seems the perfect choice. And knowing she’s forbidden makes Clay want her even more. A tempting tycoon – Businessman Quade returns to outback town Plenty in search of a bride. Feisty Chantal is everything he’s not looking for. Yet even Quade can’t deny their explosive chemistry! A commanding cop – Spirited new arrival Amy has got under gorgeous Sheriff Angus’s skin. She’s determined to put herself in danger’s path and he’s sworn to protect her. Could that protection turn to passion?
Now, see here, Helen. You’ll drink our Coke and watch our movies about ranchers and sheriffs and you’ll LIKE IT. My cultural imperialism does NOT make my ass look fat. Got that? Just kidding!
Seriously. I thought it was as silly as anyone that the first Harry Potter book was renamed for the American audience, and that words like “boogies” were removed. But over the weekend Hubby and I were talking about how much more I know about Australia, Canada, England, Ireland and New Zealand (for example) merely from speaking with romance readers from those countries.
So imagine my surprise when Helen says in Oz, they don’t use the word “ranch.” I had no idea! I’m all for local flavor, but “stations?” Really? So I asked for more info. I’d only encountered that word once, in a Harlequin Presents (I think) set in a New Zealand sheep station – and I thought “station” referred specifically and only to sheep.
Lol… yep, ‘cattle stations’ or ‘sheep stations’. There’s even an expression “playing for sheep stations”, meaning that people are playing a game or sport too seriously. eg “Jeez mate, lighten up, you’re not playing for sheep stations ya know!” Possibly the word ‘ranch’ might be used nowadays by immigrants or people who are marketing to the USA, or breeding American saddle horses and the like, but it’s definitely not part of the local lingo.
I’ve often wondered if it’s ‘just me’ who gets so frustrated, or if other readers feel the same way. I read a lot of British authors and fortunately they aren’t usually subjected to the same abuse as Australian/New Zealand authors are.
I’m spoiled by reading on a digital device with a dictionary so when I encounter a word I don’t know, even a very old Britishism every now and again, I can look it up with to gestures of one finger (not the middle one, I’m not flipping off my Kindle). I enjoy learning new words and finding out how different English speakers refer to various things – and it doesn’t distract me. If anything it adds another layer to the setting through the language.
I’m not saying one blog entry will change all the ranches to stations and the ripple iron will start showing up as a sound effect in a rainstorm, but does it bug you to know that words are changed for your reading experience, if you’re reading a romance set in Australia for the US audience? Or would the words you don’t know distract and confuse you? Have you encountered this type of language replacement? What do you think?