SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Need input from UK writers

Discussion started on

I'm ghostwriting a YA adventure fantasy set in Canada.  I have a British character and I want to make his syntax authentic.  He's 44 years old, a sort of mentor to the protagonists, walking the line between suave and geeky. 

I will confess to much ignorance about British culture.  I'm afraid I don't watch much contemporary UK TV or movies, and know I'm using some outdated colloquialisms.  Currently I have him saying things like "jolly good" and "smashing good time" but that's only because I have watched old WWII movies from the 60s with old actors like David Tomlinson and Terry-Thomas, and have seen snippets of Austin Powers, which I know is stupid.  I want his dialogue and word choices to be distinctive from the Canadians in the story, but authentic, as my client intends to market this in the UK as well.  Help me out, UK writers!

Would he refer to the young men in the story as "lads" occasionally?
What would he say instead of "jolly good" and "smashing?"
#1 - July 11, 2013, 08:10 AM
http://www.bryanwfields.com
LUNCHBOX AND THE ALIENS, 2006 Holt; 2009 Square Fish
FROONGA PLANET, 2008 Holt
http://froongafiles.blogspot.com

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region britishisles
Blimey, definitely avoid those kind of phrases. And 'blimey' too!

I'm 41, so very nearly the same age as your man and although I do say 'blimey' and 'bloomin' I think I'm the only person my age to do so!

Lads is originally northern term, I think, although Londoners also use it now. Is this book set in modern times? But also I would also say that men use it to refer to their mates as in "I'm going out with the lads, later," not so much to refer to younger men. They'd probably just say boys if they were a lot younger, or bloke or guy if they're older.

Some things that make UK speak different from Canadian/USA speak are things such as,
I've got, instead of, I have.
I'm finished, instead of, I'm done.
I'll give him a ring, instead of, I'll give him a call.
I need the toilet, instead of, I need to use the bathroom.

To be honest, a lot of the things UK people say as explanations* are the same as for Canadians/Americans. Wow, no way etc. But we'd also say, brilliant, excellent, rather than awesome.

Hope that helps!

*Exclamations. Duh.
#2 - July 11, 2013, 11:53 AM
« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 12:37 PM by Franzilla »

Thanks Franzilla!

The story is set in current times.  I knew those phrases were lame when I wrote them, so I will go and fix them now.
Don't know what part of England this character is from--I suppose it could be London.  I should probably ask my client if he has a preference there.
#3 - July 11, 2013, 12:24 PM
http://www.bryanwfields.com
LUNCHBOX AND THE ALIENS, 2006 Holt; 2009 Square Fish
FROONGA PLANET, 2008 Holt
http://froongafiles.blogspot.com

Liz
Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region indiana
There is a wonderful British English/American English dictionary that would help you with such terms as

Boot = Trunk and words like that which I think would be most likely to set your gent apart from his US counterparts.

I used to use it when reading older British novels. 
#4 - July 11, 2013, 03:15 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

http://www.lizstrawwrites.com/

Member.
Poster Plus
I'd definitely get recent tv shows and movies, and of course books published very recently. I don't think you need many exclamations, but there are definitely plenty of words that vary, and obviously regionally too. loo for bathroom, sussed, advocate, etc etc. I was just watching a show that takes place in northern England and they even said "tea" for dinner.
#5 - July 12, 2013, 11:38 AM
Keith McGowan, www.keithbooks.com

littlelostalien

Guest
Hi!

How long has your British character been in Canada?  My Aunt moved there about 30 years ago and has picked up a lot of Canadian words.  To me, she sounds like she has a Canadian accent as well, but to her friends there she still sounds Scottish.

When I visit Canada, people have commented on my use of the word 'brilliant' to mean something like awesome.  I also had a big misunderstanding once when I asked for a rubber, meaning an eraser, and was given a condom. 

From my experience, British people talk about the weather more often than Canadians when required to make small talk, and are likely to drink more tea and less coffee.  One other difference that I noticed is that Canadians seem to be more willing to travel long distances for a short trip, and indeed to have a different idea about what counts as far away. 

Hope some of that helps!
#6 - July 16, 2013, 11:18 AM

Just watch a 30 minute episode of the British version of 'The Office'. Between David Brent, Gareth and Tim, you'll have a cracking good selection of banter to sample.

Pete  :)
#7 - January 17, 2014, 08:16 PM
Twitter  @petermillett

Tea Drinker Extraordinaire
Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region britishisles
When I first read your post, it made me think of Giles out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He's a Brit mentoring a group of American teens and although he's a bit stuffy, his dialogue is still a far cry from "jolly good" etc. Worth checking out. Also, Dr Who - the most recent ones - may help.

Other than that, as littlelostalien said, Brits are preoccupied with the weather and drinking tea but there are sliding scales of "Britishness" and it depends on your characters background. E.g. to use some extreme examples
- shall we have a spot of tea? = posh
- fancy a cuppa? = lower / working class
- I'll put the kettle on = everyone in between
Unless you want your character to be posh or working class then it's best to stick to "straight" language.

As for alternatives to jolly good and smashing, you can try "good", "great", "excellent", "well done", which all sound quite plain as I'm writing them. Brits generally don't like to show too much enthusiasm so even if we think something is awesome, we generally just smile and nod and say "that's really nice, no, I really like it".

Hope this helps.

P.S. as a former basset hound owner, I have to compliment you on your excellent choice of dog :-)
#8 - January 17, 2014, 11:08 PM
« Last Edit: January 17, 2014, 11:11 PM by Lynda »

Hey Lynda


When did 'fit' take off? Was it a 90's saying?


Pete
#9 - January 17, 2014, 11:32 PM
Twitter  @petermillett

Tea Drinker Extraordinaire
Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region britishisles
In the sense of "quite attractive", you mean? Well, I remember someone saying it to me circa 1995. Alas, never since. :-)
#10 - January 18, 2014, 01:48 AM

No worries! I'm sure some people have never been called fit. :)

#11 - January 18, 2014, 03:25 AM
Twitter  @petermillett

Emeritus
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region newengland
Just a hint for newer posters...it's always a good idea to check the date that a post was made. This thread was started back in July 2013, so there's a good chance the original poster is probably past needing this info. :)
#12 - January 18, 2014, 07:37 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.