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Unintentional Tittering – by Shelley Bowers of The Writers Bureau

May 19th, 2011

shelleyI was recently asked to write a blog post for a fellow wordsmith from across the pond. So, in preparation for this task, I decided to read through some of his posts and have a general look at what links he has on his site. To my surprise, I came across a link to a blog he subscribes to called ‘Spunk on a Stick’s Tips’. Now as you can imagine, reading this set me off giggling. I know that in the US spunk means attitude, however, in the UK spunk has a very different and rather rude slang meaning – so the image of ‘Spunk on a Stick’ is really quite funny.

This got me thinking about the different meanings of words and the use of slang terms in writing. It would be quite easy to make the locals fall about laughing with a faux pas when writing for overseas markets if you take the following examples as anything to go by!

US Slang

In the US fanny is the term used to mean buttocks, not a slang term for a ladies nether regions as it is in the UK, and suspenders are braces to hold up your trousers not a way to hold up your stockings.

Slang from Down Under

In Australia thongs are flip-fops, not skimpy underwear, a willy is a small windstorm in an outback area, not an informal name for male genitalia and a spunk is how you’d describe someone you thought was attractive. Date is a slang term for your derriere and, quite unbelievably, you can use bastard as a term of endearment!

In New Zealand root is a slang term for sexual intercourse and, in complete opposite to the UK, if someone calls you an egg they think you are an idiot!

Canadian Slang

In Canada making reference to canadian bacon can be a comment on the size of a guy’s manhood and a beaver is a slang name for female genitalia not a large-toothed, dam building rodent. A willy is slang for a $5 bill and, if you say you are going to boot something, the locals might think you are about to vomit!

See what I mean?

So, to make your next fiction masterpiece set in the American deep south realistic or to convince that Australian publisher that you can appeal to his readers, and prevent unintentional tittering, use a slang dictionary as well as a conventional one. And pretty soon you’ll be speaking the local lingo like you’ve lived there all your life!

Shelley has worked for the Writers Bureau for over 5 years and is Editor of E-Zee Writer – the free monthly newsletter packed with hints, tips and advice on getting your work published.

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