Friday, February 15, 2008

permanently defiled

Lots and lots of you are sending me messages saying things like

I'm sure loads of people are sending you this link:

about Alan Moore.

It made me smile!


And it made me smile too.

We'll close the polls on the Which Free Book Vote tomorrow, but the final results of the vote are, I think, at this stage, predictable, considering they took on this pattern by the time the first hundred people had voted, and have only wavered by a percentage point here and there since. As you can see here, we're now pushing 26,000 votes, and the pattern hasn't changed. American Gods sits in the lead with 28% of the vote, Neverwhere has 21% of the vote, the three short story collections have about 28% of the vote between them, trailed by Stardust at 9% and Anansi Boys and Coraline at 7% each.

(Interesting, as Harper Collins would have gone for Stardust, and I really didn't know which to put up but would have expected Smoke and Mirrors to be very high on the list.)

I am enjoying the author's preferred text version of Neverwhere on my iPod. Here it is surrounded by British words and British accents from various BBC podcasts (including the Archers) so any Americanisms stand out, such as Richard Mayhew's use of the word "hooker". You are too good with words for this to be a mistake so what was the thinking in using Americanisms in a book that is otherwise very English, and proud of it?

You're too kind, but, honestly, after 16 years out here, as Sherlock Holmes said when chided by Watson for an Americanism, "my well of English seems to be permanently defiled".

On Neverwhere (which I'd started writing before ever I came to America) I suspect the words that are a problem are either:

a) used mostly because they're words used in London too. Take "hooker". A quick google of the Guardian website threw up the following passage from The Guardian,

Thus encouraged, the media have followed suit. Everywhere in the past week, reporters referred to "working girls" - that is, when they were not describing the women as simply "girls" or "vice girls" or "hookers", as in the Mirror's "Hooker No 2 Found Dead", or "tarts", courtesy of the Telegraph's Simon Heffer.

along with about 3000 other uses of the word "hooker" or "hookers" by Guardian writers, many of which were talking about Rugby players, some of which were talking about people named Hooker, and the rest of which were all using the word to describe sex workers (often foreign or at least exotic). It may be an Americanism, but it's one that successfully crossed the Atlantic.

or sometimes it may be that,

b) the Neverwhere audio edition was recorded by Harper Collins from the edition of their text, which contains "sidewalks" rather than "pavements" (a pavement in the US means something else, not the thing on the side of the road you walk along) and a few things like that. If you read the Hodder Headline UK edition of Neverwhere while listening to the audio recording you may well find a word here or there that's different, and they may, in some cases, be the words that trouble you.

(Oddly enough, I wrote Chapter One of The Graveyard Book using American idioms -- "cribs" and "diapers" rather than "cots" and "nappies" -- as it was going to be read by my US publisher first, and then felt weird, so in the following chapters I went back to writing it all in UK English as it's set in the UK, and we'll fix things in the copyedit.)

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