We’re thrilled to be taking part in the Project UKYA blog tour. The tour is running throughout November to promote UKYA books and their authors, which, of course, is what we also like to do. And we’re also thrilled to welcome Non Pratt, author of the forthcoming, eagerly-awaited, Trouble. Cos she’s ace. Over to Non:
Lost in Translation
UK teens are used to reading American books – they must be, given how many American YA books sell so well over here. Many of the American books we read aren’t adapted to our market, either. I certainly feel fairly au fait with American life – I don’t really register the use of ‘Mom’ any more and I’m pretty confident I know what Jello-O and popsicles are. I’ve even been known to call a skip a dumpster in real life. (And get mocked for it.)
So it’s fascinating to see how some UK phrases are changed during American edits. Anyone studying languages will have come across idioms that can’t be translated, but you never really think of them cropping up between UK and US editions – here are some of my favourites:
Taking the piss – obviously Americans are nicer to each other than we are, since they don’t have call to use this phrase.
Strop – much discussion over this one that I’ve used both as a verb (stropping off) and a noun (in a strop). Tantrum sounds too extreme, mood sounds… too passive.
Tosser – which, delightfully, translates perfectly into jerk-off.
CBA – I think it’s probably a fantastic indication of the difference between the UK and the US that the concept of ‘can’t be arsed’ has no equivalent in a land of can-do attitude. I’d applaud Americans, if I could be… er… bothered.
My personal favourite is one that happened to a writer friend of mine when her American editor tried to suggest an alternative for the word ‘gutted’.
“How about eviscerated?”
Sometimes the literal translations just don’t work, do they?
This is why UK readers deserve UKYA. Because English idioms shouldn’t be restricted to Eastenders– they’re an important part of our culture, the way we see ourselves and the way we interact with each other and with the world. US YA may have many great stories to share, but these aren’t told with a UK voice. I can’t see Katniss telling us that she couldn’t be arsed to fight in the arena, or Bella querying why Edward was being such a stroppy bugger and Jacob telling her it’s because he’s a bit of a tosser.
I love our language and I think it’s important to own it. I’d be eviscerated to lose it.