While most of my characters are English and my stories are usually set in the UK, my publisher is American, my editor is American, and most of my readers are American (if my crappy sales on Amazon.co.uk are anything to go by.) Early on, my editor suggested (but in no way insisted) that I use American English. It’s never bothered me and not something I feel particularly strongly about, and so I agreed.
I’ve had to become aware of the differences between American English and what we speak back home. It’s not just spelling, like realised and realized, but also actual words. We have lifts, Americans have elevators, we have pavements they have sidewalks. Pubs are bars, cafes are diners, and boots are trunks.
And it goes deeper, to the food we eat and the way we celebrate certain festivals. Halloween for instance is a huge holiday in the US, not so much in the UK. Though that’s changing as we get bombarded by the influences from abroad.
The same with language. I watch so much American TV that I reckon I speak pretty good American now (though I don’t think that works so much the other way around—I don’t think Americans watch quite so much UK TV) and words are being integrated into everyday language all the time. I’ve got to the point when I’m not always sure whether something is “American” or if it’s “English.” Luckily, I have some American crit partners who are happy to point out the errors of my ways (What’s a jumper, Nicola?)
Then this week I got my latest edits in for my third Brazen book, Taking Control. My editor said that I should add some English flavor and could I drop in a few typically English phrases here and there. It’s not that easy…it's a balance because it has to be things the American readers will recognize as British rather than things that make them think… what is she going on about?
I asked my American crit partners and they suggested “bangers and mash” but I just couldn’t fit it into the story. I’m still working on it…
So what do you think? Should we preserve the English language in all its unadulterated glory or would you be quite happy to have your English people riding in elevators or walking on sidewalks?