One of the really interesting parts of being an Australian author publishing through an American publisher has been learning to write American English. Having read books by American writers my entire life, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the differences. I mean, I knew not to use Aussie slang like ankle biters, footy, lollies, rellies, chooks or eskies*, and to use American spelling, but every time I got back edits, there would be a few words I needed to translate or even change altogether because they didn’t quite cross the cultural barriers. Some of them really surprised me. I thought it would be fun to share some of them with you today.
- Kitchen bench v kitchen counter
The kitchen counter is pretty commonly called a bench in Australia. Or kitchen benchtop. Apparently, that’s (only) a long chair in the US. I think I caused my editor no end of confusion when I kept having people prepare food on ‘chairs’. Oops.
- Wardrobe v closet v cupboard
A walk-in-wardrobe in my mind is a small extra room attached to a bedroom which is full of shelves and drawers to hang/hold clothes. Picture the one Princess Mia has in Princess Diaries 2. Apparently, that’s a closet in the US, and walk-in-wardrobes only turn up as a doorway to Narnia.
- A ‘sleep-in’ (as a noun)
This one really surprised me because there is no equivalent in the US! In Australia, if you sleep in past when you would usually get up, it’s called a ‘sleep in’ (noun form). Sunday morning sleep ins are pretty common. I ended up having to rewrite a couple of sentences to get around this one.
- ‘The snow’
Another thing that I had to rewrite because there’s no equivalent is the idea of ‘the snow’ as a place. I guess this is because we don’t have quite as much snow in Australia but it’s totally normal to say you’re going on holidays (vacation) to the snow. Or spending a day at the snow. I think we ended up changing this one to ‘the slopes’.
- Biscuits v cookies
This one’s pretty basic (Australian biscuits = US cookies) but I thought I’d put it in here because those of you eagle-eyed readers might have noticed I actually missed one in the edits of Heart of the Princess and a mention of ‘choc chip biscuits’ made it through to the final print. Nooooo! Just proves that, as much as I do my absolute best to ‘think American’ when I’m writing/editing/proofing, I’m still Australian through and through.
Did any of these surprise you? What words have you noticed which are specific to your culture? (Did you notice the biscuit? Ha!)
* young children, rugby league/Australian football, candy, relatives, chickens, insulated container to keep things (usually drinks) cold