In January this year I found out that Sourcebooks in the US wanted to publish Whisky Charlie Foxtrot. Cue: hysterical screaming! As a writer, my first goal is to create the very best books I can. A close second is to see those books reach as wide an audience as possible, so I am super-excited for my little story to reach readers in the US and I will love those folks at Sourcebooks forever for making it possible.
Though of course the book doesn’t need to be ‘translated’, it turns out some Australian words and phrases are a little bit confusing for stateside readers so part of the editing process has involved working out which Australianisms to ‘Americanise’ and which to leave as is. Since the first part of my book is set in England, this has added an additional layer of complication. Though I have written before (on numerous occasions) about how I am not a fan of editing, I have to confess, this has been a fascinating process.
First of all, Whisky will be getting an extra ‘E’! Yes, my book shall henceforth be known as Whiskey & Charlie. That looks really weird to me right now but I guess I will get used to it.
Let’s Make Out
On certain points I conceded without a fight, so row will become argument, nappy will become diaper, toilet will become bathroom (there are a surprising number of references to toilets in my book), and cubicle will become stall. Letterbox will be replaced by mailbox, lift by elevator, car park by parking lot, nancies by sissies, and ball by prom. Also my book will contain the phrase making out which lends a teen movie vibe to it that I’m weirdly thrilled by.
In one scene from Charlie’s childhood, he learns all the words to Pass the Dutchie. I was shocked to discover Pass the Dutchie was not well-known in the US, only making a brief appearance in the charts (or ‘on the charts’) just outside the top ten. It was a giant smash-hit in the UK, and in hindsight it tickles my funnybone to imagine all those little white kids (myself included) singing in Jamaican accents about smoking pot. Anyway, I digress. The little-known song by Musical Youth will be replaced in the US version by another one-hit wonder: Eye of the Tiger.
A Bollocking on the Oval
Some of the suggestions my editor made didn’t sit right with me. For example, whalloping was suggested as a replacement for bollocking, which to my mind does not have the same ring to it at all. Also I was adamant that oval could not be replaced with track because THEY ARE NOT THE SAME AT ALL. I’m not into footy, and I reject the ridiculous slogan ‘it’s more than a game’ (no, it’s not) but I respect that an oval’s got its own shape and dimensions and can’t be compared to another sports pitch. I was also adamant that shat could not be replaced with defecated. If an Australian bloke said that, he’d undoubtedly get a bollocking from his mates. Or should that be a whalloping from his buddies?
Don’t Come the Raw Prawn with Me, Mate
I can’t believe this phrase is even in my book, actually, but I’m strangely attached to it. One of the things I like about reading books set in other cultures is seeing the different way they express ideas through language and I think my US readers might get a kick out of this one, so I hope it survives the cut.
Done and Dusted
Apparently Americans don’t use the phrase ‘done and dusted’. Pondering the expression, I was curious about its provenance. Is it a baking reference perhaps? Dusted with sugar? Anyway, I’m not quite ‘done and dusted’ yet, but Whiskey & Charlie will be out in the US in April, 2015 and I can’t wait!
Over to you: What are your thoughts on the Americanisation of English and Australian books? Do you think some words and phrases are untranslatable? Should we even try?