Editing of Traitor's knot

Janny Wurts Chat Area: Author's Corner: Editing of Traitor's knot
   By Oracle on Sunday, May 29, 2005 - 08:28 pm: Edit Post

Hi Janny,

I just have a quick query about Traitor's knot. I noticed that there seems to be alot more hyphenated words in this volume than I have ever seen in your books before. Many of the words that were hyphenated seemed unnecessary and actually slowed down my reading as they kept sticking out. Sorry to ask, but I was interested in what you think about this and how much input you have in the final editing process. Fantastic book by the way, it was well worth the wait!

Thankyou :-)

   By Hannah on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 12:49 am: Edit Post


That's an interesting observation! I didn't even really notice. Maybe because I was too busy devouring it as quickly as possible.

Anyhow, I'll let Janny answer for herself. But maybe it had to do with it being a UK release. There are some formatting and spelling differences between UK books and US books... But, then, maybe you're in the UK anyhow, so it was normal format to you.

Oy, it's late. I've been out hunting owls all night (that's not some weird metaphor--very literal), and I can hardly type anyhow. So I'm going to stop while I'm not too far behind.

   By neilw on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 06:57 am: Edit Post

Hmm...I might have been imagining this but, to be picky, I saw "any-one" written and thought it curious...

   By Janny Wurts on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 09:08 am: Edit Post

Traitor's Knot was strictly copyedited to follow British usage. That's why you see so many hyphenations. (any-one made me stumble too, but this was what the British editors told the copyeditor they wanted.)

The US edition for Meisha Merlin was kept in US style and form. As has been the case all through, with Roc and Harpercollins US. (I am, after all, a native and chose to write without the affectation of trying to be something else)

The British editions, in series, shift back and forth, depending who chose to pay for the copyedit, first. If the publisher took from the US text, they tended to keep the US style intact. If they engaged the copyedit, they quite naturally wanted it to match their readers' preference.

   By Hunter on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 10:38 am: Edit Post

US English has been deliberately simplified/dumbed down from the original UK English for a variety of reasons. This meant a lot of punctuation got lost. You also get silly things like cooperation (COOP-er-ATION) rather than co-operation (co-OP-ER-ation) and syntactically incorrect spellings where the double consonants to indicate pronunciation become single. Some genius thought the second consonant was irrelevant, perhaps ignoring that the point of the double consonant was to indicate a short vowel sound, not a long sound. So you get "canceled" (which should be pronounced can-SEELED) rather than the original cancelled (can-SELL-ed). This is all courtesy of a "great" publication called the Chicago Manual of Style which dictates all of these things to save most Americans from having to learn the intricacies of the English language, which is rather full of inconsistencies and irregularities. This style guide also largely dispenses with apostrophes as being too complex and rarely understood by anyone these days. It's hard to disagree with that position but disturbing none-the-less.

Australian English follows UK English much more than US English so this dumbing down is very noticeable to me.. or perhaps I'm just a pedant.

   By Trys on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 11:40 am: Edit Post

I would point out that Noah Webster, creator and publisher of the first American dictionary took great liberties with eliminating and changing spellings in the late 1700's and early 1800's. Things like 'draft' instead of 'draught', 'theater' instead of theatre, 'color' instead of 'colour'. I find it interesting that the last two British spellings are nearly the same as the French from which they are derived.

As to canceled vs cancelled both are acceptable in American spellings.

Perhaps one of the hardest spelling things to keep straight is whether or not to double the 'l' when adding 'ing'. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

You a pedant? Hmmmm..... <grin>


   By Laurence J Johnson on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 12:02 pm: Edit Post

Hello Hunter, your posting is very well crafted!

I concur with it's content!

Now on the subject of punctuation, in my opinion good punctuation adds to the flow of a story; the correct use of grammar also helps.

Cultural differences are fine, but what does ruin an otherwise good story for me, is when the author writes it fit, when what should be written is it fitted, or it fits, or it's a good fit, or a poor fit, etc., skol from Laurence.

   By Miranda on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 12:29 pm: Edit Post

I suppose all you splendid grammar buffs have read 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves'?


   By Trys on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 12:57 pm: Edit Post


Your post on proper grammar is interesting. In 11th grade (oh so many, many years ago) I had a student teacher who taught us about levels of language - Frozen, written, verbal, etc. and how each one should adhere more or less to the 'rules'. While I don't remember much of the details one thing I did learn. Language is fluid and alive. When it ceases to change it's because no one is using it (i.e., Latin) and while one generation may rail against the changes made by the next or the one after that or by a different geographical area, it is inevitable that language will change.

An interesting variation of language that occurs in the Pittsburgh area and has been attributed to German influences is the lack of 'to be' in many of our sentences. We will say something like 'Your room needs cleaned.' when the proper syntax is 'Your room needs to be cleaned.'. We've shortened the number of words required to say this. Language is alive and well in Pittsburgh. :-)


   By Hannah on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 02:01 pm: Edit Post

Wow, thanks Hunter! I had no idea I was such a grammatically-challenged yokel over across the Pond. I'll be sure to confer with a holy British language publication before I further pollute the Internet with this mutated 'English' that was developed over here. And here I thought we were dealing with natural evolution of a language, which never stops and is to be expected. Yes, I am silly! Taking into consideration that 'Englisc' itself is a hodgepodge of more ancient Anglo Saxon, Scandinavian, and Latin, and is obviously greatly unrecognizable from the language that would have been spoken back in the 5th century. Apparently, evolving the language is not wholly an American crime.

'Our' 'silly' 'dumbing down' should be of trifling consequence, considering that in a few centuries the whole map of the English language will be completely changed, and the point will be moot.

Yes, it really is pedantic.

   By Cheryl Detmer on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 02:41 pm: Edit Post

The only thing that bothers me reading is the ou like in colour. I don't know why that is distracting to me but it does bother me because I'm so use to reading in US language. I was surprised that wagon was spelled with two g's in a Robin Hobb UK book. I have the UK version of Traitor's Knot and I love the story and cover but I'm anxious to read it in the US spelling. It's just easier for me to read. I noticed in To Light A Candle by Mercedes Lackey, there is a lot of dashes in her books that I never noticed before. I'm relearning grammar and dashes and everything right now. lol

   By Laurence J Johnson on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 03:36 pm: Edit Post

Hello once again Hunter, this one has certainly heated the blood of our USA., friends!

Some friendly rivalry is a good laugh!

Hello Trys, yes language is constantly changing, but if the English language continues to be abbreviated, then I forsee that future generations will be reduced to communicating with clicks and grunts!

On a slightly more serious note, when my generation were in school, we were taught that it was an achievement to be articulate, we were also taught that proper punctuation and the correct use of grammar would stand us in good stead.

So my conclusion is that we are all victims of circumstance, no matter were we reside on the third rock from the sun!

By the way Trys did you receive the e-mail which I sent to you a few days ago? Skol from Laurence.

   By Hunter on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 06:53 pm: Edit Post


Language does change over time, that's true. I guess where we disagree is that I view the dumbing down of the English language in the US - and the resultant spread via cultural imperialism - as devolution of the language, not evolution. Something is being lost here, and it's not for the better. IMHO.

There are people using Latin. The ridiculous pomp and ceremony in the Vatican recently was all conducted in Latin I believe.

Laurence - getting a reaction from most US people by challenging any of their sacred cows or, perhaps, suggesting that there is someone somewhere else (in whatever passes for a country beyond US borders, even those who have electricity!) who may have actually invented something first and may just be doing something better than in the US.. well, it's not that hard really...

Especially for we Australians with our rather wicked sense of humour when many of those uninitiated with the cutting nature of Australian humour can't tell the difference between what is pompous and forthright and what is a very subtle, but very real, pulling of one's leg.

   By Fergus Hancock on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 07:03 pm: Edit Post

Forgive Hunter. He was taken outside and shot.

We Australians actually love all things American - from grits to Maccas to color. At least you can pronounce 'rolocs' (a bit of English transliteration there). I find the television homogenisation of English - realitytv-speak, if you will- so objectionable, I refuse to watch anything but the government-funded channel in my country (commonly called Aunty, and frequently objected to by the government of the day....I suppose she is a bit too "anti-American" for some). I actually enjoy listening to some attempts at real Australian accents, unlike the twaddle our cousins are subjected to on popular tv.

Otherwise, English has now come to sound so much like Newspeak, I wonder who really is Big Brother.

   By Hunter on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 07:43 pm: Edit Post

"We Australians actually love all things American" - Whose this "we".. ??

"from grits" - yuk (I think this is fried, diced potato thing eaten for breakfast right?)
"to Maccas" - Super Size Me Baby..
" to color." - It should have a "u" in it.. it's at least something to support the French in...

Governments hate our ABC because it's way too lefty for the conservatives but refused to become the mouthpiece of the union movement when Labor were in office. I have pay TV.. Commercial TV stinks in Australia.

   By Fergus Hancock on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 09:52 pm: Edit Post

Hunter..... tongue in cheek!!

I am NOT "anti-American" (though I have been accused of being one). The pop culture swamp we inhabit is our own fault, surely. If that's what the vox populi wants, then that's what it gets!

If all Americans and their works are to be damned, then where will we put 'our' Janny?

And I am an avid ABC and SBS watcher (Aunty and Hairy Armpits to youse foreigners).

   By Hunter on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 10:01 pm: Edit Post

I too am not anti-American. The world would be a very dull place without them to keep us amused. There would be no Simpsons or South Park for example. In talking about stereotypes and nations in general, one does not automatically mean all without exclusion. You have to pick the diamonds from the dross.. And Janny is certainly of the former.

Speaking of the SBS, did you watch the start of the new series of Pizza last night?

Pizza is about a pizza shop called Fat Pizza that sets out to truly offend as many racial, gender and any remaining stereotypes as possible. And it is very, very funny...

   By Oracle on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 10:55 pm: Edit Post

Thanks for the reply Janny!

The reason I asked is that I live in Australia and am an editor myself. I find it interesting it was the UK copyeditor who chose to punctuate in the manner they did... I have always been of the impression that Australian English closely followed UK English but now see that perhaps there is more deviation than I thought. I utilise the Australian Style Manual for Authors, Editors and printers in my work, and the tendency is to use Plain English otherwise known as the 'KISS' principle, or, 'keep it simple, stupid!'I had never noticed this in any of your previous editions, so I am presuming that your publishers have changed their house style for the Australian market.

Thankyou again for your reply, I also had a hard time with seeing any-one, not to mention country-side, carriage-way, table-tops, bone-knife, small-clothes, floor-boards etc... Janny I have read every one of your novels from the time of your first release with the Empire series and am always amazed and entralled by your talent. As such, I will always purchase your books but please, please could you beg the UK editor to ease up on the hyphens for Stormed Fortress?? (ha ha)

Best regards :-)

   By Oracle on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 11:26 pm: Edit Post

I have just noticed something whilst looking at another part of the board.... The release date for Traitor's knot is said to be May 2005 due to delays, but I got my copy as soon as it came out last year??? It was published by Voyager in 2004. Does this mean there is another version of the edition I have missed out on?? I'll cry if I have!

   By Hunter on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 11:42 pm: Edit Post

US release is May 2005. Australian/UK release was Nov 2004.

US release has a different cover and will have an appendix and some other background material..

So I believe.

   By Leonie on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 12:34 am: Edit Post

Hunter : "I too am not anti-American"

And neither am I, but our (Australian) sense of humour is just a little different to the "standard" US variety, and then hence we have the odd cultural misunderstanding. I have fairly vivid memories of watching "The Dream" during the Sydney Olympics and seeing a very puzzled US athlete (Can't remember who it was) doing his best to respond to questions in a serious vein while the presenters were gently (or maybe not so gently) taking the mickey out of the US.......to the complete delight of the audience. I'm afraid most of us just cannot resist the temptation to stir just a little.

I also have a few issues with, as Hunter puts it, "the dumbing down" of the English language and it's resultant spread by "cultural imperialism". Obviously language will change over time - new words are added as our society requires them, different cultures will subtly slant meanings and pronunciations. Let's face it, Australia has taken the cockney art of rhyming slang to a new height. Unfortunately I sometimes feel that "cultural imperialism" can hijack national pride and individualism.

It has been interesting to see facets of Australian language lean towards more and more US style speech patterns - particularly over the last ten to fifteen years. Our accents remain Australian, but it irritates me enormously when children put on false American accents and word intonations to make themselves seem more. (Hopefully you are understanding what I'm saying here and I'm not offending you!)

It also irritates me that even when I change my spell checker in Word to Australian English, it keeps defaulting back to US English. (This of course could have something to do with my level of computer literacy.... :-) )

Loss of language identity in some ways equates to loss of national identity - and I think that national identity is enormously important for any individual.

On another note - "dumbing down" of language reduces the richness of literature - its subtle shadings and delicate tones (and here I am speaking more of the lack of vocabulary that appears to be overtaking us)and the lack of appropriate punctuation is a real issue. Good punctuation changes meanings and shadings enormously and adds so much to what is written.

Anyway, time to hop off yet another hobby horse and get back to the real world.


   By Memory on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 03:59 am: Edit Post

Just like Cheryl - except the opposite way round - I don't like reading books that spell things the opposite way from what I'm used to. Seeing 'color' in a book rips me straight out of the story (as seeing 'colour' does for Cheryl). I'm so glad that Janny's books come in UK editions, as they're such great stories that I'd hate to lose the flow of them just because of spelling. It's just like how you don't notice your own accent, so a book written in the 'tone' of what your used to could believably be set anywhere. If it uses spellings or idioms that immediately place it, to you, somewhere in the real world, then you lose that belief.

When I was younger and used to read Eddings, I remember that Sparhawk always used to say 'neighbor', which made me imagine him as an American!

I think that the only thing to be done is to have British editors edit American texts into UK English, and American editors do the opposite for British books. That way, everyone's happy!

   By neilw on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 06:24 am: Edit Post

Funny how this thread has got lively :-)

Language cannot be controlled even in one country...France tries...IMHO trying to control a language is a waste of time but maybe in a global publishing enviroment there is money to be saved!?! And jobs to be lost I guess...

I am English and a hyphon in the word anyone *is* odd for me. I have been reading for around 30 years and never seen this...and I'm picky enough to remember (even if I do often forget what I ate yesterday and am average at spelling) Looks like a dubious compromise to me and the editor might be making a mistake ;-)

Hyphons are, if I was taught correctly, just an intermediate phase in the word's existence where 2 words eventually become one.

Imagine saving the ink of all those hyphons on each print run. One could print an extra book at no additional expense :-)

"any-one" was not found in the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Any-one also fails the "google test" ;-)

But, any-way, I don't really care; it did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel *at all*. I loved every page.

   By Trys on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 07:54 am: Edit Post


I didn't get your e-mail. Could you try again.


but if the English language continues to be abbreviated, then I forsee that future generations will be reduced to communicating with clicks and grunts!

And so we will have come full circle. :-)



There are people using Latin. The ridiculous pomp and ceremony in the Vatican recently was all conducted in Latin I believe.

Reciting centuries old litanies is not 'using' language. It is not being used on an everyday basis for communication between people.

I don't disagree that language may be devolving. When I watched Ken Burns's Civil War series on PBS and they read letters from simple soldiers to their loves at home, the level of language would have to be considered to be higher than what the average soldier is probably capable of today.

However, language is what is. It changes and that can't be stopped. I, for one, don't see a conspiracy here (fyi, I do see them elsewhere ::smile:: ).


Grits?!!! YUCK!!! :-)


However, grits are "A ground, usually white meal of dried and hulled corn kernels that is boiled and served as a breakfast food or side dish." I think the potato thing you referred to is "hash browns".



US release has a different cover and will have an appendix and some other background material..

And closeup maps or sketches on the pages facing an opening chapter page. If you go to http://home.paravia.com/JannyWurts/Version2/BulletinsReleases.html the first item listed is the UK edition of TK. Further down the page is the US edition with a different cover.


Language cannot be controlled even in one country...France tries

From a show I saw a few years ago, do does Quebec, Canada. They have (had?) laws that limit the use of apostrophes and control the size of English signs.

Any-one isn't accepted in US English either unless the word is broken across a line.

As to posts that ruffle feathers, I would remind that it is very difficult to know that one is joking when one can not hear the joke in the voice or see it in the face (and based on the interview of the American athlete mentioned above, may be difficult even if those things are accessible). So I would ask, to avoid flare-ups, that emoticons be used to express the joke... to avoid misunderstandings.


   By Cheryl Detmer on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 08:07 am: Edit Post

That's why I do my LOL's so you all know when I'm teasing or having fun. I don't think of it as dumping the language though. It's an advancement and progress if anything. Change is always part of life. It's just where you're brought up and what you are comfortable with and a matter of taste for each person. Grits yuck you're right on that Trys. lol lol All of Janny's artwork and writing is beautiful no matter which version.

   By Deborah McNemar on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 09:29 am: Edit Post

Language changes just as fashion does (hemlines and hyphens, sheesh!). We certianly don't speak Olde English anymore, lol. While I agree that the American vocabulary has suffered greatly over the past fifty years, I absolutely hate the term "dumbing down". But that's why we need writers like Janny who use the language to its fullest and give us a reason to whip out the dictionary and broaden our own horizons.

Spelling doesn't bother me when I'm reading. Color or Colour is fine. The hyphens would be worse though and visually disruptive.

And for the record, Grits aren't bad. You just had to grow up eating them to fully appreciate all the condiments on the table ;-}. I've had them with syrup, ketchup, salt and pepper, bacon, cheese and gravy. Not all at the same time, mind you. Think of grits as a blank canvas and you'll do better.

   By Janny Wurts on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 09:56 am: Edit Post

Mumphing about grits....when in Oz they eat VEGEMITE?????

(Janny, who detests BOTH. How culturally devoid of palette...)


I have read so many books, from all walks and styles, no permutation of usage or spelling bothers me a bit....the "style" used for TK in the UK was Oxford English Dictionary...so the copyeditor told me.

The copyedit for Hell's Chasm's UK edition was done by one of my editors, and that one was far more relaxed.

Lots of meanings get lost, spellings change, cultural drift - the "usage" of the word "enormity" and also the word "pleasantry" - the original meanings of these words, strictly put varies widely to a chasm's worth - in books printed today, few writers know these words at ALL and the dictionary has not changed their meaning - and yet, usage on both has drifted enormously.

I often see words that mean ONE THING (slang taken from old nautical or other ancient uses) switched to words that sound the same, but are not the same root - used "interchangeably" - and it usually makes me laugh, rather than put my back up.

More a that's interesting....sort of hmmmm.


I just hate "rules" and a 'stake up the arse' attitude, I guess. Evolving language, except where the depth and variety of expression is narrowning - doesn't get my back up.

   By Cheryl Detmer on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 10:09 am: Edit Post

I tried grits just last week and no thanks. LOL I'm not into hash browns either though. I don't think American language has suffered. It's kids that use slang words and they catch on that changes the language and spelling but the dictionary is the same for spelling the original way. Language does evolve and change and that's good I think. LOL Janny on the grits. I never understood ketchup on eggs either. lol grin grin

   By David Gardner on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 10:46 am: Edit Post

A good example of the "evolution" of English is how "couldn't care less" is morphing into "could care less", which in fact means the complete opposite. :-)

I can't recall ever seeing "any-one" in common usage, but the dictionary does say that "anyone" is often written as two words. So depending on the context, a hyphen could be necessary to disambiguate the "one" from whatever word follows (I can't actually think of an example at the moment).

Vegemite is great! It's just that too many people spread it on too thickly... Or are told by their Australian friends to spread it on too thickly so that they can have a truly memorable first time. (Hohoho). Vegemite is great when it's spread extremely thinly through melted butter on toast.

(brief delurk)

   By Cheryl Detmer on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 10:49 am: Edit Post

You say tomato, I say tomato. lol lol That seemed appropriate to say here. lol I didn't even realize that until was shortened to till. When I started writing, my dad pointed that out to me and I thought I didn't even realize I was doing that. It's just one of those shortened words.

   By Róisín oc on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 11:39 am: Edit Post

If anyone thinks Janny's books are 'dumbed down' by the lack of a few dashes and apostrophes, they really ought to be taken out and subjected to Paravian presence.

Concerned linguists have been trying to stop 'the rot of language' since writing was invented - hasn't worked.

In fact, English has gorged itself on language terms and has over a million terms in its official lexicon. It either poached words from the language it encountered, or invented half a million terms to express concepts like 'small metal widget that helps a type of medical machine, found only in smaller rescue helicopters, remain steady' or to confuse people by using a word to express 'a way to keep paying workers less money for the same amount of work'.

I read they still use the Victorian exclamation 'balderdash!' in the Indian Parliament to negate opinions. Recently, BBC used the term 'sexed up' for the WMD report scandal. I doubt they use 'balderdash' in The Commons these days!


Viva inventiveness!

   By Tom Balogh on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 11:47 am: Edit Post

As an ex-Cambridge (England) English student, I had to put in my oar. 'Any-one'? Not the English I studied and I am really confused as I saw that and assumed it was american-ese. I now wonder if I was right, wrong or just confused.

Although, I would use 'til, not till.

   By Róisín oc on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 11:53 am: Edit Post

'til when? 'til ''til' became till?


   By Cheryl Detmer on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 12:07 pm: Edit Post

Roisin, I'm with you on all that and I never saw Any-one like that either. That is strange to me. It's not here in the states that I've seen. I like that taking them out subjected to Paravian presence. lol

   By Trys on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 12:18 pm: Edit Post


So if I put grits on my plate and add a condiment or just put the condiment on the plate how would I tell the difference in taste? <g,d,rlh>


   By Laurence J Johnson on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 12:55 pm: Edit Post

Hello everyone, what a vital page this has become!

I have laughed so much in the last day or so, my thanks to you all for that, and seperate thanks are due to the instigator, that's our Hunter from down under!

Hello Trys, I sent the e-mail to the address which is shown in your profile, is it correct?

Skol from Laurence.

   By Deborah McNemar on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 01:24 pm: Edit Post


By the thicker, grainier texture, lol. Grits, like haggis, is a cultural thing not to mention and acquired taste...

*makes mental note to try Vegimite*

   By Trys on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 03:05 pm: Edit Post


Latest e-mail came through fine. Must have been a hiccup (or is that hiccough) the first time. :-)


LOL. I tried grits when I made a trip to Atlanta for Dragon*Con in 1995. I think we stopped at a Crackle Barrel in South Carolina for breakfast and tried the sampler platter. All of us being from north (4 from NYC, one from Philly area, and me from Pittsburgh area) none of us really knew what to do with them. I seem to remember trying butter on them.


   By Leonie on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 03:58 pm: Edit Post

I must say that grits sound........ interesting!!! Anything that requires so many different varieties of condiments to be edible makes me wonder why people are eating it in the first place. :-) I suppose it's a bit like chokos - sort of a "filler" food.

On the other hand, Vegemite is delicious!!! Spread thinly on hot, buttered toast - mmmmmmm mmmmmmmm. Time for breakfast - must go and have some.

   By Blue on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 04:09 pm: Edit Post

Restaurants have a tendency to cook grits in huge batches before opening, and let it sit there and congeal...ugh!

I have enjoyed this thread, despite the "Anti-American" vibe. I never once thought the British or Australians posting here were being in any way prejudiced against Americans. But they are right, correct grammar is NOT being taught as thoroughly any more.

There is an obsession with making everyone in the US a mathematician, and little emphasis on teaching proper usage of English. I spent more time in math classes at college than I did in English classes, and yet, I was trying to get a 2 year degree to become an office assistant.

During my last tenure in a community college, a few years back, I took a Business English course, which was the first grammar class I had taken in over 20 years. I was 30 years old at the time.

   By Iris Timm on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 04:54 pm: Edit Post

To those foodies out there who are still trying to defend "grits" here is my favorite link on what they are and why they are sooooooo good (done right that is).

I found myself searching for information to explain them (hominy grits) to a 17 year old French exchange student that was living with us for 3 months a few years ago... whew. That was tough. I found Betty Fussell was the perfect resource.

So what is vegemite anyway?



   By Trys on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 05:35 pm: Edit Post


We have to keep in mind also that the functional illiteracy rate in America is approximately 50% (I don't know what it is in other 'developed' countries). While there appears to be an emphasis on math and science, in fact, the US educational system is failing across the board.


   By Fergus Hancock on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 06:13 pm: Edit Post

Fascinating stream of consciousness in this thread. For the record, my only experience of grits was from the hand of a Tennessee mother who made her own....... and the condiments covered her very large dining table (probably why they were enjoyable). I am still trying world breakfast cuisine..... for example with a Russian friend (anyone ever try 'alys, nothern Russian, or Ukrainian food?).

Vegemite, tho.... gift from God's own country. Mind you, take it easy - it is chock full of vitamins and stuff, but also has heaps of salt.

Now - to thread one's way back on track. Writing fantasy demands different forms of expression - Tolkien's greatest strength (apart from his love of food descriptions and weather, lol) was his ability to place his characters in a cultural setting by careful choice of syntax, vocab and expression. I'm finding a story I am writing challenging - to define thought processes in a genuinely alien race, yet to make their expressions clear and precise, and to prevent them sliding into saying "Yeah" or "Right on" or "Oh, my God".....

How can attractive (ie readable) fantasy characters be created who don't sound like Homer Simpson? Do American audiences appreciate the challenge of thinking 'outside the square' when it comes to English expression? It seems to me that Australian fantasy story readers come from a fairly selective cohort.

   By Hannah on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 08:06 pm: Edit Post

The funniest thing to me about British, and apparently I have learned, Australian HUMOUR is that they think that every other culture under the sun is too backwater to Get It. When, in reality, maybe they're not as funny as they think they are. Or maybe their 'joke' fell flat. Or maybe their 'joke' was really a thinly veiled excuse to be anti-[insert country of choice]. Who knows? (Certainly not I, humble American that I am.)

What really irritates me is uncontrolled sweeping generalizations based on invisible lines on this planet. I go out of my way to avoid being brainwashed by the xenophobic news broadcasts and newspapers. I refuse to think all Brits are stuck-up, boring snobs with bad hygiene, and Australians are dusty, beer-swilling dummies speaking like they have gnats in their teeth, or that all Muslims are towelhead terrorists just waiting for the opportune moment, or Mexicans are impoverished, illiterate crack heads.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I encounter anyone of any other nationality who does not have the patience to cut through the mass-media crap and actually try to understand a person as an individual, and not as a national stereotype.

The person who can't be bothered is the idiot, and the one in for a rude awakening should they ever choose to venture outside their comfort zone.

America is a huge country, and vastly different from corner to corner to heartland. And believe it or not, we are individuals over here. Not the neatly wrapped and bow-tied parodies of Americans you'd see on the Simpsons or South Park. There are very smart people, and there are very... less smart people--as you will find to be the case in any country.

It's difficult, impossible maybe, not to make broad generalizations over the course of discussions such as this board has, it goes without saying. But a sustained overtone of superiority because of the locale of one’s birthplace is what seems absurd to me.

But maybe that's just me.

   By Leonie on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 12:01 am: Edit Post

Vegemite, according to the jar in front of me is a "concentrated yeast extract" and "one of the world's riches known sources of vitamin B".

Basically, it is brownish black, of a stiff consistency, salty and made by Kraft. (It was originally invented in 1923 by someone called Fred Walker).

I love it, but various friends from other countries can't understand how we eat it. Our Romanian friends put it in the category of completely inedible along with licorice - and believe me they have embraced all things Australian with fervour! (Particularly Tim Tams and Pavlova - I know, I know - the New Zealanders like to claim the Pav, but we know better :-) )

I have visited your website about grits, Iris - basically crushed corn is what I understand - either fine or coarse, which is then soaked/cooked to become mushy? Funny, everytime I've read about grits I always pictured them as chunky, crunchy, hashbrowny type things....... Now my mind is picturing something akin to couscous. Am still having trouble with considering them both sweet and savoury and I have just explained this concept to my 11 year old daughter and she nearly spit out her banana while giggling.

Hannah :
"The funniest thing to me about British, and apparently I have learned, Australian HUMOUR is that they think that every other culture under the sun is too backwater to Get It. When, in reality, maybe they're not as funny as they think they are. Or maybe their 'joke' fell flat. Or maybe their 'joke' was really a thinly veiled excuse to be anti-[insert country of choice]. Who knows? (Certainly not I, humble American that I am.)"

I think we're just culturally different in terms of what we are taught is important/funny/serious/essential, which makes for a few interesting international moments. :-) (Like when the NZ prime minister didn't know who John Farnham was....)

"What really irritates me is uncontrolled sweeping generalizations based on invisible lines on this planet. I go out of my way to avoid being brainwashed by the xenophobic news broadcasts and newspapers. I refuse to think all Brits are stuck-up, boring snobs with bad hygiene, and Australians are dusty, beer-swilling dummies speaking like they have gnats in their teeth, or that all Muslims are towelhead terrorists just waiting for the opportune moment, or Mexicans are impoverished, illiterate crack heads."

:-) >Spits a few gnats out, shakes off dust (red) and ditches beer can into bin<

Can't agree more there Hannah. We only know what we see portrayed in media or literature, unless we've either been to another's country or have friends who are not of our own nationality. It certainly is important not to type cast each other and very important to remember that even though the stereotypes exist, we are all, in the end simply human beings.

Hopefully we can enjoy our differences even while poking the odd bit of gentle fun at each other. The ability of any culture to laugh at itself (I think) shows that it truly doesn't take itself too seriously as "the only way". I would hasten to add that the favourite "targets" of Australian humour are not generally other cultures, but usually our own politicians, celebrities and cultural stereotypes. Unfortunately almost none of us can resist poking fun at almost anything - and that IS probably a cultural stereotype. And it gets us into all kinds of trouble - usually completely unintentionally.

   By Blue on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 02:20 am: Edit Post

A phrase I used in an emergency situation produced gales of laughter.

I was just out of high school, working in a fish and chip restaurant. The most exotic accents I had ever been exposed to were my mother's Georgia drawl, and my dad's distinct Czech accent. Anyway, I had a party of folks who were visiting from England, and one of the ladies asked for [what I thought, in progression]

1. Olives
2. Knobs

It turns out she was asking for a knife.

I felt awful, because I was not trying to make fun of her "funny" way of speaking. Out of nowhere, the perfect phrase came:

"Please forgive me. I don't speak the Queen's English that well."

For some reason, the entire table ended up howling with laughter.

I have used that on occasion when I have missed things said to me by other UK influenced folks.

What is so funny about that phrase? Can one of you nice folks "over there" please explain it to me?

   By Memory on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 03:47 am: Edit Post

It's just a very odd thing to say, Blue ;)

If you want to talk about breaking down the language - look at Singapore! I'm continually amused by how my Singaporean friends put things:

"Off the light!"
"No parking lots here, what"
"It's only a small matter. No need to be so drama."

These are some pretty tame examples ;) They miss out words, shorten things and scramble grammar so much it can be very hard for a non-Singaporean to understand! I just find it amusing, though. Singlish is a very creative dialect, using lots of words from Malay and Hokkien. I don't know why, but I see this very differently from people in England not using apostrophes properly...

   By Janny Wurts on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 11:00 am: Edit Post

Trys -- whaddya make of SCRAPPLE?? (What they eat in Pennsylvania instead of vegemite (basically, heavily salted asphalt) or grits (greasy gravel, gray, with pepper)... :-)

Born in Pennsylvainia, but, I hate scrapple, too...

   By Cheryl Detmer on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 12:13 pm: Edit Post

What is scrapple? I haven't heard of that. I'm picky eater and stick to meat and potatoe. lol

   By Cheryl Detmer on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 12:15 pm: Edit Post

Which reminds me that if I ever eat dinner at Janny's table, I have to inspect the ketchup bottles first. lol Must warn my husband of that too. hahahehe

   By Sandtiger on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 12:30 pm: Edit Post

I got a kick over this heading on an english newspaper in China.

"Miss Universe 2005 contestants in ethical dresses"

As to getting lost in translation - I've managed some real goofs myself...

The funniest was when I was at a swim meet in Australia, where one of my friends was competing. Without thinking, I said, "I'll root for you" which here means "to cheer for", and over there means...well, let's not go there.


   By Trys on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 02:08 pm: Edit Post

Scrapple: A mush of ground pork and cornmeal that is set in a mold and then sliced and fried.


Never had scrapple. As a kid we had corn meal mush (polenta) which is essentially scrapple without any meat. After it was cooked it was poured into a loaf pan a refrigerated. It was then sliced, fried and served with butter and maple syrup. I liked it when I got older (teens) but haven't had it in years. I also seem to remember eating it right after it was cooked, with milk and sugar (like cream of wheat).

I think adding pork would probably not work for me. I only like pork certain ways.


   By Leonie on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 03:53 pm: Edit Post

Sandtiger, all I can say is........... ROTFLOL!!!!!

   By Cheryl Detmer on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 06:24 pm: Edit Post

I want to know what it means over there now. I'm lost. lol I can guess though. Scrapple thanks Trys but I'll stick to my fries. lol Sounds interesting though.

   By Hunter on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 11:32 pm: Edit Post

Your friend probably thought you were being very forward.. :-)

Vegemite on toast is good hangover food.. replaces all that B group vitamins the alcohol has decimated..

I'll take my Vegemite over your scrapple any day.. :-)

I was in South East Asia last week. The Miss Universe contest caused quite a stir in that part of the world. Something about having bikini clad women draping themselves over a Buddhist temple for a photo shoot. Some suggestion of sacrilege.. I guess it could be argued that one is worshipped as the temple of spirit and the other the temple of the body? It wouldn't be the temple of the mind with Miss Universe.. I think the sparkle in their eyes is the light shining through the back of their heads.

   By Róisín on Thursday, June 02, 2005 - 11:39 am: Edit Post

'Rooting' in Oz is what Dakar 'caught' our favourite couple er... 'doing' after his vision of the birth of a daughter.


We have Marmite here - same as Vegemite. When I was at UWC, Swaziland, an International Boarding school, a newly arrived American student sat down to breakfast and upon seeing this large jar of a dark brown goey looking sauce in the middle of the table, said 'Cool, chocolate sauce!" Before we could say anything, we watched in a kind of stunned, frozen yet expectant horror, as he spread great big globs of it onto his breakfast toast.

Needless to say, the look on his face, a split second after he had bitten into it, was priceless.

We still laugh about it.

ps: Trys - is there any chance of having a UK English dictionary option to check our spelling? *wink*

   By Róisín on Thursday, June 02, 2005 - 11:48 am: Edit Post

Omigosh - I can't believe the timing of this. I got this in an email today, and I'd thought I'd post it here because it's not too long:


Believe it or not you can read it .... just try reading it as fast as you can and you will amaze yourself and find out what this is all about at the same time.


I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Such a cdonition is arppoiately cllaed Typoglycemia.

Amzanig huh? Yaeh and yuo awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt.

Still grinning about it.... :-)

   By Beth Caudill on Thursday, June 02, 2005 - 11:54 am: Edit Post

There is a load of difference between the food in the North and the food in the South. I too was born in PA. Actually Penn. Dutch country which is different from Pittsburgh too. My favorite food is called Corn Pie. You take a pastry shell add layers of corn, hard boiled egg, salt, pepper and butter. Cover with more pastry. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve with milk covering the pie.

Gritts and Scrapple can both be dropped from the food chain. We won't miss them. There is also a difference in how some foods are cooked. My husband's family (all who live in NC) love to cook their green means to death as well as in either a meat stock or with fatback. I like mine warmed so they are still crunchy. There is a constant source of talk about the differences in food styles in the family.

As for language, there are times I often prefer to see the UK-English version of words. Colour is one of them. For some reason I like it better than Color. I also like to spell Gray with the a instead of the e. However, all my English teachers tried getting me to use the e version. However, I have seen any one spelled as two words before but never as a hyphenated word. That seems a tad out there.

Hey and don't forget the North Yous Guys and the South Ya'll. That's why there are dialects. :-)


   By Trys on Thursday, June 02, 2005 - 12:35 pm: Edit Post


The dictionary came with the software. I seem to remember that it can be edited but there is no option to allow for a choice of dictionary on a user by user basis.


   By Hunter on Thursday, June 02, 2005 - 07:58 pm: Edit Post

Roisin - the key part about the readability exercise that is just as important is that the grammar is actually correct and that the words have all their letters, even if in the wrong order.

If there is one word that should be struck from common usage (I wouldn't say it's part of the language) is "youse".. Youse guys... eek..

If you want to listen to a great abuse of the Australian accent and vernacular (yes, it's possible) get a copy of an episode of Kath and Kim - this is an Australian satire on suburban life in Australia. I think it translates well to the UK.. if you've seen Neighbours, Kath and Kim is almost a satire on this..

   By fhcbandmom on Saturday, June 04, 2005 - 11:03 am: Edit Post

Scrapple - yuck. I grew up in western New York State and moved to Maryland after getting married. I got a part time job at a grocery store stocking the meat dept. There was this grey block of "stuff", the likes of which I had never, ever encountered. I asked the butcher what it was and he told me "Scrapple". "But WHAT is it?", I asked. I was told that it is the "meat" that doesn't make the grade to be sausage! EEEWWWW......

   By Blue on Saturday, June 04, 2005 - 11:38 pm: Edit Post

I was told that it is the "meat" that doesn't make the grade to be sausage!

Ah, known here in the NW as "Mystery Meat."

   By ishmael smith on Monday, June 06, 2005 - 11:07 am: Edit Post

Ok...one more poke a grits and it's outside with your choice of weapons!!!!!

Grits is a corn based item that is heavenly when served hot, salted and with butter...it can be cooked combined with peas to create 'peas 'n' grits; or with corn 'corn 'n' grits'...all Bahamian favourites.

Grits is served in any number of consistencies...i like it firm..hehe

Sooooooo....long live the grits!!!!!!!!!!

   By ishmael smith on Monday, June 06, 2005 - 11:14 am: Edit Post

and oh yeah, we don't use no stinkin' milk...yeck!

grits is added to water and cooked to your consistency then served hot!

   By Trys on Monday, June 06, 2005 - 11:45 am: Edit Post


That sounds a lot like corn meal mush, though what I had in South Carolina was gritty (I figured that's why they were called grits) and apparently made from white corn. Corn meal mush is corn meal cooked until it is no longer gritty (or only slightly gritty).

Different strokes as they say. I like ketchup and mayonnaise on my hamburgers (one on either side of the burger) and friends of mine think I'm nuts. :-)


   By ishmael smith on Monday, June 13, 2005 - 07:22 am: Edit Post

sounds like you know how to each hamburgers! lolol! Corn meal mush or porridge as we call it is different in texture, taste, colour (yellow) and consistency (it is thicker)...i guess you are correct you would have to sample both to apprecitate

   By Aria on Monday, June 20, 2005 - 05:32 am: Edit Post

No matter how many times grits are explained to me I still visualise the grit on my drive. :-O :S I'm not sure if this is good...or bad...

As for vegemite...blah! Sounds like marmite!

Anyway, I also noticed the sheer number of hyphenated words and I'll admit on the first reading it kept taking me out of the novel. Where the copyeditor decided that that was correct English I'm not even going to ask. If I wrote that in my A-level exams I'd be marked down.

However, that aside Traitor's knot was still a brilliant and engrossing novel.

   By Jay_Jay on Monday, June 20, 2005 - 09:15 am: Edit Post

This thread reminds me of the following funny that was posted on this very site after the U.S. election in 2000. Various versions of it were floating around the net, and I have edited this one slightly to include my favourite line, about 'U.S. English'.... :D

London, 8th November 2000. TO the citizens of the United States of America,

Following your failure to elect a candidate as President of the USA to govern yourselves and, by extension, the free world, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume a monarch's duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, please comply with the following acts:

1. Look up "revoke" in a dictionary.
2. Learn at least the first 4 lines of "God save the Queen."
3. Start referring to "soccer" as football.
4. Declare war on Quebec.
5. Begin to learn to speak and spell properly in English, eg.,'neighbour', 'favour'. There is no such thing as 'U.S. English'. We shall inform Microsoft on your behalf.

Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your cooperation and have a jolly good day!

HRH Queen Elizabeth II

   By linda evans on Sunday, September 18, 2005 - 09:28 am: Edit Post

crikey! who would have thought there would be such hubub over the written and spoken english language. a right comical read, to be sure:-)

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