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#1
Old 01-28-2012, 07:03 PM
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Sloppy foreign words/phrases in books

Was reading Stephen King's latest book, and came across the place where he has one of the characters say something in Russian. Except he completely screws the words up (He has the character say to his wife "Pokhoda, cyka", which he translates as "Walk, bitch", except there is no word "Pokhoda" in Russian, it should have been "Eedee" or "Poshla", and "cyka" can be translated as "bitch", but if written in latin latters and not Cyrillic, it should be "suka", and writing it in Cyrillic doesn't make sense since the previous pseudo-Russian word isn't in Cyrillic).

This is not the first time I see it - big time authors, and presumably big-time editors who don't care to do elementary checking on the foreign words they put into the books. Not just Russian - I have seen it with Hebrew and Arabic as well, and I am sure there were places where I didn't catch it because I don't know the language.

Why is that? True, not THAT many Russian-speakers will read King in English, but it's still just sloppy and unprofessional.
#2
Old 01-28-2012, 08:04 PM
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I just came across this with an Italian phrase recently. It was just in a crappy mystery novel, but a big publisher (Fawcett) and it really took me out of the book. I can see it if you're using words in an obscure language, but Russian or Italian?

For "Pokhoda," he probably mean "походи," which his dictionary will have informed him is the imperative of походить. Why he wouldn't make more of an effort to get it right, I can't imagine. Laziness?

ETA: I meant both the correct form and the correct idiom. I don't think Russians say "походи, сука," though Google translate renders it as "hike, bitch."

Last edited by Dr. Drake; 01-28-2012 at 08:05 PM.
#3
Old 01-28-2012, 09:21 PM
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I think its because there aren't really proffreaders anymore. They rely on spell check, which lets the proper spelling of a word trump the use of the word. I'm one of those sort of people who would love to get paid to read books and make red marks to correct mistakes.

I can't do that, but one of the fun things I can do with ebooks is change roll to role for my copy. It satisfies my urge to proof my copy.
#4
Old 01-28-2012, 09:35 PM
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Moving from MPSIMS to CS.
#5
Old 01-29-2012, 01:35 AM
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In "Clear and Present Danger", Clancy had one Israeli soldier say "mazal tov" to another before the latter went out on a mission. Now, "mazal tov" may literally translate as "good luck", but what it means is "congratulations" ("good luck" would be "bihatzlacha"). I think that's the point I started losing respect for Clancy as a writer - if he couldn't get the details right, what good was he? It's not as if I was reading him for his prose.
#6
Old 01-29-2012, 01:47 AM
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I see it with Urdu/Hindi at all times. I have also seen muslim character drop <insert stereotypical phrase here> at the most inopportune moments.
#7
Old 01-29-2012, 01:53 AM
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I'm reading a book by Joseph O'Connor that has an American family in New York pulling Christmas crackers. It's a good book but that's really pulled me out of the narrative. It's just such a basic mistake and I can't believe nobody spotted it.
#8
Old 01-29-2012, 02:00 AM
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Originally Posted by flatlined View Post
I think its because there aren't really proffreaders anymore.
Gaudere’s Law strikes again

Seriously, though... this has been the norm for a long time now. The Japanese used in Clavell's Shogun, for example, was atrocious. I think publishers know that the percentage of people who notice is minimal and as such don't really care.
#9
Old 01-29-2012, 02:02 AM
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
I'm reading a book by Joseph O'Connor that has an American family in New York pulling Christmas crackers. It's a good book but that's really pulled me out of the narrative. It's just such a basic mistake and I can't believe nobody spotted it.
I always had a similar to reaction to the Judge Dredd stories I read. The characters may be American, but they sure act British at times.
#10
Old 01-29-2012, 02:11 AM
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
I'm reading a book by Joseph O'Connor that has an American family in New York pulling Christmas crackers. It's a good book but that's really pulled me out of the narrative. It's just such a basic mistake and I can't believe nobody spotted it.
Do you think those are unheard of in America? It's not common, but it wouldn't be impossible. If the family is in NYC it's even more likely in that great cultural melting pot. We got ours at the Target this year, and find them at various locations each season.

ETA: Most books in English are aimed at the massive amount of people who aren't fluent in any other language.

Last edited by TriPolar; 01-29-2012 at 02:13 AM.
#11
Old 01-29-2012, 02:24 AM
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Do you think those are unheard of in America? It's not common, but it wouldn't be impossible. If the family is in NYC it's even more likely in that great cultural melting pot. We got ours at the Target this year, and find them at various locations each season.
Well fair enough, but their use surely would be pretty unusual. The author doesn't remark on the all-American family's adoption of a foreign tradition, and there's also a non-familial character in the Christmas dinner scene (where they're also eating turkey, which I gather is more a Thanksgiving thing) who doesn't remark on this slightly unusual custom.

Here's another one: a teacher at a US high school recalling a student saying "What good's poetry going to be on a resume, Miss?"

Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't hear a high school student in the States calling their teacher "miss".
#12
Old 01-29-2012, 02:24 AM
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There was a mystery series set in Ireland where they kept referring to the Taioseach or some similar misspelling of Taoiseach. It was repeated in several books; clearly, someone at the publisher had added it manually, but incorrectly, to a dictionary. A pretty obscure word in the US (it means "Prime Minister"), but still.
#13
Old 01-29-2012, 02:36 AM
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
Well fair enough, but their use surely would be pretty unusual. The author doesn't remark on the all-American family's adoption of a foreign tradition, and there's also a non-familial character in the Christmas dinner scene (where they're also eating turkey, which I gather is more a Thanksgiving thing) who doesn't remark on this slightly unusual custom.

Here's another one: a teacher at a US high school recalling a student saying "What good's poetry going to be on a resume, Miss?"

Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't hear a high school student in the States calling their teacher "miss".
Depends which state. But it's more likely the style of Miss Katherine than just Miss. I agree these incongruities would bother someone who knew better. I just didn't know if you were aware that us hillbillies might know what a Christmas Cracker was.

Last edited by TriPolar; 01-29-2012 at 02:36 AM.
#14
Old 01-29-2012, 03:00 AM
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I should mention that the book is set in 1994 too. The state is New York, specifically Manhattan (because all Americans either live there or on in the desert).
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I just didn't know if you were aware that us hillbillies might know what a Christmas Cracker was.
My friend, there's no need to get defensive. I've lived in the US several times, over Christmas too, and have known hundreds of Americans, and nobody I ever met in CT, TX or TN, knew WTF they were. My parents' introduction of their imported crackers to their (university professorial) guests at a Christmas drinks party was met with the puzzlement and childish delight of people who were being introduced to a silly novelty.

Regardless, I think an Irish writer showing an American family indulging in a custom that is widely practised in Ireland but not widely practised in the US, without explaining it, makes him look like he hasn't done his research.

Last edited by jjimm; 01-29-2012 at 03:02 AM.
#15
Old 01-29-2012, 03:54 AM
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
I should mention that the book is set in 1994 too. The state is New York, specifically Manhattan (because all Americans either live there or on in the desert).
Around 1991 I was at Heathrow on a long delay waiting to get home. A young man serving me food at a US theme restaurant asked me where I lived. When I said New York he turned pale (as best as an Englishman can). He couldn't believe anybody would live there with all the murders. I tried to explain the part about living upstate, not in NYC, and how it wasn't all that difficult to avoid being shot in NYC. He didn't seem to be buying it.

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My friend, there's no need to get defensive.
Actually that was more like offensive. No worries. It wasn't serious.

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I've lived in the US several times, over Christmas too, and have known hundreds of Americans, and nobody I ever met in CT, TX or TN, knew WTF they were. My parents' introduction of their imported crackers to their (university professorial) guests at a Christmas drinks party was met with the puzzlement and childish delight of people who were being introduced to a silly novelty.
Ignorance is only slightly unexpected in Connecticut. In Texas and Tennessee I'd be surprised if they knew how to properly use indoor plumbing*. But Christmas Crackers are found everywhere.

Quote:
Regardless, I think an Irish writer showing an American family indulging in a custom that is widely practised in Ireland but not widely practised in the US, without explaining it, makes him look like he hasn't done his research.
Again I agree, except in many cases it makes no difference. In the case of the OP, it's just a matter of translation. Stephen King shouldn't be expected to be fluent in Russian, and the lack of editing has been covered already. But the case you cite, where the scene was so removed from reality, would be disconcerting to me. I assume it was an English language book, so it wouldn't be uncommon to find readers who had a little more knowledge about US culture.


*That's a joke folks. Most people in Tennessee have experienced a flush toilet by now.
#16
Old 01-29-2012, 04:46 AM
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Well in the case of seemingly out of place customs, real life doesn't make perfect sense you know?
People have friends and family who can introduce them to foreign customs and foods and can then adopt them, would you demand an explanation for a family in Mexico city eating lutefisk?
#17
Old 01-29-2012, 04:52 AM
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Well in the case of seemingly out of place customs, real life doesn't make perfect sense you know?
People have friends and family who can introduce them to foreign customs and foods and can then adopt them, would you demand an explanation for a family in Mexico city eating lutefisk?
I'd demand an explanation for anybody eating fish soap.
#18
Old 01-29-2012, 05:02 AM
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I'd demand an explanation for anybody eating fish soap.
LOL!

I am from Texas and love rollmops, they were introduced to me by my dad who came to love them after being introduced to them by my maternal grandmother. I'm sure most people have similar habits and tastes that defy geography.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollmops
#19
Old 01-29-2012, 06:09 AM
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Actually that was more like offensive. No worries. It wasn't serious.
We cool.
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People have friends and family who can introduce them to foreign customs and foods and can then adopt them, would you demand an explanation for a family in Mexico city eating lutefisk?
It's a work of fiction. If someone writes a work of fiction that has a family in Mexico city eating lutefisk, then yes, the reader is going to want to know why.

Now the teacher is talking about how her entire class of high school kids is crazy for the Britpop band Oasis. Now I know Oasis made some headway into the US, and it could be that an entire class of kids in New York is into it, but surely in 1994 it would more likely be Nirvana or some other grunge band that people would have been into - particularly an entire class of them.

Anyway, one minor cultural aberration is OK, but I'm getting a cumulative effect from this book that says "didn't do the research". Which is a shame, because otherwise O'Connor is a fantastic writer.

Last edited by jjimm; 01-29-2012 at 06:11 AM.
#20
Old 01-29-2012, 09:22 AM
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And another one: is it normal for an educated American in New York to refer to old people as "pensioners"?
#21
Old 01-29-2012, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
I'm reading a book by Joseph O'Connor that has an American family in New York pulling Christmas crackers. It's a good book but that's really pulled me out of the narrative. It's just such a basic mistake and I can't believe nobody spotted it.
We pulled crackers at our Christmas dinner last month, and we're American. My sister was hosting; she picked up the tradition from her British ex-husband. She makes us all wear the paper crowns, too.
#22
Old 01-29-2012, 11:58 AM
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And another one: is it normal for an educated American in New York to refer to old people as "pensioners"?
Very unlikely.
#23
Old 01-29-2012, 01:06 PM
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Regardless, I think an Irish writer showing an American family indulging in a custom that is widely practised in Ireland but not widely practised in the US, without explaining it, makes him look like he hasn't done his research.
You know, I might think the same thing- if the book was set anywhere other than NYC, where in addition to people picking up traditions of other ethnic groups, they often hold on to the traditions of one or more of their own ancestries for far longer than those living in other parts of the US. My great-grandparents left Italy somewhere around 1902- my daughter still expects a seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. Possibly while wearing a cheong-sam - although that side of the family emigrated around the same time. And they probably think seafood on Christmas Eve is an American tradition, not an Italian one. I've gotten the impression that in the rest of the US, ethnic traditions are pretty much gone by the third US-born generation.

How exactly does the author explain that these things are not so uncommon in NYC although they may be unknown in the rest of the country? It's really not like explaining why a family in Mexico City is eating lutefisk- its more like explaining why a family in Minnesota is eating lutefisk.
#24
Old 01-29-2012, 01:10 PM
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Of all ethnic traditions, those involving food tend to persist the longest after immigration.

Regarding the Christmas crackers, you see them quite a lot NOW, but I assure you that in the 1990s in America they were truly exceptional. And NYC does contain all of these exceptions, but within a fictional work, if it's jarring and it's not supposed to be jarring, it's bad research, bad writing, or bad edition, or a combination.
#25
Old 01-29-2012, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
Now the teacher is talking about how her entire class of high school kids is crazy for the Britpop band Oasis. Now I know Oasis made some headway into the US, and it could be that an entire class of kids in New York is into it, but surely in 1994 it would more likely be Nirvana or some other grunge band that people would have been into - particularly an entire class of them.
That's the problem with this sort of complaint about a work -- it's based upon your own ignorance. You don't know anything about the events being portrayed and just assume they're wrong. For the record, Oasis was at the top of the singles charts in the US at just about this time (maybe a few months later), while Nirvana was past the peak at the time. And it was far more likely that high school kids were into the new group, not one who hit the charts a few years earlier.

Before your next post on this, I suggest you actually research the matter before making any statements.
#26
Old 01-29-2012, 02:09 PM
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1994 was still early in the US for Oasis. It wasn't until about late 1995/ early 1996 that they really started gaining mainstream traction in the US. "Champagne Supernova," "Don't Look Back in Anger," and "Wonderwall" were all 1996 charters in the US. "What's the Story Morning Glory" was the big album in the US, and that peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 in late February of 1996. While it wouldn't be completely impossible for the scenario presented in the story if the class contained a "tastemaker" group of students that were into Oasis in 1994, it's (in my opinion) rather unlikely in 1994 and would be quite jarring for me.

jjiimm is not off in suggesting a grunge band for that era. Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were doing well, and Nirvana certainly was still going going strong with In Utero (perhaps their best album) and their unplugged disk. At any rate, as a freshman/sophomore in college in 1994, Nirvana was popular, if not a bit mainstream. Oasis would have been dug up by the more music nerd types, like the kids who worked at the college radio station.
#27
Old 01-29-2012, 02:18 PM
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I've seen a couple of American writers recently puting the word 'block' in the mouth of British characters giving directions in a British city.

'Blocks', in that sense, do not exist in Britain.

Last edited by Bilbo1967; 01-29-2012 at 02:20 PM.
#28
Old 01-29-2012, 02:36 PM
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I've seen a couple of American writers recently puting the word 'block' in the mouth of British characters giving directions in a British city.

'Blocks', in that sense, do not exist in Britain.
Really? You don't have cross streets that run between lots and buildings? Or, as a reasonable person might infer, are they just called something else?
#29
Old 01-29-2012, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr. Drake View Post
Of all ethnic traditions, those involving food tend to persist the longest after immigration.

Regarding the Christmas crackers, you see them quite a lot NOW, but I assure you that in the 1990s in America they were truly exceptional. And NYC does contain all of these exceptions, but within a fictional work, if it's jarring and it's not supposed to be jarring, it's bad research, bad writing, or bad edition, or a combination.
Or maybe the person who finds it jarring simply doesn't know much about NYC. I'm sure that someone, somewhere finds it jarring that a character in NYC waits "on line" rather than "in line", but they do. It wouldn't surprise me if Oasis was popular in NYC before they were mainstream. Should the writer just ignore the reality or should he assume that most Americans can't understand that different parts of the country have different customs and will find anything outside of their own experience to be jarring?

I don't find it jarring when a book or a movie describes the whole town turning up at the high school game. I'd find it jarring if the story was set in NYC, but I have no idea if it really happens in Texas, so why would I find it jarring?
#30
Old 01-29-2012, 02:50 PM
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Really? You don't have cross streets that run between lots and buildings? Or, as a reasonable person might infer, are they just called something else?
We have streets, of course, but the vast majority of UK cities are not laid out in a grid pattern. In fact virtually none are.

It seems to me that the concept of a 'block' is only really useful where that grid pattern exists.
#31
Old 01-29-2012, 02:54 PM
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O so many...

One of the worst recent offenders was a shapeshifters novel where one of the villains was Brazilian. He went from making puns in English to not understanding basic sentences; he spoke Spanish with his Mexican minions and his Spanish was clearly written by someone whose primary language was English; his Portuguese was worse than mine.

There was another one which made mistakes mixing English from both sides of the pond. It was a romance; American girl, English guy, took place on both countries. It had details such as a Florida policeman using the word "kerb" or spelling out agency names, yet the author thanked several American friends for their help with vocabulary. My guess is that she asked for some specific words, or used words she remembered hearing her American friends use, rather than having them proofread the "American" sections of the book.

There's this pet peeve of mine, of writing the Hispanic chars adressing any figure of authority as "mi [title]". Mi jefe, mi presidente... it's only done in the military! President or boss are not military titles, damnit. There's mi señor/a (mylord/lady) but again it would be only used in a feudal context - I don't expect to see that in a text set anytime more recent than the 16th century.



A long, long time ago, I was part of a conversation with a guy from Marvel Comics and someone from their Spanish publisher, during the Setmana del Cómic de Barcelona (a Con which ok, doesn't really run for a week like its name says; at the time it lasted five days). The guy from Marvel didn't understand why a comic they'd picked specifically for release during that convention, set during the Spanish Civil War with Wolverine beating the crap out of every National except that short guy with the stupid 'stache, wasn't selling and was generating tons of rolleyes. Gee, I don't know, how well do you think "Asterix beats the crap out of the guys in grey" would sell in the US? One of the things that came up was that their translators always have a problem when there's lines "in Spanish" in the original, as they're usually in something which barely resembles Spanish. Now,

- Frank Castle asking a Colombian drug trafficker in Colombia for "una cigaretta" and calling another one "mi jefe"? Believable.
- Neither Colombian realizing the guy sounds like an American tourist? They must have been dipping into the snow.
- The Portuguese often displayed by Roberto da Costa, or the Spanish of any character supposedly born south of the Rio Grande, or in Spain? About as believable as the previous point.

So, do you correct that or leave it with a "N. del T.: yo no he sido"? (Translator's Note: not my fault)

Last edited by Nava; 01-29-2012 at 02:56 PM.
#32
Old 01-29-2012, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Bilbo1967 View Post
We have streets, of course, but the vast majority of UK cities are not laid out in a grid pattern. In fact virtually none are.

It seems to me that the concept of a 'block' is only really useful where that grid pattern exists.
They're called blocks in Washington DC, and in Boston. The streets there could hardly be called grids. It's just a term used for the arbitrary distance between two cross streets. I think there is some formal definition of a 'city block' that is assumes some common approximate distance, but that would easily confuse someone who is following directions and simply counting the number of cross streets.
#33
Old 01-29-2012, 03:49 PM
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They're called blocks in Washington DC, and in Boston. The streets there could hardly be called grids. It's just a term used for the arbitrary distance between two cross streets. I think there is some formal definition of a 'city block' that is assumes some common approximate distance, but that would easily confuse someone who is following directions and simply counting the number of cross streets.
I think that it's probably true that most British cities are less regularly arranged than US cities. Regardless, my point that the term 'block' is meaningless in the UK stands.
#34
Old 01-29-2012, 03:58 PM
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1994 was still early in the US for Oasis. It wasn't until about late 1995/ early 1996 that they really started gaining mainstream traction in the US. "Champagne Supernova," "Don't Look Back in Anger," and "Wonderwall" were all 1996 charters in the US. "What's the Story Morning Glory" was the big album in the US, and that peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 in late February of 1996. While it wouldn't be completely impossible for the scenario presented in the story if the class contained a "tastemaker" group of students that were into Oasis in 1994, it's (in my opinion) rather unlikely in 1994 and would be quite jarring for me.
Agreed. I graduated from high school in 1995. Nobody was big into Oasis then. Nirvana, sure. Not to mention which, even though they did get some top 40 traction here in the US, they were always considered a bit on the alternative side, IMO. If I read a story in which American mainstream high school students were all huge Oasis fans, I'd lift an eyebrow too. It's just such an odd choice.
#35
Old 01-29-2012, 04:00 PM
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There was a mystery series set in Ireland where they kept referring to the Taioseach or some similar misspelling of Taoiseach. It was repeated in several books; clearly, someone at the publisher had added it manually, but incorrectly, to a dictionary. A pretty obscure word in the US (it means "Prime Minister"), but still.
Given that Gaelic was first written down by someone with only a passing familiarity with letters and how they sound and are assembled, I'm not surprised.
#36
Old 01-29-2012, 04:01 PM
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I think that it's probably true that most British cities are less regularly arranged than US cities. Regardless, my point that the term 'block' is meaningless in the UK stands.
I understand what you mean. Some of our older cities often don't have much of a grid (remember they used to be English cities). But as you go west, the grid structure can be highly regular.
#37
Old 01-29-2012, 04:06 PM
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I'd demand an explanation for anybody eating fish soap.
Lemme see: Fish plus lye? Yep, that would equal fish soap. I'm stealing it.

Rollmops sound great, but the herring doesn't go uneaten long enough to make them.
#38
Old 01-29-2012, 04:08 PM
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How exactly does the author explain that these things are not so uncommon in NYC although they may be unknown in the rest of the country?
I think Chekhov's gun is absolutely in play here. I grew up in a big city, too. I have no trouble believing that any sort of obscure (or approaching obscure) custom might be followed in a city as big as NYC. But IMO, something like this requires some sort of explanation beyond, "It's NYC, there's bound to be somebody who does this!" A sentence or two could have eliminated the awkwardness.
#39
Old 01-29-2012, 04:42 PM
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Now the teacher is talking about how her entire class of high school kids is crazy for the Britpop band Oasis. Now I know Oasis made some headway into the US, and it could be that an entire class of kids in New York is into it, but surely in 1994 it would more likely be Nirvana or some other grunge band that people would have been into - particularly an entire class of them.
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
That's the problem with this sort of complaint about a work -- it's based upon your own ignorance. You don't know anything about the events being portrayed and just assume they're wrong. For the record, Oasis was at the top of the singles charts in the US at just about this time (maybe a few months later), while Nirvana was past the peak at the time. And it was far more likely that high school kids were into the new group, not one who hit the charts a few years earlier.
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
1994 was still early in the US for Oasis. It wasn't until about late 1995/ early 1996 that they really started gaining mainstream traction in the US. "Champagne Supernova," "Don't Look Back in Anger," and "Wonderwall" were all 1996 charters in the US. "What's the Story Morning Glory" was the big album in the US, and that peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 in late February of 1996. While it wouldn't be completely impossible for the scenario presented in the story if the class contained a "tastemaker" group of students that were into Oasis in 1994, it's (in my opinion) rather unlikely in 1994 and would be quite jarring for me.

jjiimm is not off in suggesting a grunge band for that era. Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were doing well, and Nirvana certainly was still going going strong with In Utero (perhaps their best album) and their unplugged disk. At any rate, as a freshman/sophomore in college in 1994, Nirvana was popular, if not a bit mainstream. Oasis would have been dug up by the more music nerd types, like the kids who worked at the college radio station.
I was a teenager in the US in 1994, and it's my recollection that while In Utero wasn't as popular as Nevermind, Nirvana became bigger than ever as soon as Kurt Cobain killed himself (April '94). It would be totally plausible to me that in 1994 a class of high school kids would suddenly decide they loved Nirvana.

As for Oasis, they were popular in the US in the 1990s but it's my recollection that this wasn't until, as pulykamell says, a little later than 1994. 1996 sounds about right to me, and looking at chart positions on Wikipedia I see that Oasis's first album wasn't even released until August of '94. While it eventually went platinum in the US, it never made it above #58 on the Billboard 200. What's the Story Morning Glory (October '95) made it to #4, and Be Here Now (August '97) hit #2. The 1994 singles "Supersonic" and "Live Forever" hit #11 and #2 respectively on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, but I have no memory of hearing either song on the radio at the time and neither went gold in the US. The band didn't have a mainstream US hit single until late '95/early '96 with "Wonderwall" -- which I remember hearing all the time.

What really strikes me as odd about an entire class being crazy for Oasis in 1994 isn't so much the specific band though, it's the idea that an entire class of mid-'90s NYC high school students would all like the same band. If this is a small, not very diverse class then maybe, but otherwise there'd be at least a few kids who preferred rap, R&B, metal, punk, techno, ska, etc. and didn't really care about bands from other genres.
#40
Old 01-29-2012, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Bilbo1967 View Post
I think that it's probably true that most British cities are less regularly arranged than US cities. Regardless, my point that the term 'block' is meaningless in the UK stands.
Attack The Block is a British film.
#41
Old 01-29-2012, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Stratocaster View Post
I think Chekhov's gun is absolutely in play here. I grew up in a big city, too. I have no trouble believing that any sort of obscure (or approaching obscure) custom might be followed in a city as big as NYC. But IMO, something like this requires some sort of explanation beyond, "It's NYC, there's bound to be somebody who does this!" A sentence or two could have eliminated the awkwardness.
A sentence or two might be able to eliminate the awkwardness, or it might increase it. To use a language example ( as in the OP) if a writer has a Sicilian character use "babbo" to mean idiot, did the writer fail to do enough research ( since in standard Italian it means "daddy")? Or should he add a sentence or two ( in a novel) explaining that many Sicilians speak Sicilian in addition to Italian and in Sicilian "babbo" means idiot? Should the writer who has a whole Texas town show up for the high school game explain that this really does happen in Texas, although it's not so common (even unheard of) in other parts of the US ? Those explanations would take me out of the story more than the lack of explanation.
#42
Old 01-29-2012, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by doreen View Post
A sentence or two might be able to eliminate the awkwardness, or it might increase it. To use a language example ( as in the OP) if a writer has a Sicilian character use "babbo" to mean idiot, did the writer fail to do enough research ( since in standard Italian it means "daddy")? Or should he add a sentence or two ( in a novel) explaining that many Sicilians speak Sicilian in addition to Italian and in Sicilian "babbo" means idiot? Should the writer who has a whole Texas town show up for the high school game explain that this really does happen in Texas, although it's not so common (even unheard of) in other parts of the US ? Those explanations would take me out of the story more than the lack of explanation.
You're right, it's much easier for the reader to construct an elaborate scenario for which the book, contrary to common sense, is an exception to prevailing norms that the author didn't want to explain for fear of annoying the reader.
#43
Old 01-29-2012, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by doreen View Post
A sentence or two might be able to eliminate the awkwardness, or it might increase it. To use a language example ( as in the OP) if a writer has a Sicilian character use "babbo" to mean idiot, did the writer fail to do enough research ( since in standard Italian it means "daddy")? Or should he add a sentence or two ( in a novel) explaining that many Sicilians speak Sicilian in addition to Italian and in Sicilian "babbo" means idiot? Should the writer who has a whole Texas town show up for the high school game explain that this really does happen in Texas, although it's not so common (even unheard of) in other parts of the US ? Those explanations would take me out of the story more than the lack of explanation.
This seems like a non sequitur. Those are scenarios that are common in the contexts described. The reader might not know that, and to the extent that such a thing would seem counter-intuitive (as opposed to "exotic"), the writer might well want to set it up a bit.

But that's not what we were discussing. We were discussing something uncommon, but maybe not quite as uncommon in a city as large and diverse as NYC. The fact that something has a probability greater than zero of existing by virtue of the setting being NYC doesn't make it self-explanatory. Some things still feel awkward or incongruous without some set up. Maybe there are black guys living in Brooklyn who speak with a Cockney accent. In fact, I'll bet you there are. But if you introduce such a character in your novel, speaking that dialect with no back story, the reader may well be confused, or wonder if you don't understand in which city you set your story. In any event, the reader is likely to wonder, a la Chekhov's gun, what the significance of the accent is. "It's NYC, surely there are black guys who speak in a Cockney accent living there, no need to explain" won't likely be the immediate reaction.
#44
Old 01-29-2012, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
jjiimm is not off in suggesting a grunge band for that era. Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were doing well, and Nirvana certainly was still going going strong with In Utero (perhaps their best album) and their unplugged disk. At any rate, as a freshman/sophomore in college in 1994, Nirvana was popular, if not a bit mainstream. Oasis would have been dug up by the more music nerd types, like the kids who worked at the college radio station.
I'd have gone with Smashing Pumpkins myself. 1994 is when they started to peak, and they were just "edgy" and pretentious enough to appeal to a bunch of annoying New York high school students.
#45
Old 01-29-2012, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
I'd have gone with Smashing Pumpkins myself. 1994 is when they started to peak, and they were just "edgy" and pretentious enough to appeal to a bunch of annoying New York high school students.
Possibly. I love the Pumpkins, but, as big as they were, I never really found them to be the type of band that appeals to wide swaths of people. I'd also argue that their peak was late 1995/1996, after the release of Mellon Collie and the string of charting singles. However, here in Chicago (their home base), they were certainly well known and got plenty of radio play on the rock stations during the Siamese Dream years, so it's not impossible that they might appeal to New Yorkers during the same timeframe.
#46
Old 01-29-2012, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Stratocaster View Post
But that's not what we were discussing. We were discussing something uncommon, but maybe not quite as uncommon in a city as large and diverse as NYC. The fact that something has a probability greater than zero of existing by virtue of the setting being NYC doesn't make it self-explanatory. Some things still feel awkward or incongruous without some set up. Maybe there are black guys living in Brooklyn who speak with a Cockney accent. In fact, I'll bet you there are. But if you introduce such a character in your novel, speaking that dialect with no back story, the reader may well be confused, or wonder if you don't understand in which city you set your story. In any event, the reader is likely to wonder, a la Chekhov's gun, what the significance of the accent is. "It's NYC, surely there are black guys who speak in a Cockney accent living there, no need to explain" won't likely be the immediate reaction.
I agree that introducing a character with an unusual accent probably requires some backstory - and it's easy enough to explain with a mention of his family in London. And if the book had an entire neighborhood in 1990 NYC going out into the street pulling Christmas crackers, that would probably require explanation. But a single "American" (probably Irish-American) family in NYC pulling Christmas crackers is more like an American (probably Italian ) family in NYC having a seafood dinner on Christmas Eve and it's a lot harder to explain without adding to the awkwardness. I mean, you've pretty much got to either have the non-family guest ask about the Christmas crackers and get an answer like "Aunt so and so's first husband was British and we picked it up from him ", or set it up by saying they pulled Christmas crackers as the family had ever since the great-grandfather came over from Ireland. Unless some plot point depends on the crackers, I might be crazy but I'm going think the aunt or her husband or great-grandpa is Checkov's gun.
#47
Old 01-29-2012, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by doreen View Post
I agree that introducing a character with an unusual accent probably requires some backstory - and it's easy enough to explain with a mention of his family in London. And if the book had an entire neighborhood in 1990 NYC going out into the street pulling Christmas crackers, that would probably require explanation. But a single "American" (probably Irish-American) family in NYC pulling Christmas crackers is more like an American (probably Italian ) family in NYC having a seafood dinner on Christmas Eve and it's a lot harder to explain without adding to the awkwardness. I mean, you've pretty much got to either have the non-family guest ask about the Christmas crackers and get an answer like "Aunt so and so's first husband was British and we picked it up from him " <snip>
That would work for me, that explanation.
"Christmas crackers?" Bob asked.
"Yeah, Aunt Mary's first husband was British and we picked it up from him," said Mrs. Smith.
This may just be one of those YMMV things, but for me, something so uncommon as to seem a possible mistake may need a bit of a set up, and this would be one of them.
#48
Old 01-29-2012, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't hear a high school student in the States calling their teacher "miss".
"Miss" alone I have only heard used by rougher male "youths" to (usually) young, (usually) white, teachers. I was informed (by those teachers) that it was far from a term of genuine respect.

Your examples remind me of another Irish guy, named John Connolly. He's apparently lived in the U.S. for awhile so got things 95% basically correct, but every now and then slipped up fairly egregiously (as these things go, I mean). The first one I caught was when he described someone "seeing [characters Y and Z) "sat on the porch." That's just never been uttered by an American (awaits inevitable contrary claim, but seriously, that's strictly British Isles). Another time someone's car got trashed and he said "I guess I'll have to go hire a car." Americans "rent" cars, nothing else. I was averaging finding 6-10 per book before I stopped (not, I hasten to add, because of the linguistic lapses, but because a series that started out as decent escapist hardboiled action novels quickly degenerated into a bunch of occult-driven plots and motifs, for which I've no use).
#49
Old 01-29-2012, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
The first one I caught was when he described someone "seeing [characters Y and Z) "sat on the porch." That's just never been uttered by an American (awaits inevitable contrary claim, but seriously, that's strictly British Isles).
Happy to accomodate you. 'Sat on the porch' is used in American English both literally and as an idiom. We have porches, and we sit. It also refers to things delivered but not never taken in, or put out and never taken away. This extends to non-physical things as well. A law that is proposed but never voted on might be said to have 'sat on the porch'.

Last edited by TriPolar; 01-29-2012 at 08:13 PM.
#50
Old 01-29-2012, 08:29 PM
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Huerta88, in my last job I had to write in American English and almost invariably I made mistakes with terminology in each course I wrote. There are plenty of Hiberno-English terms that aren't widely understood even in Britain and it's only when they're pointed out that one realises how common these terms are.
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