“England and America are two countries separated by the same language!” attributed to George Bernard Shaw, or possibly Oscar Wilde, or purely apocryphal, as its one of those quotes no one is entirely sure about even the QI elves apparently….
U is worth 1 point in Scrabble, and it occurred to me this means that the word colour is worth 1 point more in Britain than it is in America. I know that’s an abstract way, to sum up, the difference between two variants of the same language, but it’s probably an important one. Well in international Scrabble tournaments at any rate. Serious men in cardigans probably debate long into the night, which dictionary to use an adjudicator when the world championships take place. I was assuming there is a Scrabble world championships because there is an elephant polo world championship. Which is proof if it was ever actually needed of humanities ability to make a competition out of anything. BTW care to guess the 2004 world champions of Elephant polo. Scotland…. If anyone can figure out how that happened, let me know…. But putting strange pachyderm sports to one side. It seemed a safe bet that a Scrabble world championship existed when I was first thinking about this post, and it turns out it does indeed.
|a writers tool box….|
So somewhere in the world serious men in cardigans must have met around a pop-up table and debated if colour or color should be the agreed word for the championship. After all, there is no doubt the influence it has on the scores. Perhaps if it takes place in the UK they use the Oxford English Dictionary,, and if it occurs in the US they use a Webster’s dictionary…. but if that’s the case imagine the difference it could make in the world records… Think about it a moment, U may only be worth 1 point, but a Z is worth 10. So you see what you need to realise is that realise is worth 9 fewer points in the UK than realize is worth in the US… And that’s before some smart arse uses it on a triple word score, drops and s on the end and gets the fifty bonus points…
What if it takes place in Nigeria, as it did in 2015 (yes I looked it up, but not going to let facts get in the way). But which dictionary do they use then, and if a UK player takes on a US player …. does the US player have an advantage. Or does it all even out, those 10 point Z’s you can use in more places in American English, against all the 1 point U’s that suddenly have so many more uses in The Queens original variant? So yes, it was a slow day at work, and my mind wondered a little… Regardless, men in cardigans care deeply about these things I have no doubt.
Why is any of this relevant, (except to the men in cardigans)?
Well as I am sure your aware I have published several novels.
What do you mean your not aware of that, it’s not like I have never mentioned it before? The links are at the side of the page. Do you think this blog is just here as entertainment and occasional waffling on about scrabble and elephant polo …
Ahem, sorry, where was I?
Oh yes, as your aware I have published several novels, and like most self-publicists I have done so in my own native language of English. The one with all the U’s all over the place and S’s in realise… I wrote them in English, which is somewhat universal as long as you know when a hood is a bonnet, and a boot is a trunk. The spelling of words, well that’s slightly Tom Ate Toe, Tom Art Toe. And in all honesty, a little confession here, it never occurred to me that I should actually make American additions of my novels with the American English spellings.
Let me say that again, because I doubt I am alone in this. It has never occurred to me to make American English versions of those novels…
I self-publish, which if you have read this blog before I am sure you know, and it’s a common mistake that happens to most if not all self-publishers. I know this because I have read a lot of Indie novels. The American ones are in American, the British ones are in British, and the Europeans ones all depend on which English teacher they had…
Yet it shouldn’t be, because in common with most of my indie author friends who self-publish I want my product to be as good as anything that comes out of a major publishing house. I had Cider Lane reproofed and reissued it to get rid of those annoying typos that crept past the proof-readers and myself that readers spotted, because when you hit a typo it jumps out at you (The first time you read something, not the hundredth like most authors have their own books).
Yet by publishing in America in British English, I am doing the same to all my American readers. As is almost every indie author. Sure I would not change the title of my book from ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone‘ to ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone‘. Because unlike the American publishers of J K Rowlings work I don’t believe Americans are unable to comprehend certain words and their meanings.
Cider Lane, however, is set in Summerset England, where they say Tom Art Toe, and a car had a bonnet and a boot, not a hood and a trunk. So the native vernacular should stay the same, but the spelling of words… that should be another story. After all, all it will take me is a few hours in a word processor set to American English to run through the manuscripts and then fix the typesetting if it needs it.
Hence, while it was a slow day at work, I was thinking about scrabble. And how for some of my readers colour should be worth less in Scrabble, and realise should be worth more. If I, and other British self-publishers, are going to sell our wares to Americans we should make the effort to cater to them. To meet them half way across the pond and change the words to ones that they are familiar with. Likewise, Americans publishing to the British-speaking world should do the same. After all, it’s only common courtesy.
We may be ‘separated by a common language’, as someone said even if no one is quite sure who its was. But we are united by a common Scrabble board, let the men in cardigans argue about which dictionary they use, because as writers we should use both…
Note: I wrote this four years ago, I still haven’t made american editions… It was sadly far more complex than I hoped, and due to the weird way amazon calculate stuff it would have been massively counter productive. So sadly it remains a thing that should be done, not a thing that is.