I’m fascinated by the way English speakers from various cultures use the same words to mean completely different things, sometimes with hilarious results. I have readers around the world so I’m generally conscious of words that are innocent in some places but rude in others, and I try to stay away from the iffy ones.
But sometimes I fail. F’rinstance…
Hubby is an electronics genius, and he’s always repairing and/or inventing things in his mancave. Sometimes there are worrisome whiffs of electrochemical odour that make me wonder whether the air is safe to breathe. So the other day I was talking with a doctor; a knowledgeable and pleasant man with a British accent. And he asked whether we had any potential toxins in our house.
“Solder!” I announced.
In the momentary pause that followed, I realized I’d slipped up. I had forgotten that in Britain, ‘solder’ is pronounced ‘sole-der’ (rhyming with ‘bolder’). In the U.S. and Canada, we pronounce it ‘sodder’. And just after the word launched from my mouth into that instant of silence, I recalled that ‘sod’, ‘sodding’, and its variations are quite rude in Britain. Similar to the F-bomb, according to the online dictionaries.
I hurriedly added, “…from electronics repair” and the doctor replied as though nothing was amiss (and his answer was that we’re probably safe, considering the minimal amount of soldering Hubby does), but there was definitely a thread of amusement in his voice. I’m glad he decided to see the humour!
Considering that Canada actually began as a British colony, it’s surprising how many of our words have diverged in meaning.
Take ‘gas’, for example. Here, it’s fuel for our vehicles. In the U.K. it’s called ‘petrol’ — ‘gas’ is something you get after eating too many beans. I can only imagine the chuckles over there when somebody from this continent bemoans the unfortunate addiction of gas-sniffing.
Then there’s the time-honoured British tradition of smoking fags: To them, a ‘fag’ is a cigarette. Over here, it’s a derogatory word for a homosexual man. Add that to the fact that ‘smoke’ is slang for ‘kill’ in North America, and a casual social practice in the U.K. becomes a criminal act over here.
But the word that came closest to embarrassing me internationally was ‘fanny’. As you may know, the protagonist of my novels wears a waist pouch; commonly known as a ‘fanny pack’ in North America. Here, ‘fanny’ is a semi-polite word meaning ‘bum’ or ‘buttocks’. Over the pond, ‘fanny’ is a very impolite word for female genitals. I’m SO glad I didn’t call it a ‘fanny pack’ in my novels!
And speaking of novels… Book 15’s cover and blurb are finished, woohoo! I’m expecting feedback from one more beta reader, and then I’ll be ready to announce a release date.
Here’s the cover art, with many thanks to all my wonderful blog readers who offered feedback and advice last May. Most people liked the original cover photos, but over half thought the colours and fonts could be more dynamic. So here’s the new look — I hope you like it! (You can see the rest of the updated covers on the Books page.)
Off-duty secret agent Aydan Kelly knows she shouldn’t interfere when her lover finally locates his long-lost sister, but she’s afraid Arnie’s too upset to stay on the right side of the law.
Arnie’s sister has been outed in a social media firestorm, and threats against her escalate to a violent attack. Aydan and Arnie rush to her rescue, only to discover she’s being targeted by a powerful crime lord from her unsavory past. As danger mounts, Aydan realizes Arnie will do anything to save his sister… including murder.
Caught between love and legality, Aydan faces an unthinkable choice: Risk her career and freedom by turning a blind eye to Arnie’s deadly plan, or save the crime lord and condemn Arnie to prison and his sister to death.