Lost in translation.

A bunch of stickybeaks.

A bunch of stickybeaks.

Readers of Baby Farm have commented that my use of the Australian idiom is a cause of constant delight. In Australia we underrate ourselves a lot. Most of the stories we know and love – whether in print or on film – come from other countries. The US and the UK are the main ones. Not surprising since we share a common language.

Well, sort of.

When formatting the ebook version, I was amused to discover that Smashwords refers to Australian English as a ‘dialect’. When I stopped and thought about it, people from ‘Down-under’ have some interesting ways of expressing themselves. It also made me realise that being immersed in your own country puts blinkers on your ears.

For example, one of my writer friends unconsciously used a typical Australian-ism in her recent novel, along with the usual conversion of words like ‘lift’ to ‘elevator’, and ‘chips’ to ‘French fries’ in order to satisfy her American readers.

This is what she wrote: ‘I hopped in the shower.’ To an Aussie, it means ‘I stripped off and quickly got under the shower’. But, like so many of our colloquial phrases, the literal meaning is overlooked because we know the person isn’t hopping about on one leg, naked under a jet of water.

Another favourite of mine is ‘stickybeak’. The word can be used either as a verb or a noun. It means to pry into other people’s business, or a person who does. The woman who drew this unwitting gem to my attention was Canadian. ‘Oh, I just love your word stickybeak,’ she said. ‘Whenever I hear it, I picture a bird with a big hooked beak and yellow pollen stuck on it. Such a perfect analogy.’

In a Skype seminar Mark Coker (founder of Smashwords) was asked whether Australian authors should write in Australian or should they ‘translate’ their work into American to appeal to a broader audience. He replied that Australians should be true to their own language, as long as the meaning is clear from the context.

Thank you, Mark Coker.

I love our quirky colourful slang and would hate to lose it in the quagmire of a global English-speaking community.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie … (you know the rest).


About Debbie Terranova

Debbie Terranova is an Australian author of contemporary and historical fiction. 'The Scarlet Key' published in 2016 is the second Seth VerBeek mystery. The crime-busting reporter is back with a new cast of unforgettable characters and a new puzzle to solve. It's about live, love, death, and tattoos, with a touch of the mystical. 'Baby Farm', her debut novel, is a cozy crime mystery about forced adoptions of the 1970s, and a surrogacy and baby trafficking racket. It is the first of the Seth VerBeek series. Debbie Terranova is a prizewinning author of short stories: 'Mowbray Brothers' about growing up in East Brisbane in the 1920s; and 'Mischief' about reinventing yourself and in the process falling in love ... with an adorable but mischievous cat.
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