Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes May 29, 2014 - 9:02am

Totally selfish question to begin with. 

My current WIP plays with a cultural meld. My protagonist grew up in Trinidad and Ireland-- and I'm trying to get the details right. I've done internet research, but that can go only so far. I'll be asking elsewhere, but this is a diverse writing community and I thought I might have luck with finding answers.

If not, I can at least hope a general discussion of slang, dialect, regionalisms, and all that could spring from it. 

I used the word manky to describe a run-down discount store. Is the word common/acceptable? What about acting the maggot? pissed up? craic? 

I used the word "buss" or the phrase "buss it" to mean--leave, get on with it, get going, pick up and go. Is this common/acceptable? I've also seen some definitions tied up with sex, but I don't know if that's the urban dictionary syndrome or not. I don't want to use the word if its primary connotation is sexual. 

Obzokee is another. I've used it to describe something twisted and awkward...but in a horrifying way. 

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So, to move beyond the selfish... How do you handle slang and regionalisms? Does it just flow naturally or are they carefully considered? Do you have favorite resources for terms, etc.? 

 

 

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore May 29, 2014 - 9:10am

In such instances, I'll use them often enough that they're obviously intentional, lending more authority to it. If you just slip one or two in, you'll likely create the opposite effect. I also try to provide context around the phrases so their meanings are clear without sending readers scrambling for the Google.

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes May 29, 2014 - 9:17am

That's what I tried to do, so that's good to know. It makes me feel better about it.

I wanted the words to seem natural to her--to the way she thinks and feels, but if they are inappropriate or jar people out of reading it I don't think it's worth it. Still, I love interesting phrases, words, and slang, so the temptation remains. 

 

SRead's picture
SRead from Colorado is reading Stories May 29, 2014 - 10:09am

Hi Wendy!

For some specific feedback (since I read the WIP), I think you did a really good job with the context. Even though I didn't know all of the phrases going into the story, the only word I had to look up was the Obzokee you mentioned. And it was a pretty fantastic word, and I remember being tickled to learn it. I'm sure you're allowed one of those. :)

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes May 29, 2014 - 10:16am

Cool, Sarah! I appreciate it. I've had a couple questions about the words, asking if I had beta readers from Ireland and the Caribbean. I'm trying to cover more bases and probably feeling angsty. Heh. I like to fool with that kind of thing in general, but I don't want to step in it, you know. 

 

Robert.B's picture
Robert.B from Northern Ireland is reading The Last of the Savages By Jay McInerney May 29, 2014 - 10:47am

Manky would definitely fit with the description of a rundown discount store. When using acting the maggot you'd be referring to someone acting like an idiot or a prick. I think you mean 'Piss Up' instead of pissed up which refers to a drinking session. Craic would be used in pretty much every part of Ireland but it can mean different things depending on how you use it like if someone asks 'What's the craic?' it can mean 'how are you?' or if say a night out was described as 'great craic' it would mean it was alot of fun.

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes May 29, 2014 - 11:21am

Thanks so much, Robert! And yeah, I meant piss up. Better fix that.

Happy to know I got the rest. 

Much appreciated!

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami May 29, 2014 - 12:23pm

I make up specific slang that aids with the world building. I create a dictionary of the terms with their definition, so I can reference it even if my short fiction emphasizes theme and plot over world building.

Non-invasive world building is my goal. SF or Fantasy for the Contemporary reader.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Tana French! May 30, 2014 - 1:47am

"Piss up" if you want to refer to a specific drinking session, but also "pissed up" is used to refer to someone who is drunk ("She's totally pissed up") or going to get drunk ("I'm going out to get pissed up") although that may be an England slang, rather than Ireland?

Your use of "manky" is fine :)

Robert.B's picture
Robert.B from Northern Ireland is reading The Last of the Savages By Jay McInerney May 30, 2014 - 1:49am

Pissed up isn't a term I've heard used in Ireland but there's a lot of different slang in different areas so it could be used in some area of Ireland but not from what I've heard living in the midlands/Northern Ireland/Dublin.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. May 30, 2014 - 5:43am

Like any word/term, if the reader can infer the meaning using the context it's used in, then it's great.  I love hearing new/unfamiliar phrases in fiction and non-fiction.  It makes it more powerful if it is in dialogue for me, because then I know how to use it in a spoken sentence.

Just be careful not to define the words directly after they are used.  That was a practice in fiction in the 80s (I think), but it has fallen out of favor in modern fiction.

Unless the story is focused on strange words, of course.  Then it's really interesting in a lesson on how people talk.  I read a story (can't remember it now) where every time a person talked, the narrator would translate it to standard talk so that the reader could understand.  It was a pretty funny story.