How to Write British Speaking Characters

Discussion in 'Character Development' started by pensmightierthanthesword, Feb 4, 2017.

  1. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    FYI I'm English and cannot comprehend this thread anymore.

    Think I'll just have a nice cup of tea and wait for it all to blow over.
     
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  2. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    That is a generalisation/slur on Birmingham speech - voiced, and voiced, by many people.
     
  3. plothog

    plothog Contributor Contributor

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    The Birmingham (Brummy) accent is one of the more distinctive. Most English people can recognise that one instantly . Brummie aren't hard to understand, though a lot of people seem to consider it an unpleasant sounding accent.
     
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  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    It is , but like most stereotypes its based on a grain of truth... an awful lot of brummies sound like that ( I went to Uni in crewe which is about halfway from brum to mancland )
     
  5. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    You're right.
     
  6. Poziga

    Poziga Contributor Contributor

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    sorry, what? :)
     
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Scouse (liverpool) is another distinctive one

     
  8. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    @Poziga

    - just games people play, indoors, when they tease each other about 'class.'

    ...



    Or the simplified version:

     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2017
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  9. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Funny what you said about having to soften your accent. The first time I preached, my first year in theological college at Oxford, was at a little church about a mile to the west of Wells, in Somerset. The vicar liked the content of my sermon fine but said I'd have to tone down my American accent or the typical British congregant would have a hard time understanding me. I developed quite a passable Oxbridge accent, to the extent that unless someone from my college outed me I didn't have to worry about being hassled as an American in those places where that was likely to happen. Trouble was, when I returned to the States people thought a) that I was a Brit, or b) that I was talking like that on purpose to prove I was better than anyone else. I wasn't; it had just become a habit.

    It took my beta readers to help me get rid of the Briticisms in my almost-finished novel. It's annoying sometimes: "He rang off" is so much nicer than "He hung up."
     
  10. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    Try goin to the bog come the end of a punk gig in Brum, and tell us it's easy t'understand, you bugger. Never 'eard the like of it, I ain't.

    As for toning down the accent, I live in Latvia (soon to be Japan) and have given up on softening my speech. I'm an English teacher, damnit, and they'll deal wi me 'Ey up's and me velarised Ls come hell or high sodding water.
    #BigUpBurton #MidlandsPride
     
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  11. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Ooh! Ooh! This is a perfect opportunity to ask about something.

    I haven't lived in the UK since 1996, so things may have changed, but is there any manufacturer there that produces and sells jelly (flavoured gelatin) made up in single-serve packaging? Does it have a particular trade name equivalent to "Jell-O"? One of the members of my writing group begins her novel with her American characters visiting (or something! It's a strange premise, but she's making it work) in a British hospital room, and one of them finishes the patient's cup of "Jell-O" [​IMG] and starts making puns and satires on the word, while the other reflects on how they find Jell-O in hospitals everywhere (I told you the premise was strange). I made the writer a comment that I didn't think the UK had pre-packaged jelly, only the flavoured cubes you dissolve and make up yourself, but I could ask.

    So I'm asking.

    Oh, yeah, and in America, "jam" and "jelly" are different. Jam is opaque and has bits of fruit in it, even if they're a lot more mushed-up than with preserves, while jelly is clear and is made with the juice alone.
     
  12. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yep. A London friend told me the about the time the clandestine (non-EU-approved) pig butcher came to his new hobby farm to slaughter his pig. "Now, mate, call the wife and tell her to bring a basin." She does, nice city girl, uni-educated, not expecting a thing. Into the basin goes the blood, and the butcher says, "Woman, stick your arm in there and stir it until it gets solid." Ewwwwww!!!
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
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  13. Adam Kalauz

    Adam Kalauz Member

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    Jeminecku, ak byvaste v Praha, tvoy mangelka ye Ceska? Moya mangelka ye slovenska, alle me byvame v Amsterdam.

    (And sorry for my terrible spelling - I can just about speak Slovak, but I'm spelling phonically!)
     
  14. Adam Kalauz

    Adam Kalauz Member

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    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38830514

    Fourth Picture down!

    [​IMG]

    Chapati is a noun, being a kind of bread.

    The rest is Scottish, written with quite sparkling phonic prose! I can translate but any guesses first?

    Couldn't help but share.
     
  15. plothog

    plothog Contributor Contributor

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    Individual pots of jelly have started hitting our supermarkets in the last couple of years.
    There's a Robinson brand, and a Hartley's brand. As well as Peppa Pig and Thomas the Tank Engine. -All brands which are better known for things which aren't jelly. (Hartley's being better known for Jam in fact), none would make me think of jelly when mentioned.

    So someone eating a pot of jelly in Britain wouldn't be an entirely alien concept. - though I don't know if they've become hospital food, I've only thought of them as kids packed lunch options so far.
     
  16. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    M&S do the best individual jellies. The one with raspberries in it is divine.
     
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  17. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    1/ As @plothog says, we do have jelly in pots[​IMG]; meals in hospitals tend to be done on the "least preparation" principle, so a pot of jelly rather than some jelly made by boiling the kettle, etc., is not at all unlikely - it may not be universal, but SOME hospital somewhere may do it. Nobody's going to categorically be able to say she's got it wrong. But calling it Jell-O? No. We don't have a "have a Coke" brand leader to be the only word on everybody's lips (We talk about "Hoovering" the carpet, no matter the manufacturer) so an American visitor might call it so, but it wouldn't be the name on the package, and it would cause a momentary "You what?" reaction.

    2/ Jam [​IMG]
    and jelly
    upload_2017-2-6_9-53-18.jpeg

    are different here, too.
    although we also have the same product called [​IMG]

    We also have preserves... upload_2017-2-6_9-55-45.jpeg

    and conserves...[​IMG]
    both of which are merely pretentious ways of saying jam!
     
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  18. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Wolverhampton's been a city since 2000, so not exactly "Greater Brum"; although both are part of the Black Country. And while the accent is similar to Brummy, it's not the same. And Gornal Wood is the definitive "thickest" Brummy accent.
     
  19. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh gosh my vision has gone all fuzzy...

    Install a Czech/Slovak keyboard and type with the proper squigglies, c'mon!!! :bigtongue:

    I think I just about made out what you wrote anyway. Firstly, I don't even speak Czech, let alone Slovak - I'm somewhere between A2 and B1 for Czech, which means if pressed, I could make myself understood on the most urgent matters such as, "F-ing door is locked again and I can't get my pushchair out. Here's a nice passerby - heeeeeey help me!!!" (the only part in Czech I'd manage is the "hey help me" part haha) And, secondly, yes, that spelling is terrible :crazy:

    So your wife is Slovak? :-D How did you meet? And yes, my husband's Czech, hence Prague. He likes to say he shipped me into his country like cargo and I like to say I accidentally emigrated :ninja: which is kinda true. When I first agreed to come, I said I'd only stay for 1 year. I've now been here for 6.5 years... :whistle: got married and gave birth here, and most recently bought a flat. In all honesty, I'm not sure I'll ever leave!

    You? What took you to Amsterdam and would you go elsewhere? Back to Belfast, or Slovakia somewhere?
     
  20. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    Thank you. I bookmarked your links. I've seen clips of Jeremy Kyle's show before. I don't really care for him. I don't care for a lot of talk show hosts actually.
     
  21. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Catrin Lewis - I think maybe Hartley's had individual jelly tubs, but I can't be sure. I can't say I ever saw them as a child and I definitely didn't look as an adult. As a child, I compared stuff like this far too much with what I was used to in Hong Kong (I moved to the UK in 1995 - same time you were there!), and individual jelly tubs are extremely popular - like a regular kid's snack - in Hong Kong. You'd get a big bag with all tiny little tubs of all colours inside, and then bigger tubs of jelly "puddings" with fruit cubes in it. The consistency of the Chinese/Japanese stuff is also firmer and sweeter than the European stuff. Anyway, none of this really answers your question sorry... :bigoops: However, that's kinda why I don't remember. To my mind, jelly tubs are so normal that I can't imagine them not existing - except I am not sure I actually ever saw them in England!
     
  22. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    My computer just told me bollocks means testicles. So when British people yell, "Bollocks!" they are actually yelling, "Testicles!"? LOL!

    I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that we American's don't research British phrasing and colloquialisms when writing our stories. You think that now that we have the Internet at our fingertips we could look this stuff up or ask people who are from British speaking countries, but no! I mean I'm researching British phrasing and colloquialisms but to each their own.

    I'm going to ask this and please don't attack me, but I've heard many British speaking people and Australians get angry when someone mentions that Australians are originally from Britain. Is this true? I don't know if Australians are originally from Britain, to be honest. That's what I heard. I mean no harm by asking.
     
  23. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The original white colonists of Australia were mostly British convicts and their warders - this being mentioned doesn't bother the British but the Ausies don't like it. (its a lesser known fact that prior to the war of independence we also had large penal colonies in america - in fact the Australian penal system was set up as a reaction to losing the ability to deport to America.) Of course as with America, Australia has also seen immigration from various other countries since so it is no longer really true to say that in general Ausies are of British extraction.

    Plus of course the aborigines were already there before we colonised, so they get especially pissed off with being told that the Australians are British - that would be like going to an indian reservation and telling them that true Americans are white

    on your other point bollocks means testicles in a literal sense , as in "I've just been kicked in the bollocks" but it also means "bullshit" ie "that's completely untrue you colossal fuckwit" as in "that's a total load of bollocks"

    See also "testiculating" = waving his arms about while talking bollocks
     
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  24. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    Russell Howard is kind of cute, I agree.
     
  25. Viridian

    Viridian Member Supporter

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    I probably wouldn't worry too much about accent, as it's been said many times already in this thread there are so many british accents, some strong some not, and I personally wouldn't bother. However, considering you book is based in America with a British character (am I right in assuming this?) then I think you should definitely stick in a few british colloquialisms and make sure they are specific to the area your character is from IF you're going to say which area your character is from in your book, otherwise I guess you could just use a few generic ones, but use them sparingly (less is more).

    I'm from the north of England (Manchester) but moved to New Zealand 11 years ago and when I speak to my kiwi buddies colloquialisms pop up all the time. Of course I don't realise until they go 'eh?' and I have to explain. Even then they don't really believe me until they watch Corrie (Coronation Street) and someone uses the same term - e.g. myther (pester) or it's a doddle (it's easy), then they are completely amazed and impressed!!!!!

    Also, just as an FYI - I DO use 'Bobs your uncle' - quite often ;)
     

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