How to Write British Speaking Characters

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

  1. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    Speaking of Australia, some people may know that 'fag' is British slang term for cigarette.

    In Australia, Durex is a brand of sticky tape. In England, it's a brand of condom.
     
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  2. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    Depends. When I'm yelling bollocks, I'm normally actually yelling shitfuckcuntbastard in a room that also contains my mother, so I have to modify the pronunciation.

    As @big soft moose said, the original white settlers were UK convicts. One of our primary reasons for building an empire was to have somewhere to send all the people we didn't like.
     
  3. plothog

    plothog Contributor Contributor

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    One thing that's long fascinated me is how many regional words there are for a"bread roll" across the UK.

    For example in Nottingham we call it a "cob". and my friends from Warwickshire and Coventry call it a "batch".
    In other regions they're called teacakes , stotties, barm cakes, and others I forget.

    Everywhere in the country understands roll of course.
    Cambridge is boring and just calls them rolls. :(
     
  4. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    I know in certain parts of the United States they call soda pop "soda", "coke", or just "pop". In New York, I believe they call submarine sandwiches "grinders". Some places call them "hoagies". I remember my parents talking about ordering a pizza and my mom saying, "Honey, would you like me to order a pie?" I just call it a pizza or a "delectable doughy grease ridden pepperoni cheesecake" but that's just me. There are these sandwiches made out of pita bread that is really good called gyros. I read online that gyros are considered a Greek dish. Do they have gyros in British speaking countries?

    My father (not sure about my mother) has Italian in him. He was the one who usually cooked in the house. The one thing I noticed about New York food and my dad's food is New Yorkers like to spice up their food. I'm the same way. I use meat tenderizer on my hamburgers with some pepper. I use other spices too. I buy spaghetti sauce from the store and put a dash of onion powder and pepper in it. My mom taught me to use onion powder in my spaghetti sauce. Now my parents never taught me to make meatloaf, only to put mayonnaise (I use two tablespoons) and cheese (I use a lot of cheese) into the mixture. I also learned how to make homemade mash potatoes from my parents. Sorry I'm getting off subject talking about food now.
     
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  5. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    1. Mention in the narration that they have British accents.
    2. Use British spelling for their dialogue.
    3. Research British terms and sprinkle them in their dialogue.

    Hope this helps, although my advice was probably the obvious.
     
  6. plothog

    plothog Contributor Contributor

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    I've never heard of gyros - I just googled them and they seem to be similar to Doner Kebabs, (Very common Greek and Turkish takeaway food in the UK.)

    "Soda" is considered an Americanism over here. We mostly call it pop or fizzy drink.
    Coke is what we call Coca Cola, calling all pop "cola" would be confusing.
     
  7. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    I had to look up what you meant by takeaway food. We say takeout.
     
  8. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    This reminds me of "bunfight" as a term for an overcrowded reception. It's even funnier to imagine when the occasion celebrates the Great and the Good.
     
  9. Adam Kalauz

    Adam Kalauz Member

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    Prague is an amazing city, I completely understand why you're staying there. Wifey studied there for 4 years, and is in love with it, we visit regularly! If you've ever been to Belfast, you'll see there's just no comparison, in terms of weather, people, terrorist-threat, and price of beer, Prague (and / or Slovakia) wins every single competition.

    We met in Amsterdam, and it's beautiful, but still love Prague and all of Slovakia. We're just about to have our first kid (and Amsterdam's great for push-chairs, since it's flat flat flat).

    The plan is to try and get a few years in Singapore, (finding the right job) and then settle in the beautiful Slovakian countryside! But best made plans etc etc...

    So cool to meet someone who has a passion for Czech culture here!
     
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  10. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think it matters which area your character is from; I do think it matters which area your colloquialisms are from. e.g., our neighbours, from Glasgow, talked about "getting my messages" = "going shopping". Also, in Glasgow they don't have take-aways OR takeouts; they have carry-outs! I've never heard that from anywhere else. You can't just mix and match cockney rhyming slang with Zummerzet "Ooh-Arrrr". And a cockney will be much more direct in speech than, say, a farmer from Wales...actual dialogue:

    "Got any water, mate?" Cockney coach driver explaining to a local that his omnibus had run out, and would said local be able to render assistance.
    "We have to pay water rates around here, you know." Local farmer sarcastically, perceiving the coach driver as being an unmannered, demanding oaf, who had never learnt to say please and thank you when asking for help.
    Exit cockney coach driver, believing that the Welsh are tight-fisted, won't even share their water (and they've got so much of it!) with you.

    I like @rktho 's idea of specifically using British spellings when your Brit is speaking.
     
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  11. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    A mate of mine is from Wolverhampton, but now teaches primary school in Manchester.

    Apparently when she started teaching her first class, the kids let her talk for a solid five minutes, before one of them put his hand up and said "Miss, is there summat wrong with you?"

    They all genuinely just thought she was a bit slow!
    Yes - BUT you'd only generally specifically get "gyros" if you were going to a greek place. Generally, people would refer to them as a doner kebab.

    The two are pretty much the same dish - though a doner kebab tends to involve chilli sauce, whereas a gyro doesn't. Greece and Turkey have a lot of dishes in common, since they've had a lot of shared history over the millennia (being parts of the same empire on several occasions), but in the UK the Turkish version is more well known. If someone saw a person eating a gyro and was asked what it was, the likelihood is they'd just call it a kebab.

    I'd imagine the Greek version is much more well known in the States due to the number of Greek-owned diners in the mid-20th century popularising food like gyros and souvlaki in ways that didn't happen in the UK.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
  12. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    Britain refers to the landmass which comprises of England, Scotland and Wales, so to say 'British speaking countries' is kinda redundant.
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Dialogue should use the same spelling as the narration, and both should use the spelling appropriate for the market. Word choice should reflect the character; spelling should not, unless you're reproducing something like a note that the character actually wrote.

    (There could be rare exceptions, like, "The British pronounce the extra syllable in aluminium!" but those would IMO be rare.)
     
  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm fair to middling sure that the following is a perfectly plausible conversation in parts of the American South:

    Waitress: "What kind of coke do you want?"
    Customer: "Coke."
    Other Customer: "Dr. Pepper."
     
  15. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    Yes, but sub-text would be strong with this one.

    [oh, what do I know?]

    'What kind of shit do you want?' said the waitress. Morbidly obese, she wore a plastic piggy nose. It characterised the 'joint,' so-called.

    'Give me shit,' said the customer, eyes to the telephone held in his palm.

    'I want shits, with sugar on top of your shits,' said his companion squeezed across the table.

    'You guys want straws?' said the waitress, 'regular, large or the twirly tail?'
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
  16. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    Thank you all for leading me on the right path. I never considered the multiple regions of the United Kingdom. I've been listening to podcasts from the BBC News. It's enjoyable listening to the BBC Global News podcast. I like knowing what's going on outside the bubble of my own little bit of land.

    I have already started my research for this character. I checked out a book from the library called How to Speak Brit: The Quintessential Guide the King's English, Cockney Slang, and Other Flummoxing British Phrases by Christopher J. Moore. I'm considering buying the books Anglotopia's Dictionary of British English: British Slang from A to Zed by Jonathan Thomas, The UK to USA Dictionary British English vs. American English by Claudine Dervaes, and Stuff Brits Like: A Guide to What's Great About Britain by Fraser McAlpine. I want to read and watch as much as I can.
     
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  17. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    See, I think the spelling should be appropriate for the character. If the narration is from a British character, s/he would be noticing colours. An American character would be noticing colors.

    I write for the US market but I use UK spellings. If I included a POV character from the US, I would use US spellings in their narration.
     
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  18. Poziga

    Poziga Contributor Contributor

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    @Tenderiser that's what I do. One of my characters is from the US (North Carolina) and studies in Notts, so it's double work since I'm not neither British nor American. I have to be attentive to all how they speak. :D
     
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  19. Marc Arrows

    Marc Arrows New Member

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    The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett and The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle are great sources for both standard British and "posh" British depending on if you want to create a story about.
     
  20. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    I have to read the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels, @Marc Arrows. Didn't he write like forty of those books? I have to look that up.
     
  21. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    upload_2017-2-19_10-54-41.jpeg upload_2017-2-19_10-55-14.jpeg upload_2017-2-19_10-55-47.jpeg I would start with the classic trio, work your way up.
     
  22. Poziga

    Poziga Contributor Contributor

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    This one's quite nice. There's a lot more, of course. :)

    a3qjXN5_700b.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 23, 2017
  23. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    A good list.

    I was scratching to remember where we use 'faucet.' I'm sure there's an English meaning, maybe an industrial tap? Anyway, the picture for 'dustman' is kind of whack, we call that 'wife' or the American 'partner,' but s'pose dustman is becoming archaic, the way of blackboard. As for calling a 'waistcoat' a 'vest,' how can that be true? As one of the few remaining vest-wearers in the UK, this would bring me to screams:

    'No sir, my vest lies 'UNDER' my shirt, and you sir, you are a bloody fool, sir...'

    ...

    Actually men don't wear vests as underwear anymore, not so much. Really this would be something for a comedy story, or Lady Chatterley's chap in his breeches, lovely, arms, vest and soapy water. Still, I remain stuck in attempts to describe an armless top to an American audience. And finally, the Englishman always leaves the last button of his waistcoat un-buttoned, a sartorial rule. Breakers of the rule shunned universally, and popularly - [are] as scuzy as white wine with beef [see JB oo7].

    So, an American never says 'railway?' That is terribly sad. How about bow ties? Only psychiatrists (& surgeons) can properly carry off the bow-tie in England. Probably every administrator in America wears a dickie-bow eh? Very confusing.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2017
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  24. Marc Arrows

    Marc Arrows New Member

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    It's "Lift"
    Not "Elevator" :D
     
  25. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    No joke, there's a company called Schindler's Lifts. Make of it what you will.
     
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