My editor, Cassandra Marshal, edits in U.S English while I write in U.K English. This is likely my fault, since I did not mention to her that I wanted the edit in U.K English. But it was one of those happy accidents, albeit a rather tedious ones, and I want to talk about how writing as an art is held back by the argument between difference in written and spoken English, as well as my support for a Universal English system.
Initially, when I sent 139: In Evening out for an edit, I was hoping for a U.K English edit, since that was the style I wrote in. But when Cassandra sent the manuscript back and marked out the ‘colour’ and ‘color’, it got me thinking, maybe it was the best to be edited in a style outside the one I’m used to.
In Singapore, we use U.S and U.K English interchangeable. We understand that lorries and trucks are the same thing, just like how potato and potato are both correct. To me, a cinema is a place we go to watch a film, but a theatre is where we go to watch a performance. But at the same time, the phrase ‘knock someone up’ means to get impregnated, not to check on someone.
The two major English has their pros and cons, and I’ve never been able to understand that whole, “You’re not using proper English.” argument that’s so common in the west.
So while I wrote in U.K English, I was open to the idea of Cassandra editing in U.S, especially after she noted that the word singlet made her think of the stuff wrestlers and Borat wore. So I accepted all her changes to turn that word into ‘sleeveless shirt’.
As I go through all the edits, I’ve been slowly checking through all the phrases to make sure that the phrase or word I used, despite being from different style, would be understood by both.
For example, she changed ‘cup noodle’ into ‘ramen noodle’. Ramen noodle is a very american thing apparently, cause I’ve never heard of it before. Not just because it made little sense. Ramen are basically Japanese noodle, so ‘ramen noodle’ just sounds like ‘Japanese noodle noodle’ to me. Where’s the cup? Or at least the instant?
This might be a personal thing, but I want the world to have a universal English. Colour and color should really be the reverse of the whole ‘potato-tomato’ situation. They are both correct. While everything else, phrase and words wise, should be given to the ones that makes the most sense to the most people in the world.
Writing is one of the oldest art forms in the world, but it is the one that has evolved the least in the last generation. While great works has been made between Shakespeare and Tolkien, everything after that has been following a similar formula. And I think this is due to the self imposed internal language barrier.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are animations that has crossed that divide beautifully, and Jackie Chan’s recent Dragon Blade is one from the film industry that is also bridging the gap. Even Mandarin, as a language, has mixtures of all the dialects to make it more universally accessible. English is held back.
Singapore authors are known more for YA novels, short horrors, political, slice-of-life, and other general emotion pieces. I’ve been writing with a cross-cultured media influence, and have been stepping out of the comfort zone of other home grown artist, hoping to bridge the cultural gap between the east and west. Even if I don’t create the novel version of Avatar or Dragon Blade, I hope I can inspire someone or at least, open the gate to that future.
I want to open a book one day and read, “I’m buying some Japanese noodle noodle, do you want me to impregnate your wife?”