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Arse, Ass and Backside:- Drafting at the Sharp End

I imagined there would be deep technical discussions about the style I had used in my sentences. Back and fro, we would pick out nuances, refining the meaning of words and searching out the real underlying gems of my novel. My masterpiece would be broke apart and reassembled, pristine and glorious, changing the world’s view for ever about, well, everything. Okay, so maybe not quite all that. But there was something that came along that I didn’t expect.

I am in the final throes of editing my manuscript for my first novel, Crescendo!, working into the night on my editor’s comments and generally it has been fun, tiring, thought-provoking and eye opening. However, one thing has made me laugh. When writing for a world audience, one has to think about those words which can be misunderstood, or seem quite foreign. Coming from a British perspective, this means that American readers may not get my meaning. So what words have been causing a little trouble.

Arse, ass, backside. When to use which one. The character would usually refer to “arse”, a north american audience understands “ass” best and on occasions, the moderate and all encompassing “backside” is used. It’s not the glamour I was expecting! When I got to the “fag” that Austerley, one of my main characters, was smoking, I pre-empted the editor’s emergency delivery of “cigarette”.

The choice to keep language true or to open it up to others is an awkward one. At times I have used Russian with no translation to keep the reader in view of a character. Each situation is unique and requires full attention. Providing a manual may in this case be counter-productive. But I have learnt that keeping the voice of a character and making that voice understood is a dynamic situation due to the variety in our English dialects, never mind when a book is translated into a completely different language.


G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!