On Writing Language and Colloquialisms

When you write a character from anywhere except the place you are familiar with it helps if you know what language he/she speaks.

You also need to remember that every language in every location has it’s colloquialisms.

As an example, here’s George Jones, The Corvette Song

  • Oh, She was hotter than a two-dollar pistol
  • She was the fastest thing around
  • Long and lean, every young man’s dream
  • She turned every head in town
  • She was built and fun to handle,
  • son I’m glad that you dropped in
    She reminds me of the one I loved back then

The man thought the old guy was talking about the car, but he was talking about the woman sitting in the vette.
“Hotter than a two dollar pistol:” An Americanism, A two dollar pistol is undoubtedly stolen, therefore hot. A woman or car is hot, meaning a turn-on. If a car is fast, it’s speedy, but if a woman is fast, she’s easy, etc.

This can make it difficult for a non-American to understand at first glance.

This is also true in other parts of the world.
For instance, in some areas, a Mexican doesn’t “wait for a miracle,” he goes “to dance to Chalma” –“se va a bailar a Chalma”.

Instead of saying “chica and chico” in parts of Mexico, they often say “chavo and chava”.

In Barcelona, people often prefer to speak Catalan, and sometimes resent being lumped in with the Spaniards.

So you hear things like “Bon dia,” which means good morning and “Bon Nit” which means good night.
“Gràcies” means thank you but it sounds different that the Spanish “Gracias.”
And so-on.

Adapt your character’s speech to the area they are from. Keep in mind that even though people speak your language they often fall back on the phrases they grew up with.

(This entire blog is basically “notes to self,” so if I sound like I’m lecturing, I am; I’m lecturing myself.)

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