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I'm writing a series of AU ficlets set mostly in London, but I am so Californian, I cannot write authentic sounding English dialogue to save my life. Does anyone here have any tips, like maybe commonly used words or phrases (like how here in CA we say "totally" and "hella" every other word, etc), or what kinds of things give an author away as American? If it helps, the characters in question are supposed to be in the slums, whores and junkies and all that.

A few other questions:

+ Is there as much of an obsession with Japanese culture over there as there is over here? In the US it seems like every kid under the age of fifteen has a favorite anime and our movies/television shows are filled with images of samurai, ninja, and yakuza; what about over there?

+ Similarly, are there any areas like Little Tokyo / Japantown?

+ Is it absolutely ridiculous to have a character in cowboy boots? I know the whole idea of cowboys in the wild west etcetc is totally American, but is there any kind of romanticizing/idolization of cowboy mythology over there at all? If not, is there anything similar?

+ Coke (as in cocaine) use is fairly rampant over here, as far as rampant drug use goes. Are there any other drugs I should reference instead, or any nicknames other than "coke"?

Ugh I know that's a lot, sorry. Thanks so much, you guys. <3


( 10 people helped — Oooh! I know! )
Feb. 26th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)
I don't know much about London but I can give you some general stuff.

We don't use 'like' anywhere near as much as Americans seem to (going off tv portrayal) and I've never heard someone say 'hella'. 'Totally' mostly fazed out a few (4 or so) years ago I think. Honestly I can't be much help if your characters are under 16 cause I don't know anyone that age.

I know a few people who are into anime, I'd presume it to be more popular among under-15s, like pokemon was 6/7/8 years ago. Not totally sure cause I'm at uni but we do have an anime society where they get together and talk about it. There is quite the cosplay following.

We have the 3rd Largest Chinatown in Europe up here in Manchester, and I'd presume there's a part of London that is highly Chinese populated, not sure about the Japantown less likely I'd think. It's mostly Chinese.

To be honest I don't think I've ever seen someone wearing cowboy boots out and it not being for a bet or fancy dress. You'd most likely get laughed at. And there's really nothing I can think of to be similar.

As far as Coke goes, you're more likely to get Ketamine (sp?) than coke, at least the people I know that do stuff. Snorted the same as coke (a line with a rolled up fiver or off a spoon), apparently you get a similar trip. I wouldn't know.
But be wary of how much you give them one drop of liquid K will down a horse for a good few hours, literally. Which is why it comes powdered. And I think you have to do something to it/break it up maybe it might come in a lump.
I think I spend too much time round the wrong people...

Hope this helped, ask away if I didn't make any sense.
Feb. 26th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I would be surprised if anyone over there used the word "hella". It's definitely a California thing. >_>

Thanks so much, that's actually a lot of help, esp. the ketamine. Thanks!
Feb. 26th, 2008 05:30 am (UTC)
I don't know if this helps, being completely un-British ( :'[ ) but I love Russell Brand's stand up and The Mighty Boosh and both Russell and Noel wear cowboy boots a lot. Maybe it's just like, hipster kids or something?
Feb. 26th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
Hm, that's what I'm hearing from other people as well. Anyway, thanks!
Feb. 26th, 2008 07:55 am (UTC)
I live in London, and I can tell you that:

1) there is no obsession with Japanese culture. Some people like it, most people would be unaware of it, although we do get a couple of Japanese cartoons on cable/satellite TV. There are also one or two kitch Japanese-style shops around town (mostly in the touristy centre, or in Camden Town, where all the 'alternative' people hang out around the markets and pub music venues).

2) There is an area called Soho, which is adjacent to Chinatown, which is the major gay section of the city - all pubs, clubs, restaurants and porn/fetish shops, while Chinatown is restaurants and supermarkets - but we don't have a specific Japanese area.

3) Girls might wear fashion-style cowboy boots (or they did last year). Men over the age of forty-five might wear them with faded jeans and a waist-length ponty-tail on their way to a Status Quo concert, but they are not popular and not deemed cool, any more.

4) Coke is also known as 'charlie' over here, but I'm straightedge and I've never been part of that scene, so I couldn't give you much on that. Talktofrank.com is a website about drugs - a genuinely informative one that is, as the name suggests, pretty frank - so you could always check there.

As for your characters...they would definitely, definitely not live in the centre of town. More like South London (south of the river) or East London (east of the City of Westminster). They would be exceedingly unlikely to live in the centre of town. And they do not talk like Dick Van Dyke.

I would strongly recommend running your fic by a Brit-picker (a British, preferably London-residing, beta) before posting.

Hope this helps!
Feb. 26th, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the specific info and the web link, you are a huge help. <3
Feb. 26th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. :)
Feb. 26th, 2008 11:07 am (UTC)
I would second the advice to get a British beta, since it's probably easier to spot glaring Americanisms than give prescriptive advice on what sounds British and what doesn't. Off the top of my head, Londoners would probably add "mate" to sentences and use "alright?" frequently, as a catch-all greeting. To be honest, you might be better off making your dialogue as plain as possible and just adding, he said, with an Estuary twang. (Oh, okay, I just googled Estuary English and the wikipedia entry seems pretty helpful.)

Have you thought about watching some British TV (or clips on youtube)? For instance, The Mighty Boosh -- Vince is very mockney.

I think the point about hipsters wearing cowboy boots/hats in an ironical way is well taken. That said, I cannot recall ever seeing anyone on the street wearing cowboy boots. They certainly wouldn't wear it as part of a cowboy mythology. British people, broadly, have quite a strange relationship with America. The UK is (IMO) hugely Americanized. We shop in American stores, we watch American movies and TV, we listen to American bands, we follow American news. But there's a weird stigma attached to saying you like or admire America. Britons are generally quite scathing of Americans. We'll take your music and movies, but we think we're better. (Obviously, I use a generalized "we". I am unashamedly an Americaphile. \o/) Therefore, no, openly romanticizing cowboys is pretty unlikely.
Feb. 26th, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
Oh man, that link is awesome. Thanks for that and the cowboy info; that's mostly what I suspected, but it's good to know for sure.

Mar. 7th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
Sorry if this is a bit late! But I see no one has givin much specific information on the drug question.

Coke is generally the only nickname I really hear for cocaine. Other drugs that are more prevalent in the club scene are pills and mdma (both forms of extacy - pills more common in the club scene). Weed is fairly widely used - mostly called weed/dope and most people smoke joints (my american friends tell me bongs are more popular where they're from and while they are definite used here, I know of far more people who frequently smoke joints).
Ketamine, while used by a fair few people, is not as popular in a club scene and tends to be (sorry if I'm generalising, personal experience and all that) mostly a hippy thing.

Commonly used phrases - mate and also yeah.

( 10 people helped — Oooh! I know! )


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