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:headdesk: - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
I know that from time to time, I've expressed frustration with over-Britpicking, and I also think that, as a fandom, we may be too quick to assume magical culture is exactly like contemporary British culture, except with wands. People may not "graduate" from secondary schools in general, but it's not necessarily impossible that they'll "graduate" from Hogwarts, which is the end of the formal education in that world and the entry into working life--equivalent to graduating from a university. And little things can probably slide as well.


There does come a point where you have to make some effort, however small. If you have enough access to the internet to post a fic, you can get to Wiki, which may not be perfectly reliable, but will tell you, in general, what form of government France has, or who the heads of state were at different points in history. Google images can usually show you what a place looks like. Quick etiquette guides can tell you how nobles of various ranks are addressed by their subordinates. I'm not talking about years of painstaking research to get every detail of a country and period right, I'm talking about tossing in half an hour of web-surfing. And heck, as long as there is an internet, why not ask about something if you can't find it? Look first, but if it's not easy to find, then that's what little_details is for.

Yes, you'll still miss things. I get Britpicked about every third post, and it's usually something perfectly valid and not based on something likely to be different in the magical world. I am grateful for this. But wouldn't it be easier on everyone to just take a moment before sitting down to write a setting to find out what the setting is like? Wouldn't it save time later? Not to mention maybe give you neat ideas about what you can do in your story that you might not otherwise have thought of?

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rose_in_shadow From: rose_in_shadow Date: March 16th, 2006 12:31 am (UTC) (Link)

I run around on Writing.com a lot and the other day I critiqued a story set during the Civil War. The author was actually nice in responding, but she seemed a little annoyed that a story she had gotten an award on (how, I don't know, unless it was some minor thing in school), could have so many problems. And believe me, they were legion. It was a short story too, not a novel that would take more research, but basic stuff she could have found out by, as you say, googling or Wiki-ing it.

From: (Anonymous) Date: March 16th, 2006 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I think you probably get Brit-picked so much because you seem to make such an effort to get it right in the first place! That sounds like a contradiction in terms but I think it's probably true. I wouldn't bother to Brit-pick if I didn't think the writer cared one way or the other. I would hesitate to do it anyway, if the mistake wasn't glaring, as I don't like to upset writers who, after all, are letting me read their work for free.

I certainly wouldn't pick up on the use of graduation but, then again, it would niggle! It does sound very American and, at least in my day, we didn't even talk about graduating from university, just finishing! Graduation really just refered to the actual ceremony, which was usually optional anyway; as in "Are you going to Graduation?" Answer: "No!" So it isn't just the use of it for school but the use full-stop that seems out of place.

I read the comments about Professors on the Sugarquill and, to me, it seems to be more magical community than either American or British and I thought that some people were being unnecessarily pedantic! Afterall, Remus must have been a professor for longer than his time at Hogwarts for the lettering on his bag to be soold and peeling.

I did an official Brit-pick and '70s-pick for a story about Petunia at school on the Sugarquill. I was in agonies because I felt like I'd totally assassinated her story but the writer took it in very good humour. She did ask me to do it so I think it was her own fault!
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 16th, 2006 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Bother! I've forgotten to leave my name again. My post covered graduation, professors and an official Brit-pick.

Cheers, TDU
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh, yeah, and I don't mind, except when I'm feeling petulant and going, "But, but... how were the characters? Did you like the plot????" ;)

I haven't used graduation and suspect that they probably don't--I doubt it's part of JK's general sense of word use--but because it's a marking of a very different thing at Hogwarts than it is in the general population, I'm not at all sure it's simply a given that there isn't a "graduation," per se. At least in normal years. Harry, most likely... no. :)

I actually do want and ask for Britpicks. I think they get to me when there's no other comment attached, or when I think it may be a question of wizarding vs. Muggle rather than British vs. American. Or when I'm just being petulant. But there are a lot of mixed messages that go around. Slang terms come back and forth across the Atlantic, taking on just moderately different meanings. Some words are used to mean different things, which is why I can't get too fussed (a great Britishism that I use all the time now) about the American editions using "sweater" and "sneakers" rather than trying to explain "jumper" and "trainers" before the person gets really confused about why Mrs. Weasley is giving Harry a dress. The context of "trainers" would probably establish that we're not talking about gym assistants, but I'm not sure it would go straight to "athletic shoes." Dean's football team, on the other hand, could have stayed a football team, as it doesn't really matter whether or not the reader is envisioning them as the Buffalo Bills, as long as she doesn't then write a fanfic in which Dean really wants to be a quarterback for West Ham. But I digress. I originally set out to say that it's important to get a check on things. Americans use "bloody" as a very, very mild adjective, a slightly more hip way of saying "goshdarned" (because if it's British, it's, by definition, hip, natch). The idea that Molly might really react adversely to her sons saying it at the dinner table is something that needs to be explained.

But I just came over from a fic at deleterius in which Remus is the Prince of France. You know. The Republic of France. That just... doesn't even take being Europicked. That takes sixth grade social studies.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 16th, 2006 02:09 am (UTC) (Link)
The comment about "Bloody" is very topical here in Australia (I'm English but living in Sydney). There has just been an Australian tourism ad knocked back by the censors in the Uk because of the line (repeated several times I think) "Where the bloody hell are you?" It is funny because Australian censors are actually a lot stricter than British ones when it comes to acceptable language on television but I think the problem is that viewers don't have the same warnings about ads that they do about proper programs so you can't choose not to watch to the same extent.

I did pick someone up about havinging James and Sirius spending the summer watching baseball. I tried to be very polite in suggesting it would have been cricket but I never had any response so I don't know how the writer took it. (The muggle context was fine as it was to do with James trying to bond with Lily's father). It was only after I had given her a series of rave reviews so hopefully she didn't take it as an outright criticism.

As a reader but not a writer, I'm interested to see writers' comments on how they like "critical" reviews. I don't like to pick up faults but sometimes I can see some obvious errors, especially in the Brit-picking area but also in the '70s era, that would vastly improve the story if corrected. I tend to assume that you publish on livejournal first in an attempt to get the problems picked up early. I really hate being negative but I suppose that the author might actually want to have such mistakes pointed out. If I do make a comment, I usually cringe at how similar to Uriah Heap I sound in my efforts not to offend.

snorkackcatcher From: snorkackcatcher Date: March 16th, 2006 08:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't mind the occasional anachronism (I've seem so much US English I've even gotten into the habit of ... erm, nearly using the word 'gotten' on occasion, even through most Brits wouldn't) but 'graduation' and similar school-structure things that obviously don't happen in the actual books really do annoy me. We've seen Percy leave, we've seen Riddle leave, we've seen Leaving Feasts -- it didn't happen. (Although something of the sort in Book 7 wouldn't be a huge surprise.)

As for 'bloody' -- I'm not sure even Molly would be greatly bothered by that. Swearing in general has become something most people don't bat an eye about in the UK over the last couple of decades. It'a s sea-change -- back in the 1960s 'bloody' was a definite swear word (acceptable euphemisms were 'blooming' and (a bit stronger) 'ruddy', and 'bleeding' was a strengthened form), and clean-up-TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse complained loud and long about its repeated use in then-racy comedy Till Death Us Do Part. These days -- well, even in the books we have Uncle Vernon using 'ruddy' and (obvious euphemism) 'effing', and Marvolo Gaunt using 'bleeding', and lots of people using 'git', 'prat', and 'pillock' which also used to be a lot stronger and more shocking than they are now. In the film we even have Ron saying 'Piss off, Harry' (at least in the UK cut). And since the wizarding world doesn't seem that culturally different on this point ... going with real-life analogies is a solid plan!
From: tree_and_leaf Date: March 16th, 2006 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I hope I'm not a Brit-pick Nazi, but I;m afraid 'Graduation' really annoys me every time I see it. Somehow it just grates - and I think we'd know if the term existed in the wizarding world - people talk about leaving school on ocassion, after all. On the other hand jumper/ sweater doens't bother me (actually, it's not used consistently in Britain, as far as i can see anymore).

One thing I remember did confuse me in somebody's fic was a character referring to a 'dresser', when it turned out they meant waht we'd call a chest of drawers... But minor vocab differences don't spoil my ability to appreciate a fic. On the other hand, twentieth century princes of France... oy veh.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 16th, 2006 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, we know the term "chest of drawers"--my grandmother has been known to use it, though of course it's pronounced "chestadrors"--but "dresser" has been common forever, and I think it throws people when they hear about it as a profession. There was a movie out called The Dresser lo, these many years ago, and it dealt with a person, not a piece of furniture, but that connection has never been made.

Like I told TDU, the "graduation" thing doesn't bother me personally, because I agree--we'd have seen it by now if it was a canon practice. However, that's more canon-picking than Brit-picking. Given the way the wizarding world is set up, there could be significant differences in educational culture. It kind of bothers me more the way yearly Yule Balls bother me. I honestly only made the Brit-picking comment as a way of acknowledging that I don't necessarily think fanfic writers have to get every single little detail completely right--and I'm on record as having said it--before going on to point out that, sheesh... you still need to get the big things right!
keridwen From: keridwen Date: March 16th, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Y'know, it's funny...I use chest of drawers all the time, and "dresser" hardly ever. Maybe that's a West Coast versus East Coast thing?
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: March 16th, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Over here, a dresser (furniture) is a thing which goes in the kitchen and holds plates.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 17th, 2006 05:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I think we call that a "Welsh dresser." But I'm not up on furniture terms, so I might be wrong.
story645 From: story645 Date: March 16th, 2006 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)
You want thought in a fic? Buh, buh, authors keep screwing up major things that common sense or life experience should dictate are just not on, so why would they get lil things right?
mamadeb From: mamadeb Date: March 16th, 2006 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Let me recommend the always interesting and useful hp_britglish, where you not only learn vocabulary and usage, but also sociology from all over Britain.
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moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: March 16th, 2006 11:34 am (UTC) (Link)
But wouldn't it be easier on everyone to just take a moment before sitting down to write a setting to find out what the setting is like? Wouldn't it save time later? Not to mention maybe give you neat ideas about what you can do in your story that you might not otherwise have thought of?

Hey I agree with you 100%. Something in the same vein happens to me all the time when I write Star Wars fanfic. For example, I set a scene in Mon calamari and made the place very Earth-ish. Then I checked up on Wiki and found an extraordinary, but still workable terrain which made me develop an interesting sub-plot to boot. Research never hurts a story.
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