Posted in Writing advice that may or may not be completely wrong

Problems with International Writing

I apologise when people tread on my foot.

I say, “That’s not bad” when I think something is great, and, “That’s quite good” when I think it’s awful.

I have an opinion on whether you should put the milk in first or last when making tea.

Yes, I’m British.


I write for all romance lovers, and have readers from the UK, Canada, the US, and Australia among others, but I aim my books at the US market for many reasons – it’s the home of romance, my agent is in the US, it’s a bigger market than the UK, and I get extra brownie points for writing things like, “Bloody hell!”

It has its benefits, but also its drawbacks. In particular:

What the hell do I call women’s underwear?

When I’m talking to my friends about my underwear, which happens frequently because none of us understand the concept of boundaries, I call them knickers or pants. But in the US, pants are trousers, and even we know that knickers is a ridiculous word and will kill a sex scene quicker than referring to a woman’s genitals as a vulvasaurus. (FYI, someone on Twitter got very angry with me for saying that, because she thought I was saying Americans are too stupid to understand what knickers are. SO not true.)

Then we have ‘panties’, which no self-respecting British woman would ever say. Since I write from the perspective of British characters, I can’t use it.

So what am I left with?

Underwear, but that can refer to knickers, a bra, a thong, and a lot of other things I can’t Google at work. This brings up another issue – in Australia, thongs are sandals, and that’s a mix-up which might delight foot fetishists but should probably be avoided.

Undies, which has all the same issues as underwear but an added childish element that I do not want to introduce to sex scenes for, hopefully, obvious reasons.

Answer: All characters go commando? BUT THEN WHAT DO I CALL THEIR VULVASAURUSES?

…should that be vulvasauri?

Scott McKittrick on Flickr

Pop culture references.

US TV is everywhere, so most Brits (and probably others) get US pop culture references. This doesn’t hold true the other way around.

For example, I’m a huge fan of Bottom, a British sitcom which is not appreciated by our cousins across the pond. Over here I can get a cheap laugh by shouting “GAS MAN”, which isn’t quite so effective when people have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about.

For a UK audience, I could refer to a character “looking like someone from The Only Way is Essex after an advanced maths test” and they would know what I meant, even if they hadn’t watched it. Since the wider world has been saved from this travesty of TV programming, I would have to explain separately that the character:

  • is orange;
  • has three inches of makeup (whether male or female); and
  • is highly confused and probably a little bit afraid.

The answer? I will write only British-Amish romances. Which I suppose also removes the problem of what to call underwear in sex scenes.

Bonus tip: ‘Quite’ has a very different meaning in the UK than the US. As I said in the opening, if a Brit says something is “quite good” it means “pretty bad.” I’m told by my American friends that across the pond, it means “very good”. If an American tells me my blog is “quite good,” I’ll try not to be offended.

What does ‘quite’ mean in your country?

Featured image from Charles Clegg on Flickr.


Romance author

16 thoughts on “Problems with International Writing

  1. Well, Quit and Quite do not have the same relationship as Shit and Shite. I have learned SOMETHING in my 30+ years on this side of the Pond.

    The word you’re searching for so diligently is ‘underpants.’ You’re right; panties is just too cute. Thong? Dunno. Do you thing it? Or do you mean ‘flip-flops?’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Even living in Ohio versus South Carolina comes with its dangers here in America. It took me a while to realize that, in the south, when a woman says “Oh, bless her heart,” she actually means “Oh, fuck that bitch.” Imagine my surprise! And is there a way you can fit “vulvasaurus” into every blog post, because it greatly, greatly improves my day 😉

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah. As opposed to, say, g-strings?

        I guess if there isn’t a suitable word, then it’s obviously time to crowdsource some new ones.

        I’ll donate ladycovers, hipnets, modestywraps, raceylacys, and lapveils to the cause…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Vulvasauri is my new favourite word, and I now need to find a situation in which to use it, which may be tricky. I fell into the pants trap when I first came over to the UK from NZ – pants are trousers for us, so I said something to a friend about having to change my pants before we went out, as they were dirty. Yeah. I didn’t even know them that well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think all characters going commando is the only option. Less clothes to remove and no pesky words to figure out. Problem solved. 🙂 As I’m an American, quite for me is the extra emphasis on what it comes before. 🙂 The American English language can be quite confusing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had to laugh on reading this, because my readers are also a mix of British and American. Worryingly, I have just realised that my characters may all be going ‘commando’ to avoid mentioning whatever passes for underwear …

    Liked by 1 person

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