Friday, 26 November 2010

Word Play

I was chuckling to myself the other day as I was enjoying a day at the water park with my friend's two teenage daughters and one of them told me she liked my "swimming costume."  It took me a minute to realize what she meant.  Ah...It would be what my fellow Canadians would call a bathing suit.  Of course her terminology (which originated from her Kenyan upbringing) is more literally accurate, isn't it?  This is something that us global writers have to contemplate with every single project we take on.  Where does it originate and who is the main target audience?  We must choose our words very carefully.  I remembered another story this same friend was telling me about her daughters visiting their paternal grandmother in Canada.  When it was time for supper she told them to put their toys in the "bin."  Well, in Canada she was referring to the large plastic Tupperware container that she was using as their toy box.  The girls burst into tears not understanding what they had done that was so wrong that their grandmother was telling them to put their toys in the garbage can (which is called a "bin" where they grew up).

We can all be speaking the same language but depending on where we grew up the same words can have very different meanings depending where you are geographically.  Or some items just have totally different names like swimming costume verses bathing suit, running shoes verses sneakers, pants verses underwear, bathroom verses the loo, etc.  Using expressions that are common in your country may not work when writing copy for a more global audience. 

When I take on a new project, along with the general questions revolving around developing the content brief, I always ask, UK or American spelling?  Here in Dubai, it's usually UK but there are always exceptions to every rule, right? 

(note:  Tupperware is probably a term that not everyone is familiar with either...it's a very popular brand name of a maker of plastic containers of varying sizes and a variety of kitchen implements)

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