Monday, 9 May 2011

Englishness?

Is there such a thing as a particular national tone for writing? Clearly there is in the sense of language, but what about when a particular language, like English, is spoken across a great many countries? Is there a distinctively English tone that goes beyond just things like occasionally using amongst instead of among?

Certainly, people seem to think that there is. Wodehouse, for example, often gets called a very English sort of writer. Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams sometimes seem to have a similar sort of feel to them. The famous English sense of humour, perhaps? Yet do they really do anything that is impossible for someone from Melbourne or New York to do?

I ask this because I suspect my own writing has that quality of Englishness, whether I want it or not, yet I’m not sure whether it’s anything real. How can it be? Neil Gaiman sometimes seems to have it, for example, but these days, he spends at least as much time in the US as back in the UK, so it can’t be something purely produced by exposure to a particular cultural environment. Is it just something we attach to a particular turn of phrase as a kind of lazy shorthand?

1 comment:

Kittie Howard said...

Very interesting, Stu. I, too, have given your topic thought and, quite honestly, haven't come up with an answer. All of us in the English-speaking countries understand each other, a monumental big thing considering the populations involved. There are grammatical variances, mostly with prepositions, I think, but nothing that hits one in the face.

When I read books by British writers, I settle into the book more. I know there's going to be a set-up I need to pay attention to. I know that there will be understatement. Characters tend to have more secrets. This is all very difficult to put into words - and I'm not doing a very good job - but there are differences. I don't think that's a bad thing, not at all!!!