Let's Talk with Terry Ambrose
Let’s talk language…no, not that kind
Let’s talk language. No, not the kind that requires asterisks and exclamation points to make it printable. I’m referring to the lexicon of our lives—the words we use and that very unwriterly obstacle called slang. As a writer, I’ve adopted slang with open arms. But my language wasn’t always so flexible.
In high school, I was convinced I wanted to study and work in the world of physics. I was what might be called a square peg in the very round world of the 60s. Fast forward a couple of decades, and my language set was hit with a big challenge. Valley girls. Almost overnight, the word “like” went from indicating an emotional attraction or one thing being similar to another to a placeholder word.
I still remember the first time my wife started throwing around the word. I cautioned her that she would not be taken seriously in business if she “started sounding like a valley girl.” Oh, brother. Was I ever wrong.
Like wasn’t my first language challenge, though. I’d successfully resisted the pull of the beatniks with their anti-materialistic beliefs and habit of referring to other males as “man.” Eventually, I did succumb when I realized that some of my rigid corners had started to round out. I never did get into bro, but when we were visiting Hawaii, I found myself dropping plenty of “brahs” into my speech. (Sigh…I know, it’s like, a thing. Right?) But “man,” “bro,” and all the others soon gave way to the infamous “dude.”
The last of my defenses crumbled near the time when dude basically went viral. No longer did it refer solely to a city slicker. It was now a cool form of address, one that I adopted about the time I started writing. As I was forced to confront words deliberately put on a page, reality set in. I could no longer be a square-corner kind of guy. It was time for my language and my writing style to evolve. Dude was the word that did it. It caused me to realize that I was one of those people who think slang helps differentiate people and what drives them.
In my brand-new release, DEAD MEN NEED NO RESERVATIONS, I use different words in the language streams for Rick Atwood and his young daughter Alex to differentiate them. See more HERE
What about you? Do you like using slang? If you’d like to win a copy of my newest book, Dead Men Need No Reservations, leave a comment. If you use your favorite slang in a sentence in your comment, you’ll qualify for a bonus gift!
While you’re here, enter our monthly contest. Our featured authors this month are Terry Ambrose and Nancy J Cohen. One lucky entrant will win both books! That’s two books and one winner. It’s like, awesome, dude! (couldn’t resist) CLICK HERE FOR CONTEST.
If you’d like to know more about author Terry Ambrose, visit his WEBSITE
Posted in Let's Talk, with Terry Ambrose • Tags: Dead Men Need No Reservations, Let's Talk, Let's Talk about language, new release, Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery, Terry Ambrose | 23 Comments
23 thoughts on “Let’s talk language…no, not that kind”
The hardest part of me using slang in my writing or real life is not keeping up with it. Consequently, some of my attempts date me or make me or make me look foolish.
I have my 11 year old to correct me. Gotta love a betta reader
An 11-year-old would definitely be a good resource!
I try to use slang appropriate to the character, but I limit it to only a few times so that it doesn’t stick out and seems natural. Easy to say, but challenging to pull off seamlessly.
I don’t know what is happening bro but I do like the writing dude and would love to win.See you later alligator.
Thanks for the groovy reply, Deborah! Good luck!
I use some slang in my books, but the words have to be appropriate to the character and the situation, and they need to have been around long enough for most people to know what they mean. I’m leery about using very new slang because you never know what words or phrases will catch on enough to become normalized and which ones will quickly fade away. You also need to keep your demographic in mind. Will your readers know what you mean when you use newer slang? Cozy readers tend to skew older. How many of them keep up with slang being used by teens today? It winds up being a huge balancing act.
How true, Lois. A balancing act is a good way to describe it.
I don’t consciously think about slang when I’m writing. My critique partners will pick out if my characters sound too old-fashioned. My most recent faux pas was “You’re a peach.” Apparently, nobody says that anymore.
Depending on who’s speaking, I think that could be perfectly appropriate, Nancy. I always went with the ‘it takes more than one’ to get worried about something when a critique partner brought it up. If it was only one, I didn’t worry about . more than that, pay attention. More than a couple and it was a big problem.
I know that ain’t ain’t a word but I still use it.
Hey Deborah, you’d never know it from how much it gets used! 🙂
It’s very difficult for (ahem) senior citizens to write current slang without sounding phony. I grew up in the 50s and 60s and the language usage was very different.
We had our own cool slang then!
I am not a big fan of slang, nor am I up to date on any new slang.
Yikes! Writing slang is difficult. Even if you do it well, it can easily date your book in a couple of years. I try to limit myself to time-tested slang like “dude” which is here to stay. Know what I mean, jellybean! 😉
I’m not a big slang person, mainly because I didn’t grow up saying it..I don’t mind it as long as it is appropriate.. Working around kids (students), I would always hear enough like students would call me “bro” regardless, or “I didn’t hear nothing / didn’t say nothing / didn’t see nothing” or “fudge” or “shoot” to name a few..
Not only is generational slang an issue, so is regional slang, for sure. An early baby boomer, I recently moved/transported from California to Wisconsin to be near my daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I thought I was cool/ groovy. It was a gas to see how lame/square I was in their peepers/eyes. I about flipped my wig, literally! When I went shopping with two of my granddaughters, they almost lost it when I said I needed to get some thongs. I almost flashed when the menu said there was cheese in EVERY omelet, even a Denver! Coming from Cali, that’s just not George/legit and certainly not made in the shade, for sure. That’s Wisconsin for you!
Nice job, Mary Ellen! Some might even say, awesome!
Slang in dialog is tricky, in my opinion. You need just enough to sound current to the times, but you don’t want to overdo it either, because then it looks like you’re trying too hard. A lot of the slang from the 60s and 70s would sound wrong in contemporary dialog, but as someone who is out and about less and less each year, I struggle to stay within 10 years of being current with slang. In fact there are plenty of days I’d like to have no connectivity to the greater world, but that’s just me not wanting to hear all the strife and tension in the world. I love hearing from and being connected to family, friends, and fans.
I only use slang when I’m around my grandchildren. When they tell me their favorite way of using slang, all I can think of to say is, “Sweet”! They then proceed to tell me how outdated I am. 😊
The kids are definitely the ones in the know!
Oh goodness I was just talking to my husband last night about this. I was with my son in Ca and he is 40 ,he likes to use a lot of slang. One of the sayings my hubby says and I think he picked it up from his son who is 30 is, You gotta do what you gotta do. I just don’t like that I wanted an answer to my question not that and being a retired teacher I had to correct a lot of slang as little kids pick it up from their older siblings.