Monday, July 18, 2011

Homely vs. Homely, Or Crossing the water

I think I've spoken earlier about a friend who told a mildly scandalous story in England that he had heard in Canada and discovered that "fanny" meant something more salacious in England than it did in Canada. I got caught out once in England by commenting that I was willing "to spend a penny" to save some larger amount of money ("spend a penny", it turns out, is a euphemism for peeing).

Here in Ireland, we're watching a television show about flipping houses and heard someone comment that, after renovation, the new house was "homely." Back home in Canada, "homely" means anything from "plain" to actually "ugly." The term we'd use in Canada for a place that felt like a home would be "homey"--what a difference an 'l' makes.

So what is a technical writer to do? Given the pitfalls, for any document that will be read by someone from another country, the only safe thing to do is to have some native speaker from that country read your document. There's simply no way that you can catch all the potential differences.

Reading or read

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