Sunday, August 26, 2012

either either

"You've no idea how much email I get telling me how wrong every single thing in the book is. There are a lot of very specific things that Americans don't say and English people don't realise … Also New York has enough writers, and I don't think I need to add to them," she said.

Zadie Smith says she will never write another book set in the US, because she got so many complaints about On Beauty.  Well, I can see it would be annoying if peevish emails kept turning up in one's inbox. We can only hope Lee Child does not follow her example.

Sometimes, of course, one is bad. One knows one is in the wrong and goes on regardless.  Someone pointed out to me some time ago that "in no very good mood" is not American usage. I kept trying to think of a replacement that I liked and couldn't.  Finally I thought, Well, it may not be American usage now, but who's to say? Maybe Americans will see it and like it and start using it, and then this instance in my book will simply be the first attested case in American English.


leoboiko said...

The Corpus of Contemporary American English has 41 hits for "no very"; 7 being for "no very good" (reason, answer, reputation, safeguards) and 2 "in no very" (generous spirit, honourable post). They’re from 1990 to 2011.

Helen DeWitt said...

Man! That's good to know. But it's embarrassing that I didn't know of the existence of this resource, I could have checked it myself.

Language said...

It would never have occurred to me to think of "no very good (mood)" as un-American. I would use it myself if the occasion arose without any feeling that I was betraying my native speech-realm.

Helen DeWitt said...

Hat. That does it. If I ever publish a book again I will hire YOU to copy edit it BEFORE it goes to the editor.

Cecilieaux Bois de Murier said...

It would never have occurred to me to think of the term "un-American" as American, despite the old HUAC. Yet there are Britishisms creeping into use by the U.S. commentariat.

"Spot on," which no one in the USA understood when I came back from a sojourn in England in the 1970s, is now everywhere in op-ed columns and Slate.

I trace it back to the U.S. neocon Anglophiliac fashion (shall we spell Allan Bloom?) in the 1980s back when Reaganites wanted Thatcher for president. Of course, a number of them, such as Andrew Sullivan, have seen the light and have brought the lingo with them into more civilized circles.