Nicola has once again been asked to explain why on god’s green earth she used the word swang in a novel.
And I am compelled by a force greater than sweetie solidarity (okay, actually I asked her if she minded and she said no) to say out loud on the internet that I told her the raised eyebrows and headshakes would rain down upon her forever if she said swang. Everyone will think you made a mistake, I said. You’ll be talking about swang for the rest of your life.
Well, I’m not wrong so far, am I? (wicked laughter….)
Language is a funny old thing. I just know that the words I grew up with are the “right” words, the same way Nicola knows that her words are right. And they are, and they aren’t… Who am I to tell her that her words are wrong? Not my place. But really what I was trying to tell her was that it was wrong in context. Wrong for Americans.
Well, she said in a charming and reasonable tone, I’m not an American.
But you’re in America.
So, indeed. She’s right. I’d much rather she was appropriate to herself than appropriate to American culture. And she’ll be a wee bit surprised when she reads this, because it’s not what she thought I was going to say. (Ha! 20 years and counting, and I can still surprise my sweetie every once in a while.)
And so I say: I’m glad you swang your bad self, Nicola. And to all the ‘Murricans out there who might be inclined to write her about it in the future — get over it. It’s her word. She used it. End of story.
Oh, and while I’m here — in 1988, at Clarion, I wrote a story called “Somewhere Down the Diamondback Road” (recently republished in Dangerous Space). In the first paragraph of that story, I used the word carapace in a way that makes Nicola absolutely crazy. Every once in a while it still comes up. That’s wrong, she says, shaking her head.
No, it ain’t (grin).