Autumn apples and falling leaves

Walking through the park to the supermarket it’s clear that winter is here.  A final few leaves clinging to the trees, the season we know as autumn or fall is over and with it the annual conversations I sometimes have with clients about the relative merits of the terms.

In Old English people used fiæll or fall to describe the season when the leaves fall from the trees, although as early as the 14th century, the word autumn was also known, as Chaucer illustrates:

Autumpne comes ageyne heuy of apples [Autumn comes again, heavy of apples]

Chaucer’s translation of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy

The two words clearly co-existed for some centuries, with fall in common use in many parts of the UK, and this was the word that crossed the Atlantic and took root in the US.

Fall‘s English roots are sometimes a surprise to Brits.  Certainly, many of my generation in the UK were brought up being told to avoid such ‘Americanisms’ although nowadays, both variants are heard.

So, back to those client conversations – which should you use in your business writing? Here are some pointers to help you decide.

TRUST

As always, consider your audience.  If you’re a US business selling to a British audience, there are many occasions when localizing to British English will help you to gain your customers’ trust. Particularly if your target market includes those who were taught during their schooldays to avoid being ‘American’, the choice of vocabulary will determine the emotional response that they have to your copy.

Similarly, if you’re addressing your employees in an internal bulletin or communicating with stakeholders, you can enhance the feeling of ‘shared purpose/interest’ by using the vocabulary that they would routinely use.

…Roughly 72% of consumers state that they are more inclined to make a purchase if the product info is in a familiar dialect.

textappeal.com

VOICE

There are times, however, when you’ll want to use language to support your brand’s roots and add ‘colour’ (or should that be ‘color’?)  For example, if you’re a company selling English cider from Somerset to the US, you’ll perhaps provide an authentic touch by talking about the apple orchards in autumn.  And if you’re a US company whose employees globally have a strong sense of pride in being part of an American brand, then you’ll probably have a fall newsletter.

INTERNATIONAL

And if you write for non-native speakers of English? Generally, the same principles as above will apply, though you may want to consider the most common language variant in use in their location or what is taught in the education system to decide which form will have the most impact and clarity.

AND ‘DOWN UNDER’…

Don’t forget the ‘other’ Englishes.  For example, Australia, as a former British colony, tends towards autumn.  It may seem very obvious, but worth a reminder nevertheless that autumn comes at a totally different time of year in the southern hemisphere.  So if you’re sending your ‘autumn news’ email to your Australian customers, consider whether you need a ‘spring news’ version instead…

Remember, that English-language localization isn’t just about spelling or word choice.  Grammar, punctuation, semantics, all vary.

Now, as we move into winter, the conversation turns towards unravelling the holidays (not vacations), Chrimbo, bread sauce and the great Santa vs Father Christmas debate.

Happy December everyone!

Of doughnuts and crullers

Working as a business proofreader and translator I’m often called on to localize documents from US to UK English and generally think I have a pretty good grasp of my bonnets and my hoods, my shalls and my shoulds, my gots and my gottens. But when a character in the US novel I was reading ate a cruller for breakfast, I suddenly realised I had no idea what was going on.

US-English etimology can be fascinating, especially for words that seem to have jumped from mainland Europe across the Pond to North America with almost no influence on British English.  Websters tells me that cruller comes from the Dutch krulle meaning a twisted cake. OED adds that it seems to be from the Dutch crullen to curl (which also gives us crewel, for a kind of twisted yarn).

“a small sweet cake in the form of a twisted strip fried in deep fat”

In Merriam-Webster.com

So it’s a cake and it’s twisty… But what does it taste like?

A bit of googling gives me regular Crullers (made of doughnut-type dough), French Crullers (made of choux pastry) and a whole lot of similar northern European treats. Wikipedia reckons that in Scotland you can even find an Aberdeen Crulla, supposedly imported from the US.

As I look at the online photos, they seem to ring a bell though.  Then it comes back to me – of course! Mister Donut in Tokyo.  I’m sure I’ve seen something similar there. I didn’t know the name – I’d have been using one of my half dozen essential Japanese phrases (chokorēto – literally ‘chocolate’ but surprisingly versatile when you have very little other vocabulary!)

I decide that more research is needed. Rumour has it that Tim Horton’s is the place for Brits looking for crullers. I have to pop to town for a flu jab so I make a quick stop there on the way home. And here they are! (Looking slightly squashed after having been stuffed into my bag because of the rain). So… doughnuty… twisty… and covered in sugar. Nice!

Cruller doughnuts
Canada saves the day!

Round up of the day so far: I’ve eaten a doughnut and I’ve learned the Dutch verb ‘to curl’… and when one of my US clients puts crullers in their business report, I’ll be ready!