Juliet Madison speaks Australianism in Novels

Today, we have the lovely Juliet Madison on the blog. Juliet is a romance author, with four books currently available now from Escape Publishing, and a fifth in the wings for release next month (February or Forever). Today, Juliet will be talking Australianisms in novels, with relevance to her latest release, The January Wish. Take it away, Juliet . . . 

Juliet Madison guest post for Aussie Owned & Read 7th Jan


Thanks to Lauren for inviting me here today to chat about the use of ‘Australianisms’ in novels, and how to keep the cultural authenticity without going overboard.

When I first started writing, adapting my content to suit a wider audience didn’t even cross my mind. In fact, I didn’t realise just how different language and slang is between countries. Obviously I knew the basic differences, but throughout the four years I’ve been writing I’ve learned about lots of different words and phrases that are and aren’t used by different cultures. For example, I didn’t realise until recently that people in America don’t usually say that something is ‘going down the drain’ like we do in Australia. In the US, it’s going ‘down the tubes’.

Juliet Madison, author and Aussie culture guru

Juliet Madison, author and Aussie culture guru

I’ve written books set both in the US and in Australia. My new Tarrin’s Bay series, The January Wish being the first book which has just been released, is an Australian set series. The setting is an important part of the story, so I like to emphasise this in the narrative and make the most of the location, culture, and language to make it authentic. But many industry people recommend a certain degree of ‘Americanisation’ of Aussie books because of the assumption that Australian stories aren’t as appealing to the US market. As an Australian author, I would really love to find some hard evidence on this. Is the determining factor simply book sales history? But if some publishers are less likely to take risks on strongly Australian books, then how do they know if people are opposed if the public are not getting a chance to try them out?

Despite the apparent reluctance by some in the industry to fully embrace Australian authenticity without modification, there are a couple of interesting things I’ve heard:

While at the RWAus conference in August 2013, I was interested to hear guest speaker Sarah Wendell from the popular Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site mention how she brought up this topic on her facebook page, and the overall majority of US readers who commented on her post said they wanted to read our Aussie stories, slang and all. This was encouraging. And Kate Cuthbert, managing editor of Escape Publishing (Harlequin Australia’s digital imprint) says that Escape’s Australian rural romance stories do very well in America.

So do Aussie writers still need to be cautious when writing to use words and phrases that are more recognisable and understandable to the international market? It probably depends on particular publishers and their requirements and the particular market for your book, but here are a few ways to avoid major issues while still retaining cultural authenticity:

1. If a word substitution is not too much of a change from the one you would have used and is still realistic in your setting or for your characters, then it may be simpler to use the more globally recognisable word.

2. Stick to the Aussie word/phrase but elaborate in a way that explains what it means, just in case of possible confusion. Eg: She withdrew her thongs from under the bed and put them on, could be changed to: She withdrew her thongs from under the bed and slipped them on her feet, the rubber slapping against the wooden floorboards as she walked out of the room. Thongs in Australia are known in some other countries as flip-flops; rubber footwear that wedges between the big toe and second toe, whereas thongs, or a thong, in America is what we call a g-string, skimpy underpants! 😉

3. Adapt certain words and phrases in the narrative but not in dialogue. For example, you could mention in the narrative that someone put old junk in the trash, but if an Australian character is speaking out loud about trash, they would most likely say rubbish or garbage, so it is not completely authentic to have them say trash.

4. Create a glossary. Some publishers may allow you to include a glossary at the beginning or end of the book, listing the main words that might be confusing or misunderstood, so that a reader can check it if they come across something that makes them go “huh?”. In the case of ebooks, an advantage of many e-readers is the ability to highlight a word and look up a definition instantly. But this may not be one hundred percent helpful if the word is used in a way that the context needs to be understood, and that is when a glossary can come in handy as the author can tailor it to each particular book.

When I read books by international authors, I personally don’t mind if I don’t understand the odd word, I will just Google it or disregard it. Many readers are skimmers too, and if the word/phrase in question is not of major importance to understanding the story, it may not bother them.

In Australia we’ve grown up with a lot of American culture – movies, books, and TV shows. We’re used to most American terminology, but much of what happens in Australia stays in Australia so there is less exposure for our culture.

Writing for a global market sometimes means striking a balance between cultural authenticity and understandability. Readers need to identify with characters and places to a certain extent, but also like to experience something new & become immersed in a story and its setting.

In my new novel, The January Wish, I didn’t adjust much of the language and terminology, as the Australian small town setting is part of the appeal and I wanted to keep it realistic. In a book in which the setting is not as vital to the experience of the story (eg; set in a standard office building that could be anywhere in the world), it may be easier to adjust some things for an international market.

For any Australian writer that has been asked to Americanise their book, and for those non-Aussie’s who are interested in our terminology and slang, here is a brief list of some Aussie words that you may have seen or been required to change:

Boot – as in the trunk of a car

Rubbish bin – trash can, garbage

Bloke – guy, man, dude

Bugger – crap, damn

The bugger, or What a bugger! – an annoying person

Bludger – freeloader, lazy person

Sticky beak – prying, spying, being nosy

Ute – small truck (with a ‘tray’ to load and transport large items)

“Bloody oath!” – For sure, (agreeing or emphasising something)

Biscuits – cookies

Jam – jelly

Mobile phone – cell phone

Lounge – couch/sofa

Pot plant – house plant, a plant in a pot!

Jumper – sweater

Holiday – vacation

Petrol bowser – gas pump

What is your view on the Americanisation of Australian novels? I’d love to hear more thoughts on this…

As part of my blog tour for The January Wish, I am having a month-long giveaway. You could win a $25 Amazon gift card and a beautiful photographic print of the (Australian) setting of the novel 😉

The photographic print one lucky winner will take home.

The photographic print one lucky winner will take home.

Competition is open worldwide and drawn early February.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


TheJanuaryWishcoverFrom Escape’s queen of ro-magic comedy comes a sweet, emotional contemporary romance about the pleasures of making a wish and seeing it come true.

When Dr Sylvia Greene makes an impromptu wish at the Tarrin’s Bay Wishing Festival, it’s the most out of character action she can think of. Hers is not a life of wishes. Hers is a controlled life of order, plans and preparation…of science and research and diagnosis and treatment. But her past has been weighing on her mind, and decisions made long ago have far-reaching consequences.

A week later, the daughter she secretly gave up for adoption at sixteen arrives in Sylvia’s small coastal town with secrets that can’t be shared. Between feelings of guilt, gossip, and a growing attraction to an emotionally unavailable colleague, Sylvia’s well-ordered life is soon thrown into chaos. She is no longer alone, and for the first time she feels as if her world is open to possibilities.

They say be careful what you wish for, but, for Sylvia, the unexpected consequences may be just what the doctor ordered.

Buy THE JANUARY WISH from all good ebook retailers:
Amazon – Amazon UK – Amazon Aus – iTunes/iBookstore – Kobo – B&N/Nook – GooglePlay – BigW ebooks – Booktopia – JB HiFi – ebooks.com – All Romance ebooks

Visit Juliet online at her website, blog, facebook, Goodreads, and twitter.


  1. Interesting post! As a Canadian writer, I’m often Americanizing my books as well, mostly by slipping the action south of the border to either New York or Seattle. I then have to get my American sister-in-law to check for Canadian slip-ups. We have girl guides vs girl scouts, Crown Council and a bad tendency to use “up” at every opportunity. We line up, phone up, check up–we’re just an up-centric nation I guess. 😉
    I think publishers often underestimate the ability of U.S. readers to accept that other nationalities actually exist and speak and behave differently.



  2. I like books that aren’t Americanized. I just read a book that was allegedly set in Australia, but the school was totally American. It felt kind of unauthentic. It was interesting. Good post! Blogging has taught me a lot about what phrases the Americans don’t understand. (Yeah… thongs.)



  3. I one wrote close to a war&peace epic of an email discussing the cost of living here in Australia, and in particular education, referring to University as UNI… I sent it off to my USA friend who replied with three words… WHAT’S A UNI?

    I’ve since discovered Gap Year is a foreign concept to those on the other side of the pond too 🙂



  4. Informative post Juliet. I love our Australianianisms hahahahah But I also love to learn the ones from overseas as well. Character building 🙂



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