British vs American? What now after the poll?

December 13, 2013


(In response to my Very American or Very British? Can you tell the difference  poll. Thank you to all that took the time to respond to it)

Well, honestly, not much. I don’t know where the line is between recognizing and accepting cultural differences (and how they may impact works of fiction) and making marked generalizations about cultures/segments of society. I suspect most people are attempting the first, but I sometimes view it as the second. There is merit in acknowledging the differences we have but I get leery when I hear statements that make it sound black and white. I like grey.

I was in some ways surprised by the number of people that say they can often tell if a book is written by a British or American author (~30%) and about 50% said they could sometimes tell a difference. Yes, there are different cultures and histories to the two places that can make their general style and preference different. I am not going to debate that. But, I guess where my issue comes in is feeling confident enough that the two are so different that an author from one country could definitively not write in the style considered a hallmark from another country. I can understand saying that in general certain styles may come more from one area or another. Before our world became so global, I am sure it would have happened more often as segments of a society were more isolated with limited exposure to one another. But in the world we live in today, I just can’t understand the blanket generalizations.

Maybe it’s just ignorance on my part, or it is the American in me, maybe people will read this and take that as evidence of where I come from, maybe they will judge me as striving to be too politically correct in an area that does not even warrant it. But I can’t help it. And by the way, my labeling myself as an American as an ‘excuse’ for my opinion is only done to serve a point, not because I believe it to be the case. I just can’t help but feel that people are people all over the world and that when it comes down to it, what entertains one set of people with humor and stories can’t be that drastically different from somewhere else; Especially for fellow countries within the Western world that are culturally similar. Yes, settings and word choices vary, but the meat of a story, the style, tone and all of that, I just feel can be universal.

I can’t help but think that if this American versus British theory were put to the test, people would not be quite as accurate as they believe. I certainly don’t have the reach to make such a test happen, and I am not certain how wide the interest in it would be, but the fact that only 20% of respondents felt as I do makes me feel perhaps I am not putting authors into buckets and maybe I should be, but I really don’t want to. I read to enjoy the story. I like to believe anyone can write stories and styles that interest them.

Anyway, that’s where my thoughts on it are. Pretty much, I like grey, I like feeling that boundaries and definitions are loose and that placing people in buckets should not be so easy as a geographical assessment. Feel free to comment if you agree/disagree or to tell me that my thoughts make you yawn.

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