01 December 2008


A recent post on romancingtheblog highlighted the issue of writers using references that some readers may not get. This particular post was talking about abbreviations, but I guess it applies equally to specific geographical locations, personalities and language. As long as they don't pop on ever page it wouldn't bother me (I find carelessness far more irritating - I once read a novel in which characters were selling shoes on eBay, sending emails, using slimline mobile phones and watching DVDs in 1985.). But given its timeless international appeal, category romance tends to avoid things like this.

I have a scene in which my characters discuss the whole auction thing and why the hero bid for her. Here's a snippet.

‘I think you’re piqued because I didn’t bid for you out of some overwhelming desire for your body... Admit it, your vanity’s stung.’
‘I’ll have you know my vanity is very much unstung. I just don’t appreciate being batted back and forwards like a commodity between two bored bankers.’
‘We’re not bankers.’
She arched an eyebrow. ‘Rhyming slang.’
Luke winced.

OK, so it's not a particularly obscure example of rhyming slang and should be fairly easy to work out (and hopefully not too offensive!), but if you didn't get it, would it annoy you? How far would/should you go to avoid such references?


Barbara said...


I think your excerpt read well. I just wasn't sure what "rhyming slang" meant. But, in that case, it wouldn't bother me, I would just do a Google search. Which, I did and found a cool reference page for British slang.

And, I think MH wants 'modern' references now, don't they?

Hope your Thanksgiving went well.


Lucy said...

Hi Barbara

How interesting - it never occurred to me that 'rhyming slang' might not be understood!!

Wasn't it Oscar Wilde who said that Britain and America were two nations separated by the same language?!

Jackie said...

That's clever Lucy! I got it - but I lived in the UK for a couple of years. Personally, I quite like unexplained or oblique references in books. As Barbara says, you can look it up if you're interested. Plus, it assumes your readers are intelligent beings and don't need to have everything spelled out for them.

Barbara said...


You are going to laugh at this, but can you explain what part of that scene was the 'rhyming slang?'
I am really off today.

And how do I know that I am off today? Because the link I googled earlier today is the same link that was in your post. But I didn't notice it until this evening. Obviously November destroyed all of my brain cells.


Lucy said...

Good point, Jackie.

No Barbara, your brain hasn't fried - I added that link because of your comment!

The rhyming slang part is 'banker'. 'merchant banker' = 'wanker' (slightly coarse way of saying 'contemptible idiot'.)

Lorraine P said...

Lucy, I really like the line. I didn't think about rhyming slang being UK specific - I suppose it must all derive from the cockney slang...

It's made me think a bit more about references that readers might not get. A recent forum discussion on the eharlequin community made me realise that a lot of references I assume are global are baffling to non Brits.

Ah well, hope you're allowed to keep the line!