Highfalutin Flying Pigs by J J Dare

When friends and acquaintances find out I’m a writer, a few of them want to pick my brain about something they’ve either written or want to write. For the most part, I don’t mind. I mean, after all, everyone starts somewhere and a few of the lucky ones end up on a bestseller’s list.

A few months back an acquaintance from school sent a manuscript she’d written to a group of our former classmates. She asked everyone to take a month or two to read it. I took her literally at her word and read it on the last day of Month Number Two.

The problem with critiquing anything is: opinions are subjective. Others may love what I dislike. One thing I don’t like is pretentiousness – in person or on paper. In my neck of the woods, highfalutin flying pigs are shot and roasted – metaphorically, of course.

This manuscript was a challenge. Every fifth or sixth paragraph was written in Babelfish German. I know Latin (though, as the years go by, I remember less and less) and can vaguely translate a smattering in other languages, but this was migraine-inducing.

Here’s an example of what I faced: “Der Esel fliegt schnell Fett Himmel. Wer kratzt mein Zeh-Saft? Das Gestein beißen das Brot.”

Which loosely translates to: “The Donkey flies fast Fat Sky. You scratch my Toe-Juice? The Rock bit the Bread.”

The German words she used added nothing to the story except irritation. It was simply a play to get noticed – until someone who actually speaks German starts translating.

I have used foreign words in my stories but I limit myself to the easily recognized. The French words c’est la vie, au revoir and bonjour are familiar to American readers. The Spanish compadre is used down here more often than friend – and that’s kind of weird since this region is full of Cajun-French influence.

I draw the line when I feel myself trying to impress with my limited foreign language knowledge although I was rather impressive when my kids were younger. Sadly, they’ve caught on to Mom making up her own foreign words to sound smart. They speak French and Russian, so they are way out of my league now and I’ve stopped trying to bluff my way past them.

 How to tell a fledgling writer I would not buy their book if I need an English/German dictionary at my fingertips? It’s not easy when someone is dressed to the nines and you have to tell them their underwear is showing.



J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

Facebook addiction


Filed under books

5 responses to “Highfalutin Flying Pigs by J J Dare

  1. JJ: Your post recalls for me a recent meme I saw on Facebook. It asked if, as a reader, whenever you come across a name in a novel you can’t pronounce, you substitute your own mental gibberish.

    It’s a fine line we writers walk when making decisions about narrative, dialogue and plot, and you’re right, opinions on any text are extremely subjective: what one reader thinks is great might leave another scratching their head. I recall reading a novel by one of my favorite science fiction novelists in which one of the characters had a speech impediment. While it was a tertiary character, he had a great deal of page time, and I became very annoyed by all the “ums,” “ahs,” and “ers” that peppered the pages. It really slowed me down.

    Concerning what you encountered, I think all you can do is practice diplomacy. I’ve had to do this in my own writers group. I simply state that this is my subjective opinion, take what you wish, and leave the rest. Typically, if there is a consensus among the other members that this is an issue, the author of the piece should reconsider; however, sometimes egos get in the way.

  2. I’ve been in a similar situation a few times and it is difficult. It’s best to honest, and hopefully she’ll accept what you tell her as constructive and helpful. I love your last sentence.

  3. C’est un merveilleux blog!

  4. That was hilarious, the German, I mean. It’s rather a peeve of mine when writers throw in phrases and don’t give you any help figuring out what they mean. Most of the time I just skip whatever it is because I figure the writer knows that I don’t know so nothing important is going to be missed. These phrases usually don’t add a thing, but I believe the writer felt the foreign words gave their work more atmosphere. Feh.

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