It’s not St. Patrick’s Day yet, but I had to ask Google to make sure since we don’t celebrate St Patrick’s in England. St. George’s, St. David’s, and St. Andrew’s Days are similarly invisible. But I read a novel recently where green-free kids in Manchester, England, suffered the pains of pinches of Ireland’s blessed day. Another book featured an English family measuring distance in kilometers. And in another, perhaps confusing the multiple (English) meanings of “nick,” someone asked a friendly thief, “Who did you nick?”
There again, my novel Divide by Zero features a grandmother who moves into her daughter’s living-room. My editor gently suggested, “She can’t do that. Living-rooms don’t have doors.” English living-rooms frequently do have doors, but the novel’s set in America. So I added a scene where they built one. Thank heavens for editors!
They tell you to “write what you know,” but the problem is, it’s really hard to spot what you don’t know. That’s how bugs get into computer code–we try to test every case and we miss a few. It’s how they creep into novels too, except we call them glitches and editing errors. Maybe if I called them bugs, the creepiness factor (I hate creepy-crawlies) would encourage me to devise better tests for them. After all, I was once a QA engineer. Meanwhile, I’ll rejoice in the generosity of editors and beta-readers… and in Google, where I can ask silly questions like, “who gets pinched on St Patrick’s Day?”
Just for reference, pinching kids for not wearing green is very American. The English are only partially metric and still measure distance in miles (and set speed limits in miles per hour). And a cop can say, “You’re nicked,” to a thief, but thieves nick stuff from people.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day when it comes around. And may your grass be greener when winter’s gone.
Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and Imaginary Numbers, all coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.