In Cultural Colloquiums and Blog Writing, I shared a joke that I had grown up with and thought was very clever and funny that I told to a friend while I was living in the Middle East. While she was fluent in the English language, after I told the joke, I could tell that her laughter wasn’t sincere. She didn’t get the joke.
To understand the joke you had to know about the The Lone Ranger television show of the 1950s, about a blindfolded white man hero who rode a white horse and wore a white hat who rescued folks out in the wild, wild west. You also knew the theme song of the television show, The William Tell Overture by Tchaikovsky, which played as the man and horse raced across the wide open deserts. Without that information, the joke wasn’t funny.
Television didn’t reach the Israelis until the 1970s. If they were born and raised in the Middle East, the Lone Ranger and his song weren’t part of their culture. It was an important part of mine. Was it yours?
Have you stopped to consider the cultural colloquiums and references you make in your blog writing which are country, region, or age specific? I have.
Have you ever tried to explain American baseball to a Russian? Or anyone who has no familiarity with baseball? I did and it was a nightmare, trust me. Americans are unconscious about their use of baseball references in their day-to-day language. How many times have you declared something was a “strike out” and you don’t even like baseball? It’s just part of our language.
“So, did you get to third base last night?” “Nah, I struck out again.” “You know the law. Three strikes, you’re out.” “Hey, take a walk.” “Well, that came out of left field.” “It was a home run, baby!” “It was a line drive I didn’t see coming at me.”
Think about how the trendy, jargon, national, and regional references you use in your blog may be misunderstood or even confuse your blog readers. It’s critical for bloggers to be “understood”, so take time to look at what you write and how your writing may create a disconnect with your readers.
Cardoso shared a story of starting an online tutorial with “OK, let’s do it together, Little Grasshopper…” and a woman responded, outraged, “Are you calling me an insect!” The reference was to an American classic television show, Kung Fu, a show that obviously never reached her.
If you are writing for a very specific audience, then use terms and phrases they will recognize and identify with. Identifiable cultural colloquialisms connect people. When they understand the reference, you hold their attention and can move forward with the subject matter. There is no confusion.
If you are writing as a representative of a culture or region, then definitely allow your written speech to represent the dialect and colloquialisms of your area. It’s essential to create the “sense” of place in your blog writing, inviting the readers into your world.
Still, watch for colloquial phrases and asides that don’t add to your blog writing. We often throw in metaphors and similes that don’t add to the content but stylize it.
While stylization is colorful and adds to the story, not all such references can be easily understood by an international audience. You may end up spending more time in the comments answer questions about why you used a specific reference than the point you intended to make. I can’t tell you how long it took me to explain the Lone Ranger and baseball, but it was way past the point of funny when I finished. And the original point in bringing up the subject was long gone.
Have you had a situation where someone misunderstood what you were blogging about because of a cultural expression or phrase? Do you think about the expressions you use when you write and if they will be recognized by your audience?
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.