Saturday, April 19, 2008

Same sky: Roman the Roman, or is he Bratislavan?

Remember my write-up on St Martin's Cathedral for the Nerd's Eye View micro travel writers' workshop? The very kind Angela Nickerson has now posted some helpful feedback on everyone's pieces and it was a useful exercise for all involved I think - thanks Angela and Pam!

Angela pointed out something which I often overlook these days - assumptions that readers make, and a lack of shared knowledge. Referring to a man I met in Bratislava, I wrote that "this cathedral is Roman’s cathedral" ... because to me, obviously Roman is a man's name. But perhaps five years ago, that wouldn't have been the first connotation for me, especially when discussing old buildings in Europe, and as Angela rightly pointed out, readers could be confused by this.

It opens up an interesting can of worms for me, a can containing a million misunderstandings that can arise because of different cultural bases and different experiences. Even between native speakers of English, there can be all kinds of misunderstandings; I still have trouble remembering that if my American stepfather says he "lucked out", then that's a good thing - Australians use it in the opposite way. Perhaps this means we have to read our writing with the "eyes of the world", trying to imagine how those from different backgrounds will understand something. That's a lifelong task in itself, but for me, interesting food for thought.

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