Black cab drivers have more developed brains than the rest of us

Last night my husband and I were watching “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo”, a British comedy/science/game show that we both love when a guest shocked us with this statement, “Black cab drivers have more developed brains than the rest of us.”

I turned to my husband. “I can’t believe they said that on television. That’s racist. It’s going to cause all sorts of trouble for the show.”

“Yeah, that’s weird,” he replied.

We watched them research the validity of this statement. Mystified as to why no one was offended by this statement, we watched them prove its truth. Ten minutes later, a light bulb went off in my brain.

“Google England and black cabs,” I said to my husband.

He did. “Oh, the cabs are black.”

“So, they meant drivers of black cabs have more developed brains than the rest of us,” I said. “Not, cab drivers of African descent have more developed brains and the rest of us.”

This is a perfect example of how a cultural difference may cause misunderstanding of words. Now that our books are being sold on to Great Britain, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, we need to be aware of this.

Working with an American editor on my first book, Nightfall: Dawn’s End Book One, she asked me to define  “transport”.

“Transport truck,” I replied.

“What’s that?” she said.

Now we can’t have a list of expressions in every culture available as we write. In context, the reader would be able to figure out what a transport was. But it might behoove us to consider the various ways phrases could be interpreted if we plan on selling our books to other English speaking countries, especially with regard to black cab drivers. Word order is important.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


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