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Translating English into English

“I only speak US”.
I’ve heard time and time again from people at Trunk Shows and yarn events when they come to talk crochet with me. It’s a common refrain across the internet, too; a pattern language is learnt, internalised and ownership of it is established as a crafter learns the crochet “ropes”.

Bilingual crafters like myself end up translating ourselves for the multitudes to be assured of being understood.
I have resorted to explanations like “the little square stitch, you know, the one that is as tall as it is wide” or “The one you don’t yarn over at the beginning for,” to describe a double crochet, for instance (single crochet for USians)

Or “the most common Granny Square stitch”, to describe a treble (double crochet for USians)

– See? I’m doing it again.

And I get it. I absolutely understand why people would hold on to their first language like a badge of honour. I do too. I take it as a sign of my longevity in this industry that I learnt crochet pattern writing in books so old that the UK version of the stitch names was more common. I’m also a sucker for a lost cause.

The popularity of the US version has certainly taken off with the advent of the internet, and the ever-growing number of people teaching that version on YouTube. And cool, sure, OK.

Crochet being such a young craft, it’s not surprising that we haven’t all settled down to using the same words for our stitches yet. Crochet really only began to emerge as a thing in the late Victorian era (late 19th Century), examples of whereas knitting – a far more venerable craft – have been found in Egyptian tombs.

Homogenisation is not a bad word, and eventually we will all begin to speak the same language but it’s myopic to accept it as a given and not work to preserve the past while we still can.

What a pity will it be, after all, when all those ancient patterns are no longer understandable to future generations. What a sad day it will be when the immense wealth of art and creativity our foresisters accumulated is consigned to the dust bin for being unintelligible.

And how disappointing it is that so many designers don’t bother to cater to both languages now when it is so easy to do.
If you “only” speak US, how many opportunities are you missing out on, you know? Why ignore an entire course at a banquet laid out especially for you because you aren’t familiar with the cutlery?

So. Here we go, folks.
Here’s how I translate my patterns from UK to US using the “Find and Replace” tool that’s available in every Word Processor and piece of Layout & Design software out there.

If you use Word, Open Office, Apple Pages, whatever, it’s in there. Find it, then do the following.

First things first: Luckily, slip stitches are universal, so we can ignore them.
They’re ss or sl st to everyone. Phew.

If possible, select “whole word” as an option, so you don’t have to wade through every word with a t and an r next to each other.

Note: if you are the one writing the pattern, be sure you leave spaces like this: [2 dc] in your notation. [2dc] may not register as a thing to find in your programme.
Additionally, be sure to keep an eye on what your programme is doing. Do not hit “Replace All” if that is an option, or you may turn words like “trying” into “dcying” and confuse the life out of everyone.

UK to US (see US to UK below)

Tip: Start with the smallest stitch and work up.

Find: dc Replace with: sc
Find: htr Replace with: hdc
Find: tr Replace with: dc
Find: dtr Replace with: tr
Find: ttr Replace with: dtr
Find: dc2tog Replace with: sc2tog
Find: dc3tog Replace with: sc3tog

In your abbreviations: (this is best done manually)
Find: double Replace with: single
Find: treble Replace with: double
Find: double treble Replace with: treble

US to UK

Tip: Start with the largest stitch and work down.

Luckily, slip stitches are universal, so we can ignore them.
They’re ss of sl st to everyone. Phew.

If possible, select “whole word” as an option, so you don’t have to wade through every word with a d and a c next to each other.

Find: dtr Replace with: ttr
Find: tr Replace with: dtr
Find: dc Replace with: tr
Find: hdc Replace with: htr
Find: sc Replace with: dc

Find: dc2tog Replace with: sc2tog
Find: dc3tog Replace with: sc3tog

In your abbreviations:
Find: treble Replace with: double treble
Find: double Replace with: treble
Find: single Replace with: double

Lastly: Want to translate a pattern you found online or in a pdf?
Select and copy the text, then paste it into your word processor.

No pattern is now beyond your understanding.

Please do bare in mind, though, that translating a pattern doesn’t mean you own that version. Translating is a thing you can do to broaden your personal horizons.
– If you bought that pattern, do not distribute your version.
– If the pattern was free, be sure the designer gives explicit permission to you before you go about distributing their work. Include clear credit and do not sell it. No contact from a designer is a “no”.

Support creative professionals.

6 thoughts on “Translating English into English

  1. Thanks for the fun and interesting post! I loved hearing even a word about the pupper. Hoping for more photos on IG. I always teach my students that the US us younger than UK so the stitches are a step down in size. I have turned lots of my crocheters into bilingual stitchers and we don’t panic if there’s only one version! 💕💕💕
    Stay well !

    1. I’ll do my best to get more photos of her. I so want to share her with you!
      But she’s very shy with the camera, and soooo hard to phtoograph with her black fur.

      It takes a bit of jiggering to get some light on her to see her, and by then, she totally knows there’s a photo afoot.

  2. As a non-American, I also crochet in two languages. It is a shame that so many designers make assumptions about their customers and don’t put both sets of abbreviations in the patterns, which would be so easy to do.

  3. Hi Aoibhe! My name is Brenda. I just heard (a few hours ago) about you from a friend of mine in my local (Minneapolis area) crochet guild. I totally agree with you; I love history and I’m sad when it gets lost or when people think it unimportant. I will redouble my efforts to be a bilingual crafter and encourage others to do the same.
    God bless!
    Oh, I almost forgot, your designs look awesome!

    1. Thank you Brenda!
      And please thank you friend for talking about my work. That sort of support makes this job of mine an actual, sustainable career.

      Love to you both! Grá daoibh!

  4. This is so true! I’m a Finn but when I learnt to crochet I learnt from US English patterns. Now if I find a UK pattern I’m lost :D. And if I try to use a pattern in Finnish I’m even more lost :D.

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