Re: Harry Potter & The Salesman of Venice
>Harry Potter, Minus a Certain Flavour[my emphasis.
>By PETER H. GLEICK
> BERKELEY, Calif. -- My family, like so many others, was excited
> about Saturday's release of yet another Harry Potter book. But
> although there are many legitimate reasons for praising the
> series -- the exciting plots, the new young readers being drawn
> to books, the quality of the writing -- I am disappointed about
> one thing: the decision by Scholastic, publisher of the American
> edition, to translate the books from "English" into "American."
> Scholastic even went so far as to change the title of the first
> Harry Potter book from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's
> Stone" to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
Is this true? B.]
> Why? Were the editors worried that some people wouldn't buy the
> book because they couldn't understand it in its original
> language? Were they concerned that some children would be
> confused by new words for otherwise familiar objects or actions?
> I like to think that our society would not collapse if our
> children started calling their mothers Mum instead of Mom. And I
> would hate to think that today's children would be frightened
> away from an otherwise thrilling book by reading that the hero
> is wearing a jumper instead of a sweater.
> Are we afraid that when presented with new vocabulary, children
> will shrink away? Or that alternative spellings of previously
> known words will make children (and adults) suddenly start
> spelling things wrong, sending school test scores falling?
> A careful reading of both the English and the American editions
> of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" reveals three kinds
> of substitutions. The first are spelling differences: gray for
> grey, color for colour, flavor for flavour, pajamas for pyjamas,
> recognize for recognise and the like.
> The second are differences in common words or phrases: pitch
> turns to field, sellotaped to taped, fortnight to two weeks,
> post to mail, boot of car to trunk of car, lorry to truck.
> The third are metamorphoses of truly English experiences or
> objects into something different, but distinctly American:
> crumpets to English muffins, for example (a particular odious
> change, in my opinion).
> My two sons didn't have any difficulty understanding the British
> version of the book sent to them by their aunt in London.
> I admit to occasionally offering the meaning of a new word the
> first time it appeared, but don't we do that with every book we
> read to our children, or help them read to themselves?
> Do we really want children to think that crumpets are the same
> as English muffins? Frankly, reading about Harry and Hermione
> eating crumpets during tea is far more interesting to an
> American than reading about them eating English muffins during a
> Are any books immune from this kind of devolution from English
> to "American" English? Would we sit back and let publishers
> rewrite Charles Dickens or Shakespeare? I can see it now: "A
> Christmas Song," "A Story of Two Cities," "The Salesman of
> By protecting our children from an occasional misunderstanding
> or trip to the dictionary, we are pretending that other cultures
> are, or should be, the same as ours.
> By insisting that everything be Americanized, we dumb down our
> own society rather than enrich it.
> As for Harry Potter's latest adventures, my children and I will
> wait for the British version coming by mail.
> Peter H. Gleick is the author of "The World's Water 2000-2001."