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Re: Harry Potter & The Salesman of Venice

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  • Barry Carroll
    ... [my emphasis. Is this true? B.]
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2000
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      >Harry Potter, Minus a Certain Flavour
      >
      >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."

      [my emphasis.
      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
      > meal.
      >
      > 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
      > Venice."
      >
      > 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."
      > ______________________________________________________________
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