Americanisation of British Children's Fiction

Paul   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 17:00 GMT
I hope that the fact that English is a world language and the variations in words we are talking about here are relatively trivial, will eventually minimize the amount of this kind of editing and translation that are currently required to publish a Foreign Book in the United States.
I think that this process of simplification occurs in America, not so much because of their xenophobia per se, but because of an American concern for their target audience.
Because reading is considered less of a bastion of the elites in America, you see condensed and simplified versions of all manner of literature, not just Foreign works, to provide children and the less educated working classes with something to read. Adult Comic books are also very popular, and they even import wholesale Manga Comics from Japan for young adults.
Take a look at their magazine the Reader's Digest.
It condenses and simplifies all manner of useful current magazine articles and even short American fiction.
Nothing else would explain the popularity of these condensed books.
I have seen 3 different translations of Les Miserables into English available at the same time in a Large American Bookstore.
The older British Translation in archaic English was 750 pages of small print. There were 2 American translations, one about 300 pages and one 650 pages. The one at 650 pages seemed quite faithful to the original.
The world is getting smaller every day, in no small part due to the Americans, but I would hesitate to say the generalizations that you present to this Forum are still accurate. Things are not so simple.

Regards, Paul V.
Budvar   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 17:01 GMT

So you permit yourself to accuse of Xenophobia a whole country in the same post that you start with "I hate Americans".

What makes that acceptable?

As for your Danone example, could you perhaps tell me what is the brand name of Danone in the UK? You don't say!
chris   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 17:07 GMT
American xenophobia is unsurpassed? That's the theme for the entire rant. There may be much better ways to measure a country's xenophobia, immigration policy for example. Paul's explanation is primarily lazy invective, one-dimensionial, bigoted and xenophobic in itself. I could go on, but that would be giving credibility to what is essentially racist lunacy.
Elaine   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 19:18 GMT
Let me ask you, Paul. 1) Have you ever lived in the USA long enough to get to know the American psyche or do you just base your perceptions on American culture on what you read or see on tv? 2) Have you ever lived in other countries besides your own to know for sure if these qualities that you perceive as exclusively American occur in other countries as well? I mean, for god's sake, where do you get all your facts from???

<<I hate Americans as much as any other normal being would (not a big deal since Americans hate the entire world)…>>

Wrong. We don’t hate the entire world, we just don't pay it much attention b/c we're wrapped up in our own lives. See the difference?

<<I must agree with Random Chappie that Americanization of British concepts is annoying. Besides being annoying, it is also a uniquely American phenomenon, which is not restricted to British fiction.>>

"American phenomenon"??? What BS! Other countries do the same thing.

<<American xenophobia is unsurpassed.>>

Oh please. Xenophobia exists everywhere. Don't try to tell me that the US is worse than all those other countries you hear about where ethnic minorities were or are routinely persecuted and exterminated. Just ask the Kurds, the Sudanese, the Albanians, the Eastern European Jews, the Armenians, the Timorese, etc. etc. etc.

<<In some cases, as with American hatred of Muslims or inexplicable American Russophobia.>>

Inexplicable? May I remind you that after WWII, the Russians not only held on to East Germany but they marched into Czechoslovakia and Hungary, installed puppet governments in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, and tried to install missiles in Cuba, aimed directly at the US? This "Russophobia" you speak of was not based solely on irrational paranoia but was an understandable reaction towards aggressive Soviet expansionism.

Americans don’t hate Muslims per se, but we are shocked by the actions of the Muslim extremists, which taints our already skewed views of Islam.

<<Outsiders generally accept American culture "as is" while Americans hate the world with a passion, fear it and do not relate to other cultures (although they believe they do and some say that out loud).>>

“Hate the world with a passion”??? That is rich. Where do you get this from?

<<French food conglomerate Danone...blah blah blah>>

A short history of Dannon: Isaac Carasso started his small yogurt company in Europe and named it “Danone” after his son. He then immigrated to the US where he started another company and called it Dannon Milk Products, Inc. That company quickly took off and Carasso sold his shares. Dannon was bought by Beatrice Co., which expanded to other markets and became a huge household name in the US. Meanwhile, Carasso moved back to Europe to manage the original business. He merged Danone with a French company, BSN, which later bought Dannon from Beatrice Co. BSN changed its name to Danone Group.

So what you have here are two separate entities establishing two separate names in two separate markets, then finally merging into one. Hence the differences in names NOT because of American xenophobia but because of historical circumstances.

Btw, how come our xenophobia hasn't kept us from buying Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, Porsches, Toyotas, Peugots, Hyundais, Sony products, Haagen Dazs ice cream, Yoplait yogurt, Chanel, Givenchy, Versace, etc. Those all sound like foreign names to me.

<<Nowhere else in the world do foreign films get routinely licensed or have plots stolen in order to be reproduced as “local remakes” since a film set in France is of no interest to the average American (here the French, who are human, are at a great disadvantage because they do watch American films. On the other hand, except for a limited artsy audience, Americans don’t watch foreign films).>>

You are so full of shit. Asian cinema is so full of rip-offs of American films…and vice versa (And many of these Asian film companies don't even bother with licensing agreements). So don't be saying this is an American thing. How can you even possibly know what films get made in foreign countries?

<<Here is another language absurdity and an example of American xenophobia which, like the notorious "book adaptations," is not encountered anywhere else: when a foreigner, be it a Chinese or Russian or South American, speaks on an American television program/me or featured in a documentary, his or her voice is narrated over by another foreigner (!) or an actor who reads the translation with deliberately strong “accent.” Although it is total idiocy, - since people do not speak in their own languages with foreign accepts, it is a reflection of the strength of American xenophobia. >>

Your anti-Americanism sure does cloud your perceptions. In documentaries, whenever someone speaks in a foreign language, a translator from that person's country is usually brought in to narrate. This explains the strong accent. Do you honestly think a GenAm speaker is doing the translating and purposely altering his accent??? That's crazy! As for films or tv programs, "foreign" characters speak in English so that the American audience can understand what they're saying however, the foreign accent establishes that the characters are not from these parts. Sound pretty reasonable to me.

<<If you get a French, German or Russian version of an American film, - or any film for that matter, - in which one of the participants speaks in American English, the actors who read translated narration would never attempt to recreate American accent, in fact they would read the text in the perfect French, German or Russian. >>

I seriously doubt this.

<<Ever noticed how the villains in American movies speak with the "British accent?">>

Apart from period films that take place during the US Revolution, no, I haven't. Are you telling me that every single American movie ever made has a villain with a British accent???
Budvar   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 19:31 GMT
Basically Paul is a twat and he should be banned from his forum on grounds of xenophopic posting.
mjd   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 20:01 GMT
Paul is dead wrong on a number of isses, but given his bigoted point of view, this should come as no surprise.

This type of cross-cultural editing occurs all the time. A perfect example would be Portugal and Brazil. Due to its sheer size, the majority of the world's Portuguese speakers live in Brazil (the population of the São Paulo metro area is almost equal to the entire population of Portugal). It thus boasts a large influence over the entire Lusophone world. Portugal has, therefore, been exposed to the famous Brazilian soap operas (telenovelas), singers, etc., for a long period of time. However, the same cannot be said for Portuguese programs in Brazil. Due to the differences in the accents, some of those Portuguese programs which have been shown in Brazil were actually *subtitled* because of the Brazilian unfamiliarity with the somewhat clipped and harsher Portuguese accent. This is not to say that all Brazilians and Portuguese have problems understanding each other....many do not. I'm only offering this story to expose Paul's ignorance.

As for his point about villains having British accents....While this may sometimes be the case, it certainly isn't the norm. In fact, in the U.S. the British accent is usually used in movies when the speaker is supposed to appear sophisticated, intelligent or formal.
mjd   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 20:20 GMT
I should amend my last comment there. This, of course, also depends on the kind of British accent that is used. If a character has, for example, a cockney accent, it's not going to give off an air of formality. The characters in "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" or "Snatch" certainly don't sound sophisticated.

For the most part, Paul is still wrong on the whole villain thing though. For example, Hannibal Lecter (as played by Anthony Hopkins) speaks with a British accent not because he's a villain (he's actually a kind of an anti-hero), but because he's supposed to be highly intelligent and sophisticated.
Random Chappie   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 07:06 GMT
Thank you, whoever it was, for deleting the last few postings in this thread, including my own. Thank you very much.

I must say sorry to all of you here for even starting this thread in the first place, a misjudgement of the worst type. I think it necessary to make a peace offering to my dear American friends here...

Rule Am'rica, Am'rica rule the waves!
Am'ricans never, never, never will be slaves!
God save the Constitution! Long live the Stars and Stripes, symbol of the Western Hemisphere's Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free!

I may not believe at all in the above verses, but they are the least I can offer as amends.

Meanwhile, I must thank Dulcinea del Toboso. My opinions on the matter in question are exactly the same as his/hers, no stronger, no weaker.
mjd   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 08:09 GMT
I see no problem discussing this issue if people are mature enough to handle it in a respectful manner and can stick to the topic at hand....language (in this case cross cultural editing as it relates to dialectal differences). I see nothing wrong with disagreement and debate, but such discussions require a higher caliber of individuals, something so sorely lacking on many Internet forums. Fortunately I think we've got a good lot here on Antimoon, minus a few trolls, and it shouldn't be a problem.

Trolls or those who aren't mature enough to handle a discussion (i.e. people who engage in these ridiculous "holier than thou" online rants) will face deletion.
nic   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 08:58 GMT
Random Chapie, you said : "God save the Constitution! "

Why do you refer to god? What is the point between god and the constitution (american constitution, am i right?)
Budvar   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 09:27 GMT
To Random Chappie,

I think that this thread is a very interesting one and you did well in bringing this subject up. Hopefully Twat Paul will have found somewhere else to post his imbecile tirades and we can go back to talk about languages and how to learn them better.

An die Arbeit!

I was myself unpleasantly surprised when I found that the Harry Potter book had been "americanised". I have the feelings editors do that because they feel that children won't buy books that will require the additional effort of "translating" from British to American English. That is patently untrue and it is also a diisservice to those kids. From my point of view reading is not, should not be, a passive enjoyment but something active. Kids should read with a dictionary well at hand to look up terms (there are no shortage of obscure words in the Harry Potter's series) and they should learn also that there are other possible spellings that are equally acceptable. The mind of a child is porous as a sponge and they are quite able to live with that. I reckon editors are shortchanging the children as well as betraying the authoress.
Damian   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 10:09 GMT
My viewpoint on forums such as this:

It is primarily one of democratic free speech and anyone should be permitted to state their own opinions on language and all related topics, and as mjd says, sticking to the thread topic. I believe we should be allowed to say anything we like as long as it is not PERSONALLY offensive to inividuals, as sometimes occurs in here, sadly, with obnoxious comments passed without anything to substantiate them. That is plain rudeness. I may well have been guilty of this to a degree myself on occasion, but never directed at an individual. Several of my postings have vanished so I guess they fell foul of mjd ;-) I nickname him the Meaningless Junk Deleter, so I reckon those postings were in that category. I respect mjd's reasons without question.

It's difficult to define prejudice, really. I love the English language in all it's forms and as I have said before I hate to hear it used badly. It is possible of course to speak CORRECT English with strong regional accents. Maybe I show signs of prejudice here but I don't much like any insidious "Americanisation" of British children's fiction if it is for consumption outside the USA, especially in Britain. What the Americans choose to do within their own country is of no concern to me at all, but I am very unhappy at any attempt to foist "Americanisation" here. It happens more than we realise, in the mass media here, not just via wee Harry Potter. I don't believe I am being anti-American when I say that, but I think I have a democratic right to say so. By the same token, I got angry with a poster in another forum, whom I believe was English, and who made what I thought were deeply offensive and arrogant comments about Celtic languages in the UK. Sometimes, as an Aries and a fiery Scot, I am difficult to restrain.


I believe that any learners of English, anywhere in the world, have the right choose whether they use British English or American English.
nic   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 10:29 GMT

It's not so easy to make a difference between the british english or the american english. The best example is the Antimoon forum where you can read british, US amricans, australians...posts. If you are a non english native speaker you notice new words but you don't realize where it comes from apart some expressions like "i wanna, i gonna...".

So do we (non english speakers) have a choice in fact? Not with internet. But the most interesting is to read and to write, you all the time discover new things.
Ryan   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 15:06 GMT
I don't understand this thread at all. Japanese people don't get pissed off when Japanese manga get translated into English. Brits shouldn't get pissed off when their books get translated into American English. It's a different dialect, and we shouldn't expect kids in the United States to have to learn this dialect just like we shouldn't expect them to have to learn Japanese just to read manga. However, as somebody who wishes that manga in the original Japanese were easier to acquire in the United States, it would be nice if both an "American" and "British" version of Harry Potter were marketed in the United States, so that those who wanted to read it with all the original British words could do so without importing it.
mjd   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 23:28 GMT
Like I said, this type of cross-cultural editing occurs all the time and certainly isn't restricted to the U.S. and the U.K. Paul's aim was to write an inflamatory anti-American post, which he succeeded in doing given the reaction of many in this thread. What he has failed to do is address any of the points which have shown this to be a common phenomenon, such as my Portugal/Brazil example.

If you can read Portuguese, Paul, I'd recommend that you read 'Carta de um Editor Português' by the Brazilian essayist and novelist Rachel de Queiroz in her "100 Crônicas Escolhidas." She addresses this whole issue rather well.