Harry Potter and other books - Americanized!

Peter   Fri Sep 01, 2006 7:07 pm GMT
I've recently read an interesting essay about the Harry Potter novels being Americanised by the US publisher Scholastic.
They have changed spellings, words, expressions, everything... into American English.
I think that's very sad and would almost consider it a "cultural crime" to do something like that. Doing such a thing makes Harry Potter lose its British "flavour"!
My question to American users:
Are novels from Britain (or Australia) usually "Americanised" or do publishers respect the original versions? For example, the "Lord of the Rings". Do the American editions use US spelling?
j   Fri Sep 01, 2006 7:33 pm GMT
Tolkien is dead. Harry Potter's author is alive. I think she just agreed to fit with American grammar, considering that the books are children's. What's bad about that?
Deborah   Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:21 pm GMT
I agree with Peter. I read books by British authors when I was a kid; I enjoyed the British flavour.
Peter   Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:31 pm GMT
As far as I know, British publishers don't do such things - for example changing spellings in an American novel.
It could be one of the reasons why British people are more familiar with American spelling and expressions.

I think that "Americanizing" British novels is a kind of censorship.
Peter   Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:33 pm GMT
Something to think about. This article appeared in the New York Times (http://www.cesnur.org/recens/potter_040.htm)
I think it's a great article (written by an American, by the way)

"Harry Potter, Minus a Certain Flavour"
by Peter H. Gleick ("New York Times," July 10, 2000)

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." 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.
John   Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:43 pm GMT
British version: How are you today? asked Harry. Very well, thank you for asking, said Hermione

American version: Yo Hermione waz goin' down bitch? said Harry. Yo dawg, imma go pop a cap in yo ass muthf***er, replied Hermione
Guest   Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:56 pm GMT
@John: pretty amusing... :-)
Robin   Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:35 am GMT
I agree with you, I think that American children are losing something of value. On the cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (British Version) is a picture of a Ford Anglia. I bet that is something that is not on the American Version. Also, the author was quite capable of choosing Sorcerer's Stone, instead of Philosopher's Stone, when they decided on a title. So, she (J Rowling) must have delibrately have chosen Philosopher's Stone for some reason.

I don't think Americans really realise how isolated they are.

Also, I don't think that they realise how 'conformist' their society is?
Llorenna   Sat Sep 02, 2006 4:23 am GMT
The same is done with Paulo Coelho's books in Portugal.
Brazilian spelling, word order, pronouns usage, idioms, different words are changed into European Portuguese. Although they don't put ''translated by'' but ''adapted by''. Adaptation is a euphemism for translation.
Peter   Sat Sep 02, 2006 10:42 am GMT
I had an American edition of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" once.
I noticed that they had changed many spellings: "a gray starship" (instead of grey, for instance). And: color instead of colour.
Uriel   Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:49 am GMT
Can't say I've ever noticed major changes.

We still get the flavor.

Or flavour, if you prefer.

Does the term "mountain out of a molehill" ring any bells here?
Ben   Sat Sep 02, 2006 6:28 pm GMT
Not at all, Uriel. We're talking about the cultural integrity of the original works here. It may be blown out of proportion to you, but it matters dearly to others.

By the same token, I assume you'd not care if your Hermes handbag -if you have one- is the real McCoy or a very good imitation.
Tiffany   Sun Sep 03, 2006 1:00 am GMT
I personally think there was no need for the change, and doing so was overreacting in the least. They are not different languages and there is no need for translation. The changes instituted anyway were so minor one must wonder why they changed it at all.
Guest   Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:56 am GMT
I frankly don't understand why books of British orgin or American Orgin should be 'translated'. Especially with the Harry Potter series protraying aspects of the British - I myself would find the American version abit too artifical especially when I hear the British actors in the movie version using American terms as oppose to their native ones.
Guest   Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:58 am GMT
Frankly the decision to Americanise the novel was pruely a business decision in my opinion.