Which English witch?

I’m finding the first Harry Potter book utterly confusing, and not in the way one might expect. Harry has a “mum,” not a “mom,” which is properly British, but then he eats a bag of “chips,” which means french fries, which don’t normally come in bags — those are “crisps,” which means potato chips. Later he had a “pasty,” which is not something any American child would be allowed to eat (in Britain a turnover, in America stripper apparel), followed by an English muffin! A what? But in the next chapter, they’re saying “Merry” Christmas, which no Brit would say. And of course the most obvious change, taking the “philosopher’s stone” of the title, a legend that dates back to the 13th century, and swapping it for “sorcerer’s stone,” which means nothing, is just insulting.

It turns out that I’m late to this particular party: these very “translation problems” that so gall me were apparently discussed in a 2000 _New York Times_ op-ed, and in the later books Scholastic, the American publisher, made far fewer modifications. Very good indeed.

5 replies on “Which English witch?”

  1. What’s wrong with English Muffins? They are tasty and available on both sides of the Atlantic (actually sometimes I find them hard to find and a Crumpet is the closest I can get here, but then again, I’m not in England)

  2. Heh, I’m just giving you a hard time. We actually have a mixture of Potter books here, some American, some British editions, so I have no idea what I read.

    But know this: English Muffins are better than crumpets.

Comments are closed.