Two countries divided by a common language
April 18, 2015 11:18 PM   Subscribe

Seeking novels that have been "translated" from British English to American English.

The Harry Potter books are the most common example - they changed things like "car park" to "parking lot" and "jumper" to "sweater" and things like that. I also have a British edition of Bridget Jones's Diary in which she records her weight in stones, whereas in the American version they changed it to pounds. What other books have been localised/localized for Americans?
posted by donajo to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Am not sure if Australian films count, but The Castle had a few changes made for the US (e.g. "Rissole" was changed to "meatloaf" and "two-stroke" was changed to "diesel"). wikipedia reference
posted by kisch mokusch at 12:48 AM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just about any YA book will be translated in this way. An example picked simply because I was told explicitly about it this weekend (forms translated to grades) - Lisa Williamson's The Art of Being Normal.
posted by tavegyl at 12:56 AM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by nat at 1:43 AM on April 19, 2015

Hi, I'm a US expat living in the UK and a voracious reader. As tavegyl said above, this is endemic in YA literature, even when it doesn't make sense. Just the other day I read the UK edition of The Miseducation of Cameron Post - a YA novel set in Oklahoma - and it was littered with "rubbish bins" instead of "garbage cans" and "car parks" instead of "parking lots". I find it especially irritating in this case because the location is an important part of the story and it just doesn't make sense not to stay true to language of the characters.
posted by cilantro at 2:29 AM on April 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Lots of the references in Dick Francis' books, although not all, and sometimes they just added an explanation of the UK terms.
posted by easily confused at 3:56 AM on April 19, 2015

You can read some reviews of the US edition of this truly terrible, trashy novel made worse (which I did not think was possible) because it was not only translated, it was transported. THEY RE-SET IT IN THE US. It is... hilarious.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:41 AM on April 19, 2015

IIRC, they wanted to do this with "Trainspotting," but the author vehemently objected and so they compromised by putting a Scottish glossary in the back.
posted by Melismata at 4:51 AM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

A lot of Ruth Rendell's books (mysteries) have gotten this treatment, and at least a few have even gotten title and character name changes (Asta's Book/Anna's Book for one). Agatha Christie's books, too. Often released with different titles in the U.S.
posted by mskyle at 6:27 AM on April 19, 2015

I picked up Northern Lights by Philip Pullman on a trip to the UK as a kid and came back to find out it was published separately as The Golden Compass in the US.
posted by bookdragoness at 8:06 AM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've noticed it with most Agatha Christie novels.
posted by jaguar at 8:49 AM on April 19, 2015

I wish they would put a label on the books so that we can decide which version we want to buy. I adore the Bryant and May books by Christopher Fowler, but apparently they're quite different. There's another post in which Fowler notes that he does the editing himself, and says something about the American editions having reduced description (!) and punched-up action scenes (!!!). He's such a prolific blogger that I haven't been able to find the post, though.

It really does drive me nuts. Fowler quotes one reviewer who called the books "deep English," and they are--so to quote an American commenter on his blog, "What is the point of reading a book by an English author if you don’t get an English vocabulary?" Not to mention that I often find the haphazard British English vocabulary removal and replacement strategies used in many books to be fairly bizarre. (This is particularly visible in the Harry Potter books.) And more importantly, actually editing story? Argh...appalling. That's the approach that I hate the most. I would really like to have advance warning.

If someone would make a database of edited/bowdlerized/altered books, I would appreciate it.
posted by wintersweet at 10:02 AM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Not only YA, but other kids books.

A Bit Lost, by Chris Haughton, is published in the US as Little Owl Lost. Substitutions: biscuit/cookie, mummy/mommy. The US version feel more... obvious. I find this case particularly strange, because it is written in a custom font, and all the glyphs had to be redrawn to accommodate the changes.

also, Chris Haughton is completely awesome. And I want a biscuit.
posted by gregglind at 10:52 AM on April 19, 2015

Growing up in the 80s, I read (in the US) the English translation of "Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl." It was the only English translation that existed at the time (known as the Doubleday or Mooyaart translation), and I remember being tripped up by the Britishisms (e.g. a torch for a flashlight; also mummy was in there, it was gregglind's comment that made me remember this). The current US translation by Susan Massotty, which came out around 1995 I think, uses the word flashlight and has other similar changes IIRC.
posted by Melismata at 6:44 PM on April 19, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!
posted by donajo at 7:16 PM on June 12, 2015

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