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Sunday, 12 June 2011

Lost In Translation


I wonder if anyone can explain something to me:

Over here in the UK the original title for Harry Potter Vol 1 is Philosopher's Stone, rather than Sorcerer's Stone and it seems that for some reason all our novels have to be translated for the US market by US publishers. Indeed, in my Collier's American International Dictionary (Funk and Wagnalls 1966) A Philosopher's Stone is described as exactly what J.K.Rowling understood it to mean:


'
An imaginary stone or substance having the property of transmuting the baser metals into gold: sought by the alchemists'. 

Indeed, 'Sorcerer' translates as magician or wizard in the UK and is not applicable to the meaning of Philosopher's Stone which relates to something else entirely (as above), so the change of title is actually a misnoma.

Changing words can therefore end up with some absurdities, like the frightly posh Upper Class English character who calls her fringe, bangs. She just wouldn't!
(sorry can't remember the book at the mo' I think I leant it out to a friend)

When we receive US novels over here they are not translated in the same way, nor do they contain a glossary, so I'm wondering why the US reading public isn't allowed to be educated in British English, while we over here in the UK must learn US vocabulary like bangs, sidewalk etc.? 
Any ideas why this should be?