British and American Harry Potters

From the Washington Post transcript of a chat with the film critic Desson Thomson, one person writes on textual changes:

Annapolis, Md.: I’m excited that the dialogue has not been Americanized. I’m looking forward to hearing “Brilliant” and other briticisms. I remember being very dismayed when I had a chance to compare U.K. and U.S. versions of the first book, and certain words had been translated for the U.S. market. It felt like such an insult, as if we Americans couldn’t be expected to handle British slang. For example, rubbish to garbage, crumpet to muffin, etc.

While I do not have enough enthusiasm for Harry Potter to transcribe all seven volumes, some eager textual scholar has a good chance at a publishable essay. I’ve read part of a wonderful presentation on British/American variants in Bridget Jones’s diary.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for HP books—movies have been tolerable and nearly enjoyable–I’ve decided to attend opening night at the local bookstore. I think of the approaching trip as research into popular culture. Maybe as part of Harry’s death grudge match with can’t-remember-his name a magic spell could erase access to all time-periods not covered in the books, thus making sequels, prequels, etc. impossible. Hmm, there’s always Hermione’s time-shifting ring….

But back to textual scholarship—it’s wonderful to contemplate the lay reader carefully comparing British and American versions. Scholars of literary culture should pay attention. The question to start the research would be this. Why do Scholastic’s American editors feel like it is necessary to Americanize HP language whereas film directors/producers do not? But don’t just assume. You must also check whether the American and British versions of the movies are in fact the same. To do the work right, you must investigate actual theater releases and DVDs.

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