Bone-fires in Witch Week

Neil Ward neilward at
Thu Jul 20 16:04:11 EDT 2000

At 11:26 07/20/2000 EDT, you wrote:
>I'm quite new to the list, so forgive me if this has been discussed recently, 

...the change of "bone-fire" (yes, with a hyphen, and throughout the text)
to "bonfire." As far as we could figure out, "bone-fire" is an obsolete
spelling, not normal UK usage. 


I'm also fairly new to the list, and not able to dive into most of the
discussions, because I've only read the Chrestomanci books and nearly
finished "Fire & Hemlock" (more of which later!).  I'm pleased to be able to
respond on "Witch Week".

Bone-Fire is an early, obsolete form of Bonfire, because bones used to be
the main component of the fires.  It's not, as some people think, because we
build 'good' roaring fires, fierce enough to sing off our eyebrows!

I'd put money on the fact that DWJ used this phrase deliberately to add the
vaguely mediaeval stamp of the witchcraft evident in the book.  If it was a
spelling mistake, it would be quite a coincidence, and the publisher would
probably have been obliged to sack all their proof-readers soon after. 

Why was it changed for the US market?  It seems 'dumbing down' of UK
children's books by their US publishers is quite common.  We've had quite a
debate about this on the Harry Potter lists, and most of the Americans
reckon that "Harry Potter and the Philsopher's Stone" was only changed to
"...Sorcerer's Stone", because Scholastic feared US kids would not
understand the reference to philosophy.  The fact that the real Nicholas
Flamel, discoverer of the Philosopher's Stone, is mentioned in the book,
making a clear link with the title, might have suggested that this was a
pointless change. I doubt US kids are that stupid!


Neil Ward

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