Bone-fires in Witch Week

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Wed Jul 26 17:16:59 EDT 2000

On Wed, 26 Jul 2000 17:01:03 -0400 (EDT), Kyla Tornheim wrote:

>> 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!

>oh, I was furious about that change. I can deal with changes like
>"jumper" to "sweater," although I do think that American children should
>just *learn* the British terms for things, dammit (speaking as someone who
>still does a double-take at "chips" and "biscuits" :^). 

On the AlexLit newsgroup, someone recently posted a reply she received from
Scholastic in regard to this question (i.e. why not just let the American
kids learn these terms?).  They sounded a little defensive, but essentially
their answer was that they and Rowling intended for readers to have the same
experience regardless of their nationality.  The example they gave was of
Harry daydreaming about his favorite foods; the foods listed were supposed
to be familiar, commonplace foods, so in the American translation the more
unusual ones were replaced with British foods that American children would
understand and be able to imagine.  Interesting idea, and I guess I can
support it if it was the author's idea--because the publisher didn't just go
through and make sweeping changes based on their own assessment of American
children's intelligence; any time they thought there would be a problem,
they applied to Rowling and she came up with the alternate phrasing.

>But this change
>wasn't from Britishism to Americanism, it was from accurate term to stupid
>term. As anyone who's read "The Ogre Downstairs" knows, a philosopher's
>stone is one that turns things into gold. And, gee, is that what the stone
>in the book does? Gee. But no, they have to change the name to "sorcerer's
>stone," which says absolutely *nothing* about what it does and why it's
>cool. I mean, a sorcerer's stone could be the big rock in the magic-user's
>backyard that he likes to sit on!

I TOTALLY agree with this.  If they were afraid "philosopher" in the title
would put children off, it's too bad they didn't come up with a different
title entirely and leave Philosopher's Stone intact--like, _Harry Potter and
the Wizard of Death_ or something like that.

Melissa Proffitt
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