Are UK books changed grammatically, for the US market?

At the moment I’m reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I know that certain changes are made for the American market; for example, HP and the Philosopher’s Stone was released as HP and the Sorcerers Stone, allegedly out of fears that too few Americans would know what the Philosopher’s Stone was.

But in this book, I’m noticing at least one grammatical feature that looks like it was changed for American readers. That clauses of insisting, wishing, or suggesting are given in the present subjunctive, as an American would normally write or say it, instead of in the present or past indicative as a British person would usually write. So it says “she insisted the whole family go on the diet”, rather than “she insisted the whole family went on the diet”, as I would have expected. Or is the present subjunctive no longer an Americanism?

I haven’t yet noticed how collective groups of people are handled, like whether they say “the team are” or “the team is” and so forth.

I remember seeing “the team are” and “Gryffindor are” in the books, although I can’t tell you which ones. It sort of jarred on me, but then I put it down to being “Britishisms” and just read on. I recently obtained a Canadian copy of “Order of the Phoenix”, and kept my American copy on the bedside table to compare some of the phrasing. Yes, I’m a total Potter geek. So what? :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve always felt that changing “Philosopher’s Stone” to “Sorcerer’s Stone” was just plain stupid and unneccesary. Why change a term that many Americans are familiar with to a term that nobody is familiar with?

We’ve got all of the Harry Potter books in the British editions (except the last one – Pepper Mill couldn’t wait to read that one).

Changing words and grammar seems stupid to me – so what if people don’t get it immediately? Let 'em learn – it’s a great learning experience. Bsides, IIRC, they retain a lot of Britishism-based jokes, like “Spellotape”, anyway.
I can’t think of any other British books that they altered for the American market. My copy of “The Hobbit” has Tolkien’s words intact. I admit that I was confused, at the beginning, when Bilbo sits talking with Gandalf and “puts his thumb behind his braces, and blew a smoke ring”. I couldn’t imagine how he could do that, until I remembered that British braces aren’t dental prostheses, but suspenders. I survived the experience.

They’re both :slight_smile:

I think the dumbest thing is that they change the spelling of the words. Like Americans are so dumb that we won’t know what “colour” or “realise” means. Do they do the same thing for British versions of American books? I kind of prefer the British spellings actually, but I don’t do it because it makes you seem pretentious.

I didn’t know that the British used a plural verb for collective nouns. I learned something today.

Remember, though, I’m not saying they definitely changed the grammar, but I suspect that they may have in the small way I mentioned. Or maybe it’s not so small; I know at one point an American Doper, working as some sort of editor or proofreader in England, said that he had had to go through some copy and put in hundreds of third-person singular indicative "-s"s, because he had submitted it originally without them.

Terry Pratchett’s novels are printed in their original, glorious British.

There is, however a bit of translation going on in Pratchett’s books. He found that many Americans missed the point of his fictional country Djelibaybi. (If you don’t know, jelly babies are a popular British sweet, much loved by Tom Baker’s version of Doctor Who.) So, for Americans in his audience he created another fictional country called Hersheba. Many British people miss the point of that.

The Potter changes were mentioned in a previous thread, but briefly:

In book 5,

Bode is killed by a “potted plant.” In the British edition I had, it was a “pot plant.” Changed over Nancy Reagan’s objections.

Also, Fred and George comment on how difficult fifth year. The Geaorge says, “Still, Fred and I managed to keep our peckers up.” Changed to “keep our spirits up.” Also a good choice.

In the original British version of Douglas Adams’s *Life, The Universe, and Everything," there is a reference to a movie award for the most gratutious use of the word “fuck” in a motion picture. In the American version, this is changed to the most gratuitious use of the word “Belgium,” along with a long explanation which states that “Belgium” is the most notorious swear word in the known universe (except for Earth, where some ignorant folks actually named a country after it).

Add “insulting” to that. Somebody remind me to punish the responsible editor at Scholastic once I am God-King of Earth.

Add “insulting” to that. Somebody remind me to punish the responsible editor at Scholastic once I am God-King of Earth.

Whoa! I am impressed! How did you manage a 20 minute long double-post?

I have many skills.

Seriously, how do you not? Would you say “The Beatles is one of the most respected groups of the '60s. The Rolling Stones is also credited with having great influence”?

Because… there is more than one Beatle!

Beatles & Rolling Stones aren’t collective nouns, are they? They’re just plurals of Beatle & Rolling Stone.

But the Beatles are a group of musicians, just like Gryffindor are a group of students at Hogwarts or the Miami Heat are a group of people who play basketball in the NBA.

I once read an edition of a Barbara Delinksy ( I think, I always confuse her with another author named Barbara) that I purchased in South Africa. Given that I was rapidly approached a state of severe sleep deprivation (jet lag, plus travelliing fatigue), it took me a while to figure out that the characters lived in New England but the writing contained a number of minor details which gave it a much more British flavour. (The only one I remember was a character stepping off a kerb–I would spell it curb).

Perhaps I’ve read too many books from the UK…but isn’t “realise” the same in the US?


I once got penalized in the second grade for spelling British-style, and it still irks me a little (why no, I don’t hold grudges, why do you ask? :D). But maybe twenty percent of the books I read as a child were by British authors or otherwise had Britishisms in them – spelling, grammar, etc. I watched British comedies on PBS and British mystery dramas on A&E. Sometimes I would find something that confused me – draughts for checkers, pants for underwear, braces for suspenders, and so forth – but what I couldn’t figure out from context I asked my parents about.

Maybe the publishers just imagine that the parents don’t know the words. :rolleyes:

In all seriousness, I’ve worked with people who design textbooks for school-aged children. They are so, so phenomenally careful about meeting every single possible local ordinance so that the majority of people out there won’t find them offensive. I remember when I was working in the permissions department I had a phone call from a man who wanted to buy one copy of our book, make several copies of it, but take out or mark out with a marker sections of the book that he considered “objectionable”. I explained that this was not allowed; he wanted to know then if he could just make photocopies of the part of the book he really wanted to use, but not the illustrations.

The illustrations were your traditional Dick and Jane pictures. I have no freaking clue what the problem was with them. From his location, my boss posited that he might be working for a very Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, so he might have been asking for a religious school, but…

My favorite letter came from a woman we’d sent some sample books to as part of our home schooling program. She’d loved the English comp book and the math book, but… “And then I saw the science book, and I don’t think I need to tell you what I did with THAT. Yes sir, I threw it right out! We are a Christian household and I believe it is my choice what to teach my children.” Okay, lady.


It’s a foolish and unnecessary decision to change the wording and grammar in these books, for the most part, but I can understand the decision.

Oh – and the group/singular thing? In American English, a collection of items is singular – that is, the collective noun is treated as singular, unless it’s actually a plural like ‘teachers’ and ‘legions’. ‘Legion’ would be singular even though a legion is a group, ‘legions’ would be plural. Therefore:

A flock of pigeons messed on the pavement.
The Clash is going to be playing on Saturday.
The army is on the march.
The PTA is a PITA. :smiley: