My understanding is that the publishing company thought americans were less likely to buy the book if they thought it was going to be about some brainmelting philosophical thought experiment. It’s not the only difference between american and british versions but it is probably the most noticeable one.
Which was precisly why it was a dumb, dumb move: The Philsopher’s Stone is a well-known historical idea - like unicorns and giants and wizards, that Rowling used as established ideas to build her own universe with.
But Sorcerers Stone doesn’t exist before Harry Potter. All the clues towards the long-life aspect of the Stone that the British readers got throughout the book were lost on the readers of the changed American version, so that the big reveal at the finale of the book came out of the blue for the latter, and was a confirmation for astute readers of the former.
Luckily, with the following books Rowling was both more famous and more self-assure to insist on keeping the same title on both sides of the pond.
Maybe this will be wakeup call to US publishers on how dumb this practise of re-naming books for the US market is, and they will finally stop?
I’d agree with this if the intended audience was very well-read adults. But the great majority of Americans (and certainly of American children) would expect a philosopher’s stone to be the pet rock of some great thinker, and would not expect it to be magical in any way.
Um sorry, among average interested adults? You know, adults the children to when they happen unto an unknown word?
If the majority of the average American adults really have never heard of the Philosophers stone in passing … come on, this was the basis of Alchemy, which later become chemistry, the search for a stone that could turn lead into gold and make people live forever (the two biggest dreams, as Dumbledore explains). Did you not learn about that in science class 7th grade or so? (I weep for your country then).
I was thinking more along with what Isaac Asimov said about never underestimating children, esp. children interested in reading, who are able to look things up, are way smarter than adults think, and how insulting it is for them to dumb things down in books, instead of letting them discover new things by looking up.
Also, the first books were not marketed or intended towards the mass of children. The whole hype of “children who never looked at a book before are reading now” started later and, while seized on as convenient by adults, was never Rowlings intention.
I think the name should have stayed* Philosopher’s Stone*, but I also think you’re kidding yourself if you believe more than a small percentage of Americans, even reading Americans, learned and recall the concept.
I’m fairly well read and read the books as an adult, but I hadn’t heard of a Philosopher’s Stone. I had heard of alchemy and lead into gold and stuff like that, but never a specific item to assist in that.
I’m irritated they changed the name and I think they should have left it. So what if a lot of us didn’t know what it was?
I remember back when I read the first book, wondering what a sorceror’s stone was. After the explanation, I thought “ok…so it’s pretty much like a philosopher’s stone then” without even knowing about the change.
I think quite a few Americans who read fantasy novels or play games with fantasy settings would have encountered the term Philosopher’s Stone that way. This group must constitute a fairly large percentage of the Harry Potter audience.
But even if only a tiny number of American readers would have recognized the term “Philosopher’s Stone”, that’s still more than the number of readers who’d recognize the freshly coined term “Sorcerer’s Stone”.