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Potter words separated by common language

American editions undergo changes to translate better

Posted: Friday, July 06, 2007

LOS ANGELES - New British prime minister Gordon Brown has called J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter opus his nation's "greatest export."

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But, like blood pudding and tweed jackets, some things just don't transition well across the pond. Which is why the American editions of Rowling's popular fantasy books undergo some adjustments above and beyond getting rid of that annoyingly extraneous "u" in "colour."

"I have had some criticism from other British writers about allowing any changes at all," Rowling has said, "but I feel the natural extension of that argument is to go and tell French and Danish children that we will not be translating Harry Potter, so they'd better go and learn English."

Indeed, in the first installment of the series, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," the penultimate word was changed to "Sorcerer's" - Rowling's suggestion - because there was concern that American audiences would be misled about the subject matter.

Ditto for phrases in the book such as "public school" (in Britain, it's the equivalent of what we would call a private one) and "pot plant" (a shortened form of "potted plant," but most Yanks would arrive at a different interpretation, dude).

Some sure-to-be-mistaken words remain, though, such as the "outhouse" where the Weasleys keep their broomsticks. It's just a plain old outbuilding, without - thankfully - any lavatorial function.

Here, then, are more words and phrases you might find in your zoom through the much-anticipated last book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," or its predecessors, if you are reading back on the canon to refresh your memory of past Potter plots:

Barmy. Basically, crazy, though in a lighthearted way. "Barm" is the foam found on top of fermenting malt liquor.

Git. Dope or idiot. It's derived from the word "get," which in livestock terms refers to an animal's offspring.

Ruddy. Not a reference to cheek color, but rather a watering-down of the expletive "bloody." Indeed, it's derived from the Old English word for "blood."

Snogging. Making out. As Harry enters adolescence in the latter books, the frequency of snogging all over Hogwarts castle has increased significantly.

Wotcher. An informal version of "hello." Etymologically, it's a corruption of the now archaic greeting, "What cheer?"



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