Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Translations from the British (Harry Potter Edition)

Filed under: The Katharine Wheel: On Fiction   Tagged: , , , ,

Back in April, I posted about The New Yorker’s (TNY) recent propensity for publishing British fiction that (sometimes) requires translation, at least for those of us who grew up talking ’merican instead of the Queen’s English.

Little did I know at the time that the pleasure of doping out the lingo of our cousins across the pond had been systematically stolen from oodles of American readers of Harry Potter. That’s right: the U.S. editions of the Potter books (pre-2000, anyhow) were, um, bowdlerized (albeit unevenly) with the cooperation of the author, as Daniel Radosh reported in the September 20, 1999 issue of TNY.

Unfortunately, the complete version of Radosh’s “Talk of the Town” piece isn’t available online, so I urge those of you with the Complete New Yorker to check it out in its entirety. For the rest of you, here’s a taste:
In the American edition, “wonky” becomes “crooked”; “bobbles” turn into “puff balls”; and “barking mad” translates to “complete lunatic.” “Git,” “ickle,” and “nutters,” however, are left as they are. Why does Father Christmas become Santa Claus, and “bogey” become “booger,” but “budge up” not become “move over”?
Ah, well. Hard enough on the editors as it was, making sure they switched all the single quotation marks for double quotation marks, and vice versa.


Don’t tell lawyers, but it’s also on my personal site. Sorry about the pre-2000 design.

No worries, Daniel, we’ll protect you: Emdashes is all lawyered up. We have a summer intern who just graduated from Harvard Law, and another one who predicts he will go to law school, one day. You can sleep soundly.

Seriously, thanks for helping out our readers, Daniel. Enjoyed checking out your site.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree