changed words in Harry Potter books

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Fri Jan 19 22:37:27 UTC 2001

Thanks to Nancy Elliott for citing the following:

> As for J.K. Rowling changing other vocabulary for the American versions,
> here is an excerpt from an interview with her:
> "...what's this about changing some of the words in the U.S. edition so
> American children could understand them?
> Rowling pretended to bang her head against the sofa in mock frustration.
> ``SO much has been made of that,'' she groans, noting that it was only done
> where words had been used that really meant something very different to
> Americans.
> Her American editor pointed out that the word ``jumper'' - British for
> pullover sweater - means a kind of dress in American. She had had no idea.
> ``He asked, 'Can we change it to sweater?' which is just as British.'' That
> was fine with Rowling."
>         --- from "Success Stuns Harry Potter Author"  by Audrey Woods
> (Associated Press, July 6, 2000)

Two comments:

1) Pardon me for taking an even dimmer view than those already expressed
in this thread.  I think the change of "philosopher's stone" to
"sorceror's stone" in the Harry Potter title could only have happened
because of mass historical ignorance throughout the publisher's
editorial offices.

The historical importance of the Philosopher's Stone is in no way
weakened by the fact that this object of great power was entirely
mythical. (It's a delightful irony that the mythical Dr. Faustus was
said to be one of those who searched for the mythical Philosopher's
Stone.) Eventually, this Holy Grail of the medieval alchemists played a
part in the development of chemistry as a modern science.

Calling THE Philosopher's Stone some kind of "sorceror's stone" isn't
really an instance of the dumbing down of books intended for kids in the
U.S.  It's a demonstration that dumbing down has already succeeded in
corrupting the publishing business in this country.

2)  ADS-L has already considered the trans-Atlantic split in the
meanings of the word "jumper". When we did, I commented on the fact that
my dedicated use of cis-Atlantic, rather than trans- Atlantic, English
blinded me to the origins of an obvious loan word in Guatemalan
Spanish.  "Chumpa" is Guatemalan Spanish for an item of clothing much
like what might be called a "baseball jacket" in the U.S.  I
(mis-)guessed that the word must have come from one of the 23 or so
Mayan languages still spoken in Guatemala.  One of my students (an
English-speaking South African who spent several years in England), on
hearing me identify a garment made of a distinctively Guatemalan fabric
as a "chumpa", immediately said "Oh, a jumper".  When I checked with
some knowledgeable Guatemalans, they confirmed my student's impression.
Chumpa is a simple loan from British English.

I doubt that any native speaker of U.S. English with no experience of
the language of our trans-Atlantic cousins would ever have made that

--  mike salovesh    <salovesh at>    PEACE !!!

P.S.: Being an anthropologist heightens my awareness of casual
ethnocentrisms in ordinary speech.  My use of trans- and cis- in
reference to that big pond to our east doesn't really fall into that
class.  After all, we're connected through the AMERICAN Dialect
Society.  (I  eschew comment on the ethnocentrism of that word

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