Translating from English to English

One of the things I like most about the concept of translating between two different versions of English (UK, US, Australian, New Zealand, South Africa, …) is that it’s such an odd concept for people to wrap their heads around but the explanation is so simple and obvious. Typically when people have it explained to them, they can then quickly and easily extrapolate the theory to translation between two languages that aren’t so closely related.

This morning I found a non scientific, non translation theory experiment run by an avid reader into the different language used in the US and UK versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:

My husband and I spent three years in Newfoundland and bought our Harry Potter books there. The Canadian editions are the same as the British text. I thought it wold be interesting to do a line-by-line comparison with the American edition and see where the differences were.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list–I have not included every instance of an alternate word’s usage. There are also many minor punctuation differences which I have not included. The American edition has quite a few more commas than the British. The British text follows UK style standards and uses single quotes (where the American uses double) and does not have periods after Mr and Mrs.

The American edition has a slightly larger typeface, and also has small illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, which the British edition does not.

Most of the differences are spelling and punctuation related, but there are the occasional interesting cultural changes:

Dudley had learnt a new word (‘Shan’t!’) Dudley had learned a new word (“Won’t!”)
The news reader allowed himself a grin. The newscaster allowed himself a grin.
‘Well, I just thought…maybe…it was something to do with…you know… her lot.’ “Well, I just thought…maybe…it was something to do with…you know… her crowd.”
‘Would you care for a sherbet lemon?’ “Would you care for a lemon drop?”
he had hands the size of dustbin lids he had hands the size of trash can lids
‘And where did you get that motorbike?’ “And where did you get that motorcycle?”

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