Not lost in translation - Karen Bush

A friend was frothing slightly (well, actually quite a lot) recently about changes that her publisher wanted to make to the text of her book. Basically, the publisher wanted to Americanise all the English terminology and speech in the book, presumably to make it more appealing to American publishers when selling the rights. Yet the book is set in England, and written by an English person - so what's wrong with leaving it as it is? Why does it need to be Americanised?

Here in the UK we regularly buy and read books which are full of Americanese, both language and in its expectations that we will also be familiar with all things American - shops, food, slang, clothes, music, behaviour ... Not to mention the insistence on inflicting quaint spellings on us such as gray instead of grey, color instead of colour ... We cope. We work it out, through the context or by - if necessary - looking it up. Where a book is set in America, or features American protagonists, then if anything, it adds an extra layer of atmosphere and colour, making it feel more real ... The same applies just as much to books which are set in England, and feature English characters. Do American publishers really think that their American readers are that dim?  The US audience may be larger than the UK one, but surely isn't less intelligent than its UK counterparts.

So come on, let's have a bit of equality with our American cousins! Leave our English books the way they were wrote!



Chris Longmuir said…
Good points, but I think American readers are less tolerant of British spelling than we are of Americanisms. I also think that there are quite a few who don't even realise there is a difference. Perhaps, because we are British, we have a broader outlook and understanding of these things.
JO said…
My immediate reaction - what a great reason to self-publish.

Some years ago, after one of my trips, I was asked about 'Indian English' - my reply, English is wonderfully versatile. There is Indian English and Australian English and American English. They are all valid - and as valid as our 'English English" - so I think we celebrate our differences rather than pander to the power of the Americans.
Jan Needle said…
had a lot of trouble once with an american editor over the word outhouse. she insisted it meant a lavatory. she asked me if i could go with her. i don't think that's what she meant, either!
Bill Kirton said…
I'm with the others. I want American books to have American spellings and vice versa. The goings-on in my two historical novels happen around the harbour in Aberdeen. If they'd happened around a harbor, I'd expect them to be in Boston or Baltimore. And yet that's how the American edition spelled them. Illogical.
Susan Price said…
Love your illustrations, Karen. Especially 'Infirm of purpose! Hand me the glossary!"
Made me laugh.
Enid Richemont said…
Anericanisms as spoken, or written by, Americans are totally acceptable (well, apart from a few personal loathings such as 'cute' and 'awesome') but should not be imposed on other people's work. Being unable to accept other forms of English is a mark of provincialism.
glitter noir said…
Agreed on all points. And, as a Yank author, I've also tried to become ever more mindful of dramatic differences in word usage. Years ago, a British gent on a Bond website 'took me to the woodshed' for remembering how Connery liked to spank a woman' 'fanny'. I no longer use the word.

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