It’s a surreal experience reading my book translated into American.
I mean, I knew that you people over the Atlantic say diaper instead of nappy, stroller instead of pushchair, sidewalk instead of pavement and elevator instead of lift, but until I started reading the copy edits for the US manuscript, I hadn’t really noticed all the other spelling variations, or the slightly different punctuation rules for speech.
The copy editor has been scarily meticulous, converting metric measurements back into Imperial, subsituting millions of s’s for z’s and assiduously removing the unwanted u’s from colour, flavour, or humour. There are double l’s which have become single, ph’s which have become f’s (drafty? really?), fringes which have morphed into bangs (ahem)…
And who knew that Incey Wincey spider is actually sung ‘Itsy Bitsy spider’ in American? If you ever watched UK children’s TV programme ‘Paperplay’, you’ll fully understand why I had an epiphany when I read that part.
So far, there is one thing I intend to dig in my heels about, and that is the proposed use of the word ‘mommy’. Every instance of ‘mummy’ gets a resounding STET from me. I mean, I can relate to making the manuscript comprehensible to the American masses, but I dare to hope that ‘mummy’ will be understood without modification. Because putting that word in Tadpole’s mouth is Just Plain Wrong.
Taking a random American tome from my bookshelf – American Psycho, as it happens, and I wish I hadn’t opened it to the page where the rat features – I scanned the pages this evening to see whether it too had been translated for an English audience. I have to say, it looked pretty American to me – I spotted a ‘gotten’ within the first thirty seconds, a ‘newsstand’ and a ‘busboy’. (I also realised how dated that book now is. Someone calls a restaurant on a portaphone…)
So why is it that British people prefer to read American books exactly as their authors intended, but books written in British English need to undergo an intensive word substitution exercise to make them fit for American consumption?
While you ponder that question, I’ll just get back to puzzling over why ‘plonked’ has been changed to ‘plunked’…