petite anglaise

January 9, 2008

I say pyjama…

Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:23 pm

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’…


  1. I haven’t seen STET for years, what with the delete button an’ all. Mind you it leads to a lot of re-typing and then re-re-typing and I do miss the scrawled look – happy days.

    ……..and I thought I was going to say ‘stupid Yanks’…… how grown-up am I!?!

    Comment by Daddy Papersurfer — January 9, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

  2. Wait, what do you say instead of “gotten?”

    And “portaphone” sounds pretty British to me. We’ve never called them that…

    Comment by sprite — January 9, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

  3. I think the need for translation is because a big chunk of Americans do not have a clue about most British terms. Conversely, Britains view so much American television and movies that they are able to understand American.

    Comment by LB — January 9, 2008 @ 10:16 pm

  4. Are you calling in for basic anti-american trolls ? Are you calling for comments about the average American open-mindedness and their view of the world ? Don’t call too much ;-) …

    Comment by Yogi — January 9, 2008 @ 10:25 pm

  5. Check out the different editions of the Anastasia books by Lois Lowry. Who knew that British teenagers needed dollars translated to pounds and so forth? Personally, I found it interesting to discover that a biscuit isn’t the same in Australia and the US. But I didn’t need it translated into “cookie” for me.

    Comment by plum — January 9, 2008 @ 10:30 pm

  6. Yes, we say “drafty,” not “draughty” or “draphty”! I’m with you on “mummy,” though; I know that’s England-ish for mom/mommy.

    And while Itsy-Bitsy Spider is one version, so is Eentsy-Weentsy. I suppose Itsy-Bitsy is more common, however.

    I would love to see the marked up copy. Regional language differences fascinate me!

    When I get my copy, I would prefer to receive the British version just to learn some more of the terminology that’s different than here in the U.S., but they’ll probably send me the “Americanized” one. :-)

    Comment by Janet Tryson — January 9, 2008 @ 10:30 pm

  7. Well, I’m a Yank but I’d rather read the English version.

    Comment by smalltown mom — January 9, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

  8. I tend to think that the mass availability of American media renders anglo-translation a little less necessary. I suspect – though having never been a Brit, I suppose I couldn’t say – that Briticisms may be a touch more jarring to Americans than Americanisms are to Brits.

    Comment by Kerry — January 9, 2008 @ 10:40 pm

  9. As an American, I can take the spelling either way, but I would much prefer they leave the British vocabulary alone. In fact, I bought all the Harry Potter books from Canadian booksellers so I could get the British text.

    Comment by Bluegrass Mama — January 9, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

  10. I don’t post often, but I have to say: Wow. This is one of those moments where a conscious American realizes They really don’t want us to think. I like reading your blog precisely because you have an interesting and unique way of saying things. I like reading a section and realizing a word is being used in an unfamiliar way, that I have to use ‘context clues’ to gain understanding. I have zero skill in foreign language (bablelfish is my friend), but I like expanding my vocabulary. Also, as an aspiring physicist, I’m annoyed that they converted the measurements too.

    Okay, I’m done being an annoying ranter.

    Comment by Tanya — January 9, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

  11. I hate that about American publishing; I feel it belittles the American reader and diminishes the richness of the reading experience. I felt the same way about all the Harry Potter novels. Wouldn’t it be good and educational to make America’s youth aware that “jumper” in UK English means “sweater” in American English? At any rate, I’m very happy you brought this up, because the editorial mangling hadn’t occurred to me yet. I just went to Amazon and took the American version off my wish list. I’ll go order off the UK site when it comes out!

    Comment by Jen — January 9, 2008 @ 10:49 pm

  12. I think you just drew a particularly rabid editor. My son calls me ‘Mum’ and we haven’t been English since my Great-grandmother’s generation. But draft is more understandable to me than draught. . . If he were alive, I’d slap Noah Webster for you.

    Comment by Imagine — January 9, 2008 @ 10:50 pm

  13. Incey Wincey spider? What the hell? LOL

    Comment by theinsider — January 9, 2008 @ 10:52 pm

  14. Wow! For real! As an American that saddens me a little bit. I mean I can understand the s’s to z’s and taking out the ou’s and changing them to o’s but nappy to diaper, etc. Yikes! I think I would have to agree with the post by Kerry though I would like to believe that those who might purchase your book in the US would enjoy the Briticisms.

    Comment by Carrie — January 9, 2008 @ 11:09 pm

  15. I’m a new zealander living in Australia, and I find I moderate ever so slightly my vocab to “blend” a little better. But I simply will not call a “slide” a “slippery dip” – is it slippery dip in the UK? And when I bought those horrible little overdyed red saveloy thingees at the butcher, no one had any idea what the “cheerio” was that I asked for but instead offered me “little boys” – sigh

    Comment by Lisa — January 9, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

  16. I agree with those who say leave the spellings intact. If some Americans can’t understand the few differences, let them learn something. And, yes, I am American.

    Comment by Bob Spencer — January 9, 2008 @ 11:23 pm

  17. It’s a case of the chicken or the egg. Are we insular and oblivious to the rest of the world and so they Americanize everything or are we insular and oblivious because they Americanize everything?
    Glad you stuck to your guns on the Mummy thing. Sounds like they’re trying to pretend you’re an American in Paris, else.

    Comment by Sydney — January 9, 2008 @ 11:30 pm

  18. @ Sprite – they say ‘got’ where we say gotten.

    Comment by Syd — January 9, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

  19. Maybe only because they are dumber and the publisher worry that they won’t understand you unless every word is translated in their way:-)

    Comment by Rose — January 9, 2008 @ 11:57 pm

  20. Excuse me? I was looking forward to reading about the adventures of an English girl in Paris, not American…If I hear you say “got up early and drove to the local Dunkin Donuts for some glazed ones, instead of strolling to the local patisserie for some pain au chocolat, I’ll demand my money back!

    Comment by Isabella — January 10, 2008 @ 12:12 am

  21. I have to deal with this every day at work. I’m a proof reader/copy editor for a small UK company, but our main market is the US. I’m Brit educated except for 4 years of Yankee high school, but those years were vital to my work as I have to read content for how it sounds not only in UK-English but in US-English. Very different!
    Often we try to do a work around like “hue” instead of “colour” as that way we don’t have to deal with an “ou” problem. Or things like the UK saying “diet regime” and the US “diet regimen”. Don’t even get me started on having to deal with Oxford vs. Cambridge spelling, let alone UK vs. US though!
    My favourite thing recently was reading how “women in Brazil wear rubber thongs on the beach”. My first thought was “owwww!” till I realized they were using the Aussie term and meant flip-flops… very different mental image!
    Look forward to reading the book (UK style)
    Becca :)

    Comment by becca — January 10, 2008 @ 12:19 am

  22. Wow, I’m so glad you posted this! I would have been really disappointed to buy the book in the US only to discover they completely masacred the text. Did it ever occur to the publisher how many Yanks love reading your blog? I hope I can get my hands on the UK version instead. What a shame to “Americanize” Petite Anglaise – it’s actually quite absurd really. Blame it all on Barnes and Noble

    Comment by E — January 10, 2008 @ 12:19 am

  23. Whatever they say about two countries separated by a common language ….

    When I first arrived in France I shared an office with an Englishwoman. The irony of our communication problems in this setting quickly became apparent to me when she playfully started toying with words such as “dosh” and “lolly”. I hadn’t a clue.

    Comment by Lost in France — January 10, 2008 @ 12:22 am

  24. After reading the other posts, I have to say that I agree with most of them in saying that “us” Americans should learn to read British English just as the British have learned to read American English. As someone who’s live overseas for quite a while, I know how different the two are, but how easy it is to acclaimate. Actually, I can’t believe that they were changing “mummy” to “mommy,” since I’ve read other Americanized book with it in. I think you should keep everything that is actually a quote exactly how it was said (although I would like translations for the French parts). It’s more realistic.

    Comment by Sue — January 10, 2008 @ 12:22 am

  25. Hey hey, it sounds like you understand what we frenchies mean when we’re talking about “exception culturelle”. Great !

    Comment by Marie — January 10, 2008 @ 12:24 am

  26. Honestly from an American perspective this makes absolutely no sense to me. I much, much prefer to read the original, pounds, mummy, and all.

    Your publisher and overzealous editor are completely off their ethnocentric rockers –

    Unless, “off their rocker” means something lascivious in the UK. . . :)

    Comment by metroknow — January 10, 2008 @ 12:37 am

  27. I’m french living in the US. This blog entry made me realize how I’m much more used to the US terms – yeah, even the itsy bitsy spider sounds pretty much normal to me. Still, I’m sure I’ll enjoy your book better in english.

    I’ll say it: americans are not very used to foreign materials. Often movie or book distributors will insist on an american version before they do anything. Most people who’ve seen the originals will prefer them, but somehow there always needs to be an american version anyway. I can’t say I understand that, either.

    Sorry, you provoked me :p

    Comment by walken — January 10, 2008 @ 12:39 am

  28. @ Syd – WHAT? You American say gotten? ;-)

    Comment by Vonric — January 10, 2008 @ 12:47 am

  29. First I’m french, so I beg you to forgive my mistakes.

    As student this post is interesting because most of us think there are very few differences between UK English and US one. Thank you for made me realize this. Maybe a another people can confirm that but I understand that UK English and US English are as different as French and Quebecois.

    By the way, I use this first comment to say how many I appreciate your blog.

    Comment by Pimouss — January 10, 2008 @ 12:52 am

  30. I daren’t (shant?) wager about why your editour insists on phussing, but I wondour if it has something to do with the phunny way you talk.

    Comment by Le Meg — January 10, 2008 @ 12:55 am

  31. …perhaps you don’t notice all the Americanisms that were changed by the editor? As sprite noted “portaphone” was definitely never used in the US…..

    Comment by maude — January 10, 2008 @ 12:57 am

  32. I am also annoyed that they are changing it for Americans. I’m glad you posted about it, I will make sure I get the British version.i think it will lose something in the “translation”. (I am American.)

    Comment by Janet Pfaff — January 10, 2008 @ 1:23 am

  33. And.. I forgot-I’m a kinderrgarten teacher and have always sung Eensy Weency Spider.

    Comment by Janet Pfaff — January 10, 2008 @ 1:25 am

  34. As an e-reader enthusiast, I am stuck with US versions of e-books (UK so behind in digital publishing), and yes, many are authored by Brits. Despite my irritation with all the incorrect spellings I plough (plow) on.

    Comment by Tim — January 10, 2008 @ 1:29 am

  35. This all Wrong! You’d lose all the charm. Was Britget Jones translated into “american”? I think not. Is this one more example of U.S. corporations having little faith in the brain of their fellow Americans?

    Comment by corine — January 10, 2008 @ 1:30 am

  36. Wincey Willis? What’s she doing in there?

    Comment by rhino75 — January 10, 2008 @ 1:32 am

  37. Oi. I’d much rather read it in the original. I know I’m a bit of an oddball but I can understand british english without trouble (being raised in america this seems to be some sort of great accomplishment, seeing all that “needs” changing to make it readable… *facepalm*)

    Comment by Monica — January 10, 2008 @ 2:02 am

  38. Although some of these terms can seem a bit odd to us Americans, we really aren’t that stupid and can figure out what they mean in context! I wish they would leave at least the bulk of your wording as is so the reader can truly hear your voice.

    Comment by Pattoo — January 10, 2008 @ 2:38 am

  39. I’m hoping a Canadian version is on the way…although I tend to think it would be fairly close to the British one!

    Comment by Canadian Girl — January 10, 2008 @ 3:15 am

  40. I didn’t know it was Itsy Bitsy Spider… and I am American. As for the changes though, to be perfectly honest with you, I would rather read it without them.

    Comment by Cristina — January 10, 2008 @ 3:31 am

  41. Lisa, you live in Sydney; everywhere I’ve lived (WA,VIC, ACT), it’s a slide. I thought ‘slippery dip’ was American?

    In Australia, the language differences across this very large country are mostly nouns; in Victoria it’s a nature strip; in Perth it’s a verge (the strip of grass between the footpath and the road, that belongs to the council). Swimwear, depanding on where you come from, can be swimmers, a cossie, or bathers. A deli in some states is a milk bar in others (the corner shop for those who aren’t Australian :-). And the weird Queenslanders call a schoolbag a port. Must be the heat ;-).

    Basically, if you use something slightly different, we don’t mind – except strawberries do NOT come in a chip, but a punnet – and you wear thongs on your feet, not jandals ;-).

    and Petite – your book is about an English girl in Paris, not an American girl – why can’t the publishers see that? Anything else just removes the flavour. Bit like going to an Italian restaurant and demanding they cook everything without tomatoes!

    Comment by Anne — January 10, 2008 @ 4:23 am

  42. Yep, I’d prefer to read the Brit version, too. The cultural differences, small as they may seem are part of the romance of it for this American. I try hard not to view mine as a nation of Philistines, and yet…the aforementioned editors might convince all otherwise (sigh).

    Comment by kristenv — January 10, 2008 @ 4:29 am

  43. How odd. I much prefer to read English books in the “unAmerican” forms because then I can hear accents in my head properly. Are editors implying that we Americans won’t comprehend English-English?

    Comment by unbalanced reaction — January 10, 2008 @ 4:33 am

  44. I’m an American, and my parents would always say (*insert parental sing-sing voice here*) “gotten is not a word!”

    Also, here we use “plonk” as present tense and “plunked” as past tense. I’d say “I’m going to plonk you in the head,” but I’d never say “I’m going to plunk you.” (That just sounds dirty!) I would say, though, “I plunked my purse down on the countertop.”

    I agree that editing books in such a way that “Americanizes” the English takes a lot away from the text.

    Comment by Meesha — January 10, 2008 @ 5:00 am

  45. It’s really a shame — I would really prefer to read it as you — the author — wrote it! I vote for “stet” everywhere! Otherwise, it looks like I’ll have to order my copy from It really makes no sense to me. I mean, we Americans love British (or European for that matter) accents, so why Americanize it? M

    Comment by Mary — January 10, 2008 @ 5:59 am

  46. Well, m’dear, we are two countries separated by a common language as Mr Shaw once said. Though I still can’t figure out why you Brits call wine, plonk but I do love stonked for drunk :-) As for why Americans prefer to read British editions, I don’t know about the many but this American loves your version of the language much better than his own. Hence the degrees in English literature. But why since the gods made little green apples do you own a copy of American Psycho. Though I do admit we seem to have a disproportionate number of them, some in our own government.
    Stick to your guns about mummy, P’tite.

    So cheers and can’t wait for the book
    In Seattle

    Comment by Beau — January 10, 2008 @ 6:45 am

  47. I AM American and this makes me sad. The book should be in your own words, and those are English. I, for one, will be looking to get an imported copy of the original. :)

    Comment by Laura — January 10, 2008 @ 6:59 am

  48. BTW I’m getting the Brit edition too–already ordered from Amazon UK.

    Comment by Beau — January 10, 2008 @ 7:09 am

  49. I find it most depressing that books written in Brit are adapted for the US. How can you get the feel of the writing and the atmosphere if it’s been “pre-chewed” for you as they say in French… Personally I wouldn’t want to read work by an American author ‘translated’ into British English, so why do it the other way round?


    Comment by Claire — January 10, 2008 @ 7:43 am

  50. I read many English books left in their original form. It doesn’t take that much thought to figure out words that are new to me. I have to say when I was in England I had some moments when I didn’t have a clue what the person was saying. It’s hard to believe how different the same spoken language has become after time has passed. Once in Australia, I had to get an Australian friend on the phone to translate for me even thought it was in English-just a new accent to me. Of course, that’s mainly accents but when I’m reading The Private Secret Diary of Johnny, I sometimes have no idea what he is talking about.

    Comment by Linda — January 10, 2008 @ 8:32 am

  51. Gosh. 50 comments overnight. I think what we have to remember is that my enlightened, open-minded blog readers may not be representative of the masses and my publisher knows what the American public prefer.

    I was talking to the Boy about this last night, and we agreed that the main pull of the book is the Parisian setting, and that flavour is definitely intact here.

    I do intend to stet a symbolic list of words to keep my UK voice, but if you want English spelling throughout, the beauty of the internet, of course, is that you can read whichever version you like.

    Now I’m wondering which manuscript Doubleday Canada are plannning to use. It would be interesting if it ended up being some sort of hybrid, using the US cover but a version closer to the UK text …

    Comment by petite — January 10, 2008 @ 8:52 am

  52. That’s really interesting. I am a french translator and when my translations are to be published in Canada, the editor asks me specifically not to be too french (pas de dialogues franchouillards !), which is actually quite difficult because when you want to translate U.S slang, you have to use franch slang and I don’t know enough about Canada to be sure it will be understood there. But I always enjoyed studying these little differences between countries and regions which make a language so rich. It’s fascinating.

    Comment by Delphine in Antibes — January 10, 2008 @ 9:24 am

  53. There’s something disturbing about the whole Americanisation process… so much for embracing cultural differences and broadening one’s horizons! Then again, the publisher is probably not after cutesy niche stuff but mass market success – it’s all about the mighty buck at the end of the day.

    Comment by Ariel — January 10, 2008 @ 9:57 am

  54. Woeful prediction : The film version’s location will be switched to Chicago, Illinois (but actually shot in Toronto, Canada)with flashbacks to a short period spent in Paris, France (actually shot in Prague, Cz). PA will speak pure US English having lost all trace of her UK origins. Tadders will lose those wonderfully flat Yorkshire vowel sounds.

    Comment by parkin pig — January 10, 2008 @ 10:19 am

  55. Just ended reading “A Confederacy of Dunces” (a gem!!!), and started imagining your writings adapted to New-Orleans lingo, for example… Scary! ;)

    Comment by Mardo — January 10, 2008 @ 10:19 am

  56. So basically just show the above comments to your editor! Everyone seems to have ordered the UK version. the US version won’t sell!haha
    And , Becca: OXford and Cambridge spelling? I didn’t know anything about that.
    Well,Greek readers always get the original version of books whether UK or US so we have to get used to both! The funny thing is that we know some things with their UK name and others with their US name, EFL learners can’t decide on the spelling because they’ve encountered both versions repeatedly and so…we just use everything as we like!

    Comment by stavroulix — January 10, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  57. See also the greatest joke I ever wrote for a pre-school TV show: “I wanted to be a tap dancer, but I was afraid I’d fall into the sink”.

    Came back with a “Sorry, in the US they call it a faucet”.

    Comment by Salvadore Vincent — January 10, 2008 @ 11:16 am

  58. Back in the days of Harry Potter mania I happened to be in California when one of the books was released – I refused to buy it over there, on account of it having been translated into American English.

    Nobody would believe me either.

    Comment by Jonathan — January 10, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

  59. I translate into English, usually the UK variety but sometimes US (and sometimes “European” or “International” English). So far I have 3 clients who insist on -ise as US spelling, and 5 who insist on -ize (or -yze); so it’s a pretty personal decision for each editor. I just make detailed notes on who likes what, and take the money. But you’re right about Mummy; I’ve never met her, but I’ve read your blog almost since the start, and I can’t hear Tadpole saying “Mommy”.

    Comment by Pippa — January 10, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

  60. I thought it was only ‘draught’ if referring to measure of beer (or whatever)…oh yes, but then what would ‘draughty’ be in that context…..I see. Everyday is a school day with petite anglaise.

    Enough about this language business, have you asked him yet?

    p.s. can you get a spell check on your comments box for us terrible typers? (an English one obviously)

    Comment by susie — January 10, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  61. American Psycho was meant to sound dated when it was written – in 1991.

    Comment by Amy — January 10, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

  62. I’m totally with you about the “mommy” thing. I hate the word “mom”!

    Funny how the translation thing crops up, whether it be English US to English UK and vice versa, or even English to French. Take, for instance, the Jacqueline Wilson books (Tracey Beaker et al). DD won’t read them in French, or the Harry Potter ones. She says they loose something in the translation. I wonder? Does “translating” UK English to US English loose something in the translation too?

    Comment by Clare — January 10, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

  63. As an sociolinguist, I can tell you there is no such thing as ‘American’ English, and vocabulary varies based on regional differences just like anywhere else. I think it’s a disservice to Americans to imply we need to have our reading material homogenized, and I haven’t encountered many books that have been given such a treatment (and I should know, as I lived in the UK for several years and read a lot of British authors).

    Just because the publisher thinks it’s necessary doesn’t really mean it’s what the people want. It seems like we’re only reinforcing stereotypes here…

    Comment by Beth — January 10, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  64. Your account evokes Shaw’s wry comment that “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” This separation I encountered at the age of 11 when my family left our home in Arizona to spend my father’s sabbatical year in Oxford, England where I attended a private middle school. As you might suppose, my teachers gave me hell for spelling both coming and going. It was ultimately my U.S. teachers who were more understanding of my learning dilemma (trauma), and who simply flagged my schoolwork, where applicable, “Brit spelling” without marking me down for it. I remain immensely grateful.

    As for your galley, the original is more rich with entertaining differences, and Jen was right — Americans aren’t given enough credit. As we Yanks can manage Shakespeare in the original, we can jolly well read you in the original. Don’t let editors steal your voice.

    Chez nous, we manage to understand Ebonics, New England quacking and, often more puzzling, Southern variants. We navigate Canadian word forms with glee. The only U.S. dialect that eludes me is Gullah, spoken on South Carolina’s Sea Islands by descendants of the slaves who worked the old rice plantations; their creole is a clipped combination of 17th Century English and African dialects, spoken rapidly with bedeviling syllabic stresses — listening to it is linguistic adventure, to be sure. (Reference the novels of Pat Conroy.)

    And what of the “special relationship”? It’s based upon American fascination, British disdain and, above all, our shared passion for mocking each other. So…

    Were it up to me, any “translation” of your book would be out of the question. Tell your publisher that a more sensible solution is to append a glossary of terms for U.S. readers who are puzzled. This would certainly make less work/cost and better reading. As for spellings, no translation is necessary as most readers capable of spelling the U.S. versions with any consistency also recognize the UK variant as such.

    Stet forever, Mummy.

    Comment by John — January 10, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

  65. I lived in the US for 6 months (OK, Texas), and I’m not surprised. The concept of anything not being American is hard for a lot of American people to understand. It’s another planet over there, and most of them really have no clue (otherwise would they be driving cars with 5.7 litre engine?). Don’t get me started.

    Your book needs to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I do believe that some American readers could think that tadpole’s mother is ancient and wrapped in bandages if it was not spelt “mommy”.

    Comment by Boris — January 10, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

  66. I specifically order my Harry Potter books, and by my cookbooks by British chefs form the U.K.
    I’m an American married to a Brit and if I mispronounce a single word in conversation with him, like oh say, schedule, he pretends to not know what I mean until I pronounce it ‘properly’.

    Leave mummy. I never said Mommy in my life. In fact, I often said mum.

    Comment by jo — January 10, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  67. I honestly find “translating” books from the UK to suit Americans absolutely ridiculous! It’s STILL English.

    For an Literature class would you translate Shakespeare or Poe or Tolkein into modern day English? No. Why for this? The original words of the author are as much the soul of the book as the story the words are telling.

    I think the book should be published just as you wrote it.

    If I were American I’d actually find it offensive actually that books written in my own language have to dumbed down as if I wouldn’t understand the word “color” if it was written any other way.

    You’re right to questions this. Are American books translated into British English? Or Australian English? Or Spanglish? Or Taglish? Or Any other variant of English other than American English? No. I think this is shameful. You must complain and make a big deal out of it. Let there be petitions! Let there be riots about freedom of expression! Let there come an end to this translation nonsense once and for all!!

    Ok, I think I had one too many cups of coffee… But I AM serious about ending this translation sh*t.

    Comment by Kat — January 10, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

  68. I sympathize with you. After living in the UK for 3 years, I have become accustomed to the Queen’s English…especially in the written form…although I must admit that it took a bit. Mind you though, my 4 year old son is more British than American now. He understands and uses the Queen’s English as opposed to American English. I find myself being corrected by him on many occasions :)

    As for which copy I will buy? Probably the UK version…

    Comment by Caffienated Cowgirl — January 10, 2008 @ 2:38 pm

  69. Wait, so – draught is pronounced ‘draft’? I never KNEW that! And I would much rather read your book as written than changed to suit my country’s rules – so I will either order through Amazon.UK or ask a friend to pick it up when travelling through – I’m fortunate enough to have a couple very close friends who visit the UK a couple times a year.

    Comment by JoAnne — January 10, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

  70. @35: Bridget Jones was translated into American English (probably after the movie was released)… the Brit version uses stones to measure her weight… I’m Canadian so I read the Brit version (for no reason other than availability) thinking “what the heck is a stone worth?”

    Comment by kara — January 10, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

  71. I must say that I am outraged….I love the way that your blog is written…and as an American; the appeal was its charm. I think that it’s a bloody shame that the book had to undergo such a ridiculous makeover for a few “less than intelligent” Americans….Bah!

    Comment by Audrey — January 10, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

  72. I had a spider like that! It only came alive after I put my hand in it. ;-)

    My-my, so many thoughts about English / American language nuances. Just remember to make sure the ‘big picture’ and the stories essence is not lost after editing. I’m sure you’ll do a great job.

    Oh, and was the answer ’42’?

    Comment by Steve... — January 10, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

  73. mwa ha ha ha

    Comment by petite — January 10, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

  74. ‘Mommy’ and ‘mom’ also crop up in pockets in the UK – specifically parts of the West Midlands and Birmingham, where I live. Any piece of artwork intended for me that my children brought back from nursery before they learnt to write was always inscribed ‘Mommy’. Now my daughter is at primary school she is under strict instructions that I am ‘Mummy’ in all written communication!

    Interestingly, I’m not sure it’s pronounced ‘mom’ here though. Will have to go and listen outside the school gates…

    Comment by Vicki — January 10, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

  75. Hi Petite,

    I whole-heartedly agree with you! Your manuscript (and all other English works) should be left as they are, not Americanized into obscurity. Mind you, I am American (as evidenced by the “z” in “Americanized”), but I am sick to death of everything that’s imported being manipulated and transformed into something no longer resembling what it was originally. I do not see why America must keep forcing its hodge-podge, pop-culture, consumer-driven, bland attitude and perceptions on every other culture in the world. I say let the Americans read English literature as it was written, and learn to appreciate the uniqueness of it!

    Comment by Mel — January 10, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  76. As an American who’s lived in France nearly 20 years, I’ve got no real idea how they deal with foreignness now. As an American before the big move who never had a chance to travel abroad, foreign words and spellings were exotic. I love to read, and British novels held a certain mystique, transporting me to a world I’d never been to.

    As your book is about an English woman in Paris, I would expect to see British words and spellings, along with whatever French is included. I would certainly expect to hear Tadpole say “Mummy.” However, if you want your readers to understand British slang or metric, you either have to accept the translations or somehow incorporate them into the text yourself. Before I knew a word of French, it was really helpful when French phrases inserted here and there into an English text were subtly explained.

    I still have a hard time pronouncing “draughty” as “drafty” in my head, even though I know better. How do you pronounce “haughty?” If you give a weight in stones, I’m not going to multiply it by 14, or whatever it is you do. And whether it’s a better system or not, most Americans don’t have a clue what to do with a metric number. It’s just not our system. We don’t know how to drive on the “wrong side” of the road, either.

    Yes, it’s a shame to take a British book about a British woman and anglicize (or would you say anglicise?) it. So what if we miss a few words. But do leave in changes if it’s likely you won’t be understood and need to be.

    Comment by azurienne — January 10, 2008 @ 5:24 pm

  77. I’d rather read the English version. I’m used to the coloUrs, flavoUrs, elevators, etc etc…I’m not a native speaker, so all these regional differences look like a fuss to me, it’s the same language after all! :-)

    Comment by LN — January 10, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

  78. I also am an American, who would much rather read your book in UK English. I really like alot of your words better than ours! I also think it ruins the “flavor”, and it bothers me that your U.S. editors beleive that we are to dumb to understand.

    Comment by gwenn — January 10, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  79. Thanks for the warning. We don’t want to hurt your US sales but I certainly don’t want to read a translation of your book. If I want to read American, I’ll buy an American book, but I want to read Petite in the original.

    Perhaps your publisher would consider a glossary, rather than spoiling the text? I think most reading Americans could handle that.

    Comment by Juti — January 10, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  80. Just a thought-What happêns to Irving Welsh’s novels in American translation?

    Comment by ali — January 10, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

  81. Just wanted to add that I like your idea of making a list of words that keep the flavor…we all want to hear your voice.

    Comment by nicole — January 10, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

  82. Can I get the version with the British text with the American cover?

    Comment by Franca Bollo — January 10, 2008 @ 6:16 pm

  83. anglicize means to make english, not to make american, #76.

    But otherwise I agree with your comment. I’m for converting weight in stones into pounds or even kilos, but I think I can figure out for myself what a pushchair is without it being translated for me.

    Comment by suzanne — January 10, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

  84. I wish publishers would stop talking down to us in the States and just send us the British version.

    Comment by claveles — January 10, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

  85. Goodness I had no idea you’d have to ‘translate’ your book for the American market. Pimouss (#29) is right in saying that to many French people American and UK English are the same. I’ve been helping some French teenagers with their English homework and it’s amazing how many American texts their teachers use. Now I wonder if the ‘profs’ appreciate the difference . . . . .

    Comment by sablonneuse — January 10, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

  86. This is crazy. I didn’t realize this occured so frequently until I read a Brit’s recent biography purchased directly from England and then went to a friends house and saw “American” version and even the face of the book looked different. If I were an author, I would be upset about my words being changed so drastically.

    I’m American, why can’t we just look a word up if it’s not understood immediately? Have you no rights as author to insist they leave it alone since it IS IN ENGLISH?

    Please hold on to the “Mummy”. I would be as perplexed as you and a bit angry as well.

    Comment by Iza — January 10, 2008 @ 7:19 pm

  87. [quote]Every instance of ‘mummy’ gets a resounding STET from me.[/quote]

    Every time I actually read this ‘mummy’ word, I think of one single thing:

    ‘IIIIII-mooooo-thep… IIIIII-Mooooo-thep…’

    I know, I’m watching to many B-movies ;)

    By the way, that’s very interesting to see how american can be a foreign language, even for other anglo-saxon people.


    Comment by Skro — January 10, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

  88. Argh, Suzanne (#83), you caught me out! You are so right. I guess I’m just so used to my language being anglophone compared to living in a francophone country. As England is just as much a foreign country to me as France, I guess my brain just continued the thought. Please accept my apologies!

    Comment by azurienne — January 10, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

  89. I am so glad you brought up this point. I had my American copy on order and could hardly wait until June. I would much rather read it in the original. So I just went to Amazon and changed my order. BONUS the UK version comes out sooner. Thanks for a great blog and am really looking forward to the book.

    Comment by Rhonda — January 10, 2008 @ 7:33 pm

  90. Why can’t they leave the vocabulary and spellings alone and simply put a quick footnote for the measurements? Or is that too “academic” for us shallow Americans? Or provide a glossary at the end for any vocab differences that are really puzzling?

    Comment by Liesl — January 10, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

  91. I really wish they’d leave everything in it’s original form. It’s gotta sound British or it won’t be PA. STET all the changes to American and let cultural differances reign!

    Comment by sheba — January 10, 2008 @ 8:04 pm

  92. I know exactly how you feel Petite, since my present job – the one I got in the UAE a little while after we were, as it were, sacked together – includes begging/bribing/forcing Canadians and Americans to adopt the English English style we have adopted for a new daily paper due to be launched soon. This will probably offend as many young Brits as north Americans, but I have made it one of my key tasks to ensure that no one uses “awesome” to describe some mildly pleasing or impressive event, object or emotion. I’d welcome any tips on persuading them that while the power of the sea or the might of US military firepower is certainly awesome, a good pizza or rock album is not. Merde a la puissance treize with the launch……

    Comment by Colin — January 10, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  93. re: 56 stavroulix
    The difference of Oxford vs. Cambridge is that the cambridge dictionary and spelling would say i.e. “burnt” and “realise” and the Oxford would say “burned” and “realize” — “t” vs “ed” and “ise” vs “ize”(there are also differences in punctuation rules etc). It’s all so pedantic sometimes! :)

    As for translations for the US market from the UK, I’ve read many books translated into UK English from US English too. I think that sometimes it’s better to think that people are reading something with ideas or stories new to them, whether they are “pure” or not. At least with your book people will find the blog and learn the Brit saying from here!

    I have lived most of my life navigating the confusions between the two languages, the best story was when teenage boy got a big smack in the face when I was in high school in the US. He told me I had a cute “fanny”. Well, you can imagine what I thought, hence the slap!! It took a while to realise/ze that he meant cute bottom… (for US readers, I thought he meant my “front bottom”.)

    Comment by becca — January 10, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  94. How bizarre that must be! And I quite agree with you on this point – I may have children some day, but I will *never* be a “Mommy”. Although I am Irish, my husband is American and it has got (or should I say “gotten”?) to the point that when we visit America he uses phrases and euphemisms specific to this side of the Atlantic and when they are not understood – HE CAN’T REMEMBER THE AMERICAN. I have triumphed. I think. :)

    Comment by Passementerie — January 10, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

  95. How about an annotated version for the US audience? But only for vocabulary, not spelling differences.

    Comment by Elizabeth — January 10, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  96. As a Canadian, I assidulously avoid spellcheck of any kind as a cultural gesture. Here in North America, Canadian/British language usage is in serious danger as is the rest of our cultural uniqueness. I make my tiny gesture for what it is worth!

    Comment by janet gordon — January 10, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

  97. really, who cares? i still want to know what the question was…

    Comment by daisy duke — January 10, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

  98. Hopefully, any American who wants to read about a Brit living in France is intelligent enough to “auto-translate”. But maybe I’m being overly optimistic.

    Comment by A Seattleite in Paris — January 10, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

  99. It is funny how much a different language it is. The Shaw quote is also one of my faves.

    As an American in London dealing with Americans over phone and e-mail for work language and spelling gets mixed up in my brain.

    I lean toward British English at work a mixture at home and American English when talking to my mates from home. Errr- I mean friends.

    I think it’s pants they are changing so much. Part of the pleasure of reading a book such as yours is that authenticity of voice.

    Comment by Nicole — January 10, 2008 @ 9:41 pm

  100. I am an American who has been living in the UK for many many years. As an American I can categorically state that I sang Incy Wincy Spider to my children and NOT Itsy Bitsy Spider. That was pure personal preference by the editor! I would have made the Americans read it in British English. It would do those readers the power of good to get a little flavour of the old country.

    I hope your cold is all gone.

    Comment by Peggy — January 10, 2008 @ 9:46 pm

  101. And then people wonder why the worldwide perception of Americans is that we’re dumb. I’m a Yank, and I have to say this: the dumbing down of anything and everything for American public consumption irritates the hell out of me. We couldn’t figure out that a draught is a draft on our own? Urgh.

    Comment by Lucy — January 10, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

  102. Your editor assumes that (we) Americans expect all of this modification to make it more reader friendly.
    I disagree, as do many of my colleagues.

    Translating from one language to another is one thing, but your editor is out of touch with mainstream American readers.

    Comment by Paul — January 10, 2008 @ 10:13 pm

  103. I don’t buy British books that have been Americanized — I order from a British bookseller, or I buy the book when I go to the UK. The entire idea of “translating” from British English to American English appalls me. If you don’t know a word, get off your butt/bum and look it up! Americans are insular enough without one more layer of insulation — they need to be exposed to how the rest of the world thinks and talks.

    Comment by Lea — January 10, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

  104. I remember purchasing the original Bridget Jones here in the states and loving the fact that they didn’t change the verbiage to sound too American. But someone else on here said they _had_ Americanized it. I bought my copy way before the movie was filmed, so maybe that was why?

    I’m with the other Americans who have commented that they would rather buy the unadulterated Petite Anglaise. Unfortunately I believe we’re in the minority of American readers. Word would soon spread that the book is too difficult to read and many wouldn’t even attempt it. Sad, but true.

    Comment by Jenny — January 10, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  105. Americans are egocentric.

    Comment by blueseaurchin — January 10, 2008 @ 11:06 pm

  106. Whenever we read something in translation, we lose a little of the author’s true ‘voice’. It seems silly to risk that when there’s no great need (Russian to American English makes sense, but British English to American English? Please!).

    If your book were a ‘how-to’ about living in Paris and raising a baby, I can see why your publisher might feel the need to translate. But it’s not – it’s YOUR story, told in YOUR words, about YOUR experiences. How many times did you really change ‘diapers’ or push a ‘stroller’ down the ‘sidewalk’?

    As a Canadian, I’m hoping Doubleday publishes Petite Anglaise the way you wrote it.

    Comment by Peg — January 10, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

  107. We don’t speak English here in the states. We speak American. Some watered down, less melodic, hacked up, sad version of English. It’s enough to make one want to book the first flight to anywhere in Europe. Although I admit I never wanted a mummy. As we do not use that word here for mother/mom/mommy, it always reminded me of an Egyptian mummy, dusty, covered in strips of cloth, and not very nice smelling or cuddly. That fact is not due to a language difference though. That’s simply because I’m a dork.

    Comment by beaunejewels — January 10, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

  108. “Just because the publisher thinks it’s necessary doesn’t really mean it’s what the people want. It seems like we’re only reinforcing stereotypes here…”

    I completely agree with Beth. It gets tiresome reading what idiots we Americans are, especially when it’s our fellow Americans saying it! There are some British phrases that I find baffling and would greatly appreciate translations for, but beyond that I believe most people are capable of reading words in context and deriving meanings from that. It’d be nice to read it in its original form with all the British “flavour”, but for what shipping it from the UK would cost me, I think I’ll survive with the American version!

    “Word would soon spread that the book is too difficult to read and many wouldn’t even attempt it. Sad, but true.”

    Really? I don’t think the situation is as dire as that. I assume that most people look at the cover and back of books when browsing, and with an attractive cover and an intriguing synopsis they’ll probably buy. As for the rest of the novel, I’m sure petite’s style and narrative would keep them reading, regardless of whether there are Britishisms scattered throughout.

    Comment by Annina — January 10, 2008 @ 11:46 pm

  109. Hiya Petite ;-) Happy New Year!
    Gods do I empathise with you…I’ve told agencies loads of times that I translate into UK English, and not American – they seem to think that the odd spelling change is enough, but it really isn’t…I mean, different vocab, different grammar – it’s a different language, not a dialect, and if you’re not native, you just can’t get it 100% right… good luck for the rest!

    Comment by Lucy-Jane — January 11, 2008 @ 12:59 am

  110. What a sad state. I agree with the “rabid Editor” comment. It seems completely unnecessary and I find it a gross underestimation of your American readership. Besides, as a reader, I don’t see the point. With the rampant Americanization of the text, your “voice” will be completely lost and there’s no joy in that. Contract stipulation next time, perhaps?

    Comment by kirstyn — January 11, 2008 @ 2:06 am

  111. What a sad state. I agree with the “rabid Editor” comment. It seems completely unnecessary and I find it a gross underestimation of your American readership. Besides, as a reader, I don’t see the point. With the rampent Americanization of the text, your “voice” will be completely lost and there’s no joy in that. Contract stipulation next time, perhaps?

    Comment by kirstyn — January 11, 2008 @ 2:06 am

  112. I’m with the other commenters here: even if British English is a little bit harder to read for me, I want the real flavor. The Britishness of your expression is just as important as the Frenchness of the setting. Plus, I will learn more words that way.

    Petite, if you get the answer about your Doubleday Canada version, please let us know.

    Comment by ontario frog — January 11, 2008 @ 2:44 am

  113. So true – it is incredibly frustrating as an English woman living in the US to read a book by an English author that’s been Americanised. In the same vein, I’ve never understood why so many quality British tv programmes have been imported over here & remade with American actors – often with less than stellar results…Just show the bloody original!

    Comment by Chris — January 11, 2008 @ 3:03 am

  114. Well I know that I’ve read lots of English novels which haven’t been Americanized. I don’t know if you realize, PA, that all British books aren’t “translated” for the US market, and are nonetheless very successful.

    I really think you ought to regard these comments as being indicative of general, American, book-reading opinion, and not dismiss them as coming from a handful of “enlightened” types, as you said before.

    #144, n’importe quoi! I really don’t believe that word would spread that the book is too difficult to understand, resulting in Americans “not even attempting” it. I mean, my God! The only British books I’ve read that have been translated into the American were the Harry Potter books, which are intended for children…

    I’m looking over at my bookshelf White Teeth and On Beauty right now, and they aren’t translated. I bought them in the US. Most British books are NOT translated for the US market. I’ve never read a book about English children who said “Mommy”: not even HP.

    I think you ought to insist, Petite. Put in a glossary if it will appease the publishers. Even that would really be unneccesary.

    Comment by suzanne — January 11, 2008 @ 3:48 am

  115. To translate a British book into American English is idiotic. It caters to American provincialism and ignorance. I personally thing Americans that read would not find British English so mystifying.

    Comment by Philip — January 11, 2008 @ 4:12 am

  116. I disagree that Americans want to read “Amerizanized” books, even from British authors. I am very disappointed your editor thinks so. Having the book written by a British author in a British adds more value, in fact.

    Unfortunately, Americans tend to simplify everything to the lowest denominator: the average American lacks culture and education, and that just does not cut it in a world where every other country invest more in their children’s education than the US does.

    Comment by SM — January 11, 2008 @ 4:21 am

  117. Conclusion could be the famous italian saying “traduttore traditore” (ie translator traitor)
    Bravo et félicitations pour votre blog

    Comment by MorrisMor — January 11, 2008 @ 5:07 am

  118. From a regular reader in the Southern US:
    For those not living *aux States* right now (or for those who thank goodness every day they’re not raising their *childrens* here)..: “Authenticity” is the word of the moment. Why on Earth your publisher insists on Mommy, drafty, plunk (or plunked?) for our benefit is beyond understanding. It takes all the authenticity out of your lovely, charming voice — which is what brought us to your blog in the first place, is it not?? Petite: Be You!

    Comment by Abby — January 11, 2008 @ 5:23 am

  119. When I was growing up, the C.S. Lewis books were all published in English, not American. (All right, they cleaned up most of the spelling, but kept the words themselves.) I was insulted when I read how the J.K. Rowling books had been modified to “better suit” American readers. Why dumb things down? If I couldn’t infer the meaning of a word from the context, it wouldn’t kill me to look it up.
    I once read a book on writing. The author mentioned how Beatrix Potter’s books had been dumbed down, and smaller words substituted for the original. (e.g. at one point the birds came over and urged Peter Rabbit to try harder when he was stuck in the fence. In the original version, the birds came over and urged him to “exert himself.” The original phrasing seemed perfectly clear from the context.)
    At least you’re in good (or at least famous) company.

    Comment by Mary — January 11, 2008 @ 5:40 am

  120. i tend to like the books i read to be in the language they were written in. unless it’s a language i dont know, like russian.

    what if I (in America) want a version in British English? will i have to order it from the UK amazon? you may have already answered above and i’m too lazy to read all the comments.

    Comment by Lynn — January 11, 2008 @ 6:19 am

  121. Living in Australia is tough. British background and americanised culture. Makes for an interesting mix that as said before changes in every state you visit. Sometimes I get in the ‘lift’ for work or the ‘elevator’ depending on which word comes to mind when I am talking.

    Comment by Jessica — January 11, 2008 @ 9:19 am

  122. What is really annoying is that so many children’s books have American spellings in them, which must be so confusing – how do the learn to spell correctly when everything is a muddle of Z’s S’s and hyphens all the time. Very peculiar, but utterly believable. ‘Mummy’ is so much nice than ‘Mommy’. It must be amazing to see the translation though…

    Maria x

    Comment by Smov — January 11, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

  123. ….of course I meant ‘ how do THEY learn to spell’ rather than how ‘do THE learn to spell. Tshhh.

    Comment by Smov — January 11, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  124. I’m Canadian and I would much prefer to read the British version. Hopefully that’s will be what’s printed here.
    On the Harry Potter front – my young daughter was eager to start reading Harry Potter in the early days. I made sure we got the original British version for authenticity, but the accent written into it (eg -just yer wand left, tell yeh what, don’ mention it) were beyond her 7 yr old reading skills and comprehension. In the interests of encouraging her to read I had to break down and order the U.S. version though it just about killed me.
    I don’ think yer expectin’ many 7 yr olds to be buyin’ yer book tho, so try an hold on to yer original words.

    Comment by nancy — January 11, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

  125. Funny how the British have taken our perfectly good language, and screwed it up by adding all those u’s and switching the z’s to s’s. It is like they think they the language belongs to them – like they created it or something.

    I mean really – “lift”. Come on.

    Comment by Steve — January 11, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  126. I think it is absolutely wrong-headed for the publisher to require any translation, so much of the charm and naturalness would be lost. Why don’t they leave your text as is, and add a little glossary for those who need it?

    Comment by harriette — January 11, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

  127. I’m looking a copy of Brighton Rock by Graham Greene and programme and colour seem to be spelled Brit style. P’tite, I’d tell your publisher/editor to take a flying youknowwhat at a rolling doughnut. Good lord lookee here shillings even in the book. Wonder how Mr. Greene managed not to have his classic “translated” into ‘murican. With the horrendous amount of dumbing-down going on in this country of mine, it’s no wonder the world thinks were batsh*t crazy.

    From Seattle
    A very disgruntled Beau

    Comment by Beau — January 11, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  128. I can understand perhaps translating a few words that the average American might not have “gotten” otherwise (i.e. understood) especially if they don’t regularly read anything in the King’s English or where there could be confusion (such as with “jumper” which is not a sweater in America but another article of clothing altogether). But I’m totally with you on not “mommy-fying” your book and on preserving some of the original charm. Some things just shouldn’t be translated. I don’t see why “plonked” had to be changed — really, what’s the big deal there? Don’t be afraid to fight to keep some of your anglaise-isms. The editor might be a bit over-zealous in her attempts to dumb down the book for the American audience.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — January 11, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

  129. P.S. Try reminding your editor that the title of the book is “Petite ANGLAISE” not “Petite Américaine” and tell her your readers are in revolt at the idea of her taking such drastic steps to change the English. Seriously, does she have no faith in the intelligence of the reading public in America?

    And the world wonders why America seems so insular… when even our publishers and media insists on talking to us like we’re incapable of being open to anything different.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — January 11, 2008 @ 2:57 pm

  130. whats the story with New Zealand getting the book way before anywhere else? No Fair!!

    Comment by susie — January 11, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

  131. New Zealand?

    Ah, no, that’s the Netherlands and Dutch speaking Belgium…

    Comment by petite — January 11, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

  132. Must be a pretty unique case, the Dutch translation coming out before the English version! Most translations come out at least 6 months to a year after the original work is published…
    Strange about the American “translation”; a glossary would suffice, surely?! Do you have the final say or do you have to accept the publisher’s conditions?
    Anyway, don’t dwell on it too much, it’ll be a great success either way and discerning readers will always be able to import the original version.
    Congratulations, it must be a very exciting time for you!

    Comment by happyforyou — January 11, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

  133. Enlightening website for Americans wishing to learn British, courtesy of Google:

    Comment by happyforyou — January 11, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  134. ah, my bad. Presume Ireland is covered in the UK release (the joy of being a tiny, once colonised country)?

    Comment by susie — January 11, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

  135. UK includes UK and “commonwealth” (except Canada). Which means Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and a whole host of other English speaking territories …

    Comment by petite — January 11, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  136. Very funny!
    I just wrote about your post on our site: (I hope you don’t mind).

    Comment by Courtney — January 11, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

  137. I have been lurking on your blog for a long time and never felt the need to comment but as an American reader I have to say this post and your editor’s attitude makes me very angry. Please tell them to leave the book alone. Americans have their faults as much as anyone else but we are not stupid. And for those readers who might not understand “the queen’s english” – how will they ever learn if no one will let them?

    Comment by american in chicago — January 11, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

  138. i’m american, and i’d prefer to read it in your voice. i guess i’ll have to order from

    Comment by Karen — January 11, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

  139. I must be British becuase I would prefer to read about mummy and daughter singing the insy weensy spider! I will by the british version as well! Tell your editor and publisher that not all americans are completely daft!

    Comment by amused in ca — January 11, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

  140. None of this matters as long as you see the color of their money!

    Comment by Wally McAllen — January 11, 2008 @ 8:06 pm

  141. Hopefully no one will notice! ;)

    Comment by Matt Maddox — January 11, 2008 @ 8:30 pm

  142. We don’t speak English here in the states. We speak American. Some watered down, less melodic, hacked up, sad version of English. It’s enough to make one want to book the first flight to anywhere in Europe.
    beaunejewels | 11:38 pm

    Wrong.. we speak U.S. English in the states, which is the lingua franca of business (and having dealt with everything from Chinese to Russians and Turks, I can say that it truly is). Do not lump the Canadians in with us as they have their own unique dialect. As for wanting to jump on a flight, go right ahead. I’m tired of reading the rants of self-hating USians on the net.

    As for the original topic, the book should be left in its original form for US consumption. Anybody reading it would want the flavor of the writer.

    Comment by thomas S — January 11, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

  143. Would everybody quit calling PA’s English the ‘Queen’s English’? I don’t think people have a really clear idea about what that means. She’s a girl from Yorkshire, for chrissakes. I’m sure she can speak RP but her book isn’t going to read like she’s got one stuck sideways… ;)

    Also, Americans, come off it with all that “Americans can’t/won’t understand the Brit-talk”. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon with that one, and it just isn’t true! Remember that most English literature is NOT rewritten for American audiences. Have you ever read anything besides Bridget Jones? British authors have enjoyed huge success in the US, topping the bestseller lists, past and present, and without the ‘benefit’ of translation.

    The book doesn’t need to be translated in order to sell and be understood by a US audience. Gah.

    Comment by suzanne — January 11, 2008 @ 9:29 pm

  144. I’m sure they can’t pull a Sailor Moon (wonderful in Japanese with subtitles, but massacred in the English dubbed versions) on your book- I’m in India, where we (for the most part) use the Brit terms and spellings for the words you mentioned, but we probably end up Americanising somewhat (not in my generation, though- I had a primary school teacher who used to take points off our homework for ‘American’ spellings). I’d much rather have the book the way you wrote it, though.

    PS: Petite, can you ask your publisher to consider putting at least a few copies in major bookstores in India? I can’t shop online without a credit card, and I really want to read it.

    Comment by Drusilla — January 11, 2008 @ 9:47 pm

  145. And Tadpole saying ‘Mommy’? I really do hope that change gets reversed..

    Comment by Drusilla — January 11, 2008 @ 9:49 pm

  146. I hate gotten, haven’t read all the comments, but we say got in the UK and can’t fathom the extra en at all.

    Comment by helensparkles — January 11, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

  147. While changing mummy to mommy is silly it’s a simple economic decision. Forty per cent of the US population are women 25-65 years old, presumable the target audience. This is the largest publishing demographic in the world; they buy more books per capita than any other group, going away. Publishers are in business and business is about making money. Simply “The one who pays the piper calls the tune”.

    Comment by Sid — January 11, 2008 @ 11:04 pm

  148. This is very sad. I once rather enjoyed reading Edgar Allan Poe on the subject of the King’s English (it’s not his any more, most of the common stockholders are Chinese), but this babyfication is sickening. They wanted to dub David Attenborough out of Life on Earth and the BBC, to its credit, refused. They should take a hike… to Paris, Texas.

    Comment by Eats Wombats — January 11, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

  149. I am appalled at the thought of your having to change words for us across the pond. Your publisher is crazy; your U.S. fans are not that stupid.

    Many of us know that we would have to look under the bonnett of a car for the engine in England instead of the hood. We know we would wear a macintosh in the rain instead of a raincoat. And some of us also even know that a rubber is meant to correct pencil mistakes while here in the U.S. it is a slang word to name the object that helps to prevent another kind of error–unwanted conception.

    We do read and we also watch British BBC TV series because we have Netflix. : )

    And we can always Google……

    Tell them to stop wasting their time and yours. We want it the way you wrote it. Mummy and all.

    Comment by linda from jersey (that's new jersey USA) — January 12, 2008 @ 12:03 am

  150. Grrr. I HATE when American publishers do this. Stick to your guns, petite. I vote for a glossary for those who might need it.

    And show all these comments to your editor, if you haven’t already! :)

    Comment by Alison — January 12, 2008 @ 2:30 am

  151. Oh, by the way, I’m American.

    Comment by Alison — January 12, 2008 @ 2:30 am

  152. ‘As for wanting to jump on a flight, go right ahead. I’m tired of reading the rants of self-hating USians on the net.’
    thomas S | 9:13 pm

    So am I. And I’m tired of non-Americans bashing American English as well. Sure I like the sound of UK English, but I’m perfectly satisfied with my “watered down, less melodic, hacked up, sad version of English”, thanks.

    ‘Also, Americans, come off it with all that “Americans can’t/won’t understand the Brit-talk”. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon with that one, and it just isn’t true! Remember that most English literature is NOT rewritten for American audiences.’
    suzanne | 9:29 pm

    Thank you! I seriously don’t know why people are so eager to disparage their fellow Americans. Not everyone here is stupid, as much as everyone might like to think that. Besides, people who are interested in this book probably WANT a taste of European culture, so they’re not going to be repelled by British terminology!

    Comment by Annina — January 12, 2008 @ 4:48 am

  153. Ouch, that’s a sore spot. I’m American and I happily thought my 12 year old would wizz through English in 6ème… Of course, that was before I got summoned to a meeting with the French “English” teacher, who told me it was a shame that he wasn’t getting 20/20 but only 17s and 18s, and oh my, even a 14. Why? Because of English English. No “have gots” in my house, so my son was penalized. ANd as for “mummy” yes I know what that is, but for me, it’s an artifact from Egypt (and it’s the first definition when you google it). Sorry mum !

    Comment by magillicuddy — January 12, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  154. oh and by the way, just to give you my 2 cents… I’ll be reading the British version… I’ve spent years reading you here, why confuse things now? Jolly good !

    Comment by magillicuddy — January 12, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  155. Crikey, less controversially, am I the only one looking forward to the Finnish version?

    Comment by rhino75 — January 12, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  156. Thanks for posting this because now I will be at pains to get an English-English copy and not an American English version. Hopefully Amazon.Fr will stock the English one?

    Although perhaps you’re publishers will see this and reconsider..let’s hope so!

    I find the Americanisation of Harry Potter really objectionable considering the boarding school genre is so English to begin with.

    If we speak a common language, why shouldn’t we be open to variations? Why the homogenisation? What for?

    Comment by destinationmetz — January 12, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

  157. As the American version of English evolved, it was perfectly correct for Americans, same thing for the culture. We are no less right nor wrong in how we do things, we are just different. Somehow that poses a problem for a whole lot of people.

    As for the dumbing down of America, that is unfortunately way too true (is that an Americanism?). But have you ever listened to the Brits or the French complain about exactly the same happening in their own countries? It’s an across the board problem. Why don’t the French have any VO programming on their TV like some other European cultures? Because the French are too tired at night after work to deal with it, supposedly. I don’t live in the UK, I have no similar examples, but I’m sure some of you must be aware of some. As for confusion with vocabulary, I remember the British host of the old show Continentals on A2 telling of trying to buy some jam and being laughed at because he asked for some preservatives. I find it charming when my English friend talks about her mum, but I want to correct her when she call me one. No, I am a mom, and mum doesn’t fit me at all. It’s all part of the game.

    I think it must be kept in mind that anybody reading a blog about a Brit (that’s not an offensive term, I hope) living in Paris is going to have either true international experience or wannabee desires and thus would enjoy whatever foreignness they encounter. As I have fallen into both categories, I really can’t speak for the average American. When I was still in the second category, I would be a bit stymied when reading English slang (what are two bits or a ha’penny?) or currency (how much is a shilling?) or weights (what the heck is a stone?), but that just contributed to the fun because it didn’t really matter if I understood (one couldn’t just look it up on the internet back then, for those of you who forget how hard it used to be). And I would gamble that anyone interesting in reading PA’s book would feel the same way.

    Just because PA has run into some totally inane publishers, please don’t discredit the intelligence of the American public overall. And you don’t need to bash us in general just because we have our own ways of doing and saying things. They work for us just as much as yours work for you.

    Comment by azurienne — January 12, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

  158. Argh, the first part of my post was cut off. Please insert the following into the top of the above:

    I usually don’t follow all the comments to the end when there are so many of them, but this time I’m following all of them. And getting angrier by the minute. Thank you very much #142 and #152. Language is a means of communication, you use it to express yourself as successfully as possible to others. I was taught all my life that there is no such language as American (last laugh on my MOM when I moved to France and learned otherwise), we speak English. And the Brits don’t speak the King’s English any more than the Americans; they neither speak nor would much understand the English language of the 1600’s, when the era the Colonies, founded by the English, were first being developed.

    Comment by azurienne — January 12, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

  159. You know what bugs me about this! It sounds BETTER using English grammer! Not only that but why do they get that gorgeous front cover???? I’m going to pre-order my ENGLISH version in a mo but I WANT THAT COVER!!!! *throws very big tantrum* but I don’t want to have to read it in american grammer I’d get confused. sighs. I do like the English cover though. It reminds me of France, Cannes to be precise. Can’t wait to curl up with it Petite!! In spring as well!!! xxxx

    Comment by Rachel — January 12, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

  160. My dear,
    have a nice week end:*

    Comment by hana — January 12, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

  161. Well, I’m an English mum living in America, so I feel entitled to comment on this one. I’m not sure I can add much to the 158 comments on the screen already (and more waiting to be moderated, no doubt). My impression is that Americans love a bit of English charm, and for the sake of it, would easily tolerate words such as pavement. Strange spellings might be a bit more irritating to read. However, I expect your publisher knows his market…

    As for Mummy/Mommy, you could discuss with him the fact that there are variations on Mommy in the US, according to geographical and social setting. Momma, Mama, Mom, Mommy, (and the equivalent Dada, Papa, Dad, Daddy) are all usages I’ve come across, and there are probably others too. So why not add Mummy into the mix?

    All the best with the book. My family are mostly in England, but my brother lives in Paris with his wife and children, so I love reading your blog. A taste of life over the Pond.

    Comment by Iota — January 12, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

  162. Remember the Beatles when they went to America! Maybe you’re too young but if your book sells well in America which I think it will, YOU.. ARE.. ON.. YOUR.. WAY ! There will definitely be a movie. Especially with the improved relations between the US and France.

    Remember my words

    Comment by rocket — January 12, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

  163. You’ve drawn masses of comments this time! Obviously your U.S. readers really appreciate your British English. They’ll be pleased to know that the Brit. version of the book can easily be pre-ordered from It takes a bit longer and the postage is more (6.98GBP) but you’ll get it sooner.

    Do you really spell “draughty” with a ph, Petite??

    Grannie D (was Brit ex-pat in France profonde but now in Mexico)

    Comment by Grannie D — January 13, 2008 @ 3:51 am

  164. As a Bulgarian living in Bulgaria….sorry……
    Thanks for “bangs”, though. I have been wondering about this one for some time (in reference to one’s hair. definitely not curls. and why it is in the plural?!). The relief….

    Comment by Marina — January 13, 2008 @ 11:10 am

  165. I’ve never understood why everything has to be translated into Americans, I know a few, and they really aren’t as stupid as most of the world makes them out to be. I’m sure they can work out that mummy is mommmy (horrible word in my opinion, almost as bad as movie – it’s a film!!!!)

    Comment by MLU — January 13, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

  166. Hi!
    I love your blog and I’d like to buy your book. I’m belgian, but actually I’d prefer to read it in the originaly way, in english. But is it normal that your book is first on sale in Belgium/Netherlands and only in march in the english version..? Or did I interprete it wrongly..?

    Thanks for an answer!

    Comment by Dido — January 13, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

  167. Petite, je suis a Paris si tu veux aller pour un cafe :-)

    Comment by Eric — January 13, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

  168. >UK includes UK and “commonwealth” (except Canada). Which means Ireland,

    Ahem Petite, I think you mean Northern Ireland (the six counties). The Republic is not part of the commonwealth.

    Comment by Kate — January 13, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

  169. Kate – the word “commonwealth” as used in publishing is rather an academic concept as far as I can work out.

    I can confirm that Penguin control English language rights for the Republic of Ireland (having checked my contract)…

    Comment by petite — January 13, 2008 @ 10:32 pm

  170. I’m sure it’s already been said, but we don’t necessarily want the changes. But Big Publishing obviously knows best, right? I’d much rather have the Brit version, but I’m sure they are just trying to make you as accessible as possible. For the plebs, you know. Totally with you on “mummy” though. We’re not that thick, Bush or no.

    Comment by jb — January 13, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

  171. Maybe it’s the American chick lit audience for whom your book is intended? Martin Amis would probably get to keep “mummy” when published by an American house–if that word ever made it into one of his books.

    Comment by Claire — January 14, 2008 @ 12:24 am

  172. So does Tadpole shriek “Way to go, mommy, that ass of yours looks camel-humping awesome” ?

    Comment by parkin pig — January 14, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  173. Have to agree with #171, unfortunately. Judging by the covers of the books (which of course is not right, but inevitable), it does not seem like the publishers are aiming very high on the “literature” scale, they appear to be playing it safe in the chicklit niche, which guarantees high sales…the dumbing-down would appear to affect writers that are lower down on the literature scale and not as well-established as the big names…
    Anyway, when the book does come out, you’ll probably get lots of raving reviews throwing off the chicklit label and emphasising on the quality writing, fingers crossed…

    Comment by happyforyou — January 14, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

  174. Quel absolute horreur Petite! Put you’re pied down and banish “mommy” from your pages… xx

    Comment by In Style Gal — January 14, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

  175. I actually think the reason for which they do “Americanize” a product for us is because we make up one of the largest consumer demographics in the world with the money to spend on said product. From a business perspective, I’m assuming they want to make it as easy as possible to sell/push said product to take advantage of this demographic.

    With that said, I’m not sure of what sorts of books they actually do this with. I frequent fine literature and oftentimes, the text is left in tact. When words that we don’t use in the US are used in original text, it doesn’t take much for me to be able to follow it…it’s pretty easy to figure out. Also, you can often purchase either version of said text…especially in NY or in the US, in general, with the internet access at our fingertips.

    And unless you’re talking about a body preserved in gauzy, filthy bandages, I find the word “mummy” absolutely HILARIOUS and creepy – all at once. :0l I think I’d prefer just about anything but the name “mummy”.

    Oh, and we don’t use the term “portaphone” and I actually learned “Incey, Wincey Spider”. Remember, it’s an enormous country and even the language varies according to where you are located.

    Comment by Eclat in Paris — January 14, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

  176. *kiss kiss* Just discovered you and I would think that Mummy would work. I doubt anyone would think you meant the guy wrapped in white toilet paper. I think the other translations are because we (yes I’m American), as a whole, are too lazy to learn the terms used in other places. We would have to spend hours looking up the terms or being lost.

    I’m not saying it’s right, just that it is.

    Comment by Lisa's Chaos — January 14, 2008 @ 3:19 pm

  177. I also just found you. I popped over here from I must disagree with Lisa. I enjoy reading books in the language in which they were written (as long as it’s English…lol). I enjoy books set in England with English idioms. I enjoy books set in Australia with Australian idioms. I enjoy books set in Scotland with Scots idioms.

    Comment by Sandy — January 14, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

  178. We sing Eentsy Weentsy Spider here in NC!! It appeals to my sense of Southern speak—wide mouth, long vowels!!!

    And PLONK–how can you possibly mess with that word, unless you call it “rotgut?” That doesn’t even do it well, because I’ve had some very good plonk, and rotgut is never good.

    Oh, I guess you meant “kerplopped?”

    Comment by Small Town Diva — January 14, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  179. OK here’s my two penny’s worth. As a Brit, (#125)I’m sorry but English IS our language and we have been speaking it for hundreds of years. At the same time there are several other English-based languages which are similar but have their own vocabulary and grammatical rules: Australian, American, Canadian etc. I’ve nothing against the way English is now spoken by other cultures but let us recognize that there are some general rules about using “good English” wherever you come from. So many films are made by the Americans and are totally lost on the rest of the English speaking world because there are too many cultural references that we no longer get the joke. However they don’t adapt their films so they make sense to the rest of us but feel the need to adapt our films and books so they understand. For example, the Bridget Jones film, she talked about her weight in pounds and not in stones, she’s supposed to be British! We (the brits) read American books and can understand even when there are cultural references which mean nothing to us. For only a handful of words, it is really necessary to change the entire book? You’re a Brit Petite, and more to the point you’re from Yorkshire, something that you are and should be proud of. Changing the text would be like changing who you really are!

    PS Also nothing against the Dutch but why do they get it before the Brits??

    Comment by laroseanglaise — January 14, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

  180. I think it’s ridiculous to translate your book into “American”. Anyone buying the book would know (or soon find out) that you are a British expat living in France. At what point would they expect you to speak/write like us? It doesn’t give Americans any taste of another culture if everything is watered down like that. I enjoy finding the little differences, even the different names for everyday items. If your daughter calls you Mummy, it should definitely not be changed. That is her term of endearment for you, and no editor should change that.

    (btw, I am American, from the South, we have lots of different words, I don’t think Gone with the Wind should be translated to reflect how different Northerners talk…)

    Comment by Kat — January 14, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

  181. Why are they doing that? I would much rather have the original version.

    Comment by joeinvegas — January 14, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  182. Petite,

    I work for a U.S. publisher, and some of those edits are too much. In fact it kind of changes the atmosphere–after all you are British, living in Paris, why would you speak, or spell, like an American?

    I wouid only change confusing terms, ie pavement to American readers will be understood as the road itself, not the sidewalk.

    Best of luck with your book!


    Comment by David — January 14, 2008 @ 6:07 pm

  183. Had no idea about plonked and plunked. We Canadians get it all mixed up. The u in colour but the z in itemize.

    Mommy is definitely wrong though. Very very wrong given that the book is clearly about a BRIT Mom. What ARE these people thinking!!???

    Comment by Caroline in Rome — January 14, 2008 @ 6:15 pm

  184. Claire–Re Martin Amis–Give me Ian McEwan any day–a much better writer and human being IMHO :-)

    Comment by Beau — January 14, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

  185. Too ridiculous. As an American I’m tired of having to order form amazonUK to GET an English book in its original form.
    I want to read it the way it was written, and most of us can figure out the differences.

    Comment by Lisa — January 14, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

  186. Reminds me of my (brief) time spent in the US Educational System. My Dad was working over there at the time so I was enrolled in the local School. On one occasion I’d made a mistake in my work which needed correcting, I looked and looked and finally called out “who’s nicked my rubber”. The looks I got!

    Comment by John — January 14, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  187. Add me to the Americans who are irritated with the publishing in American. I have ordered all the Harry Potter off of Amazon UK and have an order in for your book there too.

    I think we ‘get it’ but the publishers don’t.

    Comment by Maxly — January 14, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

  188. Why on earth do they want to Americanize it? Or Canadianize it or anything else. Your book, your dialect. If not, it loses its voice.

    Being Canadian, I’m used to reading both “American” and “English” as well the the hybrid of the two common in Canada. As well, I live on a relatively small island that has its own set of dialects and I certainly wouldn’t want all books to be translated to fit the local vocab. How boring would that be?

    Dumb choice by the publishers. Give us our Petitie Anglais straight up, please!

    Comment by Dawn — January 15, 2008 @ 12:25 am

  189. #186, how old are you? Do we Americans even still use the term “rubber?” That was hysterical. Thanks for the laugh. (Btw, how long did it take for you to understand the error of your vocabulary?) I’m still chuckling.

    Never having lived in England, I have no idea what kind of amusing situations I could get into over vocabulary. But I’ve come pretty close (that I’m aware of) to some fairly interesting ones in French.

    Everybody here is so caught up in an American vs. English debate, but with a third country thrown into the mix, look how interesting it is for anglophones (bringing together a little unity here) to get themselves into quite a situation sometimes.

    Publishers will do whatever they can get away with to appeal to their market in whatever way they see fit (which does not mean that they necessarily get it right), but the rest of us should just recognize that we are smugly in the “know” and then just enjoy the show. No need to bash anybody else’s language as being anything negative.

    Comment by azurienne — January 15, 2008 @ 12:37 am

  190. I used to think only in France were people crazy/ignorant enough to say “speak American”, until a friend suggested that they simply didn’t have the words (in English) to articulate “dialect”. That completely changed my perception.

    But I’ve read the comments here and it seems these are clearly people (in this comments box) that have a grasp for the English language…yet they also use the same phrase “speak American/Canadian/Australian”.

    In keeping with your earlier question regarding why books are translated for the American market and our books are not translated for yours (which I think is obvious why…I don’t see it as cost-effective to translate for a tiny island off the coast of Europe…it’s simply not large enough a consumer demographic to make it cost-effective, imho)…WHY are Brits (and others here, it seems) simply unable to recognize that English (like Spanish, Chinese, Arabic etc.) consists of various DIALECTS??

    I’m no longer shocked when I hear someone here in France make statements like “speak Australian”…I’m assuming now that they indeed don’t have the vocabulary to articulate the word “dialect” in English. I can completely understand that. But there’s just no excuse for someone clearly educated in English, especially native speakers, to speak in this manner. I generally assume one is simply not educated when they say “speak Canadian/Australian/other”.

    It sounds so…CAVEMAN-esque, it’d be funny if you weren’t actually serious…which in this case makes it, not hilarious, but, ironic.

    There’s a word called “dialects”. Why are all other languages able to develop (and respect) various dialects, but English as a dialect is considered another language? Let’s use our vocabulary, please. It’s called D-I-A-L-E-C-T.

    JESUS. Let’s use our ENGLISH, please.

    Comment by Eclat in Paris — January 15, 2008 @ 9:06 am

  191. Eclat – I probably started the ball rolling here by writing (with tongue firmly in cheek) that I was reading my book translated into American.

    Whether you call it a different language or a dialect is academic, all that is at issue here is whether a story told from a British point of view should be read/can be understood by Americans if presented as originally written. Commenters here seem to think my book will lose a certain amount of charm and the voice will be altered – although certainly new readers who have never read the blog won’t even be aware of this issue.

    NB I’m almost certain copy editing isn’t such an onerous or prohibitively expensive process that US publishers wouldn’t consider doing it for the UK market, small as it might be, comparatively speaking.

    I have to say, in general, I’ve been quite surprised by the number of vehement comments on what was supposed to be a light-hearted post to relieve the monotony of my re-reading task…

    Comment by petite — January 15, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  192. One last thing…I’m actually curious as to what you think regarding the different dialects of English spoken within the UK, itself. In England alone, there are many dialects of English, and many are along the lines of incomprehensible for those not residing in the immediate area (fellow Brits and otherwise)…not for accent alone but for word usage.

    I mentioned here a few months ago that my then boss, from London, considered PA’s English “acceptable” when I questioned him about it. But certainly they spoke very differently and whole letters that PA would drop from her pronunciation of various words were completely taboo for my London-born boss.

    So, I’m curious…what do you call the various dialects of English on offer within England and the UK as a whole? Is someone speaking “Manchester” or “Yorkshire”. (I feel so silly even asking that question, but I do so to explain how silly it is to say “speak Canadian”, for example.)

    Also, one last thing and then I’ll go back to my lurking…I really tire of people from the UK telling me how I should say things that were invented and coined by Americans. The elevator AS WE KNOW IT was coined by an American, Elisha Otis (and before him, Waterman…another American), and regardless of what country you’re in, it will usually have an Otis brand elevator. It’s called an “elevator” not the slang word that you use “lift”. If you choose to call it that for slang, dialect, or otherwise…that’s fine. But please recognize that it’s actually called an “elevator”…and when Otis built it, he referred to it as an ELEVATOR…not a “lift”.

    This reminds me of a conversation that I had with a Brit in my French class here and he asked me why we say “jeans” and not “trousers”. I told him that I should be the asking HIM that question…why do you say “trousers” and not “jeans” – since we actually invented them during the gold rush and he’s wearing an American invention.

    We’re the ones that get to decide what it’s called when we invent something…and everyone else can change the name/pronunciation/etc. as they see fit, but don’t try to dictate how those that invented something should refer to their own invention.

    Comment by Eclat in Paris — January 15, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  193. No one is telling Americans that they should be calling elevators lifts. We are saying that it is odd for an English character in a book to refer to what she usually calls a lift as an elevator, as this is not how she would think or speak.

    There are Yorkshire-isms in the book too – I recount a conversation with my mum on the phone and she speaks in the book as she would speak in real life. There is an American character whose dialogue is written in American English to reflect the reality of her speech. All I am talking about is being true to every character, assuming that the sense of most words will be clear from the context.

    And as for calling trousers jeans, who does that? Jeans are made of denim, and trousers made of any other type of cloth (US pants).

    Which leads me to another question – can anyone from the US tell me how they would render the phrase “French knickers“? Because the copy editor’s version – French underpants – didn’t sound very sexy to me at all!!!

    Comment by petite — January 15, 2008 @ 11:25 am

  194. French panties.

    Comment by sydney — January 15, 2008 @ 12:40 pm

  195. For the Canadian market: French knickers == frog ginch. Hope this helps!

    Comment by tinfoiled — January 15, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  196. Please children if we can stop the ranting, bickering etc….

    What we Brits really want to know is the AMERICAN TRANSLATION for getting your “knickers in a twist”.

    Comment by P in France — January 15, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  197. But interestingly, Eclat, denim is in fact French!

    Comment by In Style Gal — January 15, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  198. so what are you going to do now ? I’ve read the comments and as an English living in France forever (5 generations) and educated in England (ha ha can’t become tooooo french) and literary agent (for theatre) am particularly interested in language, its uses and misuses etc. I agree with all the other comments. It’s the way you write which makes your blog so good and fun to read. Changing the english’isms will take part of the charm away. Oh well, c’est la vie. Merde for the book anyway.

    Comment by caroline babuty — January 15, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  199. Hi,

    I am sorry to disturb and I do know that my question isn’t related to this blog but can someone/ explain to me what does other benefit: TBC means?I had applied for a job,(british) and haven’t a clue what this supposed to mean.

    Petite I love your blog and I have learned lots of words through this and still am.

    Thank you a lot.

    Comment by pchenge — January 15, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  200. I guess you have to be as big as the Beatles to get this to work :)

    From I am the Walrus…”Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down.”

    Perosnally, I would prefer to read the text the way you intended.

    Eric in Michigan

    Comment by Eric in Michigan — January 15, 2008 @ 3:41 pm

  201. Even ‘french panties’ doesn’t quite convey the right image. When you think ‘french knickers’ you think silk, frills (for some reason) and the small brief like shape, – at least I do. Much sexier than thongs/g-strings. And then there’s the connotations. The Americans call tights pantihose so ‘panites’ kind of suggests somthing much more functional than french knickers.

    Comment by susie — January 15, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

  202. It occurs to me that the editor who is translating is not a native speaker of US English. Underpants is what adult prudes call their giant cotton underwear or what pre-pubescent children wear. Adults who aren’t bizarre wear plain ‘underwear’ or nicer panties or specific sorts (thong or g-string, boy leg, etc.)

    The ham fisted translation you’re reporting reminds me of how awful many British versions of an ‘American’ accent sound. The overall picture is passable, but the nuances are either absent or too obvious.

    Comment by syd — January 15, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  203. @#199
    In the UK TBC normally means “to be confirmed” which means they haven’t yet decided or got approval or agreement for whatever it is they’re talking about. Does that help?

    @Eclat in Paris
    Calm down dear – you’re going to do yourself an injury if you carry on getting so wound up! Sorry – what does my opinion count for being resident on a tiny off shore European island?

    Comment by Mungo — January 15, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

  204. Let’s order the british edition of the book instead of the american one.

    Comment by pchenge — January 15, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

  205. I would insist upon “mummy” as well. I wonder why they didn’t just put a word translation in the front. Usually in Canada we get the British version of books. So should I come across yours I’ll have to make sure to see if it is the American or British.

    Comment by Emma — January 15, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

  206. To No. 199,

    TBC means “to be confirmed”

    Comment by Nicole — January 15, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

  207. Us Brits recognise that even in Britain there are many different regional dialects which indeed are not always understood by people in other parts of the UK. Some Londoners can’t even understand a Scottish accent! However there is a difference between dialects and accents. A dialect is recognised as being so and thus is not seen to be ‘proper’ English. It is not because a person from Liverpool calls someone a ‘divvy’ (= idiot) that it is a correct word, for example. However, a person speaking with a Liverpudlian accent can be speaking correct English but with an accent. In the UK we make the difference between speaking “proper” English and using a regional dialect although we may not say “speaking Yorkshire”. That said, if you look in Harry Potter, Hagrid speaks with a northern accent and therefore the way his speach is written is in itself incorrect English but necessary so that the reader can imagine the accent. That is what PA does in her blog when she is conveying the Yorkshire accent and I imagine the same appears in her book.
    By the way, I was reading a Kathy Reich novel where she mentioned “tap pants”. In the context I imagined they were some kind of sexy underwear but it doesn’t sound very sexy!

    Comment by laroseanglaise — January 15, 2008 @ 6:41 pm

  208. I think you need a new editor, or perhaps I misunderstand what audience this book is targeting. I think your nationality (British) and the French setting are essential to the enjoyment of the book. Maybe one edits the more “obscure” (to the average American) references, but that British flavor (or flavour perhaps) is a significant part of what makes the book interesting.

    Sorry Petite, but I think your editor isn’t getting what the appeal of the book will be. Sounds like an over-eager youth determined to justify his position. You know, the more changes he recommends equals the necessity of his work in the first place. Sometimes the most important work an editor does is to defend the author’s composition as written.

    (And my apologies if “he is actually a “she.” We use “he” as a neutral pronoun in American speak.).

    Comment by Small Town Divamm — January 15, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

  209. petite,
    you might want to consider running the “translated” version by a native speaking American. I agree that anyone who used the term underpants to describe french knickers is not portraying your “voice” properly to the average american. It will undermine your otherwise fabulous prose and may have a negative effect on how your book is received. This is, in my opinion, worth discussing at length with your US publisher. Do you want to appeal to a more sophisticated audience or those who are happy with Danielle Steele (no offense to Ms. Steele, she got me through some tough finals weeks at university… needed mindless romance to re-energize)?

    At the very least, all quotes should remain as they were in the original, but I agree with many of your american readers that I will not buy that version but opt for for my delivery. Harry Potter was different because there were so many children reading the books, but adults can deal with british english…

    Comment by nrg — January 15, 2008 @ 7:09 pm

  210. oh, and the american translation is getting your “panties in a twist”… ;.)

    Comment by nrg — January 15, 2008 @ 7:12 pm

  211. susie – are you an American? If not, I hardly think you can comment on whether panties conveys the right message. If you are, please choose the one which does best convey the meaning from the comprehensive list for the article in question:

    or the rarely heard:


    That’s it – that’s all you get to choose from. Of the words we have in US English, panties is the only one which even approaches knickers.

    **we call pantyhose pantyhose because they are both a hosiery and a panty, as opposed to the older stockings which ended at the thigh (which were replaced by newfangled panty+hose). Not because we think of panties as some flesh colored translucent fabric with a cotton oval at the crotch.

    Comment by Sydney — January 15, 2008 @ 7:22 pm

  212. Knickers in a twist” would be translated as “being uptight” or “needing to chill out.” However, my American husband has loved this expression ever since he first heard it, so it’s become commonplace in our house.

    I didn’t realize “knickers” conveyed something sexy, but our “panties” is a rather intimate term, I think. So if knickers are, too, then it’s a good translation. The definition of underpants by #202 was very well said.

    Jeans may be an American invention in its current reincarnation, but they actually come from Europe. According to Wikipedia, which opens its article with “Jeans are trousers traditionally made from denim:”

    The earliest known precursor to jeans is the Indian export of a thick cotton cloth, in the 16th century, known as dungaree. Dyed in indigo, it was sold near the Dongarii Fort near Bombay. Sailors cut it to suit them.

    Jeans fabric was made in Chieri, a town near Turin (Italy), already in 1600s. It was sold through the harbour (sic!) of Genoa, that was the capital of an independent republic, and a naval power. The first were made for the Genoese Navy because it required all-purpose pants for its sailors that could be worn wet or dry, and whose legs could easily be rolled up to wear while swabbing the deck. These jeans would be laundered by dragging them in large mesh nets behind the ship, and the sea water would bleach them white. According to many people the jeans name comes from blue de Genes, i.e. blue of Genoa. The raw material was coming from the city of Nimes (de Nimes i.e. denim).

    Just so you know!

    Comment by azurienne — January 15, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  213. Sydney,
    Nope I’m not american, although I have lived there for extended periods, so I thought (perhaps mistakenly) that I might offer a view having experienced both sides of the pond as it were.

    Are you telling me that pantyhose (aka tights) are a panty (knickers/underwear/whatever) and a hose? i.e. you don’t need to wear panties when wearing pantyhose?!?! I don’t think so.You are obviously not a woman!

    The question petite put out there was for a suitable American alternative to ‘French Knickers’. In Britan (& Ireland) knickers is used as a term for everyday underwear (i.e. cotton etc) while French Knickers denotes a totally unique style, shape and allusion. :o) What I meant to convey was that the essence of what she means to say may be lost in translation by substitutng the phrase for simply ‘panties’. What do you reckon petite?

    Comment by susie — January 16, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  214. They say America and Britain are two countries separated by a common language…….This would seem to solidify that idea…….

    “Dungaree,” is a term for jeans I used to hear growing up as well as jeans, though dungaree fell out of style sometime in the 70’s

    You say pyjama, and I say pajama……..let’s call the whole thing off….

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — January 16, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

  215. As an American who once lived in London I would definitely prefer to read your book with British English as opposed to American English. There may be a lot of flavour lost in the translation.

    How can I get my hands on a British version?

    Comment by Cassandra — January 16, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

  216. Azurienne, thank you, and I am well aware of its early forms which were nothing like what I was speaking about. I don’t wish to debate the changes jeans have experienced throughout history…but comparing those worn during the 1600s to those worn now is like comparing a baseball cap to an early pharaohs crown. It’s like comparing apples and oranges and not very logical.

    I was speaking of jeans/elevators as we know them…riveted, five-pocket, etc. which I mentioned in my post. These were both American inventions.

    But thank you for your input…I appreciate it.

    Comment by Eclat in Paris — January 16, 2008 @ 5:19 pm

  217. Are you telling me that pantyhose (aka tights) are a panty (knickers/underwear/whatever) and a hose? i.e. you don’t need to wear panties when wearing pantyhose?!?! I don’t think so.You are obviously not a woman!

    I am a woman. I don’t wear ‘hose’ but when I have, I’ve worn undies with them. That said, I wonder if you care to speculate on the function of the cotton crotch in pantyhose? I propose that it is put there with the intention that the wearer need not worry about panties.

    In fact, in every advertisement for said article I’ve ever seen, women wearing pantyhose are not wearing panties.

    Comment by Sydney — January 16, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

  218. Two countries divided by a common language….

    This became very apparent the day I helped an English friend make a shopping list.
    He said, “Loo roll, kitchen roll, cling film, aluminium…” I had to stop him right there so I could get an English to English translation!

    I’ve also learned to call my pants “trousers” as not to cause embarrassment.

    But I do believe that the Americans will understand “Mummy.” Don’t change it!

    Comment by loulou — January 16, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

  219. Hi Petite,

    in comment 131: “Ah, no, that’s the Netherlands and Dutch speaking Holland… ”
    Just want you to know that
    – the Netherlands and Holland is one and the same thing (actually Holland is a province in The Nehertlands, but almost everyone else refers to the Netherlands al Holland)
    – they all speak dutch overthere
    – I think you meant “dutch speaking part of Belgium”

    Thing is I come from Antwerp (in the flemish part of Belgium – very nice city by the way), and I found out about your blog in the Knack-article from last week. Since then I’ve done some reading here: you really have a beautiful, funny way of putting things down! Good for me to know there’s still quite a big unread piece of your pie left!
    (hope my english is readable…)

    Madame Anvers

    Comment by Antwerp — January 16, 2008 @ 8:41 pm

  220. By the way, did you know that the difference between British and American English is VERY recognisable for the Flemish and Dutch way of talking/writing …

    Comment by Antwerp — January 16, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

  221. I grew up hearing both South African English (which is based on the Oxford dictionary) and American English. I frequently got my school papers marked down for using learnt instead of learned and so on. I see the point of changing the verb structures to the American form and for using -ize instead of -ise, but I agree taking away all of the colorful English-isms is too much.

    [i]What we Brits really want to know is the AMERICAN TRANSLATION for getting your “knickers in a twist”.[/i]I’ve heard both “Don’t get your panties in a wad” and “Don’t get your panties in a twist”.

    And for #217 eeeeww, American pantihose is most definately meant to be worn with panties underneath. I think the name came about because the manufacturers were trying to distinguish it from stockings that stop at your upper thigh and have to be hooked up to a girdle. Much easier to have one garment that pulls up over your panties.

    Comment by Sakoro — January 16, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

  222. @ No. 217

    I’m horrified!

    Comment by Louisa — January 16, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

  223. I never knew this…and I must say I am sadden by it. Now I’d rather buy the book in London, for the original text.

    Comment by ang04 — January 17, 2008 @ 2:54 am

  224. What is it about us Americans? Well, try as I may, I’m not like the lot of ’em. If there’s anything I can do about it, I’ll buy the British version! To hell with the changes – that’ll spoil the story.

    Comment by wonelle — January 17, 2008 @ 2:54 am

  225. I was about to pre-order the Canadian edition from, and I notice they offer two items: one, published by Spiegel & Grau is listed at 240 pages (the American edition, I assume), while the other, by Doubleday Canada is listed as 320 pages… I assume that the two books must be different sizes(or different font sizes). The British edition is 352 pages. I now have all three pre-ordered.
    This is, in a way, much more interesting than the situation with Girl with a One-Track Mind where the US published appears to have reproduced the exact pages of the British book and printed on slightly larger pages, so they don’t look full. It also has a cover and a title she doesn’t like, if I remember correctly. So, at least, you are lucky that they haven’t changed the title as well…
    The 28th of February still seems far away. I hope you are planning to do book signings.

    Comment by pierre l — January 17, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  226. I read this post smiling. I was convinced that was a joke.
    But from the comments, that seems real… Eh ?
    What about the title ? Didn’t they suggest that ” Petite Anglaise in Paris, in love, in trouble ” should become “Minnie Mouse, in L.A., in lust, in sh*t” or another cultural reference any American that can’t read would identify ?

    Your export manager is taking his target for idiots.
    He could simply add explanations in notes at the bottom of the page for the few ambiguous terms.
    I hope he will take his responsability and write on the cover that’s a diet version.

    If I were you and could afford, I’d refuse any corrected publication in English.
    But well, I guess you need the money to eat and that might be a part of your contract. I had to accept to let pricks correct my French into n’importe quoi at my former company. They decided *native French* was too complicated for non-native readers, so they had to drop articles and a few verbs, include typos and neologisms not yet invented.
    I hated them for that, but that was less embarrassing than I thought. Most readers went to tell me : “You know what ? They have taken a text you’ve written in Japanese into babelfish…that’s too funny.”.

    By the way, about “Petite Anglaise”, do the readers of this blog know about the movie ? That’s not necessary to enjoy your writings. Who understands 100% of the references about litterature ?

    Comment by kuri — January 17, 2008 @ 11:05 am

  227. Dear Petite,

    I have been reading your posts for ages and I love your blog.

    I wanted to say that if you are interested in translating your book into Spanish, then I would be available to do it. Contact me if you are interested.I am bilingual in English and Spanish.

    keep writing!!

    Comment by sandra — January 17, 2008 @ 11:10 am

  228. What slightly different punctuation rules for speech? I am not aware of any. There ARE slightly different rules for punctuation with quotations that are not direct speech (commas and periods inside quotation marks and other punctuation, in general, outside; whereas in UK English, all punctuation marks go outside). American convention uses a serial comma and UK does not, and there are possibly some different conventions following a colon — but otherwise the punctuation is not too dissimilar.

    Comment by Passante — January 17, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  229. Eclat,I think you will find that Otis can only be credited with inventing the “safety” elevator/lift/whatever.Passenger carrying lifts had been present in many buildings in Russia,France & England for well over 30 years before Waterman & Otis made their significant improvements.

    Comment by Hank — January 17, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  230. hi,
    I’m from Belgium and I just read an article about you in a Flemmisch magzine (weekend knack). In school we have to choose if we are going to speak and write britisch or american english. And then we can’t switch anymore. Funny how two languages who sound the same are yet so different… Is Australian english also different?

    Comment by Kirsten — January 17, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

  231. What a difference. My US publisher took one look at my manuscript and said “I think we’ll leave it as it stands.” We had three meetings and that was the outcome each time. I’m glad. To translate everything in to the jargon used in the US would have been to rewrite the novel. Congrats on getting a US issue.

    Comment by Brennig — January 17, 2008 @ 8:32 pm

  232. When I wrote about this debate at my own blog at , one (British turned Canadian) reader accused me of telling the Petite story once too often.

    He was wrong because it is a great talking point and has inspired excellent exchanges. And he removed any doubt that he was wrong by going on to discuss – at length – the issues raised.

    Here in the UAE, where I am involved in a newspaper launch and responsible for style matters, my American and Canadian colleagues cannot always agree among themselves on use of English but occasionally unite against my insistence on British English.

    The deal? I will make one or two concessions, for example by allowing American spellings when part of proper nouns (World Trade Center etc).

    I am against Petite’s text being tampered with for the American edition, but I suspect none of us will ever know what impact it has on sales.

    Let’s not forget, however, that the American publishers did get one thing spectacularly right: the book cover (both versions could be seen somewhere to your right last time I looked).

    In Petite’s shoes, I would have stamped my feet a lot harder about that.

    Comment by Colin — January 17, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

  233. Perhaps U.K. to U.S. English transliteration is to accommodate the perceived audience for the book. I have American-published editions of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Angus Wilson, Iris Murdoch … and so on in which there is no U.S. – U.K. transliteration. (Umm, translation means rendering from one language to another, and transliteration means adapting/interpreting a dialect, so since U.S. English is simply a variant of U.K. English, not a foreign language, the book is — rightly or wrongly — undergoing transliteration not translation.)

    Comment by Passante — January 18, 2008 @ 5:18 am

  234. Aren’t “French knickers,” what used to be called “tap pants” or “tap panties” in the United States?

    Comment by Passante — January 18, 2008 @ 5:28 am

  235. Petite…

    I’d never imagined that an “English” author would need to be translated into “American”.

    The “imported” books I read here in New Zealand are thankfully in the language of the author – British, American, Canadian, or Australian.

    As a Kiwi who has lived in both the UK and Australia I KNOW how much the language divides us.

    In the UK I referred to a pen as a “writing stick” or the people I worked with thought I wanted to sew (it sounds like pin to UK ears), and I’ve heard more jokes about “fush & chups” in Australia than I’ve eaten them.

    I wear jandals on my feet, and a thong is worn under trousers NOT on your feet!

    If all these commentators get their “knickers in a twist” over this debate (and the last thing that comes to mind when I hear “mummy” is bandages and tombs), they’d have a fielday with a NZ author/novel…

    I thought a draft was an early copy/version!

    Stick to your guns, and keep it UK English!


    Comment by Kiwi Lindsay — January 18, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  236. The fact that I don’t give a fuck about The Boy’s utterances makes up for your rude failure to translate them for your non-Francophile readers.

    Comment by John Bullshit — January 18, 2008 @ 11:21 am

  237. I wonder what Bill Bryson would think about it!

    Comment by Boris — January 18, 2008 @ 1:26 pm

  238. @236 – if you are referring to the previous post, John, a translation would be “never mind, it’ll give me a real holiday…”

    Usually I feel that the context is enough to make these things comprehensible and that babelfish will do the rest, but point taken, I’ll try to remember to put in a hyperlink so that you can hover over the French and see the English translation in future.

    Comment by petite — January 18, 2008 @ 1:31 pm

  239. Hmmm. John (@236) must be American.

    Comment by Boris — January 18, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

  240. ahem…. has everyone forgotten about the burning question???

    Comment by jacqui — January 18, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  241. @236: John, you’re tense; I can tell. Let these soothing words heal you. Heal! Heal!

    Comment by Zerlina — January 18, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

  242. @ Eclat, I think I’m right in saying jeans were “invented” by German-born Levi Strauss?

    I don’t think demographics come into it as much as everyone is saying- if so why do publishers bother to translate books into Dutch / Swedish etc. which represent smaller readerships?

    Anyhoo, looking forward to the version originale – good luck with the proofs!

    Comment by Franglaise — January 18, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

  243. your blog has suffered.

    Comment by lee — January 18, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  244. So, Petite? In view of the overwhelming response in favor of keeping the British-isms intact, do you intend to put your foot down?

    Comment by suzanne — January 18, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

  245. Wow, being American and open-minded I would have prefered the English Version to further my understanding of our Brothers and Sisters across the Big Pond.

    Comment by J. Philip, Mt. Olive, Louisiana — January 18, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

  246. Wow, being American and open-minded I would have prefered the English Version to further my understanding of our Brothers and Sisters across the Big Pond.

    Comment by J. Philip, Mt. Olive, Louisiana — January 18, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

  247. I’m very disappointed that they are doing this to your book. I might have to wait to buy your book now until I “cross the pond”.* I think your publisher is under-estimating how much we “Americans” would prefer it stay written as you wrote it. Why do we continue to read your blog? I don’t ask for a translated version here, why would I want the book translated?

    *Although I do like the American cover design more.

    Comment by Typegirl — January 19, 2008 @ 12:24 am

  248. Just to put an end to this thread – I submitted a list of frequently occurring British English words which I thought there was a case for leaving as they were, and 80% of these will now stay as I wrote them (the others could not as they were confusing/had a different meaning in US English).

    So the US spellings will stay, but so will the nappies, lifts and holidays…

    I’m happy with that, I hope you are too.

    Comment by petite — January 19, 2008 @ 11:01 am

  249. Is there a possibility of getting the original, English text, but with the American cover?

    Comment by small — January 19, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

  250. End the thread…..Am I late….?

    Comment by meredic — January 19, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

  251. This blog has gotten so dull! Has the host run out of material?

    Comment by misfit — January 19, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

  252. P’tite, thank the gods that your publisher has got some common sense. Stick to your guns, girl–it’s your book and bloody well not their’s. Am happy for you!

    So cheers from Seattle

    A smiling Beau :-)

    Comment by Beau — January 21, 2008 @ 1:37 am

  253. 252nd!!!

    Comment by JonnyB — January 21, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  254. My English-teacher father (who taught in the UK for a year) will passionately defend “gotten” to you all. It is a perfectly valid construction with fine historical antecedents (Shakespeare, anyone, or do UK copy editors correct him nowadays?). It is a differentiation between types of participle that allows for greater shades of meaning *when used correctly* – although many British writers assume that Americans just use it willy-nilly, anyplace a Brit would say “got.”

    Comment by Sara — January 21, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  255. Perhaps we should blame the publisher?

    Comment by La Rêveuse — January 21, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

  256. Note to self: next time read to the bottom of the comments.

    Comment by La Rêveuse — January 21, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  257. I’m an American girl. My parents — or shall I say, my mum and dad — are Americans. I have always called my mum Mummy. I’ll swear to this on an affidavit if you want for your publishers.

    Moreover, I don’t think the Harry Potter books (after the first disasterously-titled one, that is) were “translated” from English to American. Tell your publishers that if American children can handle it, Adults can, too.

    And yes, we’ve DEFINITELY never called ANYTHING a portaphone. That’s all your side of the pond, my dear…

    Comment by Rachel — January 21, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

  258. My question would be which version do they send to Canada?

    We tend to get stuck with whatever goes to the states, but it’s a bit ironic to me that we would get a book filled with spelling errors (color intstead of colour, realize instead of realise etc) when the words were originally spelled correctly…

    I have heard of this though, the North Americanizing of books. I think I first hear of it with Harry Potter, but I think they were selling the ‘British version’ in Canada and the ‘US version’ in the states.

    Comment by mainja — January 21, 2008 @ 7:10 pm

  259. The Oxford Dictionary recognises the use of ‘z’ instead of ‘s’ (so maybe that should be recognizes?) but I can’t bare to use it. I guess I’m an an English girl through-and-through but I will always change it back to an ‘s’ when Microsoft Word tries to change it!

    I think you should put your foot down and demand the English words…

    Comment by Dixie Chick — January 21, 2008 @ 10:53 pm

  260. I’d rather read the English version, personally, and will probably get my copy from Canada to read it the way you wrote it.

    There is one word you mentioned that I think does have a different connotation in American English than in the Queen’s English, but this is a bit picky: draught versus draft. Draught is beer on tap here; draft is the air that gets into your house through cracks in the windows.

    Oh, and just to add to the variations, I learned “Eensy Weensey Spider” as a child in the American Southwest.

    Comment by Kaycie — January 22, 2008 @ 12:36 am

  261. Petite: Just finished reading “I don’t know how she does it,” written by a Brit, Allison Pearson. Nothing was translated into American English, and I completely understood what she wrote ;) I haven’t read the other comments here (well, I read #s 1-100, then got tired), but it would be worth a try to see if the publisher/editor/whomever would be willing to keep the British English. All the best, Kat

    Comment by Kathleen Whitworth — January 22, 2008 @ 2:08 am

  262. Well. I’m sure someone’s covered this, but as an American AND an Anglophile AND a copy editor, i’m completely on your side.

    And for the record, publishing houses have different approaches — some leave the British spelling, because it’s (hello!) authentic, some change it (much as Hollywood movies are dumbed down) for the lowest common denominator.

    Honestly. And when you think how much they’re PAYING the American copy editor to ‘translate’ everything. I used to be the editor in chief of an American cooking magazine, and it was available in the UK on a website. Which means that every single measurement had to be changed. You can imagine the nightmare.

    Anyway. Just adding my completely unnecessary opinion.

    Comment by islaygirl — January 22, 2008 @ 2:11 am

  263. I think the only time that words should be changed is when they’re actually going to lead to communication problems, as in a situation where both the UK and the US use the same word, but they have two different meanings, like “biscuit” (cookie/scone) or “pants” (trousers/underpants).

    Comment by srah — January 22, 2008 @ 3:10 am

  264. Lisa at 15,
    In Australia, the name of the little red sausages depends on from where you come in Oz. When I was small, they were called cheerios, but then we moved interstate, and they were little boys. As a kiwi, you are welcome everywhere in oz, you know that, and we love your iccent. :-)

    Comment by PeterG — January 22, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  265. When I had my book, Solaris Systems Programming, published by Prentice Hall a couple of years ago, I *insisted* that all my British spelling, puctuation, and grammer remained untouched (the American bastardiasation of the English language really irks me!). They went along with my request, but suggested that I put a note in the Foreword to explain my use of proper English.

    But to answer your question: I think the reason why Americans insist on the changes the OP describes is because they’re so insular: there’s no world outside the US! Keeping the book as-is (heck, they even changed the title of the first Harry Potter book!) would alert them to the world outside and cause a core dump. ;-)

    OTOH, people from outside the US are often aware of the differences they (the US) have, so don’t get thrown when American English is found in a book.

    Comment by Rich Teer — January 22, 2008 @ 5:40 pm

  266. I don’t think the public demands the Americanization as such… it’s more likely that the ruthless capitalism of the publishing houses has noticed that British-flavoured English does not sell as well in America as American-flavored English.

    Before all you Brits start patting yourselves on the back for your worldliness, though, consider that the same may be true in reverse. It might simply not be worth the cost of translating books for the smaller British market.

    It’s fair to assume that the cost of changing a book is the same cost C whether you’re going from British English to American English or vice versa. Now, suppose for a moment that the sales difference is also constant — that there is no difference in the “worldliness” of the populations, and that publishing it in the “right” flavour means you sell something like like T% more books. A good publishing house (you know, the kind that stays in business) is only going to spend C to translate the book if it expects that it will make its money back on the extra T% of sales. Because the US has 5x the population of the UK, that alone will make it more likely that the publisher will get a net benefit when translating to American English than doing it the other way around. It’s all down to population differences and simple economics.

    It’s entirely possible that Brits are more worldly, mind you… I’m just saying that it doesn’t logically follow that they are. :-)

    Comment by Drew Thaler — January 22, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  267. Rich:

    Is the American bastardization of UK English any worse than the Brits’ bastardization of the tongue in which Beowulf was written?

    Just curious.

    Comment by John Bullshit — January 23, 2008 @ 7:50 am

  268. There are a number of basic languages that have different formats and accents within the language that are considered completely proper and correct. Take French, for example. Among just the Canadians, Belge, Swiss, and French, they can’t even agree on how to count. And if you have a close enough relationship with French, you can definitely hear nationality differences in the spoken word. So which one of just these (not to mention African French and wherever else French is the national language)would #264 call proper French?

    As one can’t hear the same English spoken all over on just a little tiny island, just where does he think proper English is actually used? I bet the Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, Jamaicans, Indians, South Africans, etc., are really thrilled to be told they obviously have a bastardized language.

    Job well done, #264. You’ve really managed to piss off a large portion of the world.

    Comment by azurienne — January 23, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  269. I couldn’t agree more! I am American, and I read English and Irish authors (“chick lit” stuff, really) such as Marian Keyes and Anna Maxted. I read books by these authors to get a more realistic perspective on how women in the UK think and write. Why would I want their books to sound American?

    Comment by Unabashed Girly-Girl — January 23, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

  270. Got this from Wikpedia. And however gross people might think it is, the cotton in pantyhose was supposed to eliminate the need for panties… @217 was totally correct! “The term ‘pantyhose’ originated in the United States, referring to the combination of ‘panties’ (an American term for women’s underpants) with sheer nylon hosiery, meaning they are usually worn without other undergarments.”

    Comment by nrg — January 23, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  271. Hi,

    My name’s Chris,… I live in Belleville and suggested we meet ages ago last summer, and shortly afterwards a wall fell down in the passage leading to my apartment and derailed that plan.

    I do still read your blog, but haven’t seen you around lately. I was wondering if you’d mind my using this piece in my English classes at Saint-Denis. My students are always asking about the differences between English and American, and this entry sums it up well. Let me know.



    Comment by Chris — January 23, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

  272. I read an American version of Harry Potter that had about HALF of the “mum”s changed to “mom”. It was excruciating.

    Then I had the spelling thing done to a chapter of mine – I just changed everything back to British – they weren’t even consistent. Many of the spellings are actually options in both countries, anyway. I’d just say “sorry, spelling and punctuation yes, other terms, no. They’ll just have to look them up.” I wouldn’t be surprised if other things are regional (and the editor is using their own dialect) rather than all-over-American. My American mother taught me incy-wincy.

    There’s also a very strong case for keeping dialogue (including “mummy”), even if not other parts of the writing.

    And we say “got” instead of “gotten”.

    Comment by katie — January 23, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

  273. This Christmas the bad puns in the crackers were not getting any laughs, then I figured out the non-English (American, German, Israeli) had no idea what some of the words meant. Translating them on the fly tended to lose the pun, can’t remember what words they were though.

    An Englishman in California.

    Comment by Dan — January 24, 2008 @ 12:43 am

  274. To set the record straight:

    American English and British English are both branches of the same language. Every other form (Australian, Canadian, Jamaican) is a branch too. No country owns English. English is owned by every speaker of the language and no one has more right to it than another fellow speaker.

    There are differences because of where, how long ago and under what conditions it branched that make much of the variation found. If we are going to compare British English to American English, much of the thing thought of as Americanisms are actually not new inventions – “gotten” is past participle form now archaic in Britain, but still used in America. Just look at the past participle of “to forget” – “forgotten” and you’ll see the same relationship.

    Many things are also more modern, changes made by people like Noah Webster to American English for instance (though we actually don’t use half of what he dictated). There are also new developments to be found in British English – did you know Shakespeare was rhotic? “R” dropping – common in Britain today, did not come about until after the colonies were first settled. I don’t think of any of this as bastardization. I usually call it “evolution”.

    That said, Petite, I think it is a travesty your editor even considered “translating” the book. It’s not as though British English is a foreign language. I will grant that there are things that might not seem familiar to some in the American audience, but damn I do believe I’ve read and understood every word and phrase in English on your blog and I’m a native speaker of American English. Can’t imagine how I’ve become so adept at British English – I’ve never studied it! (sarcasm)

    PS – Whoever made the comment about self-hating Americans – I am totally with you! It’s one thing to stereotype people from afar – lots of people have superiority complexes (as evidenced by #264). But to stereotype yourself in such a negative manner? Yea, there are some serious issues there.

    Comment by Tiffany — January 24, 2008 @ 5:03 am

  275. I also am an American who prefers to read the British version — I buy up as many books as I can bring home any time I make it to the U.K. Thank goodness for

    Comment by Philippa — January 25, 2008 @ 3:09 am

  276. I had to pipe in too! Another American who wishes that the publishers would have left good and well enough alone. We could figure it out and we love reading and “hearing” your British voice.

    Comment by Anali — January 26, 2008 @ 7:31 am

  277. Perhaps they should call it La Petite Americaine and have done with it!

    Comment by Caitlin — January 26, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

  278. Bravo! I’d missed the brilliant post by #264. If we lived in the same area, I’d have invited him to dinner next Wednesday along with my friend Francois Pignon, the talented matchstick model maker.

    He could have shared his enlightened views with me and my friends over a nice meal. I would have loved to hear more about ‘puctuation’, ‘grammer’ and the ‘bastardiasation’ of the English language.

    Comment by Zerlina — January 27, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

  279. Ok. Here’s the deal: People don’t know what they don’t know. The average American is not exposed to British English much, if at all. An American version of the text allows more people to understand and enjoy the book without having to work hard figuring what the heck it says. Most people don’t pick up a book like this with the intent to learn a new language.

    Does this mean Americans are ignorant and insulated? Well, ignorant no. Insulated? A bit. But if you plunked us down in the middle of Europe, I’m sure we’d learn a few languages.

    That being said, I personally prefer the UK version of UK books by UK authors. If I were fluent enough in French, I would read the original French ditto.

    A note in the front about spelling and punctuation with a glossary in back (for anything that context can’t clarify) would be sufficient for any text the author prefers not to translate.

    Side notes:
    Slippery dip??? What the heck is that?
    Itsy Bitsy, please.
    I live in Chicago–you got a problem with that? ;)
    We have pop, not soda or coke.
    They are subs, not hoagies.
    I had to decide if my office uses Chicago or AP Style. I went with AP. Have you tried to use Chicago lately?

    Petite: LOVE the blog. I’m glad to hear London and Paris are smoke free. I can visit now!!

    Comment by Sarah — February 8, 2008 @ 5:47 am

  280. PA: “French knickers” would be lingerie. Lingerie is any fancy, sexy underwear (usually a matching set or nightie /teddy).

    Underpants, as stated above, are for kids and grandmas.

    Panties are cute bottoms. Underwear can mean bra and panties together or just bottoms. Usually means boring, every day kind if unspecified.

    Comment by Sarah — February 8, 2008 @ 5:57 am

  281. I would much rather read the UK version. I have no trouble reading your blog, for heaven’s sake. I doubt the book would be any harder for a diehard American like me. And I love the French bits you throw in too. What language do they translate that inot – Spanish?

    I am now really bummed to find out they translated Harry Potter.

    As for “gotten” apparently all English speaking folks used to say gotten (held over from the German roots of our language). The people who left England in the 1600’s and came here brought it with them, but then if fell out of favor and was eventually dropped in England. Hence the difference. I never fell out of favor here and the languages diverged at that point.

    Comment by summer fever — May 29, 2008 @ 11:24 pm

  282. After reading your book in Dutch (I live in the Netherlands) I wanted I had read it in English because reading a book in the language the author wrote it in is just better than a translated one. So I can’t see, just like you, why Americans need a translation;)

    Comment by Anna — May 31, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

  283. How very annoying that the editors think a translation is needed at all. It isn’t. As an American and a reader I read many book by British authors and have been able to understand the few differences. Most of the differences are obvious and immediately understood while others may take a bit of research. It adds to the flavor, or should I say, flavour? of the book.

    Comment by robyn — June 27, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

  284. Hi, I’ve been reading your archives and just caught this post. I’m an American but I bought your book from Amazon UK just so I could read it in the correct English and not silly translated American. BTW, it took me only two days to read it, I thought it was fabulous!!

    Comment by kassy — July 1, 2008 @ 1:22 am

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