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Harold Potter - philospher’s/sorcerer’s
Posted: 08 September 2011 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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HP and the Philosopher’s Stone was released in the States (and India according to wikipedia - both novel and film) as HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Any ideas why?

Also, Briton Francis Wheen’s How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions was published in the States and Canada as Idiot Proof: A Short History of Modern Delusions.

There’s probably a long history of this (going the other way, too) and the editors must know their markets.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The standard answer to the Harry Potter question is that the American publishers thought the American target audience wasn’t familiar with the concept of a philosopher’s stone.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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And it would be hard to deny it.

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Posted: 08 September 2011 04:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Simon Winchester’s The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words was renamed The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary in North America.

The reasons for this are rather obvious. Few Americans (me included) would have recognized the significance of Crowthorne. (The U. S. equivalent might be The Surgeon of Bellevue*.) Also note the serial comma, or lack thereof. I like “making of the Oxford English Dictionary” better. “Love of words” is kind of vague and weak. But had I been the editor, I would have gone with “murder, madness, and the making...” to get the alliteration in.

*Although Bellevue is not just a psychiatric hospital, it’s psychiatric ward is well known from all the NYC-based police procedural shows on television.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 12:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Marketing

This was a marketing decision made by author Rowling and Scholastic, the publishing house that released the novel in the United States. The decision to change Philosopher to Sorcerer was made because, in the U.S., a philosopher connotes a scholar of philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, logic, and other related fields. Philosopher does not typically connote an alchemist or magician, and magic is essential to the Harry Potter books. Consequently, the publisher suggested using another word with a more magical connotation, and Rowling suggested Sorcerer. Rowling gives this explanation: “Arthur Levine, my American editor, and I decided that words should be altered only where we felt they would be incomprehensible, even in context, to an American reader… The title change was Arthur’s idea initially, because he felt that the British title gave a misleading idea of the subject matter. In England, we discussed several alternative titles and Sorcerer’s Stone was my idea.” For the movie, the different titles were used in different markets, and each scene where the Stone’s name is used had to be filmed twice, once with “Philosopher’s” in the dialogue and once with “Sorcerer’s.”

Dave’s reference to Simon Winchester’s dual-titled work The Surgeon of Crowthorne: (aka: The Professor and the Madman:) and the marvel of the internet allowed me to look a bit further and I found this review enlightening.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Few Americans (me included) would have recognized the significance of Crowthorne.

Come to that, I wonder how many Britons would recognize it at first glance. I think the asylum’s more usually spoken of as “Broadmoor”. I suspect the author may even actually have used “Crowthorne” as a bit of deliberate mystification.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 01:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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in the U.S., a philosopher connotes a scholar of philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, logic, and other related fields. Philosopher does not typically connote an alchemist or magician

But that’s what philosopher connotes in the UK too. Nobody (except in a pre-18th-century context) would connect the term with alchemy or magic here either, except in the specific term “philosopher’s stone”.

The reasons for this are rather obvious. Few Americans (me included) would have recognized the significance of Crowthorne.

But hardly any British people would recognise the significance of Crowthorne either. Broadmoor, the high-security psychiatric hospital situated in Crowthorne, is a household name all right; but hardly anybody in Britain could tell you where it is (unless they have read Winchester’s book) . That’s precisely the point of the original title. “The Surgeon of Crowthorne” deliberately avoids the well-known name so as to give no clue to the situation of Dr Minor: thus the reader at the beginning of the book is put in the same position of ignorance as James Murray*. The US title reverses this strategy and spells it out on the cover, so from the beginning the reader knows something that Murray doesn’t.

So in both cases I think the differences between Left- and Rightpondia are not so much in word usage but in marketing strategy.

*I think this is true in a literary sense, even if the reader actually knows from reviews or the back cover that Dr Minor was a Broadmoor inmate. One can read it “as though” one didn’t know, which is impossible if the title tells you.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 03:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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"Philosopher’s Stone” as early as I can recall, has had the connotation of magic, alchemy, and wizardry for me.  Plus I knew that anything ‘Harry Potter’ would be ‘about’ magic before I saw the title.  “Philosopher” by itself does not have that connotation.  I think the choice of the titles was ‘Marketing Strategy’ arcana occluded from me by my pedestrian sensibility in the area. 

As for Dr. Minor, I would have recognized “Bedlam” as an asylum--but of course, the story had no roots there.  I failed to understand much about “Crowthorne” other than from context. “Broadmoor” has a dull ring, but still a ring nonetheless.  And I now recall that I heard the story on the doctor within the last handful of years and still had no instant recognition that “Crowthorne” was an asylum or that the story was the one I had likely heard through a review of Simon Winchester’s book. 

Syntinen Laulu points out: “...But hardly any British people would recognise the significance of Crowthorne either....”

Lionello offered similar points, above.

‘Marketing Strategy’--it’s opaque to me. 

Frighteningly (<<this is, of course, my personal opinion), wikipedia has this:

For most of their time, marketing managers use intuition and experience to analyze and handle the complex, and unique, situations being faced; without easy reference to theory. This will often be ‘flying by the seat of the pants’, or ‘gut-reaction’; where the overall strategy, coupled with the knowledge of the customer which has been absorbed almost by a process of osmosis, will determine the quality of the marketing employed. This, almost instinctive management, is what is sometimes called ‘coarse marketing’; to distinguish it from the refined, aesthetically pleasing, form favored by the theorists.

[ Edited: 09 September 2011 03:11 AM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 09 September 2011 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I always just assumed the choice was based on American readers’ familiarity with the Mickey Mouse Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia (1940).  At least the kids’ parents would be familiar with it.  Somehow I knew that Sorcerer’s Stone and Philosopher’s Stone are the same thing, and that Philosopher’s Stone is the proper name for it.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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So now explain why it is necessary to make a US version of Little Mosque On The Prairie…

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Posted: 09 September 2011 05:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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But seriously ... HP’s target audience for the early books was quite young, and it is hard to imagine many of them (in Britain or anywhere) had heard of TPS, or that changing the name could have had much impact on sales but wtf would I know.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I found this review enlightening.

Since that link is very laudatory, and since it mentions “scores of glowing reviews,” I feel impelled to provide an alternative view by linking to this LH post in which I vent about Winchester, one of the worst writers it has been my displeasure to encounter.  As I say there:

You know, I understand his writing the book: he can’t do any better, and they offered him a contract, after all. I even understand (though with severe pain) the book’s being published in its present form: we all know what’s happened to the publishing industry, and even OUP doesn’t bother with editing and factchecking any more. What I CANNOT UNDERSTAND is all the reviewers rolling over for this tripe. Can’t any of them READ?

(Excuse the shouting. Sometimes it gets to me.)

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Posted: 09 September 2011 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I read and posted that link for the guts of the story.  It seemed to promise an interesting story. 

Now, if I chance to see that book, I’ll have to pick it up and look at it.  It’s on my list of “sounded nice, but don’t pay anything for it...”

It seems as if the thing is filled with the linguistic equivalent of a series of tank traps.  After thinking more about it, I fear it’s even worse: tank traps are intentional.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 09:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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“Love of words” is kind of vague and weak.

Agreed. However, it’s possible the author of the title (who was not necessarily the author of the book) may have had philology in mind. This may explain philosopher over sorcerer in the movie title, in Britain anyway: a willingness to adhere to academic facts rather than bend to apparent marketing pressures. It seems a little finnicky to me to change the title when you’ve got a guaranteed blockbuster on your hands. Who the hell cares about the title?

But the fact that philosopher meant scientist 18th century and prior is pretty widely unknown. Presumably J.K. held the line on keeping the title in Britain.

[ Edited: 09 September 2011 09:35 PM by Iron Pyrite ]
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Posted: 10 September 2011 02:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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It seems a little finnicky to me to change the title when you’ve got a guaranteed blockbuster on your hands. Who the hell cares about the title?

Don’t look at it with the perspective of 15 years later, when we know how it turned out. It was hardly a “guaranteed blockbuster.” (Few books are.) The book was rejected by several publishers before Bloomsbury picked it up, and Rowling’s initial advance of £2,500 suggests that Bloomsbury didn’t expect it to be the hit that it would become. (That advance is about the same as I got for Word Myths.) Also note that Bloomsbury also asked Rowling to not use her given name (hence the J. K.), as a female author might make the book less attractive to young boys. With a track record of British sales, Rowling was given an unprecedented advance of $100K+ for the U. S. publication, but even then the publisher was a bit skittish. There was no guarantee that such a British-oriented book would take off in Leftpondia, hence the title change. Of course now Rowling can name her books anything she pleases and they will sell like hotcakes, but as a first-time author she pretty much had to do what the publisher wanted.

The title is a major factor in sales, and not something to be taken lightly. (I know that I said on another thread that title was less important than recommendations, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.) A bad title can impact sales significantly. While it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the book’s quality, marketing makes all the difference in this airy realm of book sales.

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Posted: 10 September 2011 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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When HP and the Deathly Hallows came out I looked up hallow and saw it was related to Halloween, hallowed, etc (doh!) but it is only listed in online dictionaries as a verb (maybe the OED has more). Presumably J.K. adapted it as a noun. It’s an evocative title, especially to young readers I’d imagine, in the same way that Sorcerer’s Stone works better than Philosopher’s Stone as many posters have suggested.

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