This One Goes to 11

i-c4a1c01b6afc4c00ae61905da57ac4ae-IMAG0007.jpgA reader from the UK, James Cownie, was kind enough to send this picture of the "New and Bestselling" shelf at a WH Smiths " at one of the service stations on the M20." You might not recognize the cover immediately, but in the #11 spot on that list is occupied by How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, the UK version of my book. Or, given how well it's doing there, perhaps I should start referring to the cover pictured in the left column of the blog as "the American edition..."

Anyway: Woo-hoo!

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Wait, I can understand the different cover design for different markets, but why did they add "Quantum" to the title? Is "quantum physics" sexier than regular physics in the UK? Or is it there was already a "How to teach physics to your dog" in print there?

It probably is just "sexier".

Or it could be that we're sufficiently well educated over here that we're just not interested in ordinary physics. :-)

My dad's birthday is coming up and he likes this sort of thing, so I might increase your UK sales a little more.

I got it for Christmas (in the UK), and read it the other day. It really is an excellent book.

However, the British edition does read as if it has been heavily edited for British readers by somebody who believes that British readers live in caves. I may be wrong, but it appears that took through Prof. Orzel's fluently and confidently written text and went s/American colloquialism/More or less roughly comparable British colloquialism/. The result is clunky. It's also insulting. Nobody is going to read a book like this who is unfamiliar with standard American English. British people watch American movies, read American fiction, probably get their coverage on American news from the CNN website. We'd like publishers to treat us as intelligent people who do get out sometimes.

Obviously this isn't a problem unique to HTTPTYD. Some bright spark retitled Stephen J.Gould's "Full House" for the UK market because they thought the term would be unfamiliar. Like Brits don't play poker? What?

None of this is in any way critical of Prof. Orzel or his fine book. But I think he might be doing himself a favour next time if he could persuade his UK publisher to leave a perfectly good text alone.

@chris #4: It goes the other way, too. American editions of Harry Potter books, I'm told, have been edited to take out British-isms that the publishers assumed Americans would be unfamiliar with. I've also heard that Disney has edited the word "blustery" out of Winnie-the-Pooh books under the pretext that American kids wouldn't know what that word means (as if they couldn't figure it out from context).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Jan 2011 #permalink

Chris y, I've not read the book (in either form), but there are situations where US colloquialisms are deeply ambiguous to a Brit. Probably the most infamous is "to table" a motion: in the UK, that means to bring it to the table to discuss, whereas (if I'm understanding correctly), the US meaning is more like "to shelve", to put it aside to consider at some unspecified future time. Or maybe "pavement", which in British English means the sidewalk (we don't have a specific word for the wheeled-traffic-bearing part of the road). If, on the other hand, they're changing obvious things like boot for trunk, then that is a bit silly; but you could also easily end up with a confusing mess where some passages have been translated and others not, which will not help reading flow either.

By stripey_cat (not verified) on 10 Jan 2011 #permalink