The Controller with Weight Issues

I’m always a little fascinated when American publishers take a perfectly good UK book and dumb it down for American audiences.

For example, the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US because the dumbledores at Scholastic didn’t think American kids would want to read a book with the word “philosopher” in the title. Sad.

Ditto with Thomas the Tank Engine which had to be renamed Thomas the Train in the US because heaven forbid, we make anything slightly complicated for American children. What did they think? We would confuse Thomas who looks, sounds and acts like a train with a car engine?

But some of these American publishers’ changes are just pure political correctness at their best. My favorite remains … this guy.

If you’re from the UK, you know him best as the Fat Controller. Because he is the train director, and, well, he’s fat. Simple. How much of a backstory do we need to give these characters? It’s not actually until you’re much deeper into the series that it’s revealed that his name is Sir Topham Hatt.

Now if you’re from the US, you know him only as Sir Topham Hatt. Not as The Fat Controller. (I imagine at some point they probably debated calling him The Horizontally Gifted Controller or the Metabolically Challenged Controller before settling on Topham Hatt.) The same is true for the character of The Thin Controller. He is only named Mr. Percival in the US. (Not the Horizontally Challenged Controller.)

And that’s fine. They can call them whatever they want. But in my house? We’re reading the British versions.


Posted on 12, October 2011, in Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I also prefer brit versions, cause i learned the brit english in school.

  2. While I’m not a fan of either, really (Harry Potter or Thomas the Tank Engine) I love this post. Have you any more examples of renaming? I’d like to read them! 🙂

    • Thanks, Val. I’ll have to investigate a little more and maybe do a follow-up post. I do know that the best-selling “Dangerous Book for Boys” has some different content in the US vs. UK versions. Most notably, there is the absense of the section on conkers in the US edition, which is such a shame! That’s why we own both versions…

  3. Too funny! I had no idea about Thomas. And *of course* we must call Mr Controller by his full and proper name. Thanks for the link to this!

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