When Harry Potter packed his bags to head to US bookshelves, the British boy wizard had to make a few changes because readers across the Atlantic weren’t exactly au fait with every aspect of his way of life.
The divide between the wizarding and Muggle worlds was the least of their concerns, as cultural differences between the UK and the America threatened Harry’s magical path to Stateside glory.
And so Nicholas Flamel’s famed Philosopher’s Stone became the Sorcerer’s Stone – but that wasn’t the only thing that had to magically transform for new audiences…
1. A packet of crisps = A bag of chips
Remember that time Harry, Ron and Hermione went down Hogsmeade on a cold day and had a bag of chips? With levitating salt and vinegar shakers making them extra tasty and leaving them all gagging for a butterbeer?
Of course they didn’t. It’s just that US chips are UK crisps and UK chips are US fries. So they had to trade the packet of crisps for the bag of chips to avoid all manner of confusion (or not).
2. A tea of = A meal of
Now, depending on where you’re from in the UK, “tea” can either be a nice cuppa or a full blown meal that’s basically supper or dinner.
In the USA however, tea is basically just, well, tea. As in that stuff you pour boiling water on and then drink. Or read peoples’ futures with in Divination Class.
So Harry and co couldn’t have a tea of bangers and mash. They’ve have to make a meal of it instead.
3. Treacle toffee = Treacle fudge
Here’s where things get VERY sticky indeed. The British coinneseur will know that there is a CLEAR difference between toffee and fudge, not just in texture but in taste too.
In the UK version of Chamber of Secrets Hagrid makes both treacle toffee and treacle fudge, but when the novels headed to the USA Harry had to ditch the toffee.
Now, we’re no experts in the confectionary field (unless you need us to eat some), but why deprive the USA of a jolly good toffee? There’s nothing worse that getting fudge when you’re after a toffee or vice versa. Wars have been waged over sweet tins at Christmas time because of it.
4. Go to the loo = Have a pee
We don’t mean to go all Moaning Myrtle and bring up toilet talk, but there’s an important distinction to be made here too.
While Harry and co might go (or nip) to the loo in the version of Hogwarts we know and love in the UK, in the USA they get straight to the point and down to business in the bathroom.
And hope Myrtle’s not watching, obviously.
5. Newsagent’s = Variety store
We don’t mean to sound as though we’re nearly headless like Nick, but what is a variety store and when did someone come up with that name for it?
Educate us please, American cousins, for we are well versed in nipping down the newsagent’s – or corner shop as some might call it – for a newspaper and a bottle of milk but we’ve never experienced anything so magical as a variety store.
6. Revision = Study
Never mind revision timetables, or revising in the library. Harry studies (or rather, Hermione does) in the USA and has absolutely no time for that revision business.
Believe it or not, many American readers say they’ve never heard the word revision before, and definitely wouldn’t have associated it with hitting the books.
7. Pudding = Dessert
Not content with reminding us all about the delights of ‘tea’, JK Rowling brought the beloved British dinner time staple pudding to the magical world too.
Except in America pudding is more often the term used specifically to describe custard-like desserts, while in Britain it covers that along with all manner of cakes and sweet concoctions you might have after dinner.
Hence pudding became dessert, and Harry, Ron, Hermione and co could eat their home-made strawberry ice cream in peace.
8. Biscuits = Cookies
In Harry’s world biscuits are a welcome snack, often appearing in nice tartan tins to tie in with Hogwarts’ Scottish setting. But in the USA, while the characters may still refer to biscuits, they’re usually to be found in a tin of cookies.
And that’s all because biscuits just aren’t biscuits in the USA. A UK biscuit is a US cookie and a US biscuit is, well, one of many things. In certain parts of the United States and parts of English Canada, a “biscuit” is a savoury bread-like item, somewhat similar to a scone minus the sugar. It tends to have either buttermilk soda or baking powder in it to give it the rise it needs.
And instead of being dunked in a cup of tea, like British biscuits, they’re usually eaten with a meal. They can be covered in gravy at dinner time, served with sausages for breakfast, or simply smothered in butter, jam, honey, syrup or whatever condiment you desire.
We still can’t image the trio tucking into biscuits and gravy for dinner though.
9. Satsuma = Walnut
Honestly, we have no clue why US Harry can’t have a nice little citrus fruit in his Christmas stocking either. In Britain, on a good year, we get both…