Reading Books

What’s in a Name?

Here are some well-known books who bear more than one title.

Since Biblio is an international marketplace, we have booksellers and customers from all over the world. Every once in awhile we come across a confusing scenario when there is a book published in the UK and the US under different titles.

One of the most famous instances of title change is the first installment of Harry Potter. It was first published by Bloomsbury in the UK as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997, but the publisher in the US had concerns about this title in the American market. It was therefore released as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by Scholastic in 1998 and we because of that, we Americans still don’t know what a Philosopher’s Stone is.

Below are some other books whose titles changed as they crossed the pond. Please add to the comments below if you know of more examples!

Where’s Wally? vs. Where’s Waldo?

Although we in the US are accustomed to looking for Waldo, the series actually was launched in the UK in 1987 as Where’s Wally? – “Wally” being a British term for someone silly looking or slightly foolish. The first 4 books sold more than 18 million copies in 4 years. Wally’s name changes as he crosses the borders of many other counties as well: Germany (Walter), Norway (Willy), France (Charlie), Denmark (Holger) and Israel (Effi).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vs. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books (US) are Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in the UK. When the series came out in the 1980s the word ‘ninja’ was deemed too violent by the BBC for children’s programming, so it was changed to ‘Hero.’ If you didn’t know that then you may have missed this gem – which was published in 1990 at the height of Turtle-mania:

The Golden Compass vs. Northern Lights

The first book of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, The Golden Compass (1996) was originally titled Northern Lights when published in the UK in 1995.

Outlander vs. Cross Stitch

Outlander by Diane Gabaldon was first published as Cross Stitch in the UK in 1991. There are differences in the British and American versions – as there often are due to language variances – but the major one for this book is that Outlander takes place in 1945, while Cross Stitch takes place in 1946. A copy editor found 1946 to be a more accurate historical representation but it was discovered too late to change in the American version.

The original title references ‘a stitch in time’ and plays to the plot device of time travel in the novel but early US audiences found it too reminiscent of embroidery and asked for a different title. The original first printing of the hardcover UK edition of Cross Stitch was only 2,000 copies, whereas the first hardcover printing of Outlander was 25,000. If you have a first edition copy of Cross Stitch, you might have a valuable book!

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Break, Period.

If A Tree Falls at Lunch Period (US) or If A Tree Falls at Lunch Break (UK) is by the American author Gennifer Choldenko. This book for young readers takes place in an affluent private middle school whose pre-teen drama and family dynamics could take place on either side of the pond.

And Then There Were None…

First published in the UK, this particular title started out with an offensive title based on a racist rhyming game and minstrel song called “Ten Little N*s” and so it was renamed “And Then There Were None” for subsequent publications in the US and UK, both. There was another edition published by Pocket Books in the 1960s called “Ten Little Indians” which isn’t less offensive and was completely unnecessary.

Despite the awful names it has borne, And Then There Were None is Agatha Christie’s most popular work.

To see more, check out this article from The Guardian: A book by any other name: why does the US change so many titles?

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