'Localizations' of Food Terms in Children's Books
While other studies have examined 'localizations' of
terminology, grammar, punctuation, etc. from British to American English
in best-selling popular fiction such as the Harry
Potter series, and from American to British in literary classics such
as The Great
Gatsby, one of the most obvious needs for language localization
may be in children's books.
A young reader learning how Maisy takes baths
(Photo: J. Hopkins, 2002)
Young children will mainly have learned their language from that spoken
within their families. Family discourse would not usually include other
varieties of World English. Books intended for children should use terms
that reflect the cultural environment in which the children are living.
Following are several examples of food (and other) differences between
SBE and SAE from two children's books.
Teatime, Maisy!, by Lucy Cousins
The first example is from the 'Maisy' ['Maisa' in Finnish] series by the
British author Lucy Cousins. Maisy (or Maisa) is familiar
to many Finns via her television episodes on YLE-TV1, as well as from the
many Maisy books which have been translated into Finnish.
At left below is the cover of the original (British) edition of
Teatime, Maisy!. As English 'teatime' is not a concept in the
U.S., the American edition (shown at right below) was 'localized' to
As this was a 'cloth book' which otherwise consisted only of
pictures, without a descriptive text (see sample pages below center),
there was no further need to localize the book, as the pictures all
showed foods, drinks and kitchen scenes that would look familiar to almost
all children in Britain and America, even if these things might be
referred to differently in each country. Whoever reads the book can use
the terms that are familiar to them. Interestingly, this is one of the few
Maisy/Maisa books not to have been translated for the Finnish market.
The original British (L) and 'translated' American (R) covers of
Teatime/Snacktime, Maisy!, with two sample pages (C)
Image sources: (L&C) Amazon.co.uk; (R) Amazon.com
Topsy and Tim's Picnic, by Jean and Gareth Adamson
Other examples can be seen in Topsy and Tim's Picnic, by Jean and
Gareth Adamson (© 1978, Blackie and Son Ltd. Glasgow). Look at the
two scanned extracts below. There is no U.S. edition of this book,
but had there been one, much of the book would need to have been changed,
as the original language would be barely understandable by American
children (or adults). Explanations of some of the differences are offered
under each image.
The story line thus far is that Topsy and Tim were planning on having a
picnic with their Mummy, who then stepped on one of Tim's roller skates
and fell . . .
In the first paragraph above, the British 'Mummy' would normally be
"Mommy" in the U.S. This would probably have been changed for a U.S.
edition, but as such is not a problem in understandability. But what
follows is: 'elevenses' is unknown in SAE. In SBE 'elevenses' normally
refers to a late-morning cup of tea or coffee with a chocolate 'biscuit'
(U.S. 'cookie') or equivalent. In SAE it would probably be just a 'snack'
Then, Topsy and Tim mixed 'squash' (GB: a sweet, fruit-flavored drink).
In the U.S. this reference to fruity drinks is largely unknown; rather 'a
'marrow', FIN 'kesäkurpitsa') is a vegetable; there is no
commonly-known connection to a drink, fruity or otherwise. The British
Robinson's Orange Squash, for example, is marketed in the U.S. as
Fruit Drink. Finally, rather than 'they buttered and jammed some
bread', Americans would normally say something similar to 'they put butter
and jam on some bread'; in SAE one can have 'buttered' bread, but not
'jammed' bread (unless the slice of bread had been 'jammed' into some
On the left-side page above, two other food terms also present problems.
The text describes Topsy and Tim choosing 'tomato sauce' and 'hundreds and
thousands' to eat. In SAE, 'tomato sauce' is quite distinct from
'ketchup' or 'catsup' (and the shape of both the bottle on the table and
its Heinz label make it clear that this is what it is).
But while the SBE 'tomato sauce' is just misleading in SAE, 'hundreds
and thousands' would be completely unknown. In SAE these are usually
referred to as 'nonpareils' or 'sparkles' or 'sprinkles'. On the other
hand, 'spaghetti hoops' would be the same in SBE and SAE, this being the
brand name of another Heinz product.
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Last Updated 21 September 2010