Monday, April 25, 2016

I seriously cannot emphasize enough how horrible philosophy is.

Manservant and Maidservant was retitled Bullivant and the Lambs for its initial US publication. As I mentioned in my review, I don't think the original title has that much to do with the book, but this re-title is baffling. Presumably they changed it because manservants and maidservants suggest boring British stuff, but Bullivant and the Lambs, in addition to missing the book's central point to at least an equivalent degree, would just be inscrutable to anyone unfamiliar with it.

Why do publishers do this? Well, for marketing reasons, clearly, but has there ever actually been a change that appears to make sense from that vantage point? The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman was retitled The War of Dreams for its original US publication, which is at least as baffling: the original title is nothing if not eye-catching, whereas that new one? Eh. You wouldn't give it a second glance. Of course, the one people know about is the first Harry Potter book, where "Philospher's Stone" became "Sorcerer's Stone" because philosophy is lame and boring--and also because, tragically, many children today are unfamiliar with Carl Barks' "Fabulous Philosopher's Stone" and therefore don't know what the Philosopher's Stone is. Well, American kids. British kids are thought to be smarter, evidently.

Seriously, what the hell? It seems like these changes all involve changing British titles because Americans are considered too stupid. It happens with music, too. Less title changes, but publishers for some reason feel no compunctions about slicing and dicing albums. The US edition of Elvis Costello's Armed Forces originally left out "Sunday's Best" in favor of the significantly inferior "(What's so funny 'bout) Peace Love and Understanding." Mansun's debut album Attack of the Grey Lantern was just savaged; the track order was shuffled and the awesome "Stripper Vicar"--apparently considered too risque--was replaced with the early single "Take it Easy Chicken." COME ON, PEOPLE.

I suppose these things are less likely to happen in a ubiquitous-internet age, but it's surprising to me that they were standard issue so recently. This seems like a practice that would've died off long ago on account of being embarrassingly paternalistic.   


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