Archive for November, 2015

Extreme Yankin’

November 11, 2015

I have already commented several times on the practice, typical of American publishers, of Americanizing the language in US editions of British books, not only with regard to spelling and punctuation, but vocabulary as well. This is most annoying when it’s done in actual speech by British characters. (Even American writers, when they introduce a British character, usually try to have that character sound like a Brit.)

In the most recent example I cited (here) the practice seemed justified when the overly British speech by Americans in an Ian Rankin novel was properly Americanized, but then it turned out that the same process had been applied to British characters as well.

I have just come across an extreme example of the practice. In his latest novel, Funny Girl, Nick Hornby describes a woman as having “a wasp waist,” and old but not out-of-use term for a very slender or narrow waist. (Google Ngam Viewer shows the expression’s usage to have peaked between 1920 and 1940, but remains at half the peak level.)

In the American edition, however, the wasp waist becomes “a WASP waist,” WASP being an American expression (an acronym of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) denoting a “white, usually Protestant member of the American upper social class” (American Heritage Dictionary).

I can’t see the change having come from autocorrect, since wasp is a standard English word. Could it be that it was a human editor who was unfamiliar with “wasp waist” (though the terms has its own Wikipedia page) and somehow assumed that Hornby was describing an Englishwoman’s waist by reference to an American social class?

The mind is boggled.