Bless their Hearts

Another guest blog from Jack while Wendy is ‘hors de combat’


I’ve been thinking about the books I read (yes, I know – I live in a bookstore) and why folk read the kind of books they do. For instance I tend not to read all that much fiction, preferring history and biography. There are exceptions, of course – Ian Rankin for one. He’s famous for a series based around his Inspector Rebus character. The reason I enjoy him is probably pretty obvious to anyone who knows me and the books; both Rankin and Rebus are from West Fife in Scotland, both moved to Edinburgh and the books capture the seedier side of Edinburgh (and West Fife) perfectly. All places I know very well. Throw in references to old friends of mine and he can hardly go wrong (the stories are great too). I knew that Rankin was popular and successful, but I hadn’t realized that he had US editions of his book until I moved over here while half way through the Rebus series.


Here’s where it gets weird!


You would think that an American edition of a British book would just have the price in dollars instead of pounds – end of story (Ha!). But you’d be wrong because – – – this isn’t a British book; oh no, this is a SCOTTISH book. It’s in a foreign language, so the US publishers paid someone to translate it into proper English! These American editions are completely hilarious. They translate things like ‘city bypass’ to ‘urban freeway’, yet blithely ignore much more problematical things like ‘wee bampot’. Of course no-one in Scotland would say ‘urban freeway’ and most Americans could make a reasonable guess at ‘city bypass’, so I’m left puzzled though amused.


All this must have a point, I here you ask –


The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is being translated into a slew of foreign languages, none of which either of us speak (at the last count, Chinese, Korean, Polish and Portuguese). A friend suggested I should translate it into Scots and that suddenly made the connection to the sad saga of Inspector Rebus. How will we know if ‘urban freeway’ has become ‘city bypass’ or ‘insignificant idiot’ has become ‘wee bampot’?


Publishers – bless their hearts!


Filed under Uncategorized

4 responses to “Bless their Hearts

  1. I understand translations from Japanese, Norwegian, etc. But English to English?!? What a waste. Readers aren’t stupid. Local jargon can be figured out from context. Bah.

  2. Janice Brooks-Headrick

    Jack, only those with exposure to the southern American dialect would get the meaning of “Bless their hearts”. Since I read a LOT of fiction, regency or highlander, and live the diversity of dialects, I would love to have books with a glossery of terms. But they can’t cover everything. Bless their hearts.

  3. As I love in both places (as you know) and am a great Rankin afficianado. I tend to buy him on both sides of the Atlantic. But since I can no longer remember if things like haar or wheesht or urban freeway are Scottish or American, I tend to read right through them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s