July 6, 2017

Mr and Mrs Dursley, o nummer fower, Privet Loan, were prood tae say that they were gey normal, thank ye awfie muckle


This year marks two decades since the first book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone as it’s known in the US, I guess because you guys don’t like philosophers?!), making us all feel really old.

The original hardback print run was only 500 copies, but the book has gone on to sell more than 450 million worldwide and been translated into seventy-nine languages, which, I mean, is okay. But now Harry has finally made it, as the eightieth translation will be into Scots — the variant form of English that’s developed over the past 500 years in Scotland, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowing’s adoptive homeland.

It won’t be quite as gritty as, say, Trainspotting, but the language is just as likely to baffle many. It was the preferred idiom of Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns. As Danuta Kean at the Guardian reports, “According to figures released in 2015, more than 87,000 Scots have at least some understanding of the language, with the proportion of people who can speak it increasing slightly in younger age groups.”

So why Scots? Rowling famously penned the first novel  in an Edinburgh café, at the time a struggling single mother.  The book received an £8,000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to help its development, and it’s widely recognised that Hogwarts is located somewhere in the Scottish Highlands.

The Scots version will be published on 15th October by Itchy Coo, an imprint of Black & White Publishing. Entitled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane, it is being translated by Matthew Fitt, co-founder of Itchy Coo. Fitt has translated a number of children’s books into Scots, including Chairlie and the Chocolate Works and The Eejits by Roald Dahl, and Mr. Mingin and Billionaire Bairn by David Walliams. He told Phil Miller at the Herald:

“It’s been a joy translating Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

“As J.K. Rowling worked away at her brilliant first novel in that Edinburgh coffee shop, there must have been a fair few Scots words and phrases floating about in the ether.

“I’ve found her prose sits up so beautifully for Scots. I suppose I could say the most challenging aspect was the book’s length but size and scale are the hallmarks of the Harry Potter novels.

“So it was just a case of getting the heid doon and trying to do it justice.”

He added: “Professor McGonagall clearly stays the same in Scots but Dumbledore comes out as ‘Professor Dumbiedykes’.

“Quidditch—with a wee bit of translator’s joukery packery—worked out quite well in Scots as ‘Bizzumbaw’.”

The book is still being translated, but the first paragraph has been shared and reads thus:

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, o nummer fower, Privet Loan, were prood tae say that they were gey normal, thank ye awfie muckle. They were the lest fowk ye wid jalouse wid be taigled up wi onythin unco or ferlie, because they jist widnae hae onythin tae dae wi joukery packery like yon.”

Guid luck readers…



Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.