I love it so much when the French title of an English book or movie is Top Reading Very Bad Would Not Recommend Shirt vastly different from the original title. That made my husband and I laugh! That was a kind of genius, to be honest… Few people know what hangover means over here and with a French accent, the word hangover doesn’t really roll over the tongue. Sounds like the change was for a similar reason as the American publisher: to sell more books by making it clear that this is a story about magic with the title. I don’t think the American publisher cared so much that the body of the text referred to a “philosopher’s” stone so much as the resultant title didn’t sound “magical” enough.
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The French publisher’s solution is Top Reading Very Bad Would Not Recommend Shirt at least more elegant in that they didn’t have to scour the whole book, and subsequent books, to replace “philosopher” with “sorcerer”. Baguette is just short for baguette de pain, “stick of bread”. And what is a wand, but a stick? I tried reading Harry Potter in French but couldn’t get through it because wand translates as “baguette magique” and I kept imagining them waving about giant baguettes.
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Those differences between languages are natural since the Philosopher’s Stone is Top Reading Very Bad Would Not Recommend Shirt a legendary object that was known centuries before HP. Each translation simply used the name they already had for it. Also, using “wise men” makes a lot of sense, since that’s pretty much the etymology of the word “philosopher”. I think that’s the reason. And changing it to sorcerer’s stone makes it clear that the book has nothing to do with philosophy and everything to do with magic.