Children’s Book of the Month: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane

Harry Potter in Scots Jacket
Category: Reading

Book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane by J.K. Rowling; translatit intae Scots by Matthew Fitt | Age category: 7+

The tale of young Harry Potter finding out that he's a wizard and joining Hogwarts is a well-known one for most of us, from the bestselling books or at least from the films, but from the opening pages of this Scots translation, Matthew Fitt brings new colour to this well-loved adventure.

The language of the book is vibrant and readable, even for those less confident with Scots. You can find more familiar Scots words like muckle and unco in there, with some less common ones to learn, like cantrip – a spell – to the fantastical words which Fitt has made up to match Rowling’s inventions, like Bizzumbaw for Quidditch. Read our interview with Matthew below for some more insight into his process in translating the more unusual words!

Matthew Fitt really takes this opportunity to show off the Scots language, revealing its humour, playfulness and ability to depict a situation perfectly. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane is a hilarious translation of a modern classic which would be great fun to read aloud as a family this Christmas. 

Enter our competition to win one of five copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane, signed by Matthew Fitt!


Q&A with Matthew Fitt

The fantastical nature of the Harry Potter world means there are a lot of unusual and unique words in the story – how did you go about translating these words into Scots?

Bizzumbaw, Blooters, Skelpers, Cantrips, Hechlepech, Corbieclook, Slydderin and The Squinty Gate...whit?

When I translatit JK Rowling's debut novel intae Scots, I wanted tae mak shair young folk that arenae used tae readin in Scots could unnerstaund it and enjoy the story.

I chose Scots words that maist people awready ken like Stane (Stone), havers (nonsense), greetin (crying), puddock (frog) and scunnered (disgusted or fed up).

And I used mair words that are guid Scots but folk micht no hae seen them afore, such as nevoy (nephew), doolies (goblins), bawdrins (cat), cantrip (spell) and beglamoured (bewitched).

But JK Rowling's novel is hotchin wi braw new words that licht up the magical warld Harry Potter finds himsel in - and some o thae words had me scartin ma heid tryin tae translate them.

I had aboot a hunner shots at translatin Diagon Alley afore I settled finally on 'The Squinty Gate' which is a cheeky borrowin fae the famous 'Squinty Bridge' over the River Clyde in Glesga. Gate means street.

The hoose names at Hogwarts were fun tae dae though. 'Hechlepech' is fae Scots hechle (pant) and pech (puff) and Corbieclook a straicht translation o Ravenclaw. (Mibbe ye've heard o the Scots ballad 'The Twa Corbies'.) Slidder in Scots means tae slither sae namin Draco Malfoy's sleekit hoose 'Slydderin' didnae hurt ma harns.

But there nae doot the hardest ane tae wark oot wis the graund auld gemme o Quidditch. Translatin Beaters as Skelpers and Bludgers as Blooters wis fine. And I'm gratefu tae editor Thomas Clark for suggestin Gowden Sneckie for Golden Snitch - that is a guid yin.

But thinkin up a Scots version o a brilliant creative word like Quidditch? Gie me a break, I thocht. Whit am I gonnae dae wi this? It wisnae until I broke doon the gemme itsel and spiered whit Quidditch is aw aboot that I saw I micht find wey roond it. Quidditch is a gemme whaur twa teams on brooms skelp a baw aboot or at least different kinds o baws. Broom gies bizzum (sometimes spelled besom) and ball, weel, that's baw. Sae Quidditch in Scots comes oot as Bizzumbaw.


What was your favourite part of the book when you first read it, and did translating it give you any new favourite scenes?

I loved aw the scenes when Harry, Ron and Hermione are skitin aboot Hogwarts late at nicht, feart o gettin catchit by the jannie Feechs (Filch) or the dominie Snipe (Snape). When I first read the buik, I had nae idea if Harry and aw his freends were genuinely gonnae survive fae yin chaipter tae the nixt.

Translatin a buik maks ye really read it carefully, awfie carefully, word for word, comma by comma. I picked up a lot mair detail aboot the characters and locations on ma second, third, tenth read through. I wis aye moved by the hertache Harry is made tae feel when he glowers intae the Keekin Gless o Erised. It's a gey shairp concept that reveals mair o Harry as an eleeven-year-auld laddie and tae ma mind shaws JK Rowling at her verra best.


What would you like to translate into Scots next?

I've awready translatit three buiks that'll be comin oot in 2018. Asterix the Roman Sodger, Asterix and Cleopatrae and Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes, which will appear in Scots as Reekin Rhymes. I'm no shair whit I'd like tae dae efter that. I'm hopin tae hae time tae write mair o ma ain stories. I've written science fiction in Scots afore sae I micht dae some mair o that. And I'm interestit in historical fiction aboot Scotland, especially for bairns and teenagers, and I'm currently warslin awa at a novel aboot the seeventeenth century cawed (warkin title) Road to Bellie.



We have 5 copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stane to be won! To be in with a chance of winning one, just answer the question below. The competition closes on Friday 29 December 2017 at 5pm. All entrants must reside in the UK.

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