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Are there any noticeable differences in the English vocabulary between the UK and US editions of J.R.R. Tolkien's works, specifically The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit?

  • Not to my knowledge, but I'll let someone else give an actual answer – The Fallen Jan 29 '13 at 4:35
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    This paper gives some insight as well. – Solemnity Mar 9 '13 at 21:32
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Like many Tolkien questions, there isn't a simple answer to this.

In the front of new editions of LoTR, there is a very extensive "Note on the text", which goes into some detail on how the text developed over the various editions over the years. The first US edition was an unauthorized one, and when the authorized edition was produced Tolkien produced various corrections and updates to the British text - some of which didn't find their way back into the main version until well after his death. The most famous example is the addition of Estella Bolger (Fatty's sister) to the family trees. At the same time, various spelling corrections were made into the British versions, only some of which were incorporated back into the US version... etc. It's only reasonably recently, with the move to computers, that a single version of the text has been able to be produced.

However, as a short answer to your question, at no point was the vocabulary intentionally adjusted for transatlantic differences.

(Geek note: one of the editors/contributors who helped harmonize the text is Wayne G. Hammond, who was an active participant in the rec.arts.books.tolkien Usenet groups back in the day.)

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    "The first US edition was an unauthorized one..." is not true. The first paperback US edition was unauthorized, but the first hardcover US edition (by Houghton Mifflin) was definitely authorized and indeed was printed largely in the UK. – Kate Ebneter Jan 30 '13 at 4:45
  • Indeed, the only reason that the unauthorised US edition was arguably legal is that Houghton Mifflin failed to copyright their US edition -- copyright was not automatic in the US at the time. – Mike Scott May 22 '15 at 5:03
0

There may be typographical differences, but the text itself is the same.

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