When I worked for an educational publisher in the 1990s, I was given the job of adapting an Australian textbook series for the U.S. market. The subject was science for the early elementary grades. The science was simple enough for my limited knowledge—luckily I didn’t have to deal with astronomy, which would have required me to know which constellations were visible in the northern and southern hemispheres respectively.
I mostly needed to apply my knowledge of American culture and editorial practice to the down-under context and language. For example, we had to replace animals like the wombat with animals that American kids would recognize.
A really strange presence were the dogs that apparently represented Australia’s mongrel canines. They looked somewhat like the dogs belonging to the loser types in George Booth’s New Yorker cartoons—forlorn, lumpy, lethargic. Nothing like dingoes or the cute yellow labs in American TV commercials.
Australians, I found, are less…
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