I was recently reading my UK edition of the book Spells by Aprilynne Pike, and was most amused to come across the word "occutrousers":

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But I am safe there, as are its other occutrousers.

I believe that, Pike being an American author, the book was localised by the UK publishers (HarperCollins), and a simple find and replace was used to turn any instance of "pants" into "trousers" - though clearly a proofreader was not employed after the replacement. Is this typical for when a book from the UK or US is published in the other country? I know I have several books that clearly haven't been localised at all (for instance, spelling the word colour without a u), and I am aware of instances where a more human touch is used for localisation (as in the Harry Potter books, with examples such as ‘Bit rich coming from you.’ becoming “You should talk.”).

  • I recall reading a story years ago about an editor who blindly used find-and-replace to change every instance of "black" in an article to "African-American", and the published article ended up referring to "a dog with African-American spots". I can't remember where I read it, or if it's even true.
    – F1Krazy
    Aug 26, 2022 at 15:04
  • I know the Harry Potter American localizations were light and mostly limited to the first book. Incidentally, I got into HP fairly early and my first copy of the first book was not the American Sorcerer's Stone but the British Philosopher's stone (my 5th grade teacher gifted me the first three books) and I didn't realize that the story was set in Britain until the fourth book when, midway through, I had to stop and say "Hold on... Who the fuck is 'Father Christmas?'" The British-isms went un-noticed and I just assumed Kings Cross Station was in a generic city in the states.
    – hszmv
    Aug 26, 2022 at 17:39
  • Occutrousers is clbuttic! If I were reading that book, it would, at that point, be finding its way to the trash by the shortest route. Do its characters wear undertrousers? When they take part in something, are they particitrousers? Personally, I feel patronised (with an 's') by 'localisation', even when it is not done as badly as this. Aug 28, 2022 at 19:54
  • 1
    And when the hero is trying to catch his breath, I bet he trousers. (Which shows that not even ticking the "whole words only" box is always a perfect cure.)
    – Divizna
    Nov 21, 2022 at 17:02

3 Answers 3


You can do that, but you need to make sure to add a space before and after the word to make sure it's not connected to something else. Revision is needed since these words might be built together inside abbreviations or references, and affect more than just the definition.

It can save you effort, but not time.

Special cases where revision is not needed:

  1. Already read the book, more than twice, and understand the structure well.

Elements affected:

  1. Losing alignment and spacing.
  2. Extra line of space under or above the page (bad page margin).
  3. Page titles and chapter beginnings fall down.
  4. Double spaces before or after the words that got replaced.

A good few ways to debug are:

  1. ctrl+f and search for two spaces together.
  2. Fix by chapter and not by word.
  3. Compare the word and character count before every replacement.
  4. Check for italic and bold changes of every replacement.
  5. Inspect font size or list items if applicable.

I don’t know that it’s necessarily a standard practice, but these sorts of things are at the least not uncommon. In the 1990s, when the typesetting of fi and fl a ligatures was often done by means of a search and replace, it was not uncommon to look in computer books and see in a block of monospaced text, things like file. Similarly, " might appear rather than “ at the beginning of a paragraph because of find-and-replace failures (still common is the use of ‘ rather than ’ for a leading apostrophe in things like ‘76 or ‘tis).

Anyone who reads sufficiently widely will have a collection of proofreading/copyediting errors in their reading experience (another one that leaps out in my memory is in Leopoldo Durán’s memoir of his friendship with Graham Greene where a cut-and-paste mishap led to about a page and a half of text appearing twice in the opening chapter).

Traditionally, there wouldn’t be any sort of localization of texts as they were transplanted from one English-speaking country to another. It would be a bit odd to see, e.g., “colour” in a Faulkner novel or “behavior” in Dickens. That said, as an American author who’s had a few pieces reach first publication outside the US (one in the UK, one in New Zealand and a few in Australia), in those instances, the British-style spelling was applied to the text where there were differences. I also have one piece published in the US which uses British-style spelling, but that’s partly because it is written using KJV-style grammar and the spelling was part and parcel of that.¹

In the case of Pike, as she’s writing for a young-adult audience, I can see there being some desire to avoid the American use of pants as it would be likely to cause sniggers on the part of UK readers, much as, with the first Harry Potter book where the central artifact was renamed to sorcerer’s stone from philosopher’s stone, largely as a result of the US publisher assuming that American readers might be put off by the word “philosopher.”

  1. I did get a query from the editor about one “you” amongst the “thou”s and I had to point out that it was intentional as that was a second-person plural pronoun.

Search-and-replace is indeed used by publishers for this kind of thing, usually with caution but (as evidenced by this example) errors can slip through, especially as such alterations are usually applied after the book has been proofread.

The house style of the publisher that I mostly work for is always to use "among" and "while", for example, so if the proofreader spots that an author has repeatedly used "amongst" or "whilst" they will send an instruction to the typesetter to do a blanket search-and-replace, rather than marking every instance up for correction individually. If such instructions aren't applied with care, you can end up with occutrousers and the like.

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