Friday, July 15, 2011

Origin of names in Harry Potter

I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan, but character names are something I always notice. I saw this Wordnik post about language in Harry Potter on Kottke, and though it worth reposting.

Characters’ names are often also common words. A dumbledore is a bumblebee. Snape is a ship-building term that means “to bevel the end of (a timber or plank) so that it will fit accurately upon an inclined surface.” Hagrid is the past participle of hagride, which means “to harass or torment by dread or nightmares.” Skeeter is a term for an annoying pest, and not just Rita Skeeter, blood-sucking journalist. Mundungus is “waste animal product” or “poor-quality tobacco with a foul, rancid, or putrid smell,” a good name for a sneaky thief.

3 comments:

  1. Not to mention that when Mundungus is smoking his pipe, it smells, and I quote, "like burning socks". Also, a lot of the names are from Latin, such as Dolores Umbrige, which, if I remember correctly, sounds like the Latin for pain and suffering.

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  2. Yeah, that's a good one. The first and last name are both homophones (or is there a better term to describe this?) for English words.

    Dolorous: adj. full of, expressing, or causing pain or sorrow; grievous; mournful: a dolorous melody; dolorous news.

    Umbrage: n. offense; annoyance; displeasure: to feel umbrage at a social snub; to give umbrage to someone.

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  3. Yes, Dolores, being raised Catholic, has always been one of those loaded names of family friends. The road that Jesus takes while carrying the cross is called in Latin the "Via Dolorosa", or the Way of Sorrows.

    A slight tweak could make that "Via De la Rosa", the Way of the Rose in Spanish, which is perhaps more pleasant except there are still thorns involved.

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