New Species of “Potter Wasp” Named for Mad-Eye Moody

One of my favorite talks to give is “Muggle Scientists and Magical Names”: a compilation of Potterverse-themed scientific names for new animal species. I have given versions of this talk once at the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter Academic Conference and several times at the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival, most recently in the online version of 2020: “The Year That Shall Not Be Named.” However, this is one talk I am forced to update regularly, as scientists continue to discover new species and give them wizarding inspired names. I have recently become aware of lucky Potter species #13:  a bona-fide “potter wasp” named for Auror and Order of the Phoenix leader Mad-Eye Moody. 

The wasp, Alastor moody, was described along with eight other species in a paper published in August 2020 in the journal Zootaxia. The genus name, Alastor, is not new, dating back to the 19th century, when it was first used for one of some 200 genera of the insects known as “potter wasps.” This gives the new wasp something in common with the Luscius malfoyi wasp, in that the genus name was pre-existing (and, in this case, spelled slightly different from Draco’s dad), and the species name tacked on in to create the wizarding world moniker. Potter wasps get their name not from the Boy Who Lived, but from the clay nests in which they lay their eggs.

Alastor moody.

The wasps in the new paper were described from preserved specimens stored in an Italian museum. This gives Alastor moody something in common with Clevosaurus sectumsemper, the extinct lizard with self-sharpening teeth that was identified from preserved bones. Discoverer and paper author Marco Selis, who choose the name, stated that “The name of this species is dedicated to the fictional character Alastor Moody, from the “Harry Potter” book series by J.K. Rowling.”  The wasps themselves are found in the Western Cape region of South Africa. Alastor moody is the third species of wasp whose name was inspired by the Potter series. In addition to Luscius malfoyi, named in 2017, the Ampulex dementor wasp was discovered and named in 2014. 

Time to revise the talk again!

Shared Text: SNL, JKR, and Harry Potter

Where do you start? That the two actors cannot pronounce Rowling’s name correctly? That the Gingrott’s Goblins are not cartoon Jews? That the transphobic controversy, #RIPJKRowling, is a hate-driven Cancel Culture social-media production?

Oh, well. At least Robby Coltrane had the courage to speak in defense of Rowling. And Davidson’s Dobby Look Alike joke was pretty funny…

Why this post? The Shared Text point is that there is no other written work by any author that Pete Davidson, confessed non-reader, could have referred to and been so sure that his audience would get the jokes. Maybe someday she’ll be so famous that everyone will know how to pronounce her pen and maiden name?

In a World Full of Umbridge, Who Would You Be?

Like a lot of Potterphiles, I have Harry Potter merchandise popping up on my social media feeds on a near-daily basis. One of the more recent appearances was a T-shirt reading “In a world full of Umbridge, be a Fred and George.”  While the mischievous redheads were undoubtedly major nemeses of the Toad Lady, I found it hard to envision myself wearing one of these shirts. I guess I’m at the age where I identify more with the middle-aged ladies of the Wizarding World than the kids.

Which led me to think, who would I put on mine?  Two answers immediately sprung to mind.   First, the teacher who was the antithesis of Dolores: Minerva McGonagall. In our humor episode of Reading, Writing, Rowling, several McGonagall v. Umbridge moments made it into our “funniest scenes” lists. Certainly McGonagall is one of the finest teachers in the series, one with high standards of excellence and who daily earns the respect of her students. In other words, everything dear Dolores wanted to be. Harry’s regard for her is clear: when even his own godfather’s murder could not push him into performing a Cruciatus curse on the perp, Amycus Carrow’s spitting in McGonagall’s face did.

The second, of course, is the best (or, at least the best living) mom of the series, Molly Weasley. In addition to being a surrogate mom and regular source of comfort (as opposed to pain) for Harry, Molly is also a loving mother to the twins. Yes, she gets exasperated with them frequently, sometimes seeming as short-tempered as Umbridge, but her love never wavers and she is never cruel. In the end, she accepts that the twins are successful in their own right, even with their poor OWL results, aborted education and non-conventional career choice.

More on Minerva, Molly and T-shirts after the jump! [Read more…]

Shared Text: SNL Impeachment Trial Skit

Last night, Saturday Night Live troupe in its ‘cold open’ skit a wish-fulfillment fantasy for everyone who wanted witnesses called in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump: The Trial You Wish Had Happened. The actress playing John Bolton refuses to answer questions but tells the judge “There’ll be no more free spoilers!” from the book about to be released, which tome s/he holds up to promote sales on Amazon.

The book’s title? Harry Potter and the Room Where It Happened.

It got a good laugh which meant I think the audience understood that Bolton was being accused simultaneously of being childish, of profiteering in the midst of an impeachment trial, and of writing opportunistic fiction.  I suspect they may have missed the slash at those in Generation Hex, now all grown up, who were waiting for Bolton and his book to appear ex machina to defeat the Dark Lord.

Once again, though, the chief take-away is that Harry Potter almost ten years after the last film release is still the global shared text. No one said, “Who is Harry Potter? Why is this funny?” As a cipher for best-seller, fiction, and good defeating evil, nothing beats the Hogwarts Saga.

Shared Text: The Games Fandom Plays

The game these two Potter enthusiasts play is choosing a Wizarding World spell from one hat, a Potter character’s name from another, and then doing an impression of that character saying the spell. The object of the game is not deceiving the other player but doing such a great impersonation that she ‘gets’ it immediately (I suppose to make this competitive, the game requires two or more pairs of players).

Perhaps there are other fandoms in which devoted fans could play this game with variations on the spells feature. But could they podcast such an amateur-hour production and expect more than three quarters of a million viewers to watch (881,000 at the time of this posting)? FYI, that’s a rhetorical question.