HogPro All-Pro Alert! Name Game Experts Wanted!

Last week, HogPro All-Pro Rahner13 joined in the discussion about what the ‘Hog’ in Hog-warts referred to and pointed us to Ms. Rowling’s belief that she first heard or saw the word at a flower show. The bottom of the Lexicon page Rahner13 linked to had this invitation:

If you want to delve into the etymology of the words, names, and phrases in the Harry Potter universe, you need to visit What’s In A Name. The editor of this excellent site has created the ultimate HP etymological resource.

That was too tempting for me to resist. I went to the What’s in a Name site and found that it was indeed encyclopedic. It is attractive, well organized, and professionally laid out (it hasn’t been updated for Deathly Hallows names but the site tells you that up front). The confusion of “source” for “meaning” and “intention,” however, my biggest objection to name etymologies, was evident in the few names I looked up. I decided to write the editor of this excellent site and whine a little.

Here is my borderline obnoxious note and the very kind response with invitation I received:

Dear Names Lady!

Great site… I checked it out because of my fascination with the Dickensian cryptonyms in Potter-world. You’ve done a lot of excellent work here, it looks like! Our approaches are radically different on this subject but I admire what you’ve cataloged here.

My approach? I take an interpretive look at the names rather than look for source material. I don’t think there’s as much value in the “named origin” because the source Ms. Rowling gives rarely tells us why she chose that name for the character. There were a lot of people who lived on the various streets where she grew up; why choose “Potter” for the lead character? The source tells us nothing more than “she liked it.”

I looked at two characters on your site to illustrate our different approaches: Hermione and Pettigrew. Here are my notes:

Hermione: FYI, when you get around to updating the site, middle name is ‘Jean’ not ‘Jane” as per Dumbledore’s will (contrary to 2004 interview)

***Ms. Rowling didn’t say she named the character for the Shakespeare Hermione; it’s where she “got the name.” Shakespeare is the alchemical dramatist, though, so it is a pointer to the more substantial meaning of her name…

***Ms. Rowling said in 1998 that she read a “ridiculous amount about alchemy” before writing the series and it sets the “logical parameters” and “internal logic” of the books

***Hermione is the feminine of “Hermes” or Mercury, her initials are Hg (her son is named HuGo…), and her parents are dentists, the only people who work with mercury professionally… and in literary alchemy, alchemical mercury represents the feminine and intellectual pole of existence (paired with passionate, masculine sulfur the reagents are called “the quarreling couple,” hence her pairing with Ron)

***The reason Hermione is the daughter of Helen and Menelaus, the King of Sparta, is because the great beauty and great warrior represented archetypes of feminine and masculine qualities to be resolved (see CS Lewis’ story on the sack of Troy for more on this); Ms. Rowling may not have read that story or cited it as her source, but she uses the name for the same reason.

Peter Pettigrew: you give “Pet-I-grew” a green rating for “very confident in it’s accuracy;” I think you’re missing one of the best jokes in the whole name list

***You may be too young to know this but in Ms. Rowling’s and my generation “Peter” was playground idiom for “penis” (check any slang dictionary online)

***”Pettigrew” breaks down neatly into “petty-grew” as in “didn’t grow very big”

***Peter Pettigrew, the coward, failing in masculine virtue, has a name meaning “little penis”

***Outrageous? Think of his nickname, which is another name for little penis: “worm tail”

It’s a neat site and a handy reference. It would be even better, though, if you tried to explain how the name’s meaning reveals and augments the meaning of the character so tagged.

Yours in names,

John Granger

I didn’t expect a response. I received this wonderful note:

Dear John,

Wow, thanks! It’s so great to hear from you. I think we may have met at Nimbus…. Anyway, I can’t tell you how much your letter means to me. I’ve been gradually moving away from the Harry Potter fandom, and therefore somewhat dreading the inevitable Book 7 update, but your email reminds me of how much fun I had noodling over possible sources of HP etymology. Your explanation for Peter Pettigrew made me laugh out loud!

I’m actually looking forward to revisiting my website now. If you have anything else you’d like to share, I’d be delighted to post it, giving you full credit of course.


This led to a flurry of exchanges (with links to our discussions here about Longbottom/bottle, Rose, HuGo, ASP, et nomina alia) and my request that I be permitted to open our discussion up to the real experts, youse guys, gender inclusive. Priscilla was excited about that and agreed to my posting her letter and extending the following invitation to HogPro All-Pros.

1. Please go to the What’s in a Name web site.
2. Look up 5-10 names, look at a whole letter’s entries, or surf as the spirit moves you. Check it all out.
3. Take some notes about meanings of names you think should be added to What’s in a Name entries to supplement the source given or the speculation in meaning already entered on the site.
4. Write them all out in the Comment Boxes on this thread; comment and correct the contributions of others.
5. Achieve Fandom immortality by being listed on What’s in a Name as the serious reader who figured out why Ms. Rowling gave Ron’s pet owl the name “Pigwidgeon” (or whatever names you figured out).

Priscilla has already demonstrated in her kind response to my obnoxious late-night missive that she is open to the suggestions of just about anyone if they’re interesting enough. I look forward to reading some of the peacocks you All-Pros have on your fences and the better arguments for and against them as possible meanings.

Alastor Moody? Tom Marvolo Riddle? Harry Potter? Og? It’s a wide open game. Jump in.

Thank you in advance for your enthusiastic participation!


  1. All right, I’m willing to take a stab at a few of those entries.

    MILLICENT BAGNOLD, Minister of Magic before Cornelius Fudge, could be a hat-tip to the author Enid Bagnold (who wrote National Velvet).

    BOWTRUCKLE — “truckle” can be a word for a cylindrical or barrel-shaped cheese. ( see http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-tru1.htm )
    Perhaps bowtruckles got their name because they’re cylindrical little creatures who live in the boughs of trees.

    ERUMPENT According to the Online Etymology Dictionary http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eruption
    “erumpere” is a Latin verb stem meaning “break out, burst forth,” and “erumpent” may be an invented present participle (cognate with “rampant”)– very appropriate for a creature whose horn is always on the verge of exploding.

    KNIGHTLEY, MONTAGUE – the Wizarding Chess chamption, in addition to referring to the knight chess piece, may also be a reference to Mr. Knightley, hero of Austen’s Emma.

  2. Perelandra says

    ABRAXAS is a Gnostic symbol, a creature withe the head of a cock and snakes for legs. Its body wears Roman armor and it carries a shield. It may repesent the Ultimate god or the evil Creator of the world in Gnosticism. At the very least it’s a daemon.

    What an abraxam horse would look like, I shudder to contemplate.

  3. If Perelandra will start with ABRAXAS, I’ll head to the Z end of the list so we won’t overlap. Nothing very exciting in Z, Y, or X, but the W page invites a lot of comment.

    There is no comment on the meaning of Weasley. Ms. Rowling has said the weasel is one of her favorite animals and plays with the name as pointer in giving their home the name ‘Burrow’ and locating it close to Otter St. Catchpole.

    But why Weasley? I think the traditional symbolism of the Weasel as the Christ-like sacrificial vanquisher of the Basilisk is a good start. If that’s too much, just that they are ferocious fighters and funny to boot should do.

    Ginevra is in usage not only as Juniper (?) but as the equivalent of Guenevere. Harry’s several Arthurian parallels and his match with Ginny make this the key meaning, if that most people think “Virginia” and “Virgin” makes it a subtle pointer to Harry as Christ (though, yes, I know Ginny is not his mom).

    Molly, however, is not derived from Molly-coddle, I’m pretty sure. This lady is famous for her temper and straight treatment, if she may be sentimental at times. Molly, who is Harry’s stand-in mother for most of the books, is an Irish pet name for ‘Mary.’

    Ron, I think, is correctly pegged as Arthur’s spear, but Bilious is as important. Meaning “overloaded with bile” it refers simultaneously to the Weasley choleric, yellow bile character (opposite to Fleur’s plegmatic qualities) and his irritable, desire-and-comfort driven personality. Ron represents the desires or “body” soul qualities in the soul tryptich of body, mind, spirit that are Ron, Hermione, and Harry throughout the books.

    WIAN’s definition for Percival vs. Percy is interesting, but, if true, I think the conclusion misses the point. Percy is low-born but has ambitions of becoming the Percival of Grail Legend. By over reaching, however, he misses out on his Arthurian roots which are noble and heroic in themselves. The St. Ignatius referred to in the definition is not the famous Ignatius of Antioch the child who sat in Christ’s lap and whose epistles are so important in understanding ‘church’ and the apostolic life in Christ. The Ignatius mentioned in the definition I assume is Ignatius (Loyola), the founder of the Jesuit order. Percy is “fiery and ardent” at least with respect to his ambitions (not to mention another reference to the Choler of the Weasley’s; this is probably a family name, no?) and he is more than a little Jesuitical (look it up).

    Nothing on Fred and George and Bill and Charley? We need some discussion of the heroic knights and nobles to whom these names refer, certainly, if only to get a grasp of the round table of heroes gathered in the humbled burrow of Arthur and the ladies Mary/Molly and Ginevra/Ginny.

    Weird Sisters: this definition/link with the witches in the opening of Macbeth is important especially in light of Ms. Rowling’s comments in the interview from hell (2005) about fate/choice and Shakespeare’s treatment of this question in Macbeth.

    Oliver Wood: almost all the members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team that Harry joins in his first year have names that have church building associations (Bell, Spinnett, etc.) Olive Wood is what devotional statuary is often carved from.

    Worm Tail: Folks like to make a link with this name and Tolkien’s Worm Tongue and it makes sense in that both are cowards and ‘bad guys.’ The nickname, though, is also a match with his Animagus form (a rat has a worm tail) and his cowardly character and given name (see Peter Pettigrew, Mr. Small Package).

    There’s my take on the W’s. Comments and corrections welcome; who wants to take on S, T, and U/V?

  4. Perelandra says

    Fred, George, and William are Hanovrian royal names, with Charley possibly corresponding to the lost Princess Charlotte.

  5. While I am not versed in English nobility, the remaining Weasley males (Fred, George, Bill, & Charley) have royalty-related names, so I ventured on an internet search. I trust the names *Frederick*, *George*, *William*, and *Charles* are recognized as those of English kings dating as far back as 1066 (William I) to present-day possibles, Prince Charles and Prince William. Historical data is available at Wikipedia.

    I would suggest, then, that Arthur & Molly Weasley’s roundtable surely seated noble (and sometimes ignoble) personnas at the Burrow during the course of the elder four sons’ maturation processes.

    One particularly interesting bit of trivia pertaining to William II (1056-1100): He was also known as William Rufus, *Rufus* for his red-faced appearance (not uncommon in red-heads with fair or ruddy complexions, a consistant Weasley characteristic). Given Bill’s entanglement with Fenrir Greyback and subsequent facial scarring, *Rufus* would certainly be an apropos moniker, would you agree?

  6. COLIN CREEVEY: This may be a stretch, but Colin’s propensity for photojournaling everything Harry Potter may stem from another Creevey’s thirst for recording life around him in England’s past: Thomas Creevey.

    Again, I cite Wikipedia: “He [Thomas Creevey] is remembered through the Creevey Papers, published in 1903 under the editorship of Sir Herbert Maxwell, which, consisting partly of Creevey’s own journals and partly of correspondence, give a lively and valuable picture of the political and social life of the late Georgian era, and are characterized by an almost Pepysian outspokenness. They are a useful addition and correction to the Croker Papers, written from a Tory point of view.

    For thirty-six years Creevey had kept a “copious diary,” and had preserved a vast miscellaneous correspondence with such people as Lord Brougham, and his stepdaughter, Elizabeth Ord, had assisted him, by keeping his letters to her, in compiling material avowedly for a collection of Creevey Papers in the future.”

    We can only speculate Colin’s rise to photographic fame. I wonder what subjectmatter existed in his magical camera (if the apparatus managed to survive the onslaught at Hogwarts at all). Perhaps his younger brother, Dennis, had the camera with him when he left the castle grounds?

  7. Perelanda:
    Could you expound on the correlation between Charley and the lost Princess Charlotte, please? The first thing that comes to my mind is the idea that Charley pretty much chooses to focus on *all things dragon.* I’d love some insight!
    Thanks 🙂

  8. JohnABaptist says

    Nothing on Fred and George and Bill and Charley?

    Let me have a crack at those four, John:

    Bill — William (the Conqueror) supplanted the long string of Island Kings (an amazing number of whose names started with “A”–Aethelstan, Aethelred, et al) whom legend symbolizes by the English Proto-King Arthur. William established the Royal Family of England as part of the Royal structures of England with interests in Normandy and coastal Europe. Bill brings the Weasley family onto the international stage with his interests in banking and connections into the wider worlds of finance, etc.

    Charlie — Charles I/II both played with the dragons of Cromwell and the round-heads. Charles I whose execution lead to the end of the English Monarchy and the birth of the English Republic. Charles I was later elevated to Sainthood by the Church of England the only such elevation undertaken solely by the Anglican Church. Charles II proved a better dragon slayer than his father triumphed over the Republicans, and restored the English Monarchy.

    Fred — Fredrick, Prince of Wales, son of George II was heir apparent of the throne of England, but was a troublemaker who caused his father all sorts of grief. Fredrick died an untimely death prior to his father and so the throne went to Fredrick’s son George. (While the English Fred and George were father and son, and not twins, they certainly were not what parents call “well-behaved children.”)

    George — George III, under his rule, England became the United Kingdom, defeated the armies of Napolean, and launched the British Empire. He ruled for nearly 60 years. It was in his reign that England became a true super-power on the world stage and finally gained wealth equivalent to that of the European Monarchies.

  9. JAB neglects a bit of the downside of George III’s reign but it is a refreshing change for Americans to read about his accomplishments (rather than his dementia, etc.)…. Great stuff, as always, JAB.

    No takers on S, T, U, and/or V?

  10. Does WIAN have a special flower collection for the names derived from flowers? Narcissa, Lily, and Petunia are important enough that they need to be looked at together. The same could be said for the constellation of star names in the Black family picture. Anyone here game enough to take on either of those projects?

    Ara-bella, off the top of my pointy head, literally means “beautiful altar,” doesn’t it? It is also the name of one nasty lady in Bram Stoker’s last book, The Lair of the White Worm, which was made into a camp movie version in 1988. The book is available online via Gutenberg.

    I’m afraid the Figg last name is just to suggest she is a little fruity. Correct me if I’m wrong (again) but isn’t the “apple” in the garden of Eden more properly understood as a “fig”? Hence the cursing of the fig tree in the New Testament as a counterpoint?

    Christmas Eve confusion and excitement reign here but the tree is up and we’re excited about liturgy and the feast tomorrow! Joyous Noel, All-Pros!

  11. Arabella Figg says

    I wrote earlier about the following names here on the Hugo Weasley: Dickensian Cryptonym Time thread, November 10th, 2007. Perhaps this will be helpful to Priscilla (quite a work you’ve done there!)

    Arabella Figg (coudn’t resist):
    Source: http://www.thinkbabynames.com/meaning
    Arabella: of Latin origin (from “orabilis”), its meaning is “prayerful.” Since we know Squib Arabella watched over Harry for 17 years, this is a wonderful name for her.
    Figg: a fig can be used in it’s various forms, i.e., fresh, dried, etc., and in various ways. Perhaps this illustrated Arabella’s multiple involvements–in the Muggle world, WizWorld, the Order, and in being more than she seemed as a “batty old cat lady.”

    To add to Argus Filch, the name means “vigilant guardian.” A worthy name. (same source). Last name is obvious since he was always confiscating things from students and who knows what else.

    To add to Petunia (Dursley): same source
    Flower name for a humble-looking flower [remember Petunia is plain] with white or pink to purple blossoms. This really caught my eye. Is it possible Petunia could have developed into an alchemical beauty had she not been consumed with her feelings of jealous inadequacy?
    Also, according to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/petunia, the petunia is of South American origin and sometimes poisonous. On target, there.

    Uh-oh, Fullatricks is darting poisonous looks at Luscious Badboy…

  12. Perelandra says

    There were a Hanovrian pair of Fred & George brothers–Frederick Duke of York and George IV–plus their brother William IV. I wasn’t making a judgment on Charley Weasley, just looking for someone with a Caroline name within that dynasty. (Princess Charlotte was George IV’s heiress who died in childbirth.) George IV’s queen and grandmother were named Caroline.

    We also see some other names of famous English noble families scattered around, such as Neville and Montague from the Wars of the Roses.

    Inigo is the Spanish form of Ignatius, as in Ignatius Loyola.

    Artemesia is the botanical name of the wormwood plant.

    Emeric is a Hungarian royal saint, d. 1131

    Bathilda is a Saxon-born sainted queen in Merovingian France

    Nymphadora means “gift of the nymph/s”

    Re’em is Hebrew for some mysterious sort of horned beast, which St. Jerome translated as unicorn in the Vulgate. It may have been suggested by Babylonian/Persian bulls in profile.

    Quirinus is the Sabine equivalent of Mars, one of the Capitoline Trio of Deities worshipped at Rome.

    Narcissa has always made me thing of Lindt’s “Narcisse” white chocolate, an amusing contrast to her last name of Black.

    The star and constellation names among the Blacks do interest me because of their symbolic resonances. Real Soon Now I’ll do something about this.

  13. I noticed that the What’s In A Name site only had the Roman-Emperor connection for “Severus.”

    There are apparently quite a few holy men by that name:

    St. Severus, Feastday: October 15. Born in Gaul. He worked as a missionary with St. Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes and went to England with them in 429 to combat Pelagianism there. He also worked along the lower Moselle river area in Germany and was named Bishop of Treves in Gaul in 446, a position he held until his death.

    SEVERUS of Avranches,Memorial February 1.Priest. Monk. Abbot. Bishop of Avranches. In his later years, he resigned his see and returned to monastic life.
    Born at Cotentin, Normandy, France Died c.690 of natural causes; relics at Rouen, France

    Severus Of Antioch born c. 465, Sozopolis, Pisidia, Asia Minor [near modern Konya, Turkey]
    died 538, Xois, Egypt. Greek monk-theologian and patriarch of Antioch

    St. Severus of Barcelona was martyred by Dacianus in the reign of Diocletian.

    Severus Sanctus Endelechus – Christian rhetorician and poet of the fourth century

    There are also apparently not one but two Sts. Severus of Alexandria, who might be the same as Severus Antioch and Severus Endelechus above.

    The Severus who most tickles my fancy as a parallel with the “stoppering death” Severus Snape is this one:

    The Monk Severus the Presbyter
    Commemorated on June 27 Sixth century, Central Italy. “One time, when the saint was working in his garden, cutting grapes in the vineyard, they summoned him to administer the Holy Mysteries for the dying. Saint Severus said: “Go back, and I shalt catch up with you presently”. There remained only but a few more grapes to cut off, and Saint Severus dallied for awhile in the garden to finish the work. When he arrived for the sick person, they told him that the person was already dead. Saint Severus, regarding himself as guilty in the death of a man without absolvement, started to tremble and loudly he began to weep. He went into the house wherein lay the deceased, and with loud groaning and calling himself a murderer, in tears he fell down before the dead person. Suddenly the dead man came alive and related to everyone, that the demons wanted to grab hold his soul, but one of the Angels said: “Give him back, since over him doth weep Presbyter Severus, and on account of his tears the Lord hath granted him this man”. Saint Severus, giving thanks to the Lord, confessed and communed the resuscitated man with the Holy Mysteries. And that man in constant prayer survived for yet another 7 days, and then with joy reposed to the Lord.”

    And while I’m knee-deep in hagiography:
    I saw no entry in “What’s In A Name” for St. Mungo’s the wizarding hospital. Founded, per Jo, by Mungo Bonham. But St. Mungo (or Kentigern) is also a patron saint of Glasgow, and there’s an interesting tale about his mother that makes St. Mungo a particularly appropriate saint after which to name a wizarding institution:

    The chronicle of Jocelin of Furness (12th century)said that his mother St. Tenew, an unwed noblewoman in the 6th century, was pushed off a hill by her father while pregnant with Mungo. She survived the fall, which made people think she might be a witch, so they put her out to sea adrift in a coracle, which miraculously came safe to shore before she gave birth.

  14. I don’t think I’ll be doing any research myself (I’ll all enjoy all of yours), but speaking of character names, I always wondered which JKR came up with first: “Tom Marvolo Riddle” or “I am Lord Voldemort.” I think John Granger went into great detail a long while back regarding possible meanings for “Tom,” “Riddle,” and “Voldemort,” but I wonder whether “Marvolo” has a special meaning or did it just fit the anagram?

    Thank goodness she did the anagram she did, though. One look at an online anagram creator shows some interesting possibilities. Could you imagine the diary horcrux Riddle air-wanding “I am Lord Dolt Mover,” or “Lord Tom, Maid Lover”? Oh gosh, I’d better stop while I still can.

  15. Concerning Bathilda Bagshot: I do not know if Rowling is a Tolkien fan, but if so, it is interesting to note that the Gamgees lived on Number Three, Bagshot Row. Probably a shot in the dark.

  16. SophiaJoanna says

    Greetings to all, an overwhelmed and greatly outclassed newbie here.

    I’d like to add this info, much abbreviated, concerning Nymphadora:

    The Holy Virgins Menodora, Metrodora and Nymphodora (305-311 AD), were sisters from Bithynia (Asia Minor) who “spent their lives in deeds of fasting and prayer”. Nymphodora (spelling changed in HP for obvious reasons!) was the last of her sisters to be martyred, beaten to death by iron rods. by Governor Frontonus. The sisters’ relics are preserved on Mt. Athos.


  17. Arabella Figg says

    I did some more checking on Arabella. I Googled Ara + Latin and came up with: Ara (IPA: /ˈɑːrə/, Latin: altar) is a southern constellation situated between the constellations Scorpius and Triangulum Australe. Visible at latitudes between +25° and −90°
    Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of July. (That’s the month of Harry’s birth, though I doubt anything can be made of that.) Defininitions of “altar” were of pagan ones.

    However, the name Arabella, in several dictionaries is defined as an English word meaning “beautiful lion.” (http://www.babynames.com/name/ARABELLA).
    There’s also a German version, “beautiful eagle.” (http://www.babynameworld.com/)

    These animals are both Christ symbols and seem more applicable than the strict Latin origin. And, as we’re concerned more about interpretation than etymology…

    I beg to differ, but I don’t feel Figg (a genuine last name) connotates “fruity.” Arabella showed herself to be quite together and intelligent in OotP. Her “battiness” was a front.

    The kitties like the lion application…

  18. OK, I’ll play. It’s been awhile since I wrote an lit essay.

    I’m rereading Deathly Hallows to my 11-year-old daughter now and we just finished Chapter13, The Muggleborn Registration Commission. I’ll take the wizarding couple mentioned there, Reginald “Reg” and Mary Elizabeth Cattermole. In the unlikely event that anyone reading this blog needs a memory refresher, Reg is the maintenance wizard whose identity Ron assumes during the mission to the Ministry to retrieve the locket Horcrux. Mary is his unfortunate Muggleborn wife, whom the disguised Harry and Hermione witness being questioned by Umbridge.

    A none-to-obvious possible literary reference is pointed out by the “Pavlov’s Cat” blog: *
    “But for sheer obscurity and light-relief game-playing in the now very dark Potter story, Rowling has raised her own bar once more with the extremely minor character called Reg Cattermole who turns up in the new book. ‘Reg’ and ‘Cattermole’ are the given name and surname respectively of a couple of unfortunate undergraduates who eventually get together romantically in one of the more minor sub-plots of Dorothy L. Sayers’ masterpiece Gaudy Night”

    I never would have caught that one, so I’ll turn instead to some more mundane possibilities. First, consider their surname. Stretch out “Cattermole” and you get “cat-or-mole,” a fitting image for Mrs. Cattermole as Umbridge, protected by a feline Patronus, forces her into a sick game of cat-and-mouse. “Mole” could have two meanings: a lowly, mud-colored, dirt-dwelling animal or an infiltrator of an organization, intent on learning its secrets and destroying it. Ostensibly, the purpose of the interview is for Umbridge to discern whether Mrs. Cattermole is “one of us;” (in other words, a cat,) worthy to be a denizen of the kitten-bedecked Ministry offices or a mole, one of the “undesirables” deserving only scorn and punishment. Of course, we know the High Inquisitor is no more interested in answers here than she was at Hogwarts; she’s already decided who is worthy and who is not and is just looking for excuses to torment whomever she pleases.

    Moles can also be skin discolorations, considered “beauty marks” in some cases (e.g. Marilyn Monroe’s) but potentially harmful precursors to cancer in others. Clearly Arthur Weasley considers Wizards like the Cattermole’s the former, while Umbridge considers them the latter.

    As for the first names, Reginald means “powerful one,” an ironic description given that he is clearly a lower class, presumably none-too-powerful wizard. His occupation is maintenance worker; not only his collar blue, his whole robe is. More importantly, he shows the powerlessness of the average wizard under Voldemort’s regime as he tries and fails to protect his Muggleborn wife. “Mary” translates into “sea of sorrow” while “Elizabeth” means “my oath is God.” The first is certainly appropriate, given her distress at Umbridge’s hands; the second is not so clear. But “Mary Elizabeth” has dual connotations. On the one hand, those are the two most common female names in recent history, implying that Mary, like her husband, is an average witch-on-the-street. She’s Muggleborn, the daughter of greengrocers, and nothing indicates she’s especially well-educated or powerful. On the other hand, few Yanks, and even fewer Brits will forget that May and Elizabeth among the greatest of royal names, belonging to past and present queens. Similarly, the “Regi” of Reginald ought to remind us that there is kingly courage within the vomiting-but-valiant janitor, who wasn’t just “keen on his job,” as Ron assumed, but who was desperate to save his wife. When Harry declares, “Their blood is pure! Purer than many of yours, I daresay!” it wasn’t just an act for the Death Eaters.

    Finally, Molly is a nickname for Mary and there is a clear parallel between them. We see Mary Cattermole cry for her children as we saw Molly Weasley sob over her Boggart-vision, but we will also see Molly transform the anguish she feels for her children into the strength she needs to defeat Bellatrix LeStrange. And if we think hard, we can probably come up with at least one other Mary who exudes strength and grace even as she weeps for her Child.

    * http://pavlovblog.blogspot.com/2007/07/harry-potter-and-micro-history-of.html

  19. Hmmm…. if “Ara” is a constellation, it almost makes one wonder whether Mrs. Figg might be a Black family squib, doesn’t it?

    I think “Figg” as a complement to “Arabella” was just chosen for its Dickensian humor, myself. And perhaps for its trochaic euphony.

  20. Arabella…you say the constellation *Ara* is best seen in the month of July? Did not Harry encounter Dementors in Little Whinging during July, at which time Mrs. Figg REVEALED herself to Harry? Oh wait…that event in OotP may have been in early August. (I just double-checked the opening chapters!) Oh well, close enough when one considers the constellation visible at most times. Point being, Arabella Figg was in Harry’s life without realizing what she was…not unlike the rest of us who take the stars for granted without taking time to understand their unique positions in the heavens.
    I just love this stuff!!!!!

  21. I meant to say “Arabella Figg was in Harry’s life without HIM realizing what she was….”

  22. Here’s another, briefer entry. Dirk Cresswell. Dirk means “ruler of the people,” yet another ironic name since his main role is to suffer at the hands of the corrupt rulers. Arthur Weasley makes a point about ranting to Runcorn (actually a Polyjuiced Harry) about how the Death Eaters would have to answer to Dirk’s many family and friends, illustrating once again that in social bonds, which Voldemort lacks, lies true power. My best guess for the last name is that it is in honor of British children’s book author Helen Cresswell. One of her series, Lizzie Drippings, is about an imaginative young girl who meets a witch that only she can see or hear. Cresswell is also the name of several British towns, so this may be another name Ms. Rowling got from a map.

  23. The following entry is posted in WIAN:

    “Barnabas the Barmy – depicted in a tapestry being clubbed by trolls

    -Saint Barnabas was a travelling companion of the Apostle Paul. On a missionary journey to Iconium and Lystra in Lycaonia, they were first acclaimed gods and then stoned out of the city.

    -“Barmy” is British slang for “crazy, idiotic.”

    I have always been taught that to be called *a Barnabas* is synonymous with being known as an *encourager.* Combined with the slang terms for *Barmy*, the tapestry could very easily be understood as a symbol of encouragement for anyone “crazy or idiotic” enough to be seeking the Room of Requirement. I am not suggesting the seeker be crazy in a negative way; on the contrary, being crazed can also mean *seriously intense* (An apt description for most people looking for the RR!) Of course, if I’ve misidentified the tapestry hanging opposite the RR, then this doesn’t mean squat!

  24. I’d like to add a bit to the plant names in the Dursley’s neighborhood.

    Privet, as in Privet Drive, is, as the website indicates, an attractive plant frequently used for hedges, reflecting the neatly-trimmed, manicured suburbian lives of the Dursley’s. At least here in the Southern US, however, privet, like the peach-tree and hickory trees, is a commonly mentioned source for “cutting a switch” to punish children. (I remember my college botany professor describing it as one of her “least favorite trees” for that reason.) So, the name could also evoke the harsh treatment of Harry by his aunt and uncle.

    Wisteria, as in Wisteria Walk, is also an ornamental plant that is often planted and allowed to climb up walls and lattices. But, like a lot of climbing vines, it can crush or choke a tree if allowed to overtake it. Recall Aunt Petunia’s vow to “squash the magic out of” Harry and you get a more sinister image of the precisely cultivated yards of the Dursleys’ neighborhood. If left to their own devices, the Dursleys, for whom appearance (symbolized by their lawn and yard) is everything, would choke the magical power out of their young relative.

  25. Gladius Terrae Novae says

    Helen, excellent work with the Erumpent. However, I have a few years Latin experience and can give a slightly more accurate translation, or at least it looks good when my professor’s not here.
    Erumpent is the form of either the third person passive perfect or the future. It should be literally translated “They were busted” or “They will bust forth.” More explosive ideas to follow research.

  26. Arabella Figg says

    Imf3b, this reminds me that the Dursleys live in Little Whinging. Whinging (pronounced whinj’-ing) is a British term for complaining, whining. The name evokes petty complaints and smallness.

    Nothing small about Thudders…

  27. Sazmerelda says

    Ok…might be reading a LITTLE too much into this, but, James (as in, James Potter) derives from the name, “Jacobus”, which means “supplanter” or “one who wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another”.

    Could this be linked to the relationship between Lily, Severus, and James? We all know how Snape felt about Lily Potter…

    Also, linked to that, the name, “Severus, can be defined as “apart”, as in, he was always apart from the one person he truly loved.

    A Lily is a flower that represents purity, chastity, and innocence.

    Some others that I have found:

    Harry-“home ruler” (make what you will)

    Ron/Ronald-“ruler’s counsellor”

    Hermione-could derive from Hermes, the God of eloquence

    Ginevra-“fair one”

  28. babyandnames says

    Dirk Cresswell. Dirk means “ruler of the people,” yet another ironic name since his main role is to suffer at the hands of the corrupt rulers. Arthur Weasley makes a point about ranting to Runcorn (actually a Polyjuiced Harry) about how the Death Eaters would have to answer to Dirk’s many family and friends, for more best baby names please visit http://www.babyandnames.com

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