Real Life Muggles Named ‘Harry Potter’

I picked up a copy of Book magazine, a super slick production of Barnes & Noble, in May 2003 because it had a picture of Rowling on the cover and two or three fun feature stories. My favorite part of the magazine, though, and the reason I still have a copy is a side-bar piece titled, ‘Will the Real Harry Potter Please Stand Up?’ It has four cameo pictures of men named ‘Harry Potter’ with brief descriptions — age, work, city of residence — and each Harry’s blurb description of what it is like to be named for the lead character in a tsunami cultural phenomenon.

They were a 45 year old “director of drop out prevention in schools” in Providence, Rhode Island, a 58 year old mailman in Scotia, New York, a 47 year old funeral director in Bedford, Massachusetts, and a 67 year old “retired pastor” in Wauchula, Florida. Only the pastor was a non-reader; he said “I am a Christian and the Bible says we should stay away from witchcraft.” Even he admitted the name business is “humorous to me, though.”

I even had a person call me from London, asking if I had a son named Harry Potter because they wanted a real Harry Potter in the movie. I said I could fit in. I could be the old Harry Potter who’s lost his zap. did a search in 2005 for “ordinary people called Harry Potter,” an investigation that yielded ‘Meet the Real Harry Potters.’ The retired “naval seaman” in Florida was probably the most interesting of that lot because he was Harry Potter III and also had a son named Harry Potter.

I pulled the Book magazine off my Harry Potter shelf today, though, after reading the piece, ‘Meet the real-life muggles named Harry Potter: How sharing a name with the Boy Who Lived transfigured the lives of a knighted criminal lawyer, a fitness guru and more.’ It’s a relatively extended and in-depth look at five men named Harry Potter (four in the picture above) and the advantages and drawbacks each has experienced in the two decades of sharing a name with The Boy Who Lived. I recommend it.

The RadioTimes piece includes, for example, this strange bit of nigh on incredible Shared Text data:

This boy will be famous!” McGonagall whispered to her companion, who was placing yet another lemon drop in the mouth hiding beneath his flowing silver beard. “There will be books written about him – every child in our world will know his name!”

She was, of course, completely correct. The baby, a young wizard called Harry Potter, would soon possess one of the most celebrated names on the planet. It was a name that became emblazoned across JK Rowling’s novels, which went on to sell 500 million copies worldwide in 74 languages. Four syllables that would garner their own registered trademark and font.

And even today, almost 21 years since The Philosopher’s Stone was published, ‘Harry Potter’ is still a name more popular on Google than Donald Trump, Kanye West and Gandalf combined, not to mention 17 times more searched for than Jesus Christ.

But however right McGonagall’s prophecy was, she had overlooked something huge. While the Boy Who Lived would soon bare the world’s most famous name, so too would a set of other Harry Potters across the country. The estimated 23 Harry Potters of voting age residing in the UK, for instance.

John Lennon famously quipped in 1966 that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” I don’t think Rowling is foolish enough to think that, not to mention say it in public, but, if Google searches equate to popularity rather than curiosity, I guess she could.

I share a name with a Harry Potter character, fortunately “the smartest witch of her generation,” and, because the connection is only the relatively common surname not the signature ‘Hermione’ first name, I am never bothered about it in my Walter Mitty existence. As the Dean of Harry Potter Scholars, though, I get comments, invariably a tease or in good humor.

It is a standing joke, for example, that Hermione was given the middle name ‘Jean’ in Deathly Hallows (Dumbledore’s will, right?) because Rowling was making a hat tip to ‘John Granger,’ know-it-all interpreter of children’s books, who like Miss Granger and Tales of Beedle the Bard, identifies the symbol but misses its meaning. Not a very funny joke, I know, but I haven’t got any good stories to share with you about being named ‘Granger.’ Maybe being an old guy rather than a young woman keeps people from making the association — everyone that is except very young readers who inevitably ask at the end of talks if I am related to Harry’s brilliant friend.

The Tom Riddles of the world are having a much harder time. ‘What’s it Like to Share a Name with Lord Voldemort?’

Do you know a Weasley, Snape, or Potter? How is life treating them? Let me know in the comment boxes below!



  1. Louise Freeman says

    Does Rowling ever hat-tip the Hogwarts Professor faculty in her writing? (Spoilers for Cormoran Strike ahead)

    Fact 1: In Cuckoo’s Calling, the killer is a batshit insane man named John.
    Fact 2: In The Silkworm, the killer is a batshit insane woman named Elizabeth.
    Fact 3: Career of Evil includes the line, “But Louise was brilliant.”

    You be the judge.

  2. There must be an Evan in there somewhere?

  3. Carrie Jane Birmingham says

    My grandmother’s name was Carrie Potter.

  4. My children all have stories about growing up as Grangers (and the sons and daughters of the Dean) in the Age of Harry Potter.

    I just realized that one daughter has jumped from the literary association pan into the fire of assonance by changing her name via marriage from Sarah Granger to Sarah Camp. A little too close to the tippling nurse Sarah Gamp of Dickens’ Chuzzlewit…

  5. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    In the Netherlands, there are superb tiny liquorice-root and menthol cushion-shaped drops, ideally helpful in my choral experience, called Potter’s, in watch-pocket-size hinged steel boxes, with a dosing-port of a couple millimeters diameter. (A Dutch Wikipedia article tells me the box used to announce they were made under licence from Potter & Clarke of Warlingham, Surrey, now renamed Potter’s Herbals (!) and producing no such product themselves.) Of course, should one escape the box into your pocket, you are in danger of ending up with a hairy Potter…

  6. Brian Basore says

    JKR picked up some names in the HP books from a cemetery. Petunia Dursley’s opinion that Harry was a “Nasty, common name, if you ask me”, aside, she was right that Harry Potter is a common name in the English-speaking world. Common, but not too common, another good writing trick by JKR.

    The Oklahoma State Vital Records Index for deaths lists seven Harry Potters, evenly distributed 1910, 1926, 1937, 1956,1970, 1971, and 2005.

    And that’s just Oklahoma, one of fifty states of the U.S.A.

  7. Louise Freeman says

    John: Evan Duffield, Lula’s druggie boyfriend.

  8. Egad, we’re all there — and only Louise gets a hat-tip instead of a trip to the slammer (if drug rehab for Mr Duffield can be called that).

    Any predictions for Strike5? I think Joanne deserves a mention and Beatrice and Katy are Serious Strikers…

  9. My uncle’s name is Harry Potter. It made me feel awesome when planning my wedding that Harry Potter would be attending and sitting at table 5 🙂

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