This week on To Be Honest, HBT I’m going to do something a little different. Since today is September 1st we have to go back!!! Not to the Island, but to Hogwarts! Please open your textbooks to page 394.
This post is quite a rough summary of an article I wrote for my high school’s paper in 2003 titled The Harry Potter You Never Knew. Nowadays, most fans know about JK Rowling’s genius and her careful choices. It is always fun to marvel at how thoroughly she crafted her wizarding world. I will try my best not to gush as we focus on her names.
(<3 my HP ring, it’s from Holly Presley on Etsy!)
These are a few of my favorites:
I discovered this in high school while just randomly looking at a Hebrew-English version of the book of Genesis. When I suddenly saw the word mandrake pop up I had to investigate. In the book of Genesis (30:14–22), Rachel is infertile and requires the mandrake plant to help her conceive a child. I find this incredible! Mandrakes were a home remedy for fertility at the time and Jo depicts them as plants with human features and behaviors. Note that mandrakes in the Potterverse look like babies and cry like them too, then they get acne, and finally they move into eachother’s pots once mature.
Recently, I discovered from Wikipedia that her idea for the mandrake’s fatal cry also comes from ancient sources, along with the idea that it takes 30 months to brew the potion. OGM!*
Ludo, as we know, is a former Quidditch player and now is Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Ludo is Latin for “to play” or “sport.” Another meaning of the word Ludo is “to delude,” or “to deceive.” Ludovic can also be an abbreviated form of victor ludorum which means “winner of games.” Bagman is a clear choice to the UK readership. A bagman is someone who collects the money for illegal gambling business and loan sharks.
In my article I wrote the following: “Rubeus Hagrid has an uncanny story as well. “Hagrid” means giant and “Rubeus” means ruble, meaning jewel, therefore making him Giant of Jewels. This god was said to be the kindest of all the Greek gods. He was framed by Hades for the murder of Perseus’ son, and was banned from Mount Olympus. Zeus decided to keep him there as keeper of the godly beasts on Olympus.” This is incorrect, but I wish it was true! Oh how my Classics degree is mocking me right now.
Lord Voldemort/Tom Marvolo Riddle:
It is now well known by most fans that Voldemort is French for “flight from death,” but that’s not what we’re focusing on here. JK Rowling masterfully created the name Tom Marvolo Riddle to work into I am Lord Voldemort and her team didn’t just do this in English. Check out this thread on Reddit and the Wikipedia page.
Many people focus on the French one, and for good reason: Tom Elvis Jeusor. As one Redditor said, Elvis isn’t dead, he’s just a horcrux.
From the Aramaic, Avada Kedavra means “let the thing be destroyed.” As these words are Aramaic, which is closely related to Hebrew and Arabic, one could infer that their roots are similar. Avada’s root means “loss” which can also mean “destruction.” Kedavra’s root means “speaking.” Many think that Avada Kedavra came from Abracadabra, and they are not wrong. Abracadabra is just Avada Kedavra using the Phoenician alphabet.
Sources: HP Lexicon, Princeton.edu
Cassandra Vablatsky/Cassandra Trelawny:
The Classics major in me appreciates this one so much more now than when I first read the series. (Yes, rereading books can and will teach you new things.) I’ll try not to be too nerdy.
Remember Homer’s Iliad? Here’s a quick recap: Agamemnon, King of the Achaeans (aka Greeks), visited the Trojans with his little brother Menelaus. Menelaus’ gorgeous wife Helen had a little affair with Paris, the prince of Troy. As this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the Achaeans waged war against the Trojans.
Cut to a bit later.
If you’ve read Aeschylus’ Oresteia (Agamemnon, The Libations Bearers**, The Eumenidies) you’d remember someone named Cassandra. Here’s a brief recap of only the parts you need to know: Agamemnon comes home from the war and his wife Clytemnestra is furious because he sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia. There’s also a bit of fury that comes from the fact that Agamemnon brought a seer named Cassandra home. Cassandra just happens to be Paris’s sister, but more importantly she was cursed by Apollo to be a seer that no one would ever believe. Although we have no indication that either Cassandras in the Potterverse were doubted, we see the suspicion towards divination as a whole, and the negative reputation of Cassandra Trelawny’s descendent, Sibyl Trelawny.
UPDATE 11.2.14: JKR added a bit about Professor Trelawny’s name on Pottermore. Log in and click this link to read it!
There are, of course, MANY more examples of Jo’s brilliance. Some are quite easy to decipher if one is familiar with Greek and Roman mythology, like Argus Filch, Minerva McGonagall, Fluffy, and Sibyl Trelawny. Some are simpler Latin, such as Lumos, Remus Lupin, Nox, Sonorus, Quietus, & Serpensortia. While some are simply great references or foreshadowing in plain English: Grimmauld Place, Mirror of Erised, Kreacher, and Fawkes.
Can you tell how much I miss both school and Harry Potter?
What are your favorite Potter words or terms? Let me know in the comments!
*OGM was coined by the lovely Kat Miller of Mugglenet. It means Obligatory Genius Moment and is used often on the podcast Alohomora whenever the team needs to marvel at Jo’s mastery.
**Yep, if you’ve never read it, you probably recognize The Libation Bearers from the excerpt before Deathly Hallows. Jo was a Classics major if you didn’t already guess. The passage she chose reflects the idea of guest friendship, Zeus Xenios, The Furies, and revenge. The story of the house of Atreus is one that I absolutely LOVE and will most likely write about it in connection to Game of Thrones in the future.