Monday, February 23, 2009

What's In A Name

Ever since I completed reading “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, I’ve known one thing for sure. I may read and re-read hundreds of books, but I will never enjoy them the way I enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series. J.K Rowling can reach up to impeccable levels of imagination and then actually proceed to translate those ideas into words that will be read and remembered by millions – young & old – and will be passed on by those millions to their kids and grand kids. In spite of the magnificent sets and CGI effects in the movie series that are so well embedded in our memory, all of us who have read her books have mentally constructed our own versions of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, Privet Drive, the Burrow, Grimmauld Place, Azkaban, Diagon Alley, the Leaky Cauldron, the Ministry of Magic and the Quidditch world cup stadium. That’s the kind of impact her translation of imagery to the books has had on all of us.
But, this is not what I love the most about her and her books. The way she names characters, their homes, their towns, their books and even their pets is mesmerizing. This also goes for names of the ghosts, elves, goblins, animals, curses, charms, spells, hexes, magical items, stores, schools, halls, corridors, passwords... the list is quite endless. My most favorite name has and will always be Albus Dumbledore. The name has such an endearing quality to it, as if he could be your grandpa. Albus means ‘white’ in Latin. In the Order of the Phoenix, when I read his full name - Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledoreit went on to become my all-time favorite name. I feel it has waves of love, courage and peace in it. If a name can speak words, this one can speak volumes. The way Madam Maxime calls him Dumbly-dorr makes him look cute.
I am very tempted to visit the Leaky Cauldron for a firewhisky and then to Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour for a double sundae. A visit to Diagon Alley is incomplete without some shopping at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and Flourish & Blotts. While am there, I will not forget to pick up puking pastilles as a gift for my manager. I definitely wouldn’t mind spending an entire day at Hogsmeade whiling away time at Honeydukes and The Three Broomsticks.
There are names that sound fierce, rude, elegant, cute, exotic and some that sound stupid. Lord Voldemort sounds quite vicious and so does his real name, Tom Marvolo Riddle. Bellatrix Lestrange is another one. I have to admit, the escape scene in Azkaban which shows her laughing like a lunatic perfectly matches the fierce quality of her name. Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, Rita Skeeter, Igor Karakoff, Mulciber, Salazar Slytherin, Millicent Bulstrode, Vincent Crabbe – all these names successfully hint at the kind of character they are named after. They vary between ugly/rude/fierce. Then there are the ones that sound exotic and mysterious, at times elegant too - Rubeus Hagrid, Phineas Nigellus, Andromeda, Nymphadora, Fleur, Victorie, Dominique, Roxanne, Apolline, Rosmerta, Narcissa, Olympe Maxime, Xenophilius Lovegood, Ollivander, Gellert Grindelwald, Aberforth, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Alastor Moody. Did you know that Lupin is French for ‘wolf’? Sybill Trelawney sounds magical and so does Minerva McGonagall. Then there are the funny, stupid ones - some intentional and some not so – Dedalus Diggle, Elphias Doge, Mundungus Fletcher, Sturgis Podmore, Arabella Figg, Gregory Goyle, Adalbert Waffling, Mafalda Hopkirk, Peter Pettigrew, Poppy Pomfrey & Argus Filch. The topper on this list has to be Dudley Dursley. It sounds like this name was used as a curse on our dear fatty to stay stupid all his life.
Names of animals and pets in the series stand out. While Nagini, Firenze, Fawkes & Hermes sound mystic Hedwig, Fluffy & Norbert sound adorable. Other notable ones are Fang, Aragog, Crookshanks, Errol, Buckbeak and Scabbers. Pigwidgeon is the cutest name I’ve heard in ages. Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington has a memorable name, and so does Moaning Myrtle. We will never forget Grawp, Dobby, Winky, Kreacher & Griphook. Pius Thicknesse sounds like he could really be thick and Dolores Umbridge actually sounds like the name of a stout woman.
And then there are the regular names which have leaped up in the popularity charts thanks to some memorable characters. Harry, Hermione and Ronald will go down into history as the most popular names of this generation. Giving them company are names like Cedric, Oliver, Ginny, Fred, George, James, Lily, Rose, Hugo, Neville and my personal favorites – Sirius and Remus.
While Rowling wrote about her favorite boy Harry for 17 years, I am sure she never imagined that he would become our favorite too and a worldwide literary wave (tsunami rather) would arise. A dear friend of mine says I have a fixation with Harry Potter, to which I agree completely. Well, I have to admit that I don’t agree completely because it’s not just a fixation. It’s an obsession and a favorite one at that.
To all the non-Potter people (muggles I’d say) who read through this patiently, I am sorry. I am not sorry for making you read this, but sorry that you have not experienced the world of Potter. And I sincerely hope that you will read the books some day. My kids will definitely grow up with Harry.


  1. Unfortunately i fall in the category of MUGGLES and will read 'em soon and get back to u :)

  2. I am already glad you read through the article here :)

  3. I remember this article :)

  4. You were the first one to read it!

  5. Amazign Article!! Really love it.

    You know what there is one instance you missed.
    I don't remember in which book but once Harry is called as Harry James Potter. That one time I felt the entire Harry was described. Confident, Courageous, Moral, True... Just what he would be Harry James Potter. I am sure you would understand what I mean to say.

  6. Yeah.. I know! Harry sounds complete when he is called Harry James Potter :) I agree with you..