What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”?
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What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? Video and Digital Media Interest Section contribution to intersection presentation Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings. Johanna Katchen ( 柯安娜教授 ) National Tsing Hua University http://mx.nthu.edu.tw/~katchen

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What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”?Video and Digital Media Interest Sectioncontribution to intersection presentation Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings

Johanna Katchen (柯安娜教授)

National Tsing Hua University

http://mx.nthu.edu.tw/~katchen

[email protected]

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Why use harry potter
Why Use Harry Potter?

  • The stories are popular with all ages from upper primary school through adult

  • Students may read the stories and see the films in their L1

  • Recently I have been teaching listening or listening/speaking classes with university freshmen—and they are, refreshingly, like big children

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • As a linguist, I have focused on Rowling’s clever use of language; the names are full of cultural meaning that is for the most part lost in translation to the students’ L1

  • In 2005 I published a “popular” book for the Taiwan audience, English and Chinese facing pages—Names in the Harry Potter Books: Etymology and Word Play

  • What I’m talking about comes from the book and materials from the classes I have been teaching

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Advantages of using dvds for language learning
Advantages of Using DVDs for Language Learning (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)

  • Better than VCDs because we can change subtitle/caption options

  • Beginners can use L1 (in my situation Chinese) subtitles to enjoy the film and get general meaning

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Names for women from flowers
Names for Women from Flowers and identify the language by reading it

  • How do you feel about the following names for women? Rose, Lily, Violet?

  • How about Daffodil, Pansy, Petunia, Geranium, Hyacinth (British comedy)?

  • Positive-sounding flower names are Rose, Violet, Lily, Daisy, and perhaps some others popular in the past.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Lily Evans Potter and identify the language by reading it, Harry’s mother, deceased, was killed by Voldemort.

  • Lily is a pleasant and normal name of a flower; it signifies purity. The lily stands tall, proud and beautiful, a noble flower.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Petunia Evans Dursley and identify the language by reading it, Harry’s aunt, is sister to Lily (Potter).

  • Petunia is a name said to denote anger and resentment, and Harry’s aunt resents the idea that she got stuck with the responsibility of providing a home for Harry.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Moaning Myrtle Although a petunia has the same general shape as a lily, it is small and cheap and easily blown over by the wind. is the ghost that lives in the first floor girls’ bathroom.

  • Myrtle is said to mean ‘joy’, a description opposite to that of this ghost; it is not a popular name today.

  • A female student of Slytherin House—the bad guys—is named Pansy Parkinson.

  • Also Narcissa Malfoy and Poppy Pomfrey (school nurse).

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Names for pets
Names for Pets Although a petunia has the same general shape as a lily, it is small and cheap and easily blown over by the wind.

  • How do we name our pets?

  • When I was a child, many dogs, especially those owned by old ladies, were called Princie.

  • Some cultures play on the color, such as Blackie, in Chinese 小黑

  • This comparison of kinds of pet names is a great topic bringing out childhood memories.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Hagrid calls his dog Although a petunia has the same general shape as a lily, it is small and cheap and easily blown over by the wind. Fang (牙牙), an odd name for this dog because he’s so gentle.

  • A fang is ‘a long tooth of an animal’. In mammals it is used for tearing flesh, in spiders and snakes for injecting poison.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Fluffy Although a petunia has the same general shape as a lily, it is small and cheap and easily blown over by the wind.(毛毛)is the name Hagrid gives to the three-headed dog guarding the trapdoor leading to where the philosopher’s stone is kept.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Names of people based on or reminiscent of animal names
Names of People Based on or Reminiscent of Animal Names dog with a lot of hair that is kept clean and well-groomed.

  • Ron Weasley, Harry’s good friend, from a poor wizarding family.

  • Weasley reminds us of a weasel, a small and somewhat insignificant mammal that eats rodents and small birds. It is not so beautiful or elegant.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Vincent Crabbe, sixth child in a family of seven children. one of Draco’s cronies, reminds us of the sea creature “crab”, and the Latin word for crab is cancer, as in the astrology sign. Crabby people are also unpleasant.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Gregory Goyle sixth child in a family of seven children. is Draco’s other crony.

  • Goyle reminds us of gargoyle, a sculpted representation of an ugly animal creature put on medieval buildings for protection and to scare away evil spirits. Goyle looks and acts like a gargoyle.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Professor sixth child in a family of seven children.Severus Snape, teacher of Potions, Head of Slytherin House.

  • Snape sounds like snake, and he is head of Slytherin House, whose mascot is the snake. He also quickly snaps at people.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Professor sixth child in a family of seven children.Quirrell, teacher, supports evil Voldemort.

  • His name sounds like squirrel, a meek animal. A person likened to a squirrel is considered small and inconsequential.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Rita Skeeter sixth child in a family of seven children. is the news reporter who gives Harry trouble.

  • Skeeter is a slang word for mosquito, a pesty insect. She can also transform herself into an insect, a beetle.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Names of People from Mythological Sources sixth child in a family of seven children.

  • Remus Lupin , teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts during Harry’s third year, has the unfortunate affliction of turning into a werewolf during the full moon. His condition is hinted at by both parts of his name.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • In Roman mythology we read that the city of Rome was founded by the twin brothers Romulus and Remus; Romulus later killed Remus.

  • When they were babies, they were abandoned by their mother but rescued by a she-wolf, who nursed them.

  • The second part of the name, Lupin, comes from “lupis”, the Latin root for wolf.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Sirius Black by the twin brothers , the prisoner who escaped from Azkaban, can turn himself into a black dog.

  • The brightest star in the constellation known as Canis Major is called Sirius, and the shape of the constellation is said to resemble a dog. In Latin “canis” means ‘dog’, and we see it in the English word canine.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Minerva McGonagall, by the twin brothers head of Griffindor House.Minervawas the Roman goddess of wisdom and the patron of teachers.

  • Sybil Trelawney, divination teacher. In Greek mythology, Sybil was one of ten female prophets, all of whom were called sibyls.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Hermione Granger by the twin brothers , Harry’s good friend, from Hermes, messenger god, very quick, and her intelligence is quick.

  • Luna Lovegood, student who helps Harry in the Order of the Phoenix. Luna was the name of the Roman goddess of the moon. Her nickname is Looney, meaning ‘crazy’.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Sound symbolism
Sound Symbolism by the twin brothers

  • Sound symbolism has to do with how certain sounds and sequences of sounds are perceived by native speakers as carrying elements of meaning. These perceptions are very specific to individual languages.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Words starting with by the twin brothers sn- in English are usually negative, e.g., snafu, snag, snap, snare, snarl, snatch, sneak, sneer, snide, sniff, snigger, snip, snipe, snitch, snivel, snob, snoop, snooty, snort, snot, snub, snuff, perhaps evensnoreand there is often the sense of a quick motion (snap, snatch, sniff, snip, snort) or secret movement (snatch, sneak, snoop).

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • The sound shwa by the twin brothers [ә]tends to imply something negative or unpleasant, e.g., mud, lug, slug, lump, puddle.

  • Other words with this negative connotation of “duh” include dumb, dirt, dull, dump.

  • The “duh” sound is used to indicate a stupid person

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Dudley Dursley by the twin brothers , Harry’s cousin, about the same age as Harry

  • Dudley sounds like dud ‘a firecracker or explosive that does not detonate’. Dudley is in one sense a dud, too, because he is not intelligent, not hard-working, not good-tempered, and not even good-looking.

  • Poor Dudley Dursley is twice-cursed linguistically.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Words beginning with by the twin brothers sl- , like Slytherin House and the word slither, have a certain wet, slippery, and somewhat negative quality: sleazy, sleek, slick, slide, slimy, slink, slip,slippery, sliver, slob, slobber, slop, sloppy, slosh, slot, sludge, slug, sluice, slump, slur, slurry, slurp, slush, slut, sly.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Slytherin house
Slytherin House by the twin brothers

  • The mascot of Slytherin House is the snake, and when snakes move, they slither. Both snakes and the action of slithering can indicate that someone is sneaky, moving from side to side rather than taking a direct and hence honest course. Indeed, many of the members of Slytherin House have these qualities.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Double meanings and word play
Double Meanings and Word Play by the twin brothers

  • Professor Binns is the only professor at Hogwarts who is a ghost. His name is a pun on the word been. He had been alive but now he is not. We might also say his boring teaching method is from the past.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Diagon Alley by the twin brothers is the wizard street in London where witches and wizards shop and where Hogwarts students get their school supplies.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Diagon Alley by the twin brothers obviously means diagonally; the wizard’s world exists at the same time as the world we see, but on another plane or angle or dimension, hence diagonally to our own.

  • An alley is ‘a small street, often narrow’.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Floo Powder by the twin brothers is a rapid means of transportation that witches and wizards use; they enter a chimney, take a handful of Floo Powder, announce where they want to go, and they immediately arrive in the nearest chimney.

  • Floo sounds like flew (fly, flew, flown), and they travel very rapidly, even faster than flying.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • A by the twin brothers flue is part of a chimney, the part through which the smoke from the fire escapes. Witches and wizards travel through chimneys, too, through the flue.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Knockturn Alley by the twin brothers (a seedy place where one could get knocked about, sounds like nocturne, where sinister activities take place under cover of darkness)

  • Grimmauld Place (it’s a grim old place)

  • Kreacher (a house elf, treated like a creature, sub-human)

  • The Knight Bus (comes at night, rescues like a knight)

  • Mrs. Skower’s All Purpose Magical Mess Remover (to scour a sink)

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Boggart by the twin brothers , a creature that takes the shape of that which we fear, is based on a term known to children. In the United States it is called the bogeyman.

  • What meaning do you find in the name Igor Karkaroff?

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • Igor Karkaroff by the twin brothers , the Headmaster of Durmstrang, has a Slavic name. Igor is a common personal name in Russia.

  • In older American films, the name Igor was often given to a sinister character, usually portrayed as large and strong but somewhat stupid, willing to do anything his master commanded, even quite horrendous things.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • The name Karkaroff sounds like by the twin brothers carcass, a dead body, or the sound crows make—Caw-caw!

  • The “–off” (or “-of”, “-ov”) suffix is common in Slavic names.

  • There was an actor with a similar name, Boris Karloff, who was tall and thin and a bit scary-looking, and he played sinister roles. Karkaroff is described as looking and behaving very much like the Karloff roles.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


  • In many dialects of English, including a more Standard British English, the post vocalic [r] is not pronounced too prominently.

  • That would mean that the first [r] would not be pronounced.

  • The second [r] would be pronounced as the first sound of the last syllable.

  • Thus we would get [ka ka rof]

  • Kaka is a children’s word for feces.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


Rowling uses the English language very cleverly, hiding puns in the names.There is much in the Harry Potter books to stretch the minds of EFL/ESL learners of all ages toward the many nuances of English vocabulary.

What’s hidden behind the names in “Harry Potter”? (VDMIS contribution to Intersection: Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings)


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