“Harry Potter” Words That Could Be Coming to a Dictionary Near You!
Have you ever used a word from a Harry Potter novel and someone retorts, “That’s not a real word!” Well, next time you can prove these naysayers wrong and inform them that, in fact, several of these magical words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), including words such as “Muggle” and “quidditch.” The OED is updated every three months and tracks the usage of words in the English language, selecting those that pop up repeatedly across a myriad of works and have a “staying power” as determined by the OED linguists.
Much like there are no stories to tell without someone to listen, no language exists without someone to create it. Many famous authors, including J.R.R. Tolkien, Roald Dahl (who has his own “themed” dictionary in his memory), and even Shakespeare, who has been credited with inventing over 1,700 words and phrases, have helped form the very language we speak today – not to mention the man who created his own dictionary of made-up words that people can use to describe those odd feelings and emotions that everyone feels yet the English language has not named.
Today, in honor of Dictionary Day – the day celebrating the birth of Noah Webster, creator of the American Dictionary of the English Language and the “Father of the American Language”- I’m taking a look at all the Potter-related words that the OED considers “on the radar”!
Yes, “butterbeer”! That deliciously sweet beverage has begun to spread beyond Diagon Alley and in doing so, seeped into our common language. Anyone with a “Harry Potter Food” Pinterest board can tell you that “butterbeer” certainly meets the high usage requirement. As for the staying power, I’ll let the 20 years of butterbeer-flavored and -scented products do the talking.
For those who don’t know, wrock (also known as W-rock and wizard rock) are songs whose lyrics, often comical in nature, are based on the Harry Potter novels. Started in the early 2000s by the band Harry and the Potters, the genre has now expanded to include several hundred bands. Some have even released their own albums and played, in costume, at a variety of fan conventions!
After a bit of digging, I recently discovered that the phrase “You-Know-Who” has already been added to the OED with references back to the 16th century. Meanwhile, “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” is still on the dictionary’s watch list. The popularity of the phrase arises not because fellow Potterheads are constantly talking about Lord Voldemort. Instead, the phrase has allowed others to refer to someone without directly naming them – even if they are not a powerful Dark wizard! In addition, the phrase has been altered to include “She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” and “They-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw
Every fan knows their House and lives by it like a code of honor. Now, the Houses have begun to be used as a kenning of sorts, another way to describe a person’s trait. When I first heard this, I thought the OED was just a little crazy, believing the Houses were too specific to fans but upon further investigation, a.k.a. people-watching, it appears that just like nearly anyone knows that Darth Vader is evil (even if they have not seen the Star Wars movies), a seeming majority of people realize that Gryffindor is bravery, Slytherin is cunning, Hufflepuff is kindness, and Ravenclaw is intelligence – though a real fan will tell you that there is so much more to the Houses. In fact, just the other day, I overheard a conversation in which someone was recounting a harrowing tale of how they slowed down on a busy street so as to avoid hitting a squirrel, to which their friend exclaimed, “Wow, you’re such a Gryffindor!”