27 April 2009

A world full of muggles

Dictionary.com has three definitions for muggle. One is "a marijuana joint" that hearkens back to the 1920's. The next is a common person, especially one who is ignorant or without skills. Certainly, it was this latter definition that inspired J.K. Rowling to use the word to denote persons without magical powers in Harry Potter, which is the third definition dictionary.com provides.

For this post, I'd like to focus on the second definition, in the context of the third. I have no problem with a dictionary adding the Rowling definition of muggle to the dictionary. Language is a medium of communicating meaning, and in today's world muggle is widely understood to convey the meaning Rowling invented in 1996.

Certainly, today we don't use the word muggle to juxtapose a non-magical person with a magical one, since no magical people exist. If someone even dared to use the word in professional or formal conversation, they'd elicit either a hearty laugh acknowledging the allusion to one of the most popular series every written, or an uneasy laugh sympathizing with an ignoramous.

We say ignoramous because no rational and informed person believes in magical people. Keep that in mind.