Weekly Archive
April 7, 2002 - April 13, 2002

RE: WW name trends

Eileen asked:

What has happened to the WW that they so quickly switched over to a complete slate of almost ordinary names?

Perhaps it happened because the WW had two wars, and in both cases the anti-muggle faction lost?

Okay, so we don't actually know anything about Grindelwald and the Wizarding World's WWII analogue. Given that Dumbledore is known to have opposed Grindelwald, however, and given that he's also a notorious muggle-lover, it seems quite possible to me that Grindelwald's followers, like Voldemort's, associated themselves with a strongly anti-muggle platform. If so, then it would not seem at all unlikely for the naming traditions of the Wizarding World to have undergone two sea changes, one in the post-war period of the 1950s, and another one during the days of Voldemort's rise.

Amy wrote:

Is there a sociopolitical reason behind the trend toward Harrys, Ronalds and Seamuses? An unconscious desire to blend in, perhaps even a pro-Muggle statement in protest against the pureblood movement afoot in their birth year of 1980?

I've always assumed that this does indeed reflect sociopolitical changes within the wizarding world.

Wizards born before the 1940s tend to have classical names, either Latinate or mythological. We have Albus, Rubeus, Minerva, and Sibyll. Even "Poppy" Pomphrey might well be a Poppeia.

The post-war, pre-Voldemort generation seems to be divided along lines of heritage, or perhaps even lines of political affiliation. Proud Old Families seem to prefer to stick with their old-fashioned naming traditions. So the Crouches are Bartemii, and Fudge is a Cornelius. The Malfoys are Lucius and Narcissa. Bagman, whose manner of speaking of good old Augustus Rookwood in his Penseive appearance would seem to indicate that his family was very much tied into the old boy network of the Wizarding World, is named Ludo.

The Weasleys, the Longbottoms and the Potters, on the other hand, seem to have struck out into Muggle territory when it came time to name their children. We have Molly and Arthur, and good old Uncle Algie, and Frank and James.

Given that these families are all three strongly associated with either a firm pro-muggle stance or a strong emnity to Voldemort and his followers, I find myself wondering whether their political affiliations might not have been to some extent a matter of family tradition.

I can also see this as a kind of analogue to the "popularization" of British muggle culture in the post-war period. It is possible that the old-fashioned naming traditions began to fall out of vogue in this era, as the WW became less traditional overall, a trend which might well have contributed to the class resentment which led so many members of the older families to join with Voldemort.

I do know that Sirius, Severus, and Remus' first names have always strongly suggested to my mind that their families were probably both pure-blooded and rather socially conservative, if not necessarily anti-muggle. Peter, on the other hand, interests me. Possibly his family really were political liberals. But I rather get the impression that they may have been simply a trifle...common.

By the time of Voldemort's rise, however, classical or Latinate names would seem to have become the province of only the very oldest and snootiest families. My suspicion here is that this was a matter of prudence. Voldemort and his Death Eaters were viewed as criminals. They were more a terrorist organization than a political movement, and their members wished to keep their affiliation secret. Only the haughtiest of aristocratic families, such as the Malfoys, could therefore get away with naming a child something like "Draco" without it raising instant suspicion. Most of Harry's contemporaries, even the DEs' children, have either muggle names or names of the straddling-the-political-fence, still-not-quite-muggle-but-nonetheless-socially-acceptable floral variety.

I find it interesting also to note that the classical names that we find in Harry's generation—Terence, Marcus—almost always seem to belong to members of House Slytherin.


Posted April 11, 2002 at 6:52 pm
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RE: A Few Short Percy Apologetics

Hullo. Weighing in a little late here, I'm afraid, but I just had to deliver a couple of Percy apologetics. Because, you know, guys, Percy is just so not evil!


On Percy and the Rules:

Penny wrote:

Has Percy learned his lesson about blind adherence to rules?


You know, I've never quite been sure where this notion that Percy is such a blind follower of rules comes from in the first place. He really doesn't seem to me to be that type at all.

In Chapter Seven of PS ("The Sorting Hat"), when Dumbledore announces that the third floor corridor is out of bounds "to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death," Percy has the following exchange with Harry:

Harry laughed, but he was one of the few who did.

'He's not serious?' he muttered to Percy.

'Must be,' said Percy, frowning at Dumbledore. 'It's odd, because he usually gives us a reason why we're not allowed to go somewhere - the forest's full of dangerous beasts, everyone knows that. I do think he might have told us Prefects, at least.'

That doesn't strike me as at all the reaction of a believer in blind obedience to the rules. Far to the contrary, it is the behavior of an independent thinker who fully expects for there to be some explanation given for a new rule. When no explanation is forthcoming, Percy is disturbed and troubled.

Nor does Percy expect his subordinates to accept regulations blindly. His explanation to first-year Harry of the reason that the Forbidden Forest is off-limits shows that when Percy does understand the reasons for the rules, he is not only willing to share them with the younger students, but even goes out of his way to volunteer such information. He's not a blind follower, and he's not a martinet, either.


On Percy and 'Prefects Who Gained Power:'

People keep bringing up that scene in CoS in which Harry and Ron catch Percy in the junk shop, poring over the copy of 'Prefects Who Gained Power.' When Ron teases him about it, Percy snaps: "Go away." Many people seem to have read this as evidence that Percy is actually madly ambitious, so ambitious that he is both secretive and defensive about it.

Er...was I the only person who assumed that Percy was actually hanging around in that junk shop because he had previously arranged to meet Penelope Clearwater there? From what Ron and the Twins say about his behavior over the summer, I think that we can safely assume that he'd been corresponding with her. When he takes his leave from the rest of the Weasleys outside of Gringotts, he does so by "muttering vaguely about needing a new quill." Ron and Harry run into him very shortly thereafter. If he needs a new quill, then what is he doing in a junk shop, a shop which the text emphasizes quite strongly sells nothing but old and fairly useless items?

I thought it fairly clear on rereading that what was really happening there was that Percy had previously arranged to meet Penny in this obscure little shop, a place that he had thought would be safe from his younger siblings, and that he was waiting for her to arrive when Ron and Harry stumbled across him. He was quite understandably annoyed, and desperate to get rid of them, and that was why he snapped so rudely at Ron.

Of course, I'm sure that he found the book perfectly interesting. But this notion that his defensiveness in that scene is due to some unwholesome degree of ambition is pure misdirection, IMO. After all, at that point in the novel, JKR is setting Percy up as a red herring in a big, big way.


On Percy and Favoritism:

Whirdy wrote:

Equally fascinating and perhaps a point of discussion I may have missed is the fact that Percy assessed points against Gryffindor when Ron was disrespectful to Percy "Prefect." Later, Ron as Crabbe confronts Percy and Draco Malfoy is told that he should "show a bit more respect to a school prefect," Percy does not cry out "five points against Slytherin" for their disrespect.

Percy would seem to be quite concerned about the appearance of favoritism, and at times goes overboard in his efforts to avoid it.

There's another example of this tendency in the first book, right after both Harry and Ron are sorted into Gryffindor. Percy greets Harry in a perfectly friendly and normal manner, by standing up and shaking his hand. His greeting to Ron, on the other hand, ("Well done, Ron, excellent"), is stilted, awkward, and undeniably pompous. (In fact, it warrants Percy's very first "pompously" in the entire series, quite a precedent!) I tend to view this as a sign of his discomfort: he doesn't want to appear to be showing any favoritism to his brother, and so he tries for formality — and just plain fails to pull it off.

It is an interesting trait in light of his later identification with Crouch, though, isn't it? All the same, I don't know if I'm prepared to believe that five points from Gryffindor falls into quite the same category as conviction to life in prison on the basis of scanty evidence.

And besides, in the end poor old Crouch did value his family relations over the rules, didn't he. Much to his detriment.


On Percy and his family:

There's, uh, material here for an essay, to be sure, but just a few minor points for now.

Percy's conflict between his extra-familial relationships and his familial ones is a running motif throughout all four books. In the first book, his extra-familial relationships are represented by his Prefect friends, in the second by Penelope Clearwater, in the third by both Penelope and his affiliation with the staff of Hogwarts, and in the fourth by Crouch and the Ministry.

Given that Percy is a teenager, I always find myself wondering why people find this so very striking. Isn't it normal for teenagers to begin to value their extra-familial relationships quite highly, while they start to feel slightly annoyed and restricted by their familial ties? This tendency of Percy's is certainly an ongoing source of tension within the Weasley family dynamic, but is it really so odd as to warrant such great suspicion?

Debbie wrote:

In PS/SS, after putting on his robes and prefect badge the minute he crossed the barrier at Platform 9 3/4, Percy rushes off to the prefects' compartments, leaving his family on the platform.

Yup, agreed. He just can't wait to get his farewells over with so that he can get away from his Mum and his little siblings and go be with people his own age instead.

To my mind, this shows that Percy is guilty of the terrible sin of being a perfectly normal fifteen-year-old boy.

That he chose to associate with the prefects all term is evident from the fact that George has to demand that he spend Christmas day with the family.

The Twins do bully him into wearing his Weasley sweater, true, and they insist that he eat Christmas dinner with them. But although Percy makes his feeble protests, he not only does eat dinner with them (when, in truth, there was actually no way that the Twins could have forced him to do so), but he also spends the entire rest of the day with them. He has a snowball fight with them, and then he goes back to the Gryffindor common room with them and watches Harry and Ron play chess.

This is a fifteen-year-old, mind. Spending the entire day horsing around with two thirteen-year-olds and two eleven-year-olds, instead of spending the time with people his own age. It's only a couple of years' age difference, but those are important years.

And besides, if he hadn't wanted the Twins to manhandle him into his Weasley sweater and then march him down to dinner with them, then he wouldn't have poked his head into the first-year common room in the first place, would he? I mean, complaining that they're making too much noise? On Christmas morning? When there are hardly any students around in the first place? Puu-leeze. Even for Percy, that would really be a bit much. Me, I think that he wanted to hang out with them all along.

I think that Percy likes his family just fine. the first book, anyway. By the end of GoF, I still think that he loves them, but I also think that he's 'way overdue for moving out of the Burrow and into a place of his own.

—Elkins, always happy to fly the PINE banner

Posted April 12, 2002 at 5:59 am
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