Главная страница «Первого сентября»Главная страница журнала «Английский язык»Содержание №21/2009

Amazing Stories from the Web

continued from No. 20


Pre-Reading: Discussion Questions

1. When you come across an unknown word, do you look it up in a dictionary, or check its meanings online?

2. If you come across a word whose meaning you know, but it does not fit the context, what do you do?

If you enter the word “muggle” into any search line on the web, you will get millions of links to the Harry Potter stories. Muggle, of course, is the name that wizards use for non-magical people. J. K. Rowling said she created the word “muggle” from “mug”, an English term for someone who is easily fooled. She added the “-gle” to make it sound less humiliating and more “cuddly.”

Indeed, J.K. Rowling created the word for her books, she made it popular and easily recognizable. It was entered into dictionaries in this meaning in 2003. But it is used differently, too. Hackers use muggle, for example, to mean those who do not belong to this elite group of real-life computer wizards. Mister Muggles is the name of the family dog in the NBC drama, Heroes, first shown in 2006. Was it ever used before the famous book series?

Muggle-Wumps is a family of monkeys in “The Twits”, a novel by Roald Dahl first published in 1980. Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, among many other books for children, was one of the most read writers in the decades before J.K. Rowling burst on the literary scene.

Muggles are a race in RAH (later retitled The Legend of Rah and the Muggles), a 1984 book by Nancy Stouffer. She claimed that she invented the word “muggle”, and sued Rowling and her publishers. In 2002, the case was dismissed. It was proven that Nancy Stouffer did not invent the word. Muggle is used once in Zap Comics (published 1971). Muggles is a character from Carol Kendall’s first Minnipins novel The Gammage Cup (1959). The heroine is a normal woman who learns to think outside the box, and eventually saves her home, the Valley Between the Mountains, from the Mushroom People. The book’s chapters are headed with a series of “Muggles’ Maxims”, or wise phrases. In this case, Muggles is a person’s name.

Muggles is used in a 1946 book Raggedy Ann in the Snow White Castle. Raggedy Ann is a fictional character created by writer Johnny Gruelle (1880–1938) in a series of books he wrote and illustrated for young children. Raggedy Ann is a rag doll with red yarn for hair. The character was created in 1915 as a doll, and was introduced to the public in the 1918 book Raggedy Ann Stories. A doll was also marketed along with the book to great success. A sequel, Raggedy Andy Stories (1920) introduced the character of her brother, Raggedy Andy, dressed in sailor suit and hat. It appears that many books were released and credited to Johnny Gruelle after his death, regardless of who actually wrote and illustrated them.

Muggles was a slang term for marijuana in the 1920s and 1930s, associated with the jazz scene. It is a tune recorded by Louis Armstrong and his orchestra in 1928.

Muggle is the name of the antagonist in Lewis Carroll’s 1854 short story “Wilhelm von Schmitz.”

We can safely say now that the word muggle existed in the English language for quite a long time. If we keep digging, that is, clicking, we shall come to a totally different endless chain of links pointing, surprisingly, to one William Shakespeare.

For a short period of time, Shakespeare lived in the house of the Mountjoys, a French immigrant family, in Cripplegate, East London. Their house was situated at the corner of Muggle Street and Silver Street. If we try to find Muggle Street, we come across a mystery: it is always listed as “Muggle, or Monkwell Street”. There used to be a church nearby, with a well in its yard. Thus the street got its name, Monk’s Well, which later became Monkwell. Since there was no universal standard of English spelling and pronunciation at the time, there were many different versions of the street name: Mugwelle, Monkwelle, Mugwell, Mukewell. Gradually they transformed into Muggle, which is connected to the meaning mug, a silly person. Which, in turn, showed the popular attitude towards monks.

Both Muggle, or Monkwell Street, and Silver Street disappeared in the Great Fire of London in September 1666. The area was rebuilt, to be destroyed again in the London Blitz, the German air raid on the night of December 29, 1940. Today, one can still find a low brick wall with the small faded inscription on a block of whitish stone. It reads: “THIS WAS THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST OLAVE. SILVER STREET DESTROYED BY THE DREADFVLL FIRE IN THE YEAR 1666.” St. Olave church stood right across the road from the house on the corner of Muggle Street and Silver Street, where Shakespeare used to live.

The word Muggle survived through the ages, probably thanks to its connection with Shakespeare. Various writers used it as a name. J.K. Rowling gave it the meaning which is universally recognized today.

humiliating (adj.) causing to feel shame, unpleasant

cuddly (adj.) lovable

to think outside the box (expr.) to think in a non-traditional way

antagonist (n.) opponent; in a book or story, often the main character’s enemy

one (used before a name, especially of someone unknown to the speaker, or humorously, about a person known to everybody) certain, someone

well (n.) колодец

If you are interested in this story, you may use any search engine, like , , and/or any web encyclopedia, like , to learn more about J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter, muggles, magic. You may also wish to study the streets of London. Alternately, you can start with the name William Shakespeare, and just click on.

to be continued

By Nina Koptyug ,