Our secret’s out: us American wizards don’t use the word ‘Muggle’


While my mother always bemoaned my unseemly (by her standards) obsession with Harry Potter growing up, my dad absolutely enabled it. I still remember when he first bought me my copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I truly delighted in the hilarious annotations by Harry and Ron, and I read it so much that my copy is currently quite tattered. (It’s lying somewhere in my basement among a bunch of boxes, safe from me, but I must dig it out again.) For anyone who doesn’t know, 1) where the hell have you been?? 2) Fantastic Beasts is a required textbook at Hogwarts, which J.K. Rowling took the time to write and publish for a charity back in 2001. It’s now being made into a film, much to the delight of Potterheads everywhere.

Just tried digging through my basement and library, and my copy is nowhere to be found... but it's about as old and shabby as this copy of Sorcerer's Stone-- the book in Harry is first assigned the text.

Just tried digging through my basement and library, and my copy is nowhere to be found… but it’s about as old and shabby as this copy of Sorcerer’s Stone– the book in which Harry is first assigned the text.

Yesterday, I managed a glimpse of a poster for the upcoming film and noticed that in the corner it read, “Newt Scamander only meant to stay in New York for a few hours…”


What I hadn’t realized, as I’ve been in a bit of a shell and not really keeping up with all of my obsessions the way I used to, is that the story is set in New York City. Apparently, Jo had sent out a cryptic tweet last year (which I saw) and a fan eventually managed to decipher that it was an anagram for this exact tag line (that update I missed.)

Anyone who knows me knows how much of a nut I am for Manhattan. It’s a city that’s been one of the few constants in my life, and it’s the world hub of media and everything a Karachi-born girl could hope for this side of the globe. My mother believes I make excuses to go to the city to see my fiancé, when it’s really quite the other way around. The fact that we’re going to see a Wizarding World story set in 1920s New York has me positively jittering.

But of course, Jo has to do it to us all over again.

In her typical wonderful way of seriously fleshing out the worlds she creates, Ms. Rowling has dropped the knowledge on the world that Americans don’t use the word Muggle, as we have our own slang for non-magical folks, thank you very much. We say No-Maj.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The British and American lexicons are so different in the non-magical world, why wouldn’t it be the same for wizards and witches? Of course, a lot of fans are a bit upset about this revelation. To be honest, I think some of them just want to use “muggle” because it’s the cool, British term. Either way, I’m seriously excited to see what else will be revealed about the Yanks of the Wizarding World! What do you all think?

Extra Thoughts:

  • Fun fact: (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t read the books!) Newt Scamander later has a grandson, Rolf Scamander. A magizoologist in his own right, Rolf goes on to marry our very own Luna Lovegood! (Sorry Luna/Neville shippers!)
  • Doesn’t no-maj sound a bit derogatory? I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s meant to be– muggle-borns and muggles are probably treated a lot worse in the U.S. Perhaps there’s a movement to get rid of its use, like with other slurs.
  • What’s the word for “muggle/no-maj” in other languages?
  • Colin Farrell and Jon Voight have reportedly signed on. What other big actors are we going to get? Would love to see some big U.S. names going forward!
  • Why’s the cast of Fantastic Beasts so white? I mean… it’s in New York.
  • When will Jo Rowling come around on the Palestine BDS issue? (I haven’t forgotten… Still wrapping my head around it/crying about it, so I haven’t written anything.)
  • Can I convince my dad to take me to London to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
  • What are some classy ways to do a Harry Potter-themed wedding? I’m asking for a friend.

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