Muggles

Anna Clare McDuff amcduff at math.sunysb.edu
Tue May 13 10:44:23 EDT 2003


On Tue, 13 May 2003, Charles Butler wrote:

> It was no dream...  but I hadn't heard the details of the case, so didn't
> know that this dialect meaning had been part of it. Which makes you wonder
> how it got into the OED only now - because I suppose part of JKR's point was
> that this meaning had been around for years. Can the usage have been revived
> merely by its being cited in a lawsuit? Did the OED editors suddenly realise
> that they should have been including all this time? Or perhaps my source of
> information (the children's book magazine _Books for Keeps_) got it wrong,
> and it's been in the OED since the year dot? Anyone with an old OED will be
> able to tell us that.

	I have a complete yet compact OED that dates I think from 1987. I
think the main dictionary is a two volume copy of the 1971 dictionary with
a 1987 supplementary volume. I just had a look & Muggle is in the main
dictionary, after Muggins, Muggish, and Muggite, in fact it has two
separate listings & is followed by Muggletonian! However, both listings
for Muggle say that its origin & meaning are obscure, and one of the two
entries says it is "an alleged Kentish word for 'tail'"! Scepticism always
was one of the OED's more endearing traits :-). The earliest citation is
1205.  I would type it out but it involves Anglo Saxonish letters that
I've only come across in Icelandic & don't know how to accurately
transcribe. And the supplementary volume gives a modern usage pertaining
to cannabis. So in 1987 we can say that the word was known but
insufficiently defined. Perhaps what the story you read ought to have said
was that the OED has added Rowling inspired, or Rowling court case
inspired, meanings to its rather sketchy entries? Does anyone out there
have the luck to have access to a modern OED?

	Anna

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