A few weeks ago, it was revealed that Americans in the Harry Potter universe call Muggles, i.e. people with no magic, No-Maj. The phrase abbreviates the term “No Magic” and of course people, including myself, freaked out.
NO-MAJ?! IS THAT THE BEST YOU’VE GOT?! GODDAMIT J.K. ROWLING I HATE YOU SO MUCH PLEASE STOP WRITING HARRY POTTER STUFF AAAAAHHHHH!!! EDDIE REDMAYNE IS SO HOT I LOVE HIM SO MUCH I WANT TO HAVE HIS BABIES EVEN THOUGH I PHYSICALLY CAN’T, and so on.
Now that the freak out over the term is over and we’ve all accepted that this is the word American will use in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we can move onto more important things.
What the heck do Canadians called non-magic folk?
According to some sources online, the film takes place in the 1920’s post-war period. At that time, Canada was well on its way to becoming the international maple syrup soaked super power it is today.
With our powers combined after confederation in 1867, both English and French communities had been working together for years to help the nation reach the international stage. We were well-known for our universities and scientific research that includes the discovery of insulin by Frederick Banting, Charles H. Best, James Bertram Collip, and J.J.R. Macleod. We had also shown how dedicated Canada was to participating in world events having sent a fair number of soldiers to fight in the First World War.
The point is that Canada roared during the roaring 20’s, so there’s little doubt that some of England’s wizard community would venture across the ocean to the new world to get their hands on some of that sweet maple magic.
But what would they find?
Well I guess they probably find some fantastic beasts and learn where they can find them, but they also find new ways of expressing their traditional lingo with words like No-Maj.
Outside of England, North American dialects of English started to grow and vary as other cultures began to make their marks on the language. I’m not linguist or sociologist, so I won’t speculate on the actual origins of our accents, but it makes you wonder about how they would affect magic in the Harry Potter universe.
As Albus Dumbledore expressed several times during the books, words are a most powerful form of magic.
So does the Maritime accent as heard in Canada’s eastern provinces prevent witches and wizards from using spells properly?
Could it be that people with “no magic” are simply people who have very thick American or Canadian accents unable to pronounce basic magical incantations? If that’s the case, how does magic work in other markets?
For instance, if you take the magic word “Incendio” for instance and stick it into Google Translate you can see it has quite a variety of pronunciations. With the Japanese pronunciation “Incendio” becomes “Incengio”. Would the spell still work? Would having a strong Boston accent affect the spell? Could the new accent unheard of before the discovery of the new work bear new magical fruit?
The regionality of magic really isn’t discussed in the Harry Potter books. We know that characters like Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum, despite their accents and different native-tongues, are able to use the same magic as everyone else, but their magic use is still based on its Latin roots.
There’s apparently no French way of setting someone on fire, which I always found a little strange given that I doubt Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in France and the Durmstrang Institute in Norway teach their students only in English.
What I also find really interesting is that halfway across the world untouched by the witches and wizards of Europe were North America’s first nations. Their language is in no way based on Latin, how could it be? Does that mean that they don’t have magic at all? Or perhaps it means they simply have a different kind of magic?
Anyway, I don’t really feel too bothered by the word “No-Maj” as I was a few days ago. It begs a lot of question on the very nature of magic as something based on words.
“No-Maj” is an interesting look into how magical terms will work in this new extended universe, but what about the Canadian term? We are by no means simply Americans with fabulous healthcare and a super-handsome Prime Minster. We have our own cultural practices and traditions, but also bad words for other people.
“Non-Magie” based on the French for no magic.
“Empty Tap” based on maple syrup trees that have been tapped, but do not produce.
“People of Magic Deprived Nature” based on how nice we would be to people who don’t have magic.
“No magic, eh?” yeah, Canadians.
“Miver” based on the word Stiver that describes someone who stumbles around.
“Mekes” based on the word “Deke” that describes someone faking a move to get by their opponent in hockey.
This was a lot hard than I thought it would be, but anyway there’s probably a word we’d use to describe someone without magic. It would probably be a lot nicer than “No-Maj” or “Muggle”.