American wizards have a completely different word for “Muggle.”
Next year’s Harry Potter prequel film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in 1926 New York, where the wizarding community uses another term entirely for people without magical powers.
In shifting the franchise away from the U.K., author J.K. Rowling — who also wrote the movie’s screenplay — is poised to introduce several new words into the Potterverse lexicon, and the most significant might be what Stateside wizards say instead of Muggle: “No-Maj” (pronounced “no madge,” as in “no magic”).
The blunt-sounding, hyphenated U.S. shorthand is used frequently by American wizards in the film, where English magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) comes to New York and has all sorts of adventures.
As noted many times over the years, one of Rowling’s greatest creative gifts is her ability to concoct marvelous new words and terms — from character names (Dolores Umbridge, Severus Snape …), to spells (Sectumsempra …), to creatures (lethifold …), to places (The Room of Requirement …). But “Muggle” has a special honor: It’s the first completely new magical word (not a character or place) introduced in Rowling’s first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (when Mr. Dursley overhears, “Even Muggles like yourself should be celebrating …”). It’s also almost certainly the one that’s the most widely known. In fact, The Oxford English dictionary added “muggle” in 2003 to mean “A person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill.”
The ultra-mysterious Fantastic Beasts is EW’s cover story this week, where we’re offering a behind-the-scenes (and spoiler-free) look at the film and interviews with producers and cast. Check out the cover here, get your copy here (say it with me: Accio EW!) and see our photo gallery. For ongoing Fantastic Beasts scoop, follow @jameshibberd.