Vocabulary for Muggles

As a knitter, I am aware that many of the words that come out of my mouth have absolutely no meaning to the general public. Talking to me can be very confusing for non-knitters. So could reading my blog. In fact, when I came across this video a while back, it was like looking a mirror…

I’m going to try to remedy this by offering vocabulary lessons! I have been compiling a list of words and phrases that I have had to explain to people before. If you see anything in my blog posts you don’t understand and would like explained, let me know and I will add it to the list!

Today’s vocabulary word is muggle.

Origins

Many of you are probably familiar with the word “muggle” from the Harry Potter series in which it refers to people lacking magical abilities. However, J.K. Rowling did not make up the word. According to Wikipedia it dates as far back as the 1920s as slang for pot smokers.

It is now used in many contexts with a similar meaning as in the Harry Potter universe – a term to describe a person outside of a particular group, such as a non-geocacher or a non-hacker.

As I was listening to some old episodes of Cast On I believe I stumbled upon the origin of the word “muggle” in the knitting culture! In Episode 17: The Muggle Show, guest hosted by Franklin Habit, it is explained that the word came from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Why am I not surprised? This is the same woman who came up with the word kinnearing and invented the Knitting Olympics (which later led to the Ravellenic Games).

Meaning

Within the knitting world the word “muggle” broadly refers to non-knitters. That’s the simple definition. Where it gets a bit hairy is when you try to decide what exactly constitutes a “non-knitter.”

Usually the term “muggle” is used in the most obvious cases – to refer to people who not only don’t know how to knit, but think that knitting is a very strange thing to do, or assume it is extinct and are amazed, shocked, or puzzled to discover a knitter. These people are usually the targets of a favorite group activity of knitters called “muggle-freaking” in which we gather together to gratuitously flaunt our fiber enthusiasm in front of unsuspecting crowds of muggles. That was the purpose behind the giant flash-mob at the last Sock Summit in which thousands of knitters danced with yarn (I’m in that crowd somewhere).

We even have a whole day (or week?) dedicated to muggle-freaking – World Wide Knit in Public Day.

Then there are the less obvious cases. What about people who don’t know how to knit, but are around knitters enough that they don’t bat an eyelash at words such as “WIP” or “Ravatar” or “circs”? My mother, sister, and now even my boyfriend fall into this category. They know the lingo, understand that knitting is actually a thing, they just don’t participate in the activity themselves. Are they muggles? Maybe…

What about all those knitters out there who don’t know the lingo? The ones who have never been on Ravelry and maybe haven’t even heard of it? They exist. I’ve met them. They have the skills, but they haven’t been steeped in the knitting culture. Are they muggles? When talking to these crafters they are frequently just as confused by the words coming out of my mouth, and even just as weirded out by my enthusiasm for my craft as the more traditional muggles are. They certainly feel like muggles.

Perhaps we need an intermediary term for those who don’t quite fit the muggle profile. I suppose we could call them filthy mudbloods, but somehow I don’t think they would find it amusing.

I’d like to see you call her that.
pic from Harry Potter Wiki

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17 thoughts on “Vocabulary for Muggles

  1. I think my MIL might fall into the “mudblood” category – there are crochet pot-holders around the house as evidence, but I’ve never seen her touch a hook and she seems quite clueless (though admiring) of my work.

  2. wonderful – a non-muggle knitter sent me to your site – you see Pauline that liked you? She is WAY NOT a muggle. She’s an incredible lace knitter, a smart and snappy Dubliner who takes her readers on day hikes throughout her city and shares tips for creating her masterwork. Loved your post. Very funny and not a bit offensive to us knitting-impaired.

        • Oh, you could come as a complete beginner! There were beginner’s classes available and even without taking classes as long as you have an appreciation for yarn and it’s associated products, just browsing the giant marketplace was really fun – even for my non-knitter mother and sister. It could be a tad bit overwhelming though since the Sock Summit is HUGE.

  3. I guess that makes me a full-on Muggle-y Muggle. Well, I DID know people knit–I go to craft fairs and people knit in my high school. But the lingo is lost on me and I do not knit myself, so a Muggle I am.

    I didn’t know it was a thing outside of Harry Potter. See this is what genre fiction is all about: stealing things from everywhere and making them so much your own that few people realized they existed before you. But i like it for the knitting world especially–it sounds like a knitterly word. Muggle.

    • You do lack the classic trait of being completely dumbfounded by knitting though, so I’d still say you’re a bit fuzzy. Your appreciation for crafts in general makes you very knit-worthy though! (Which reminds me, I still need to knit up some swatches to send to you to explore your fiber allergy…)

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