July 15th, 2006

harry potter: don't speak his name

Units of Measurement in the Potterverse

Remember the spam mail mystery I mentioned earlier this week? Well, I think I found the source of it. I changed most of my accounts to my alternate account last week, thus taking the spam along with it. Hrm. Oh well. I'm not complaining.

Anyway, I've been rereading the Harry Potter books. Don't give me that look. I haven't read them since last summer. I finally finished Philosopher's Stone (yes, I live in the US and I call it Philosopher's Stone since I'm a purist). This one took the longest, even tnough it was the shortest. I think it was a combination of my own laziness and my own looking for clues that I missed the first 243243 times through. (Does anyone ever notice that when I choose a number at random, it always has just 2, 3, and 4 in it? Always. It's weird, I guess, but it's also convenient since it's where my fingers are.) Of course, there are the "I knew it all along" hints and the little details, like the fact that the Forbidden Forest is full of oak trees, and Hagrid's wand just happens to be made of oak (16 inches, oak, rather bendy).

Hey, wait a minute. Britain uses metric (okay, it's semi-metric), yet the wands are measured in inches. I wonder if this shows something about the Wizarding world and their relationship with the Muggle world. I know the Wizarding world seems like they're so ahead of the times, but in reality, they're a bit behind. Think about it. I know the dating of the novels leans toward the early 1990s, but--and I doubt this would affect the series, but I like to think about things like this--when Muggle Britain does convert to SI, would Wizarding Britain convert as well, even though the Wizarding world is governed differently? After all, wizards don't need things like electricity, thus eliminating the need for things like telephones, light bulbs, and other things that have made Muggles the world over famous. There's the Hogwarts Express, and there are automobiles, but they clearly don't work in the same way that Muggle vehicles work. When did these things appear in the lives of wizards?

This "measurement in inches" also shows that even though the Wizarding world uses a different currency, they still measure things in the same way that Muggles do. Could this be because, despite their attempts to hide themselves from Muggles, they still had to blend in? If you paid attention during History of Magic, you might recall that witches and wizards were persecuted during and after the time that Hogwarts was founded (Remember the witch trials that Harry had to write about in Prisoner of Azkaban?). This was an ideal time to pick up Muggle habits and practices, which would be passed down from generation to generation.

Or perhaps Muggle-born witches and wizards introduced these measuring systems to the Wizarding world. This also seems likely, as Muggle-borns seem to leave the Muggle world after entering Hogwarts. With a foundation in Muggle and Wizarding practices, they could easily pass these ideas from generation to generation and, with help from Muggle-borns of future generations, make these measurements what they are today.
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Well, I didn't expect that for an entry. It was interesting to write, though. Next time I write something like this, I'll write something coherent, I swear.
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