09 January 2007

Fantastic Word of the Week

From Anu Garg's venerable A.Word.A.Day at Wordsmith.org, the multiple definitions of "malkin":

1. An untidy woman; a slattern.

2. A scarecrow or a grotesque effigy.

3. A mop made of a bundle or rags fastened to a stick.

4. A cat.

5. A hare.
With several fantasy authors using real but somewhat obscure words as the names of their characters (e.g., Frances Hardinge, D. M. Cornish), it should be only a matter of time before a hard-to-believe persona gets the name Malkin. Of course, it's really just a nickname for "Mary," like "Molly," and all the dislikeable definitions above reflect our culture's old misogyny.


Unknown said...

Of course there's Madame Malkin, the owner of the robe shop in Harry Potter. I had no idea that Malkin is a real word; with the definitions above, it's a funny name for a clothier!

J. L. Bell said...

Rowling seems to use uncommon words as the surnames for some of her characters, such as Prof. Dumbledore and Mme. Malkin.

Hardinge and Cornish seem to be using such words for their characters' given or only names instead—an interesting shift.

Though probably not in honor of Cornelius Fudge, Michael Quinion's World Wide Words just explored the origination of the word fudge.