Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.
Albus Dumbledore (by way of JK Rowling)
In the Harry Potter series, Harry is the only character- other than the glorious Dumbledore- who refers to Lord Voldemort by his name. Everyone else calls him He Who Must Not Be Named. The very mention of his name makes powerful witches and wizards flinch, and look over their shoulders.
Harry uses his proper name, because he was raised outside the wizarding world, and so it hasn’t been ingrained in him not to do so. He is constantly being warned and chastised about using it. When he encounters Professor Dumbledore, the only person unafraid of Voldemort, he is encouraged to use it. Dumbledore understands that using something other than Voldemort’s name increases his power, and reinforces the legend.
Not using his name betrays their deep fear. The vice-like hold he has over them. The power he still wields in their everyday lives.
Today I read an article by a man about his abuser. He was raped when he was seven years old. His rapist was a local teenager- a high school football star. As an adult, he found out the man was living nearby and decided to kill him. For real.
You can read his incredible story here.
In his article, he named his abuser. He said:
I am going to destroy a man and I want you to bear witness. It’s important that I have witnesses. Because I am writing on behalf of a little boy who long ago suffered in secret. He grew up to become a writer who is about to destroy a man with two words and one letter.
First name. Last name. Middle initial.
I read it. I bore witness, as so many of you have borne witness for me. I read it several times, in fact- I even went so far as to track down his contact information so that I could send him a message. That first paragraph played on a loop in my head all day.
Something occurred to me that really shook me. And then, I couldn’t fathom that it had never occurred to me before.
It never once crossed my mind to use my abuser’s name. Not once. Not for a second.
Why is that? I could hardly ruin his life, even if I did use his name. He’s already dead. That side of the family wrote us off after we told, it’s not as though it could harm my relationship with them, it doesn’t exist.
My father will likely never speak to me again- regardless of what moniker I used.
So why the reticence?
I remember being that little girl. I remember being that tiny, little girl. I remember my father’s anger. I remember losing half of my family in one fell swoop. I remember losing my grandmother, who I loved, and on whose birthday I was born.
I remember, as hard as it is to believe, being upset at the idea of my grandfather being angry at me.
As much as I was terrified at the thought of seeing him again, I remember finding the notion of him not liking me anymore really painful.
I remember attending my grandmother’s funeral- all of us clinging to my mother, our protective male cousin outside waiting to take us home, and keep us safe. We talked to no one, no one talked to us. I remember being hurt that no one was happy to see me.
It’s so sick, really, but it’s true.
My cousin’s husband gives everyone nicknames. He’s really good at it. For instance, Mary’s is Sparkle. That is perfection. She is as sparkly as they come.
I wondered, when I met him, what mine would be.
Mine is F’all. It is not because I am a klutz, though that is certainly true. It is not because I love the autumn, although I do. It is a contraction, of sorts. I apologize to my more delicate readers who are offended by cursing. I am decidedly not.
It stands for Fuck all y’all.
I like it. A lot.
The funny thing is, the not caring what people think, the fearlessness that nickname refers to is a fairly recent development. And it isn’t entirely true. I still have fear. I still care more than I should, sometimes. I wonder if that isn’t why I was coy about using titles and nicknames.
On behalf of that tiny little girl, I should have just said these two words, and this one letter.
Francis J. Parrott.