Just a little fun post on magical words. In times past, words from distant lands were often included in magical formulae to lend them an air of the exotic and power, both of which were often assumed to go hand-in-hand. This may have been because only a few would have understood their meaning, allowing magical practices to become enshrouded in secret and mystery.
The origins of most of the following words are disputed; this post is not an etymological one! It is only a bit of fun!
Abracadabra Perhaps most often recognised as a word used in stage magic, “abracadabra” has its roots in real magic. It’s origin is disputed. Some argue that it comes from the Aramaic meaning “as I speak, so I have created”. Other say that its origins lie in Ancient Greece. Its first recorded use dates back to the second century AD and to Rome, where it was thought that it could aid one suffering from malaria.
Open Sesame Is the magical phrase that opens a secret door to a cave of hidden treasures in the story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It’s origin as a magical phrase is disputed, although there is one theory that suggests it may have its roots in Babylonian magic.
[Hey] Presto Means to appear as if by magic or instantly. Another phrase often used by stage magicians. “Presto” comes from the Latin for ‘at hand, ready’.
Hocus Pocus denotes ways by which change is brought about through magical means. Historically it was supposedly thought of as a magical word whose power increased with repetition. Its origins remain elusive; one theory states it might be a corruption of a phrase used in the Roman Catholic Holy Communion. Another says its roots lie in Norse mythology, whilst others reckon it might just be made up. Today, “hocus pocus” is often seen as a term that describes tricks and slights of hand. It is also used in a light-hearted way to refer to the craft of the witches.
Of course, I have missed out the most important of magic words, one that really can make stuff appear…who knew ‘please’ could get you so much?!