Friday, January 30, 2009


"The positive word of magic says 'do'; the negative word of magic says 'don't.'"
—George Henderson, Survivals in Belief Among the Celts, 1911


Meanwhile, Shoeb Hakim discusses the power of the magic word ask.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Magic Words in review

Don't miss Bonnie Cehovet's review of Magic Words: A Dictionary, over at Aeclectic Tarot.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Is the color green a magic word in its own right? It is for blogger Pia Taylor, who recalls: "I saw that magic word that somehow never fails to get my attention—'green.'" Indeed, green shifts the gray areas in life into the limelight. Green recalls the "Green Man" vegetative deity found in cultures all over the world, symbolizing the cycle of rebirth.
"Green things, green things, green things, green things. Magic, magic, magic, magic, word magic, word magic, word magic, word magic." —Geraldine Dimondstein, Exploring the Arts with Children, 1974


Laurent François, a "digital influence strategist," doesn't like the word "buzz" because it's a magic word that camouflages a wide scope of meanings.

"Buzz" is indeed a magic word. Here's our favorite buzzy incantation from the dictionary of magic words:
Abra-cadabra, buzz, buzz bil-i-ous, Buzz, buzz, bob bob-a-loo.
—Ralph Allen, The Best Burlesque Sketches (1995)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Magic Power of a Wish

When an East Greenland Eskimo chants a magic prayer, "At the back of the holy or strange word he feels in his heart the magic power of the wish, and believes in its realisation" (William Thalbitzer, The Ammassalik Eskimo, 1923).


Meanwhile, over at the Covert Hypnosis blog:
Covert Hypnosis or Simple Persuasion? The Magic Word “Because”

Monday, January 26, 2009

Glowing Days

A whisper of spring on a wintry day:
Of glowing days some magic word
Is warbled when the grosbeaks sing;
And in the moaning pines is heard
The whisper of returning spring.
—Roscoe Brumbaugh, "Winter," Field and Stream, 1904

Meanwhile, Myfanwy explores the magic word pesenesach over at the Walking on Fire blog.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


A mysterious word is written on the side of an abandoned temple: OURANOS, meaning "heaven" in Greek. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio recalls: "I would sit there for a long time, half hidden by the tall weeds, looking through the leaves of the bay laurels at the strange word without understanding. It was a word that took you a long way back, to another time, to another world, like the name of some imaginary land. ... This was the time when it was most beautiful: the blue, cloudless sly and the white stone of the temple so intense, so dazzling, I would have to shut my eyes. Then I'd look at the magical name, and with only that name, I'd be able to take off, like going to another land, like entering a world that didn't really exist yet. There would be nothing but the blank sky and the white stone, the tall white marble columns, and the chirping sound of summer insects, as though they made up the very sound of the light. I would sit for hours at a time on the threshold of that world, without really wanting to enter it, simply looking at those letters that said the magic word and feeling the power of the light and smells. Even today, I can still recall it, the pungent smell of laurel, of bark, of broken branches baking in the heat of the sun, the smell of the red soil. It's more powerful than reality, and the light that I gathered at that moment in the garden still shines within me more clearly and more intensely than the light of day" (The Round & Other Cold Hard Facts, 2002).

Friday, January 23, 2009


Hundred is a strange, magical word, suggests Bunny Crumpacker in Perfect Figures (2007). "The Greeks believed hundred to be a marvelous number, the number of perfected perfection, perfect Good." Crumpacker notes that hundred's power "is evidenced in the use of the article a that so often precedes it when we speak—even when we write. We don't say a ten, a twenty, or a nine—not even a fifty ... But we do say a hundred. ... Hundred is the first of those large and articled numbers, the article bestowed, no doubt, because they are so large." What's more magical than a hundred? How about a hundred and one? "Adding just one to a hundred seems like an extravagantly enormous quantity," Crumpacker says. "A hundred and one of anything is a vast cloud of numbers. That single unit on top of a pile of a hundred seems magical, a number almost beyond our power to count. It's the single straw that brought the poor camel to its knees, the one too many on top of everything else. A hundred and one years is a sentence of doom, an exile for eternity, as if a hundred years might not be enough. A lease of a hundred and one years is virtually forever; a hundred and one dalmatians is a whole lot of black-and-white puppies."

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Zengawii is a nonsense word meant to capture the mystique of tribal rituals. It appears in several novels for young adults by Henry Winkler.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009



"The word seance, French for 'session,' now almost exclusively denotes a gathering held to commune with spirits." —Barbara Weisberg, Talking to the Dead, 2005

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Marmaraoth is "a popular magic word probably deriving from Syriac for 'Lord of Lords.' [It is] found in medieval European Latin prayers in a bowdlerized form" —Hildegard Temporini, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, 1972

Monday, January 19, 2009

Little Magic Carpets

Fr. James Behrens calls words "little magic carpets" that evoke journeys in the minds and hearts of readers. "I think of all the words I hear in any given day—and how all of them are invitations to pay attention, to listen, to respond, to find some sort of a resonant response to what is said. And all along, images flow through my mind as to what is being said." Fr. Beherns wonders "How is it that words bring us closer to who we are and where we are going and what we need for this life? And how is it that more than anything else we seem to need each other, as friends and lovers, confidantes and brothers, wives and husbands—to talk through a world and bring the mystery ever closer with words of kindness?"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tarot of Portmeirion

Don't miss the lovely review of our Tarot of Portmeirion deck over at The Tarot Channel. Thank you, Janet Boyer, author of The Back in Time Tarot Book.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


"'Creation,' like 'creative,' is one of those hypnotic words which are prone to cast a spell upon the understanding and dissolve our thinking into a haze. And out of this nebulous state of the intellect springs a strange but widely prevalent idea. The shaping spirit of imagination sits aloof, like God as he is commonly conceived, creating in some thaumaturgic fashion out of nothing its visionary world. That and that only is deemed to be 'originality'—that, and not the imperial moulding of old matter into imperishably new forms. The ways of creation are wrapt in mystery; we may only marvel, and bow the head."
—John Livingston Lowes, The Road to Xanadu, 1927

Friday, January 16, 2009


The word sahara is of Arabic origin. It means “desert.” The vast expanse of an open desert offers a clean slate—an infinitude of creative possibilities, a canvas upon which to paint mirages. Unbounded by names, forms, and even emptiness itself, the world can be anything one wishes. “Sahara is a magic word—‘a sea of sand.’ The desert has always fascinated explorers, geographers, environmentalists, and novelists, who turned to it for inspiration and adventure” (Andrew Borowiec, Taming the Sahara, 2003).

Thursday, January 15, 2009


The magic word sarmoti is actually an acronym coined by magicians Siegfried and Roy. It stands for "Siegfried and Roy: Masters of the Impossible." The acronym echoes a Persian word, sarmadi, which means "eternal, perpetual, divine, eternity" (Francis Joseph Steingass, A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, 1992).

(Thanks, Fred, for suggesting today's magic word.)


In other news, here's a review of our dictionary of magic words:

Words are inherently magical for the writer—also frustrating, obtuse, enchanting and expressive in various moments and times. We struggle with them, delight in them, and weave them together to form significant combinations. Dictionaries are our friends, lists of synonyms our best buddies, and there are many of us who take simple delight in the well-turned phrase. Craig Conley has given us a gift beyond regard: a dictionary of 720 of the words used by (stage) magicians throughout the ages. Who can forget the shiver of delight we felt when hearing "open sesame" in the tale of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves? Or the eternal Abracadabra! and Hocus Pocus? Now we know where they originated, with their meanings, in combinations, and source material. But this is no common dictionary! Conley clearly loves words. "Hocus Pocus: These primal, rhyming syllables echo the transcendental incantations of Latin rites, reverberating through hallowed cloisters. They invoke an ancient, unworldly power, especially when enunciated slowly and authoritatively" (p. 327). Highly recommended for anyone with a taste for words.
—Lisa Mc Sherry, Facing North

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Word-in-Itself

"In the long history of mental development the Word-in-Itself has played manifold parts. The Word has summoned spirits from the shadows or held demons in awe. The Word has been a sacred symbol graven upon the walls of the temple or worn in gold upon the forehead of the initiate. The secret word of Magic has opened treasuries, destroyed kingdoms, made a man of god. The long tale of incantation by means of the Word is not ours to tell; except in so far as the poet and the maker of stories learns too the ancient trick of incantation whereby he liberates imprisoned spirits and through a delicate hocus-pocus opens up charmed realms of fantasy."
—June Etta Downey, Creative Imagination: Studies in the Psychology of Literature, 1999


In other news, don't miss our guest blog about magic words at Neatorama.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

As fans of both ellipses and magic words, we were tickled to find this colorful quotation:

"Saying the magic words 'There's no place like home' may get you out of Oz, but saying 'Oh, it's just ellipsis!' doesn't spirit you away out of the syntactic Narnia that is English grammar."
—Geoffrey K. Pullum, Language Log, Dec. 14, 2007


In other news, here's a review of our Magic Words: A Dictionary:

This 352 page dictionary of magic words was a real hoot to review, I had a blast just thumbing through the pages and learning about myths, origins, trivia and other cool stuff. I even learned how to summon zombies and bring big changes into my life. I also found the illustrations and icons to be very helpful with the process.

I must tell you I knew of some magic words from books and movies, but I never imagined there were so many and even how they came to be in the first place. I think this voluminous teacher will go a long way in helping anyone broaden their horizons. I would recommend it to those who enjoy learning. Thanks Craig, for the interesting and informative experience.

—Riki Frahmann, Mystic Living Today

Monday, January 12, 2009


Vatuvi is the name of a magical axe, used in the agricultural rites of the Trobriand Islands. The word "denotes 'setting up,' 'establishment,' 'firmness,' 'strong grip,' perhaps also a tendency groundwards" (Bronislaw Press, Coral Gardens and Their Magic - A Study of the Methods of Tilling the Soil and of Agricultural Rites in the Trobriand Islands, Vol. II: The Language of Magic and Gardening, 2007).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Review

A review of our Magic Words: A Dictionary

by Anthony Marais, author of The Cure

Magic Words is more than a dictionary - it is an impassioned call to writers, magicians and laypeople to bring magic back into their vocabulary. It is, in fact, an incantation calling forth the demons hidden within our speech, and no reader will finish this book without succumbing to its spell.

Let there be no doubt about it: Conley is on a mission to promote literacy, and his love of words possesses the cabbalistic reverence of an alchemist in pursuit of gold. For it is in the meaning of each word, of each letter of each word, that we discover the mysterious powers of language - or, as the author puts it, it is the inherent enchantment of the word that gives literature its magical influence. And this book will influence you in a most magical way.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Beguiled by a Magic Word

It's "very irritating to find you've run out of steam half way through a long thought because you've been beguiled by some magic word in the middle of it."
—Michael Pennington, "Barnardine's Straw: The Devil in Shakespeare's Detail," 2004 Lectures

Thursday, January 8, 2009


"The magic word 'Hello,' besides helping us to begin our conversation to anyone, has also a valuable meaning of greeting others, thus paving a way to settle conflicts, if any."
—R.B., "Safety, How Far?" Chennaionline

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


"Life is a magic word; it is something everyone hungers for. Audiences everywhere resonated with the cry 'To life!' in Fiddler on the Roof."
—Gerald O'Collins, Following the Way, 2001

Life has also been likened to a magic:
  • mirror
  • age
  • vase
  • web
  • lantern
  • potion
  • mountain
  • garden
  • act
  • ring
  • trick
  • show
  • reality
  • wonderland
  • flight
  • hat
  • circle
  • thing
  • balance
  • void
  • gift
  • torch
  • shadow-box

Monday, January 5, 2009

Zolda Pranken Kopeck Lum

These are the magic words the character Uncle Arthur teaches Darrin Stephens in the television series Bewitched, when Darrin is convinced he’s been turned into a Warlock.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tarot to Cards

Changing one letter at a time, the word tarot takes us to cards:

TAROS (edible tropical plants)
SAROS (a period between solar and lunar eclipses)
SARDS (varieties of chalcedony)

Friday, January 2, 2009


Etymologist Adrian Room notes that "It was Christopher Marlowe who wrote the magic words, 'Melodious birds sing madrigals,' and the word itself is so evocative that it conjures up a whole host of agreeable but unfortunately wrong associations, among them 'magical,' 'magnify,' 'melodical,' 'Magnificat,' 'musical,' 'canticle,' or some sort of heady blend of these. And the charm of the word is just as potent today as the songs themselves were in historic times." Room traces madrigal to the Medieval Latin matricale ("primitive") and Late Latin matricalis ("of the womb"), "perhaps referring to a 'maternal' poem or song, one that was sung in the mother tongue" (A Dictionary of True Etymologies, 1988).