Tuesday, May 19, 2009


[He talked] such a curious, gentle, primeval cadabra that it drew her toward some violent unknown whirlpool and made her hum and shake.
—Barbara Trapido, Temples of Delight (1990)
Cadabra is that flash when your mind is blown, like a hit of a powerful drug—“Sniff, cadabra,” as novelist Rachel Timms puts it. The word has an aura of necromancy to it, with its similarity to cadaver. It has all the impact of the longer word abracadabra, but without any dilly-dallying—it goes straight for the punch.

Scholar William Isaacs explains that cadabra can be broken up into two root words: “Ca translates to ‘as.’ Dabra is the first person of the verb daber, ‘to speak’” (Dialogue: The Art Of Thinking Together, 1999). So cadabra means “as I speak,” equivalent to “upon my command."

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