Friday, July 30, 2010


In Easy to Remember (2000), William Zinsser counts rhubarb among his list of “magical words” with powerful connotations. (Rhubarb is a red-stemmed medicinal plant.)

Rhubarb is the name of a magician’s rabbit in Prophet Annie by Ellen Recknor (2000).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010



  • Friend
  • “‘A friend?’ Ashtaroth swung back his left hand and shot it forward in a wicked pitch that sent a stream of fiery energy crashing into the statue. ‘Aemaer! Friend you are and friend you shall be, emblazoned now for all to see!’ As the arcane smoke cleared, Loew edged in to examine the demon’s handiwork. The golem leaned back against its dolly, as impassive as before, but there was a change. Carved into its wide flat forehead were the letters f-r-i-e-n-d.” —Deborah Van Fossen, “Gone with the Golem” (2006)
  • Protection, forgiveness, life
  • “I don’t know why, but I took an eyeliner pencil, and I wrote the word ‘Aemaer’ on his forehead. I meant it only as a last gesture—my own goodbye. I knew the word from my Pop Pop’s books, a magic word meant to give life, to grant protection. I in no way imagined that it would act as anything more than a symbol—a mark of forgiveness that would fade away all too quickly as I stuffed John’s body into the crematorium oven.” —Christopher Michael Davis, “Cosmetics,” Little Knives: Twelve Tales of Horror and the Supernatural (2004)

    Origins: Kabbalic lore. Aemaer is likely a variation of Aemaet.

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Eucalyptus Leaves

    Professional magician Annie Erlandson uses the magic phrase Eucalyptus leaves in her performances with a koala bear puppet named Sydney.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010



  • Prayers
  • Loyalty
  • Religious observance
  • Origins: Devotion is from the Latin devotio, meaning “zeal.”

    In Literature:

  • From Frithjof Schuon, “Truth and Devotion,” Songs for a Spiritual Traveler (2002):
  • Devotion—a sound, a wondrous word,
    Fragrant with love and holy silence;
    A magic word, whose beauty is enough
    To convince us of the power of Truth.
  • “They . . . had followed honor; and this was sanctified even more in their eyes by the magic word devotion.” —Alphonse de Lamartine, History of the Girondists (1847)
  • Monday, July 19, 2010


    “What was the word—the magic word? Brumagem—that was it—Brumagem. An enchanting word! . . . A word to be repeated over to himself softly and secretly at night at the same time as Damn and Corsets.” —Agatha Christie, Giant’s Bread (1930)

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Backwards, Turn Backwards O Time in Thy Flight; Back to the Past With the Speed of Light

    This is a magic spell for reversing time in the Bewitched television series.

    A variation from the same series: "Night into day and day into night; back to the past with the speed of light."

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010


    Just pronounce the magic word ‘Art’, and everything is O.K.
    —George Orwell, “Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali,” Fifty Orwell Essays (1944)

    In Literature:

  • “And then, too, Madame Chebe no longer believed in her husband, whereas, by virtue of that single magic word, ‘Art!’ her neighbor never had doubted hers.” —Alphonse Daudet, Fromont et Risler (c. 1874)

  • “I wear an amulet, and have a spell of art- magic at my tongue’s end, whereby, sir ancient, neither can a ghost see me, nor I see them.” —Charles Kingsley, Westward Ho! (1855)

  • See also this previous post about the magic word art.

    Monday, July 12, 2010


    Abab is a divine name associated with Jupiter (a planet named after the Roman sky god). The word appears in Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s Of Occult Philosophy, Book II (1533).

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Blessed Be

    “Forget hocus-pocus, abracadabra, and kaboom and begin transforming the world’s ‘Double, double toil and trouble’ with your passionate ‘Blessed be!’” —Sarah Ban Breathnach, Romancing the Ordinary (2002)

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Club in a Sack

    Club in a sack recalls the fertility rites associated with early magic, the club symbolizing the male reproductive organ, the sack symbolizing the womb, and the two joined in sacred union.

    In Literature:

  • “[The] youngest brother [in the Grimm fairy tale ‘The Magic Table, the Golden Donkey, and the Club in the Sack’] becomes a wood-turner, but his reward, upon completing his apprenticeship, is neither food nor money; instead, it is a ‘club in a sack.’ Whenever the owner of this enchanted object utters these magic words, a club immediately jumps out of the bag and, prancing around, begins to beat mercilessly anyone who happens to be standing nearby.” —Valerie Paradiz, Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales (2005)
  • Sunday, July 4, 2010

    By Jingo


  • Euphemism for the name of God; an oath
  • “‘Why not?’ he asked. ‘Why not, by Jingo?’” —T.H. White, The Once and Future King (1939)
  • Surprise
  • Variations and Incantations:

  • By gee, by gosh, by jingo
  • “[H]e whistled the ballad ‘Oh, by gee, by gosh, by jingo’ as though it were a hymn melancholy and noble.” —Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1921)
  • By jingo by gee by gosh by gum
  • —e.e. cummings, “next to of course god america i” (1926)
  • By the living jingo
  • —Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1903)
  • High jingo!
  • —Michael Connelly, The Closers (2005)

    In Literature:

  • “By jingo, that would be awful!” —James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
  • “I shall never forget it; by Jingo, it has served me for a most excellent good joke ever since.” —Fanny Burney, Evelina (1778)
  • “[B]y Jingo was not my Lolita a child!” —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
  • “By jingo, I’m kerfoozled!” —Brian Jacques, Lord Brocktree (2001)

  • Friday, July 2, 2010

    Thanks to Olga Volozova, author of The Airy Tales (about the invisible threads that connect all things), for mentioning that she's currently reading our Magic Words: A Dictionary.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010


    Zara, enchanted by your powerful magic.
    —John Lord Campbell, The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England Vol. 4 (1851)

    Mystique: Zara recalls Zarathustra (also known as Zoroaster), the ancient Persian prophet.

    Meanings: The root of Zara is zar, meaning “gold.”

    Origins: Zara is of Persian origin.

    In Literature:

  • “Across the table, he leaned forward and, in a husky whisper, pronounced the magic word: ‘Zara!’” —Jacqueline Park, The Secret Book of Grazia Dei Rossi (1997)
  • “[I said] a magic word. . . . Her name. Zara [the Queen of Light].”
    —Tony Abbott, The Knights of Silversnow (2002)