Archive for February 16th, 2016

February 16, 2016

Magic Word


Dennis Nedry

Magic words are words which have a specific, and sometimes unintended, effect. They are often nonsense phrases used in fantasy fiction or by stage prestidigitators. Certain comic book heroes use magic words to activate their super powers. Magic words are also used as Easter eggs or cheats in computer games, other software, and operating systems. (For example, the words ‘xyzzy,’ ‘plugh,’ and ‘plover’ were magic words in the classic computer adventure game ‘Colossal Cave Adventure’).

Examples of traditional magic words include: Abracadabra, Alakazam, Hocus pocus, Open sesame (used by the character Ali Baba in the English version of a tale from the collection popularly known as ‘1001 Arabian Nights’), Presto chango, Shazam (used by the comic book hero Captain Marvel), and Shemhamforash (used by Satanists). Craig Conley, a scholar of magic, writes that the magic words used by conjurers may originate from ‘pseudo-Latin phrases, nonsense syllables, or esoteric terms from religious antiquity,’ but that what they have in common is ‘language as an instrument of creation.’

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