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ABRACADABRA

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ABRACADABRA

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Jan 30, 2013 11:22 pm

• abracadabra •


Pronunciation: æ-brê-kê--brê • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Interjection, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Interjection) An incantation that is supposed to work magic. 2. (Noun) Gibberish, nonsense, mumbo-jumbo, hocus-pocus.

Notes: There isn't much to say about this word; it is a perfect lexical orphan without any family at all. The noun usage does allow a plural, abracadabras, but that is all we can say about it.

In Play: This word is the word used in the performance of some magicians to leave the impression that what they do is real magic: "I can't just say 'abracadabra' and the money for a bicycle, poof, just appears!" However, since magicians are known to perform legerdemain, this word has come to be a noun in the second sense above: "This company runs on abracadabra accounting, and it is just a matter of time before someone catches on."

Word History: The first known mention of the word was in the second century AD in a book called Liber Medicinalis by Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, physician to the Roman emperor Caracalla. Sammonicus prescribed that malaria sufferers wear an amulet containing the word written in the form of a triangle (see the graphic to the left). It was used as a magical formula by the Basilides Gnostics to invoke the aid of beneficent spirits against disease and misfortune. It is found on Abraxas stones worn by the Gnostics as amulets. It probably started out as a rhyming compound of the word Abraxas [abrak-sas]: abrak-adabra. (I wish we could say 'abracadabra' and words like today's Good Word would magically appear, but we needed Agoran Eric Berntsen to suggest this one.)
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby MTC » Thu Jan 31, 2013 7:34 am

Abracadabra,Shazam,Presto, Aparecium,Confringo, Confundo ,Descendo,Expulso,Glisseo,Incendio,Obscuro,Reducio,and Tarantallegra:what do they have in common? They are all spells, word forms with magic powers. To some thinkers they evidence mankinds' "Will to Power." Probably. But I also see the spells as evidence of mankinds' "Will to Create." That's why magicians "produce" cards, seemiingly from thin air. And of his "Will to Play." "Presto! You're a rabbit!"
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Jan 31, 2013 11:14 am

MTC: Some of your synonyms for abracadabra are also words in their own right with different meanings. Abracadabra and the more recent Shazam are notable exceptions.

I'm sure MTC and many of you know what I am writing here, but I want to get a discussion going.

Who knows what Shazam means and what super hero used it? I know Solomon and Hercules but I don't trust my memory for the other letters. I leave their discovery and the name of the super hero as an exercise for the rest of the Alpha Agorans. (Did you know Alpha Agora is in some dictionaries, describing us in particular and crediting Doctor Goodword as our founder? Sort of makes you feel special doesn’t it?) Someone might want to look up the other words MIC supplied and report on their additional meanings, noting those having only the incantational meaning. These words may have been slightly transmogrified when adapted to the environment of the surreal.

As I have mentioned before, please do not include Hocus Pocus in the list.

Does the meditative word "om" belong in this list? I think not. Does someone else have an opinion?

I don't know any Voodoo incantations. There are many. I would ask my cousin who is an expert on the subject, but he wouldn't tell me. Words like that don't cross a missionary's lips in casual conversation, only in learned treatises. I do know one Voodoo word but it isn't an incantation. Heebie-jeebies is a feeling of unrest a Voodoo worshiper may have if he/she feels she/he has been hexed. Billy DeBeck, a cartoonist in the 1920s, claimed to have invented this reduplicative word and the dictionaries credit him. My elders told me that it was in slang talk much earlier than that and that it has Voodoo origins. If this is not proven, it is plausible to me.
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby MTC » Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:57 pm

A wave of the wand and presto!
List of spells from Harry Potter series:
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spells_in_Harry_Potter)
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby gailr » Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:08 pm

Hocus Pocus is the misheard/misunderstood/misspoken medieval -- and uneducated -- layman's version of part of the Latin Mass; moreover, given the doctrine of Transubstantiation, the idea that the words were a magic spell in themselves is not so outlandish. But it has long since passed into a folk usage far from its ecclesiastical origins and is no more a serious insult to all Christendom than is "Jeepers Creepers" or "cor blimey". Those who know its origins (or the origins of the majority of long-standing English interjections) may choose to susbstitute something else, but there really is no need to take offense to it, especially for those whose denomination does not include Transubstantiation as a required belief.
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby MTC » Thu Jan 31, 2013 5:38 pm

Regarding the origin of Hocus Pocus Wikipedia states in part:

The origins of the term remain obscure. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term originates from hax pax max Deus adimax, a pseudo-Latin phrase used as a magic formula by conjurors.[1] Some believe it originates from a corruption or parody of the Roman Catholic liturgy of the Eucharist, which contains the phrase "Hoc est corpus meum", meaning "This is
my body.".[2] This explanation goes back to speculations by the Anglican prelate John Tillotson, who wrote in 1694:

In all probability those common juggling words of hocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus, by way of [...] imitation of the priests of the Church of Rome in their [...] Transubstantiation.[3]

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hocus_Pocus_(magic))
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:36 pm

RE: Hocus-pocus
I don't believe transubstantiation is a point in question. Nor do I believe that those who hold to this doctrine believe the act of the mass is “magic”. A Catholic would call it a miracle, not magic. But I do understand that the uneducated in the past and now, might think it magic. Remember Simon Magus in the Bible (Acts 8:18-19). He thought Christianity used magic and he wanted to buy some of it. Consubstantiation and symbolism advocates (I believe in symbolism) also recite, "This is my body," when taking communion. I can see that hocus-pocus has entered into the common language and the origin has been essentially lost. For myself, I would never use the phrase except in discussing it. It is up to others what they do and say. I value and respect other opinions.
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby gailr » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:54 pm

Does anyone else remember Klaatu barada nikto?
Now there's useful incantation! :wink:
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:45 pm

I remember. Patricia Neal was a real beauty and a very talented actress. I suppose saying "Klaatu barada nikto" to a robot can be classed as an incantation. Thanks for reminding us.
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby Slava » Thu Jan 31, 2013 11:24 pm

gailr wrote:Does anyone else remember Klaatu barada nikto?
Now there's useful incantation! :wink:

An important line from a fantastic movie, but not an incantation. It is an order understood by Gort.
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:30 am

Is it purely an accident that abracadabra is largely A B C D?
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby MTC » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:09 am

...or that the "a's" in abracadabra are spaced every third letter, or that abracadabra begins and ends with the four letter grouping, "abra," or that "a," "b," "c" and "d" appear in alphabetical order, or that abracadabra may have originated with the name of an Egyptian deity, Abrasax, or that...?
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:22 pm

Aha! I suspect a dastardly conspiracy there. Perhaps of musicians?
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Re: ABRACADABRA

Postby Slava » Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:20 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:Aha! I suspect a dastardly conspiracy there. Perhaps of musicians?

Perhaps this is the same group that gave us a much debated language learning scheme? The "Saxophonics".
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