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Magic Words: A Dictionary [Paperback]

Craig Conley

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Book Description

Oct. 1 2008
Magic Words: A Dictionary is a one-of-a-kind resource for armchair linguists, pop-culture enthusiasts, Pagans, Wiccans, magicians, and trivia nuts alike. Brimming with the most intriguing magic words and phrases from around the world and illustrated throughout with magical symbols and icons, Magic Words is a dictionary like no other. More than seven-hundred essay style entries describe the origins of magical words as well as historical and popular variations and fascinating trivia. With sources ranging from ancient Medieval alchemists to modern stage magicians, necromancers, and wizards of legend to miracle workers throughout time, Magic Words is a must have for any scholar of magic, language, history, and culture.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Weiser Books (Oct. 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578634342
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578634347
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 17.8 x 22.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #740,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A vividly written introduction includes contemplations on ritual and pronunciation, and each multi-paragraph entry explains meanings, origins, and literary references. --Library Journal, October 2008

"I am in awe of the volume and variety of the usages and references discussed: the research seems monumental. . . . Recommended as a very useful resource..." ---Phil Willmarth, Linking Ring Magazine

"Wonderful." ---Graham P. Collins, editor of Scientific American

"[A]n impressive work. . . " ---Brad Henderson, MAGIC, The Magazine for Magicians

About the Author

When it comes to his research Craig Conley has often been called a "language fanatic" by gossip columnist Cindy Adams and a "cult hero" by Publisher's Weekly. His exhaustive research led him to compile Magic Words: A Dictionary. He is also the author of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary and a regular columnist for Pentacle magazine. He lives in Florida and Wales, UK.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic Words from a Magic Book Jan. 10 2009
By Anthony Marais - Published on
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.

Anthony Marais, author of "The Cure"
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magical Compendium Nov. 19 2008
By Janet Boyer - Published on
"This book seeks to read deep into the glimmering treasure-chest of magic words and reinstate the dignity to a dusty, subsidiary treasury--the little jewel box full of terms that have lost their sparkle over the years." - From Magic Words

A memorable performance at Hollywood's Magic Castle inspired "language fanatic" Craig Conley to create Magic Words: A Dictionary (Weiser Books). One would suppose that it was a grand illusion that incited his epiphany, or even a remarkable display of prestidigitation.

However, no wand waving impelled Conley to write this 352-page compendium. Surprisingly, it was the twice-whispered word from an audience member after a trick's dramatic reveal: Voila!

Voila, she said, "like an efficient script girl prompting a delinquent stage actor's lines from behind the curtain"--almost trying to will the magician to finish his feat by uttering some type of magic word. (Alas, the performer ignored her desperate cue.)

It was then that Conley, an eccentric researcher, realized "precisely what was missing from an otherwise flawless display": it was the "sheer vibrancy and urgency of magic words" that was revealed in that audience member's "genuine desperation, rooted in legitimate expectation."

The first 48-pages of Magic Words are utterly fascinating, with Conley an engaging tour guide through literary, philosophical, cultural and spiritual landscapes--realms dotted with landmarks that pay homage to the power of magical utterances (and, sometimes, even to silence and mysterious glyphs).

Not only does Conley offer examples of poetic incantations and the mysterious power of words in his introduction, but he also provides fascinating insight into the vocabulary of ritual (and why we get the giggles during solemn occasions!), the four archetypes of the Magician, and our ability to imbue "ordinary" moments with the magic of both cadence and connation.

The rest of Magic Words is dedicated to, well, magic words!

With word origins, facts, variations, meanings, mystique and appearances in literature, this A to Z guide offers a mind-boggling array of information to be mined by would-be magicians, entertainers, writers and artists.

Here are but a few of my favorites from Magic Words:

* Cullen, Rayburn, Narz, Trebek - Facts: This is a spell that conjures zombies as chanted by Bart Simpson in the episode "Dial Z for Zombies". (If you grew up in the 70's or love the Game Show Network, you'll recognize those names as hosts of old-school games shows!)

* Fiddleson Faddleson Spirits That Fly, Let Me Give It Another Try - Facts: These are magic words for trying something a second time in the Bewitched TV series.

* Great Googly- Moogly - Origins: The phrase Great Googly-Moogly is delivered in the song "Stranded in the Jungle" (1956) by the Jacks (While Conley does mention variations and magician usage of this word, he fails to mention that this is a favorite phrase of the gentle, giant spotted creature in the children's TV series Maggie and the Ferocious Beast).

* Petrificus Totalus - Origins: Petrificus is from the Latin word meaning "stone" (petra). Totalus is from the Latin word meaning "entire" (tota). In Literature: Petrificus Totalus is a petrifying spell in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997). It causes a person to freeze like a statue.

Potter references notwithstanding, there are (to me) some glaring omissions from children's books and movies. One example: there is no mention of "Treguna, Mekoides, Trecorum Satis Dee" from the beloved Disney movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks (a film about magicians!).

However, Magic Words is, indeed, a meticulously researched, heavily footnoted, and absorbing read, especially for lovers of trivia and words. Performers seeking to spruce up their magic routine would do well to consult this book, as would all manner of artists who seek to infuse their work with meaning, mystery, flair or sacredness.

Janet Boyer, author of The Back in Time Tarot Book
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic Words for every occassion Dec 25 2008
By Chela - Published on
I just got "Magic Words: A Dictionary." What fun! Magic words taken from literature, plays, movies; all the way from Ovid to Shakespeare to Ronald Hutton to J.K. Rowling!

Each word is presented as a word (with variations, if any) and then
in a quote, and then meanings are given from many historical sources.

It would be interesting to sprinkle them in my conversation or journal writing or even for magic! Alakazam and abracadabra and hocus pocus, but also Hola Noa Massa, and Lit Flitt Latt Flight, and Shubismack. They are even just fun to say.

There is also an Appendix of "magic words" used by people in various professions - "action" for movies, "troubleshoot" for computer technicians.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this author's brain! Oct. 7 2008
By R. Bakhtiari - Published on
I don't even know where to begin. I found this book delightful! I have been studying magic for a few years now and have not until now found such a fun and interesting (and well-researched) resource for the origins of so many terms we commonly use. And more that I was just curious about. Well-written and fun to read, Magic Words is a very generous and well researched book. I love it!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful gift Oct. 12 2008
By Gordon Meyer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a rare treat. Not only will you admire the depth and breadth of the author's research, nearly every page has a fascinating tidbit for you to discover. It's exactly the kind of book you show to friends with a "Hey, check out this cool...". This is the perfect gift for a word lover, a writer, or anyone who delights in obscure and wonderfully-produced books.

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