A rabbit is pulled from a hat, your card is instantly guessed, an object disappears from a hand and appears behind your ear, and a woman who was split in half is put back together. All magicians usually end the previous entertainment experiences with one memorable word, “abracadabra.” I never truly payed much attention to the word, as a result of being stunned by some magical event. However, a few years ago I purchased a word related book (shocker!) and discovered all that is “abracadabra” within the first few pages.
I, along with most of the American culture, am familiar with the first definition that Merriam-Webster notes,“a magical charm or incantation.” However, I was intrigued by the second definition “unintelligible language.” I came across another source that noted that “abracadabra is derived from an Aramaic phrase (Avarah K’Davarah) meaning, ‘I will create as I speak.’” The concept of creating as you speak is so empowering and exciting, as it can be applied to any form of communication, like, ahem, writing. I also think that the chefs on TV should start using it, as they are truly creating while entertaining (although if Rachel Ray makes it one of “her” words I will abandon it for good).
After peeling back a few more layers of “abracadabra,” I discovered a rich history that excites me greatly. The Online Etymology dictionary notes that the word was a magical formula circa 1696 from “Late Gk. Abraxas, cabalistic or gnostic name for the supreme god, and thus a word of power. It was written out in a triangle shape and worn around the neck to ward off sickness, etc.” It’s fascinating to think that a word now associated with rabbits and cards was once meant to derail a disease. Can you imagine wearing a worded amulet every time you had a cold? Who knows, it will probably return as a hot fall accessory one day. Fashion meets faith healing. Although considering “abracadabra” has cabalistic roots, I’m sure Madonna is already wearing has her own “abracadabra” amulet.
Here’s to the magical power of words!
image courtesy of Erin O’Connor