From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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).
Invocations of magic
Examples of traditional magic words include:
- Aajaye – Used often by the clowns in Jaye's magic circus.
- Abracadabra – prototypical magic word used by magicians.
- Huta Raputa – Iranian Magic Word (Persian).
- Alla Peanut Butter Sandwiches – used by The Amazing Mumford on Sesame Street.
- Bippity, Boppity, Boo – used by Cinderella's Fairy Godmother.
- By the Power of Grayskull, I HAVE THE POWER – used by the Prince Adam, of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, to transform him into He-Man.
- Cei-u – used by the DC Comics superhero, Johnny Thunder, to summon his magical genie-like Thunderbolt.
- Hocus pocus – a phrase used by magicians.
- Jantar Mantar Jadu Mantar – a phrase used by magicians in India.
- Joshikazam – used by Josh Nickels, a character from the popular Nickelodeon show "Drake and Josh".
- Klaatu barada nikto – A phrase used in the 1951 movie The Day The Earth Stood Still. While not intended as magical words in that movie, they were used as such in the spoof horror movie Army of Darkness.
- Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse – used on the children's TV series Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to make the Clubhouse appear.
- 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 or Hey Presto – used by magicians (probably intended to suggest "quick change").
- Sim Sala Bim – a phrase used by Harry August Jansen. "Sim Sim Sala Bim" are the magic words said by Hadji on the shows The Adventures of Jonny Quest and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.
- Shazam – used by the comic book hero Captain Marvel.
- Izzy wizzy, let's get busy – Used on The Sooty Show when using Sooty's magic wand.
- Walla Walla Washington – Bugs Bunny looney tunes
- Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho – Jambi on Pee Wee's Playhouse
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."
Magic words in technology
"Gimme ketchup now!"
"What's the magic word?"
"Sorry. May I have some ketchup, please?"</br>
The single word changes an imperative order into a conditional request, concisely communicating "Do as I say, if it pleases you."
Likewise, other magic words exist as part of a social contract, designed to express affection for another. Such words are magic not because of their effect on people (If they were, this would be simple manipulation, not etiquette) but because they make others feel better in context of the situation. For example:
- Please should not be used for just any request, but a request that might be considered unreasonable without it. This is because it is used to reflect the knowledge that the asker understands the trouble involved in the request.
- Thanks is used to show that the other person's actions are valued.
- Sorry is perhaps more important than the first two, as it is used to express regret over one's actions. Without such regret, relationships often dissolve over time. Also, contingent on this idea is the promise of not repeating the action (a promise which may be difficult or impossible to carry out, which is why some people are reluctant to apologize).
- In addition, an unofficial magic word may be added, since it follows a similar idea. The word Stay (not as it is used to dogs, but as the opposite of "Leave!") could be considered magic since it expresses the idea that the person is loved or wanted, and that they belong.