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Words are inherently magical for the writer – also frustrating, obtuse, enchanting and expressive in various moments and times. We struggle with them, delight in them, and weave them together to form significant combinations. Dictionaries are our friends, lists of synonyms our best buddies, and there are many of us who take simple delight in the well-turned phrase.

 

Craig Conley has given us a gift beyond regard: a dictionary of 720 of the words used by (stage) magicians throughout the ages. Who can forget the shiver of delight we felt when hearing “open sesame” in the tale of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves? Or the eternal Abracadabra! and Hocus Pocus? Now we know where they originated, with their meanings, in combinations, and source material.

 

But this is no common dictionary! Conley clearly loves words.

 

“Hocus Pocus: These primal, rhyming syllables echo the transcendental incantations of Latin rites, reverberating through hallowed cloisters. They invoke an ancient, unworldly power, especially when enunciated slowly and authoritatively. (p. 327)”

 

Highly recommended for anyone with a taste for words.

 

 

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Craig Conley

Weiser Books, 2008

pp. 360, $24.95

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