Magicians' words

Michael Quinion TheEditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Wed Apr 28 08:47:00 UTC 2004

> I assume you are aware that Shazam is not a traditional magicians'
> incantatory phrase at all, but instead was introduced in Whiz Comics
> in 1940 as both the name of an ancient wizard and the exclamation by
> which Billy Batson transformed himself into Captain Marvel.  The name
> is an acronym for Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and
> Mercury.

Yes, indeed; I interpreted "traditional" deliberately rather loosely.
Others in the list may be relatively modern, too, such as "alakazam"
(early 20th century, at that time meaning "excellent", whose magical
associations seem to date only from the time of the TV cartoon series
"The Land of Alakazam", which started in 1960) and "presto chango"
(which I've found no further back than the 1920s). It would be good
to know more about "alakazam" in particular, whose origin seems to be
appropriately mysterious.

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: <TheEditor at>
Web: <>

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