Magicians' words

Wed Apr 28 13:34:51 UTC 2004

        Sorry, here's my original message:

        <<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.>>

        In response to a question from Fred Shapiro:  The story in which "Shazam" was first used, in Whiz Comics #2, was written by Bill Parker. (Whiz Comics #1 was an ashcan issue that was not publicly distributed.  I don't know if "Shazam" was used in it, or if indeed any copies survive.)  I don't have the story handy, but it's been reprinted in The Shazam Archives Vol. 1.  Many of the stories include a chart showing not just which gods and heroes are named, but what powers Captain Marvel purportedly gets from them:

Solomon Wisdom
Hercules        Strength
Atlas           Stamina
Zeus            Power
Achilles        Courage
Mercury Speed

        I grant you that it was a bit odd for old Shazam to choose an acronym for his name.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Mark A. Mandel
Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2004 7:45 AM
Subject: Re: Magicians' words

"Baker, John" wrote:


Well, it looks like an incantation. Translation, please?

-- Mark A. Mandel, Research Administrator
   Information Extraction from the Biomedical Literature
   University of Pennsylvania

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