Magicians' words

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Fri Apr 30 14:59:31 UTC 2004

        Uh, guys, as a former altar boy from back in the day of the Latin
Mass, I can assure you that the words are "Hoc est enim corpus meum"
(For this is my body). FWIW, I've always gone with the "hocus pocus
filiocus" etymology, but primarily because I was a teen-ager when I
first read it. I.e. I still believed that, if it's in a book, it must
be true.

-Wilson Gray

Mark A. Mandel wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Mark A. Mandel" <mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Magicians' words
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> I have read -- though I can't vouch for its veracity -- that "hocus
> pocus" comes from "hocus pocus filiocus", as either a corruption or
> intentional parody of the words from the Catholic Mass, "hoc est corpus
> Filii" 'this is the body of the Son'.  The only relevant Google hit for
> "hocus pocus filiocus" is another reference to this putative etymology
> (, scarcely better documented
> than my own:
> Most scholars feel that the expression hocus-pocus arose in the time of
> King James I, when a magician who came to be named by that phrase lived
> and practiced his trickery. It is thought that he would sling absurd
> Latin and babble mock Latin as a distraction while playing his
> deceptions, e.g. "Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubio."
> Most think the hocus-pocus was a corruption of the first words of the
> consecration in the Catholic Mass, "Hoc est corpus filii", because in
> Denmark and in Sweden is still heard "hocus-pocus-filiocus." And later,
> this became a pseudonym for several Tudor conjurors, named after the
> original master. And, as you may have guessed, our word hoax is thought
> to come from the hocus.
> -- Mark A. Mandel

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