Uh-oh. Is the SDMB the source for an urban legend meme?

So, do we have to *mea *this culpa?

Here’s the (archived) SDMB thread.


ORIGINAL COLUMN: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1313/whats-the-origin-of-abracadabra-hocus-pocus-and-presto

Always thought it was a pretty cool Steve Miller Band song, if nothing else.

Just remember that it’s one of the three Unforgiveable Curses. You can end up serving a life sentence in Azkaban for using it.

No foundation for the Hebrew or Aramaic origins.

Cecil’s original column:

What’s the origin of “abracadabra,” “hocus-pocus,” and “presto”?

Moving this to the Comments forum from Great Debates.

You’re the boss, but might I suggest ATMB instead? It’s not about the Column, it’s about the allegation that the thread on the message board led the internet astray, and the result is now polluting Facebook. Again. Nearly 15 years later.

Sorry, I suppose I should have put more word thingies in the OP; it was late, and I composed in my head instead of on the screen.

Since the “correction” is to something on the Message Boards rather than Cecil’s column, I don’t know that we need to do anything. And I’m not sure that it’s a “correction”: in the old (1999) thread, cmkeller starts the thread by saying he had heard the origin was Hebrew. Post #9 asserts it was Aramaic, picked up by Post #16 which attributes R. Lawrence Kushner as saying the origin was Aramaic. [Alas, this thread is so old that the names of the posters are lost, so I don’t know who they were or whether they’re still around.]

The Aramaic blog cited by WhyNot in the OP for this thread says that the phrase is NOT Aramaic, but says nothing about the Hebrew origin (in fact, tends to support the Hebrew origin.) They do seem to blame Post #16 and Kushner for the spread of the (incorrect) attribution to Aramaic origin. Seems pretty much ridiculous to me, to blame us for the spread of the misinformation. This is a Message Board, people say all sorts of things here (true and false and indeterminable.) I think they are doing us a disservice by implying that we’re responsible.

I also see that the Aramaic blog has added a footnote that

So, he’s saying it’s possibly Aramaic-related but not “pure” Aramaic? Seems to me that we have here a linguistic purist, and (sorry) language doesn’t work that way.

It’s not “we” who are to blame. At most, it’s cmkeller who’s to blame. Even there, though, it’s not like he’s speaking from authority: He’s just saying that it’s “something he heard growing up”. Which it probably was. The fault lies on anyone who took that as a definitive proof of origin, not on one guy who related an old family story.

Somebody fetch cmkeller while I warm up the tar and fluff the feathers. :wink:

No, cmkeller said he heard it was from Hebrew. The Aramaic blog doesn’t deny that. It’s the later post #9 (and I don’t know who the poster was because it’s so old, the names are gone) that says it was Aramaic.

Also, today being Saturday, cmkeller won’t be posting until tomorrow. There’s a corollary of Murphy’s Law that any thread involving Judaism or Hebrew or whatever always starts on Friday or Saturday so that Orthodox Jews can’t post.