English is a funny language. I know. I used to teach people who spoke other languages how to write and speak English. Here are some examples.
- There’s no ham in hamburger.
- No apple or pine in pineapples.
- Your nose runs and your feet smell. (Maybe. I can’t actually smell them from here. Thank God!)
- Most bathrooms don’t have any baths in them, and a dog can go to the bathroom under a tree – no bath, no room. Sometimes we go to the bathroom to go to the bathroom. Try to explain that to someone. Maybe you shouldn’t. It can get awfully embarrassing.
- Ever want a hot cup of coffee. Nope. You want a cup of hot coffee. Who cares if the cup is hot?
- Doughnut holes are really doughnut balls? The hole is in the middle of the doughnut. And why are doughnuts called nuts?
- Your alarm clock goes off by going on.
- If you live in the woods, you chop a tree down and then chop it up!
English is the most widely spoken language in the history of our planet with over 380 million native speakers and over 700 million foreign language speakers. It has the largest vocabulary of all the world’s languages – perhaps as many as two million words, and we create words all the time. When I was growing up, we never heard of Google, chatrooms, an emoticon, or a widget. I’m not that old, either!
The thing that fascinates me the most is how words change in meaning. Apple is both a computer company and a fruit. But when you say “Let’s go to the Apple store”, most people are not picturing the fruit. (I did and was greatly disappointed when all I saw was electronics!) Cool is both a temperature and an attitude. Green is a color and a verb that means to be environmentally friendly. Hot is another temperature and can describe a good-looking person. Sweet is a taste, but now it is also an expression when we are excited or impressed.
But there is one word that wins the prize for the most changes. Know what it is? Magic! For instance…
- To describe a special time or event that happened. “Last night was magical!” I think this usage is beginning to fade, being taken over by “Sweet!”
- When something works perfectly. “I caught the ball, jumped, and shot. It flew out of my hand and into the basket like magic.” I hear my husband using this one when the car breaks down, and he fixes it easily.
- Work my magic. This usage replaces “charm” with “magic”. Let’s say you really want something, so you go to the person who has it, and you are as nice and sweet as you can be. The person gives it to you. Your friends ask “How did you do that?” Your response… “I worked my magic.”
- To describe tricks. When you go see a magician, you know it’s not magic. You know there’s a compartment in the hat that hides the rabbit. (Sorry if you didn’t, but now you do.) In fact, the most fun is to try to figure out how the “magician” is tricking you. In my experience, the knowledge is not as much fun as the astonishment of the trick.
However, the definition in the dictionary and the real meaning of magic is…
- the use of charms or spells believed to have supernatural power over natural forces
- the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature.
A few of its synonyms are bewitchment, black art, charm, curse, demon worship, devilry, enchantment, incantation, occult, Satanism, sorcery, spell, witchcraft, witchery, and wizardry. Not the happy Disney image we normally get, is it?
“But wait”, you cry! “You’re talking about BLACK magic. There’s good magic.” Good wizards or sorcerers use magic for good. Evil wizards use magic for evil. Look at The Princess and the Frog, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and Harry Potter. These stories, and many more, feature a good wizard or two battling the evil. Makes for a decent story line, but it’s impossible.
Magic is immoral. Period.
But what about J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis? They had magic in their books! Did they? Or was it just one more different meaning to the word? Read through the definition of magic again, and we’ll deal with Tolkien and Lewis later. Right now I want to know about your opinions.
What do you think? Can magic be good AND evil? Or is it always evil?