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The Hidden Magic of Words

Is there more to our language than first meets the eye?

How do words form our reality?

What hidden meanings and subconscious codes may be secretly lurking behind them?

Cue the X-Files theme music.

Let’s start with a quick look at money and finance shall we?

Money makes the world go round

Some people have suggested that the language of money and finance is all intrinsically related to the language of trade and commerce with roots as far back as those phonetic Phoenicians (the first truly international ‘merchants’ – I wonder did you think it was just a coincidence that ‘mer’ is French for sea?).

For example, have you ever noticed how the words connected to money are often so closely related to the language of water? Click To Tweet

Think about it, what’s on the side of a river? Banks, right?

And what do they do? Direct the flow of currency (current-sea).

We also talk of ‘money flow’, ‘going under’,’drowning in debt’, ‘liquid cash’, ‘feeling flush’, ‘keeping a business afloat’ and taking out ‘bridging loans’.

And it’s not just finance that seems to have a heavy connection with all things maritime either.

  • Think about your own citizen-ship.
  • Why do you have a pass-port?
  • And how you arrived here in the first place via a birth (berth) canal to get your very own birth certificate.

The curious case of the contronym

Moving on from water now, there are also many curious homophones, anagrams, and contronyms (aka ‘Janus’ words – the mysterious Roman god of gateways, beginnings and ends) contained in the English language.

So although it is said that sticks and stones can break our bones but words can never harm us – strange isn’t it then that ‘words’ is also an anagram of ‘sword’?

And why is it that our ‘feet can smell’ and our ‘noses can run’?

Let’s face it there’s fat chance we will ever understand it all – or should that be a ‘slim chance’?

Confusing isn’t it?

Words are magic!

Let’s now take a look at an example of how the meanings of words can change over time.

Words such as ‘villain’ originally meant a faithful farm worker (and is where the word ‘village’ also comes from), or ‘awful’ which used to mean ‘nice’, and ‘nice’ which used to mean ‘stupid’!

And what do you think of when you see or hear the word 'prestigious' as in ‘He went to a prestigious university’? Click To Tweet

Perhaps the word conjures up synonyms such as reputable, acclaimed, distinguished or illustrious even…

So you may be surprised to know that the original meaning of the word was ‘of, relating to, or marked by illusion, conjuring, or trickery’. It is also why another word for ‘magician’ is ‘prestidigitator’ and why ‘prestige’ also means ‘a conjurer’s trick’.

You may have seen the film ‘The Prestige’ starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and David Bowie (as Nikola Tesla).

A cautionary tale about an illusion gone horribly wrong…

The meaning of the word later transformed ‘as if before our very eyes’ into ‘dazzling influence’.

Which influenced its sibling ‘prestigious’ to become what we now think of as esteemed or illustrious.

Now do you see it?

Words are magic. Charm-ing stuff don’t you think?

And why it’s always best to know exactly what you are SPELLing.

A word about grammar

Let’s ‘wind up’ now shall we?

But before we finish here’s one last thing I have up my sleeve:

‘Grammar’ shares its roots with the French word ‘Grimoire’ which is basically a book of instructions in the use of magic. The word ‘glamour’ which meant magic ‘charm’ or enchantment also has its roots in grammar.


What ‘word magic’ do you know?

About the Author Eleanor Goold

Eleanor Goold is owner and founder of Kreativ Copywriting a forward thinking and friendly writing, copywriting and content creation service. She also has her own blog where she provides business owners with smart ideas, copy tips, and blogs about the art of storytelling. She is co host of The Anti-Social Chat Show and is also the creator of The Utterly Compelling series of online courses at

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