Friday, March 27, 2020

Beat the Corona Blahs by Becoming a Citizen Scientist

If you're working through this corona mess, bless you. Whether the job is medical, stocking shelves, or driving a truck, you're my hero. If you're sheltering in place like the rest of us you're probably going bat nuts by now. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and my neighbors are terrific, but I’ve about had it with house arrest. I can only watch so many cheesy Hallmark movies on TV before my mind begins to ooze out my ears. If you’re in the same boat, there are ways to jumpstart the old braincells until this corona mess passes.

Did you know you can help librarians or scientists conduct important research? Lots of organization need a hand, so this is a perfect time to become a Citizen Scientist. Here’s a few things to do to get you through the next few weeks. If you’ve got kids a home, they can contribute to a lot of these projects, too.

Help a Library Transcribe Menus
The New York Public Library’s restaurant menu collection has over 45,000 menus dating from the 1840s to the present. It’s used by historians, chefs, novelists and everyday food enthusiasts. The librarians are working to transcribe the menus dish by dish so the collection can be researched and accessed, opening the door to new kinds of discoveries. They can use your help and it’s kind of fun to peruse a menu where a steak dinner was only 25 cents.

These are a few from the National Geographic website

Finding Stardust
Interstellar dust particles returned to Earth by the Stardust mission are the first ever collected in space. They are tiny-only about a micron (a millionth of a meter) in size and scientists need your help to scan sections of the aerogel collector. If selected for the project, a VM (virtual microscope) is downloaded to your computer to search for the little grains.

Classify Galaxies
Do what a computer can't! Join the Galaxy Zoo project to help scientists classify galaxies according to their shapes.

Watch the Birdie
EBird is an online checklist project created by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Ebird allows people to report real-time bird sightings and observations.

Appalachian Mountain Monitoring

Be a visibility volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club. If you live or hike in states from Maine to Virginia, you can take photographs from a mountain view to help scientists study air quality and haze pollution.

Frogs and Toads
Help scientists conserve amphibians as a volunteer for Frogwatch USA. Listen for the calls of frogs and toads for 20 minutes a week, and record and share your data.

Local Plants
Join the National Phenology Network's plant monitoring program. Learn about plant species in your area and record your observations about observable phases in the annual life cycle of plants.

The government maintains a catalog of Citizen Science and crowdsourcing projects by agency. Some are for a particular area, some are far-reaching. Check out the complete catalog at

The EPA has lists of Citizen Science projects at

So does Scientific American. Some are below.

Love and Romance
Researchers at Beloit College in Wisconsin invite citizen scientists to participate in a study to investigate the impact of sensory information—such as how people perceive some of their primary romantic partner’s physical characteristics—on romantic relationships.

The Small World of Words project is a large-scale scientific study that aims to build a map of the human lexicon in the major languages of the world and make this information widely available. In contrast to a thesaurus or dictionary, this lexicon provides insight into what words and what part of their meaning are central in the human mind. The results enable psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists and others to test new theories about how the human brain represents and processes language.

Last, but not least help NASA explore space without leaving home.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is providing a huge amount of data to look for planets outside of our Solar System. Over the next two years TESS will be busy surveying two-hundred-thousand bright nearby stars, measuring and recording their brightness every two minutes. With the help of Citizen Scientists, NASA hope to uncover scads of planetary systems. Findings may even bring us one step closer to answering the question that we all seek to answer: Are we alone in the Universe. Be the first person to discover a planet around a nearby star in the Milky Way.

Now you have no excuse to be bored. Until things get back to normal shelter in place, wash your hands, mind your social distance and your p’s and q’s, and this, too, will pass. And don’t hoard toilet paper. That’s just stupid.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Please Hold for the Afterlife: The History and Science Behind the Ouija Board

Development of the Ouija board

The Ouija board came from the 19th century obsession with
spiritualism, the belief that the dead can communicate with the living. Spiritualism in America began in 1848 with the Fox sisters of upstate New York who claimed the rapping on the wall signified messages from the beyond.  Spiritualism spread rapidly. This is no surprise since the average lifespan back then was less than fifty. Nowadays, it’s rare to find a family with a mother who died in childbirth or a child that didn’t survive infancy, but one hundred and fifty years ago such deaths were commonplace. Spiritualism, unlike mainstream religions, gave comfort from actually speaking with the dearly departed. In also spawned business opportunities.

As spiritualism grew, so too did frustration with the time it took to get messages from the afterlife. People didn’t have all day and substituting raps on the walls for letters of the alphabet took too long. In 1886, a new device appeared in spiritualists’ camps in Ohio. It was called a talking board and had letters, numbers and a teardrop-shaped device with a window called a planchette. Two people placed their fingertips on the planchette, asked a question and voila. The planchette moved of its own accord to spell the answer.

Sound familiar? It sounded profitable to an enterprising man in Baltimore, Maryland named Charles Kennard. He pulled together a group of four other investors to start the Kennard Novelty Company to make and market the new talking boards. None of the men were spiritualists, and the original advertisement skewed toward family entertainment. Spiritualists actually disapproved of the Ouija board as it cut out the middle man and their source of income. The first Ouija board went on sale in Pittsburg in February 1891, marketed as a “link between the known and unknown.” The cost of communing with the dead was $1.50.

Elijah Bonds Grave
Where did the name come from?
Contrary to popular belief, “Ouija” is not a combination of the words for yes in French and German, oui and ja. One of Kennard’s initial investors was a man named Bond. His sister-in-law, a proponent of spiritualism, supplied the name in very sensible way. She asked the board what it would like to be called and it spelled out “Ouija.” She asked what that meant and the board replied, “Good luck.” At the time, she happened to be wearing a locket with picture of a woman, with the name “Ouija” printed above her head, but that was only coincidence, of course. There was also a popular women’s rights activist Ouida and “Ouija” may have been a misspelling, but the name sounded exotic, a little creepy and oh so suitable for summoning the dead.  

How does a Ouija Board work?
The mysterious mechanism that powers the Ouija board is called the ideomotor effect. It can generate a strong impression of movement controlled by an outside agency. The brain signals your body to move without conscious awareness.  Dowsing rods work on the same principal, a small muscle movement causes a larger effect. Planchettes are particularly well-suited to this as they have felt pads to glide smoothly over the even, flat surface of the board.

In the case of a Ouija board, the brain unconsciously creates images and memories in response to questions. The body responds by causing the muscles in hands and arms to move the planchette to the answers the person may unconsciously want to receive. Multiple scientific studies have shown the ideomotor effect in action. For instance, the Ouija board only works when participants can see the pointer. If blindfolded, the messages are garbled and incoherent.

Despite the spiritualism silliness, Researchers at the University of
British Columbia’s Visual Cognition Lab believe the Ouija Board may be a good way to examine how the mind processes information on different levels. The ideomotor can express what the non-conscious knows. Dr. Sidney Fels, professor of electrical and computer engineering, began looking at exactly what happens when people sit down to use a Ouija board. “You do much better with the Ouija on questions that you really don’t think you know, but actually something inside you does know. The Ouija can help you answer above chance.” In other words, forget about calling the ghost of Great Aunt Olga for advice and instead, if you can’t decide, let your subconscious be your guide.

Monday, January 27, 2020

How Charming: The History of Charm Bracelets

Early Charms
What is a charm?  Little carvings of wood, bone, seashells or other natural items originated as talismans to disarm evil spirits or keep the favor of the gods. The first known charms, dating back 75,000 to 100,000 years, were sea shells strung as beads discovered in a cave in South Africa. Most prehistoric charms were worn as necklaces or carried in pouches attached to clothing. The Babylonians, who live around 700 BC, are believed to be the first people to wear charms on charm bracelets.

The Egyptians were big on charms to symbolize good luck, love and spiritual forces. The pharaohs believed that they would come with them into the afterlife to ward off evil spirits and enhance fertility. (Author’s Note: Worrying about your sexual prowess in the afterlife is way beyond creepy and so like a man.) They were also an indication of status and wealth. The scarab amulet had a distinctive importance as it was the charm that signified renewal and regeneration, as anyone who’s seen a Mummy movie can tell you.

Charms also became a way to secretly convey a common bond such as religion or culture. Christians wore fish charms hidden underneath their garments while Jews wore passages from Talmudic law in a gold charm. During the Dark Ages, individuals wore charms to identify their family origin or to denote their alliance to a specific ruler, political party, or religion.

Flash forward to the Middle Ages where knights wore charms on their belts to identify their status and ancestry. All throughout the sixteenth century talismans would frequently be carried into battle to ward off evil and bring good luck

Queen Victoria as Jewelry Designer
It was Queen Victoria who shoved charms into the world of fashion and is credited with popularizing the charm bracelet as we now know it. When Prince Albert died, she created mourning charm bracelets. Victoria's preference was for gemstone charms and lockets containing the hair (yuck) or tiny photographs of loved ones (better.) She even had charms created to give to her family and friends, most of whom were European nobility. The popularity of charm bracelets spread throughout the royal houses and filtered down to the commoners and then across the Atlantic. Tiffany made its first version of a charm bracelet with a tiny heart in 1889. It was a big hit. Different iterations of flowers, birds, and animals quickly followed.

20th Century and Beyond Charms
By the1930s more commercial figures such as Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop became popular.  Strangely enough, World War II increased charm bracelets’ popularity. Soldiers returning stateside wanted trinkets and souvenirs as gifts for the girls back home. Local artisans were smart enough to jump into a new market and began to craft metal into scaled down replicas of local items such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or a tiny plane for a pilot’s sweetheart or anchor for a sailor’s.

In the 1950s charms took another turn, reflecting girls’ rites of passage. A girl in a ballet recital might get tiny ballet shoes. A cowgirl might have a horse or a Stetson hat. Although modern charms have lost the magical connotations, they’re still popular. Recently, companies such as Pandora have boosted interest. Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1982 by Per Enevoldsen and his wife Winnie, they launched their first Pandora bracelet in 1999, which eventually became wildly popular across Europe before marketing their charms and bracelets in North America in 2002. Pandora charms are round and beadlike, but like others in the past offer the ability to customize to one's taste. Charms from such companies and independent jewelers offer a wide range that reflects modern girls’ more varied interests. While ballet shoes are still around, you’ll also find tiny space shuttles, robots, and laptops.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Fun Sites

As a belated Christmas gift, here are some of my favorite sites for writers and readers.

Fun Stuff

The purpose of CityLab is to tell the story of the world’s cities: how they work, the challenges they face, and the solutions they need. My favorite recent story is why kids love garbage trucks.  (Having something large and a little scary do the same chore each week is kind of magical, especially when a friendly driver always waves “Hi.” Also, kids love dumping stuff.)

Gizmodo is a design, technology, science and science fiction website. It has lots of neat articles and posts, cool maps, and links to the latest in science fiction TV and movies so you can get your Mandalorian fix. Gizmodo Design takes a people-centric approach to covering software, architecture, and more and analyzes why products and systems look and work in the way that they do. The section called Field Guides covers gadgets and how to make them work better for you.

If you write science fiction and need an idea for a spaceship or just like looking at cool stuff that zips through outer space, this is the site for you.

Want to know how your smartphone is listening to you or what apps steal your data? Check out Kim Komando’s tech website. It’s not scary but written clear enough for even those of us who still find our new microwave oven's controls confusing. Why are you looking at me like that? You know you can’t figure yours out either.

I love the sciency stuff and Science Friday is one of the best. It’s fun for the brain, an entertaining, informational show produced by public radio. The most recent show discusses the best board games and science books for the layman in case you need to spend that gift card. Then check out the 2019 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, a tribute to offbeat and quirky scientific studies. (The researchers who won the economics prize tested which country’s paper money is best at transmitting dangerous bacteria.)

Writing Stuff

This is a nifty site from Purdue University that’s open access for the public. It’s not just for academics. They have easy to understand explanations for grammar, word usage, and punctuation and good articles on the writing process.

From the blog by Suzannah Windsor Freeman, the title says it all. These aren’t just short tips, but links to blogs with a detailed discussion of particular issues.

For the writer and the hypochondriac in all of us. WebMD is written for the layman so it’s the perfect site to find just the right disease to inflict on a character.

Reedsy is great for writers looking for help. The site has professionals for hire such as editors, book designers, cover artists, and the like, especially helpful for self-publishers. Reedsy also produces an interesting blog and has lists of tools, book promotion sites and writing contests.

Speaking of tools…ProWritingAid
I was leery of writing tools, but ProWritingAid changed that. It has a lot of interesting features, a strong editing interface and is great for catching grammar errors. More importantly, I found it easier to use with a smaller learning curve  than Grammerley and Scrivener. Also, it’s reasonably priced. Grammerley has free a version to download or you can upgrade to premium. ProWritingAid and Scrivener both have free trials. Each site has pluses and minuses, so try before you buy. ProWritingAid and the others are no substitute for a human editor, but help to polish that first draft. If you’re thinking of a writing tool, check them out.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Literary Devices

What is a Literary Device?

It isn’t pen, paper or a thesaurus. Literary devices are specific writing techniques used to add depth to a story. They can create atmosphere, convey information about persons, places, or things or provide in-depth psychological insight to a character’s motivation or ethical dilemmas. Literary devices also can work on a deeper intellectual level or merely aid the flow and pacing of a story.

Understanding the proper use of literary devices can helpful to an author. With proper use, a writer can emphasis a particular point or give clarity to a scene or help the reader relate to the author's choices.

Common Literary Devices in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Allegory is a narrative that uses characters and plot to exemplify abstract ideas and themes, such as racism, patriotism or illustrate a moral or spiritual truth. Events and characters are more than they appear on the surface.

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a commentary on the events leading to Stalin's rise and the formation of the Soviet Union. The pigs represent figures such as Stalin, Trotsky, and Molotov.

Although Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss is a children’s story about a turtle who yearns for too much power, it’s actually a reference to Adolf Hitler and the evils of totalitarianism.

Anthropomorphism comes from combination of the Greek words for “human” and “form” and attributes human emotions and qualities to non-human elements. They can be characters like animals or objects like the weather. It's a common device in fantasy and science fiction.

Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Artoo-detoo. Anthropomorphism can also be used as a descriptive element such as calling the relationship between two countries a friendship or saying a storm caused an “angry” wind.

Irony is used to convey an opposite meaning
than the one expressed. Irony is often used in a humorous context and sorry, Alanis Morissette, rain on your wedding day isn’t ironic. It’s merely bad luck. There are three types of irony in literature:
Verbal irony: Words spoken with a hidden meaning. It’s similar to sarcasm, but not as mean. An example is using the phase “clear as mud” to describe confusion. In the movie, Annie, the orphans insist “We love you Miss Hannigan” when they obviously don’t.

Situational irony: An action occurs that's the opposite of what was expected or intended. It’s a surprise to the reader. At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends find out they had power to attain their hearts’ desires all along.

Dramatic irony: The reader is aware of the true intentions or outcomes, while the characters are not. As a result, certain actions and/or events take on different meanings. This was a common tool for Shakespeare. Macbeth appears to be loyal to Duncan, but is actually plotting his murder. Romeo believes Juliet is dead but, being a dork, doesn’t bother to check her pulse before downing poison.

Foreshadowing is an excellent device to add tension to a narrative. It involves indirect hints to future action in the story through the use of dialogue, description, or characters’ actions. Often the foreshadowing event seems inconsequential, but in retrospect is a clue to what is to come.

The prologue of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton alludes to a settlement relating to a genetic crisis caused by a company called InGen that occurred off the coast of Costa Rica.

In the Lord of the Rings Frodo tells Gandalf it’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill Gollum when he had the chance. Gandalf responds pity stayed his hand. “Many that die deserve life, and some that live deserve death.”

Symbolism is a way for an author to represent abstract concepts and ideas in
 stories. Symbols are typically objects or characters and often appear multiple times throughout a text, sometimes changing in meaning as the plot progresses.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis is actually a Christian allegory with the symbolic use of Aslan as Jesus Christ and Edmund as Judas. Yeah, I know. That one blew my mind, too.

The first time Dark Vader strides on camera in Star Wars, no one can miss that he is a symbol for all that is evil in the empire, but his symbolic sacrifice at the end of the trilogy frees his son and his soul.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Rules for Lying Free on Amazon November 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Amazon Free Days
November 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Magic isn't for sissies

WARNING: No good comes from a book with magic, mayhem, theft, murder, sass talk, demons, animals committing felonies, gleeful revenge, and bad things happening to good people for no particular reason. This story won’t encourage good habits and probably fine tune bad ones. The only lesson learned is don’t lie until you know the rules.
Life in New Jersey is tough in the Great Depression, but teenager Peter Whistler has an exceptional ability to lie. He hones his talent, convinced it’s the ticket to easy fortune. He certainly doesn’t foresee the arrival of a murderous conjuror with mysterious designs on a little blind girl named Esther. Drawn into a nefarious plot to unleash a demon, Peter leads Esther and an enchanted terrier on a desperate escape to New Orleans and meets Amelie Marchand. Like all well-bred Louisiana gals she’s trained in deadly martial arts, but with a murderous stepmother, Amelie has troubles of her own. Peter and Amelie’s one chance for survival is to head deep into the bayou and seek help from a mad shaman known as the Frog King.

Welcome to an alternate 1930s where both jazz and magic fill New Orleans’ air. Can a little luck, mystical lies, and a dash of Cajun crazy help Peter harness the power to kill an immortal demon? If not, the Depression will be a picnic by comparison when hell arrives on Earth.


   The Grimaldis knew the truth about Pike. He drove their car, so they must be involved in his scheme. A little snooping to discover the truth, and then Mrs. Hart could get on the horn to the Feds. I imagined a squad of G-men storming Grimaldi’s Market and then Nico and Carlotta’s faces peering morosely out the back of a paddy wagon as it drove through town. Maybe I could even convince the coppers to stop for Chauncey.
   The unlit streets were deserted as I made my way to the Grimaldi’s house. The black roadster was parked outside the garage. A light shone in a downstairs window, so I snuck across the lawn and peeked in.
   Pike sat at the kitchen table; fingers clasped placidly in front, not a glowing eyeball in sight. I gave myself a mental kick in the pants for being such a dope.
   The Grimaldis huddled over a piece of paper. Mr. Grimaldi looked up and cleared his throat. “Everything is in order. The carriage house suited you?”
   Pike slid an envelope stuffed with cash across the tabletop. “Yes. It was private and exactly as described. We have a deal.”
   Mrs. Grimaldi snatched at the bills with undisguised greed. “We wouldn’t do this, you understand, but the Feds raided all the local speakeasies. Our best clients shut down. Times are tough.”
   Mr. Grimaldi scrawled a signature on the paper and handed the pen to his wife. She added hers, and then Pike tucked the paper in his pocket. “You needn’t be concerned about the girl.”
   My ears pricked up. Girl? What girl? If Pike meant Mrs. Hart, the doctor needed to get his own eyes checked.
   Mr. Grimaldi shifted in his seat, a flush tinting his fat cheeks. “People might get the wrong impression if the arrangement is discovered. You understand—they don’t realize our actions are for her own good.”
   I sucked in my breath. Mr. Grimaldi lied big time.
  “Don’t worry. No one will ever find out.” Pike’s voice was as cold as midwinter ice.
  A teensy doubt jabbed at my mind that all this had to do with gangsters, but I brushed it roughly away. Pike and the Grimaldis rose from the table. I darted from the window and ducked behind a tree right before the kitchen door opened.
Mrs. Grimaldi beamed at Pike. “If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to stop by.”
   The dark man set the fedora on his head and snapped the brim over his eyes. “I’m quite satisfied. You won’t see me again.”
   For some reason, the truth shook me more than a lie. Mr. Grimaldi closed the door, but Pike remained on the stoop. The kitchen went dark and then a light switched on in an upstairs bedroom window.
   I peered from behind the tree. Why did Pike wait? To rob the joint after they fell asleep? If so, I had no plan to stop him. I had half a mind to help.
   The bedroom light flicked off and the yard went pitch black. One second…two seconds…three seconds…A yellow beam danced across the door, and my throat nearly closed in terror.
   That was no flashlight.
   The ray from Pike’s eyes narrowed and focused pencil-thin. The smell of burning wood drifted across the lawn as he etched a smoldering hieroglyphic of a flame in the middle of the door. The outline of glowing embers flared and then snuffed out. Pike stepped back from the stoop. He paused for a moment as if to admire his handiwork and then sprinted down the alley.
   Heart thumping, I darted to the door. My fingers stroked the spot where I last saw the little flame. The wood was still warm.
    I snatched back my hand. The wood now blazed hot, more scorching by the second. The glowing outline flared to life again. A spark shot out, soared overhead, and landed near the chimney. Patches of shingles exploded in flames.
A long thin spark slithered from the symbol, a fiery snake writhing toward the keyhole. Without thinking, I reached to sweep it away only to jerk my fingers from the scalding heat. The spark slid into the opening. With a roar, a curtain of fire engulfed the downstairs windows.
   In a panic, I banged on the door. “Wake up! The house is on fire!”
   A thick choking cloud of smoke billowed under the doorframe, and I staggered back in a coughing fit. In a blink, the first floor was an inferno. How did the fire spread so fast? Mrs. Grimaldi’s terrified screams cut through the crackling fusillade of flames.
   Blistering heat drove me across the yard. The panic-stricken face of Nico Grimaldi appeared at the bedroom window struggling to open the sash.
   The wooden supports inside the house splintered and gave way. Mr. Grimaldi vanished in a thunderous crash as the second floor collapsed on the first. His wife’s screams cut off.
   Multiple sirens wailed in the distance. I stumbled down the alley as hot cinders rained from above. Embers lit on my clothing, and I slapped them away. The Grimaldi house was now a nightmare of hellfire. I flinched as all the outside walls caved in with a deafening roar.
   The first of the fire trucks screeched around the corner. Cops would surely follow asking questions I couldn’t answer. As I ran across the street, the glare of a headlight caught me for an instant.
   Tires squealed, and a man yelled, "You there, stop!"

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Origin of Magical Words

Need to cast a spell? There are several useful words to know that have long magical histories. The roots of the word “magic” itself can be found in Magi or mage, a hereditary class of Zoroastrian priests of the ancient Medes or Persians. Magi was later used to describe men with special abilities such as king, priest or astrologer who could read omens in the skies. The word “magic” goes back to the 1300s, and it originally referred to rituals, incantations, or actions thought to give the user control over the natural world, but the definition has changed through the centuries.  By the 1700s, it also referred to an actual supernatural power. In the 1800s, sleight of hand and card tricks became popular and stage performers used the word to imply they had special arcane abilities.

No one is sure of the origin of the strange word abracadabra, although believed to be Hebrew or Aramaic origin. It is possibly derived either from the Hebrew words ab (father), ben (son), and ruach hakodesh (holy spirit), or from the Aramaic avra kadavra, “it will be created in my words”. In the Harry Potter series, Rowling played with the Aramaic version to create a death spell, Avada Kedavra, which was supposed to mean “let this thing be destroyed.”

The earliest use of abracadabra is in a Latin poem in a medical book. The word was a written charm to protect against bad luck, illness, or evil. It was often worn as an amulet and resembled a “v” with the final letter dropped on each line until only “a” remained.

Hocus pocus
Hocus pocus first appeared in the early 1600s as Hocas Pocas, the common name for a magician or juggler. In 1634, a book appeared entitled Hocus Pocus Junior - The Anatomy of Legerdemain. The author was anonymous but was later dubbed Hocus Pocus after the book's title. It’s also possible hocus pocus evolved from nonsense words that sounded exotic and magical.

Another explanation for the origin of the term came from John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1694. In his Sermons he accuses it of being a parody of the consecration of the Catholic Mass and wrote, “In all probability those common juggling words of hocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus, by way of ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church of Rome in their trick of Transubstantiation.” That Archbishop Tillotson was miffed at both stage performers and Catholics isn’t surprising, and there’s little evidence of his claims.

On a side note, hocus is also believed to be the source for the word hoax, but the word doesn't appear until 1796 and, like Archbishop Tillotson’s claim, there’s no direct evidence for a link.

Alakazam is an invocation of magical power to indicate an instantaneous transformation or appearance that occurs as if by magic. This word has the most mysterious origin. Because alakazam can be a proper name, some suggest it was used to invoke the powers of a particular person. Others trace the origin to a Hindu word meaning “flawless” or the Arabic al qasam, meaning oath. However, the first known appearance was in 1902 and appears likely that it was merely invented by stage magicians to evoke a sense of the mystical power of the Orient.