Monday, March 20, 2006

Hocus Pocus and other doggerel

Duncan Fallowell in his book ‘To Noto: or London to Sicily in a Ford’ mentions that hocus pocus is a term of Protestant scorn.

He says it is a contraction of Hoc Est Corpus meum by which Roman Catholics understood a literal transubstantiation. That is the doctrine by which the whole substance of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist are consecrated.

However Woolly Day's dog-eared but trusty Collins English dictionary disagrees and describes the etymology of hocus pocus (trickery, chicanery, mystifying jargon or an incantation used by conjurers or magicians when performing tricks) as being perhaps a dog Latin formation invented by jugglers.

Although they preface the explanation with ‘perhaps’, there is no reference to the religion of the jugglers and it is unlikely to be caused by ‘Protestant scorn’. Need to investigate this further. For now, onwards, never say no to Noto. Chicane, by the way, is a 17th century French word for ‘quibble’.

Meanwhile, on matters completely different, WD was in the pub the other night (the Brunswick Tavern in New Farm to be precise), and said in favour of some forgotten naïve adventure ‘the world is full of useless incredulity, not enough people believe’.

The remark was flippant but had a point. Belief is a potent force. It requires suspension of disbelief, that most natural of defensive positions. Belief is active not passive and is a very useful catalyst for getting things done.

The trick is finding the right thing to believe in so actions are infused with great moral force, something intrinsically right that informs, ennobles and emboldens day-to-day adventures.

It is also highly infectious. One committed person can move metaphorical mountains, hitherto inert and apathetic, around him or her. The true believer is ‘the light on the hill’. Ambitions, aspirations and a broad vision are astonishing antidotes to the path of mediocrity.

Safety is abjured and brilliance, however fleeting, becomes tantalisingly possible.

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