SNP’s word of the day: Prestidigitation

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Prestidigitation

Usage: “I.B.M. scientists have received Nobel Prizes, performed molecular prestidigitation and won chess and ‘Jeopardy!’ games with pioneering examples of artificial intelligence.” – Edward Rothstein in his article “Data as Art, as Science, as a Reason for Being” in the New York Times

Definition: Sleight of hand, trickery employed by fingers; in French, legerdemain.

You should know it because: Lately the weather and circumstances have conspired to make me believe that everything will be all right, a feeling that used to seem impossible, and so I’ve been thinking about magic. I’ve also been reading about it: last week, the Guardian reported findings of 500 “new” (but really, really old) German fairy tales (the only thing closer to my heart is my fourth rib), and yesterday, Interview posted a chat with the author of the new fantastical-realist novel Arcadia. Then, in the latest Gentlewoman, I read a profile of Delfina Delettrez Fendi, who makes the hautest of all this trendily superstitious/talismanic jewellery we’ve been seeing for seasons.

So magic is everywhere, the idea thereof at least, and there are more words for it than the Eskimos have for snow. As a writer I like prestidigitation best, because it’s derived from words for “quick” and “fingers,” and means something akin to “sleight of hand.” What I do every day is like that, if I do it well.