What’s the antonym of “magic”?

6 May

Recently, I wrote about Two Magic Words that, when conjured, make me feel happy and grateful. When you say (or if I even just think): Broken nose, personal bliss reliably follows.

New blog followers might find that odd, but it’s perfectly normal — for me. My world is generally off-kilter from the rest of the world, in ways both good and bad.

Today, I share the behind-the-looking-glass Evil Twins to my Two Magic Words. These two words are probably perfectly lovely for everyone else in the English-speaking world to hear, but when you say (or if I even just think) these two words, badness and calamity reliably follow.

These words are a curse, a ruse, a slur, a slant, a slight, a jinx, a joke, a jackassinine mishmash of doom and damnation. None of these terms is exactly right for the 2 Anti-Magic Words that plague me, but for the life of me I can’t apparate an appropriate antonym for magic.

Maybe you can help.

Here are some scenarios where the 2 Anti-Magic Words have appeared in my life, bringing destructive, demoralizing despair along with them:

I’m 12 years old. I’ve applied a length of masking tape to my bedroom floor. I practice back handsprings on it every day/night. I go to the gym. I’m up on the beam: Back handspring, back handspring; Half-turn, take two steps; Back handspring, back handspring. Half-turn, start to take two steps but instead hear my coach say the 2 Anti-Magic Words so I immediately fall off the balance beam.

I’m 15 years old. I’m struggling to put together a series of stable, fluid fouetté turns in my dance class. Our goal is to do 6 in a row. Repeat attempts demonstrate that I reliably lose my balance or dramatically lower my whipping leg after 3 or 4 turns. This time, however, I pull strongly through turn #5 and likely would’ve nailed #6, too, but the 2 Anti-Magic Words fly from my instructor’s mouth and destroy my rhythm. I later explain to her what happened and why. She never aims those words at me again. Problem solved.

I’m 16 years old. My dad is teaching me how to drive in a large, abandoned, federally owned parking lot. We’re practicing uphill and downhill turns. He explains the need to apply the brake going into the turn and how/why to gently give a little gas coming out of it.

First turn, uphill: w-a-y too much brake, not nearly enough gas. Second turn, essentially flat: again too much braking, but solid correction with the gas. Third turn, downhill: *perfect* brake pressure, which elicits the 2 Anti-Magic Words from my dad, causing me to pretty much floor the gas, launching us straight over a curb and into a flower bed/planter area, firmly wedging the car into the crevasse, and necessitating my 2-mile walk home.

Mom can barely decipher my blubbering: Dad. Car. Crash. Help. Not-gonna-be-able-to-go-to-West Point-anymore-cuz-we-broke-the-law-and-trespassed-and-destroyed-federal-property. Dis.As.Ter.

Sure enough: Dad’s flanked by federal agents when mom and I return to the scene. Ultimately, he wasn’t arrested and neither was I, but I’m pretty sure we had to pay something for the broken sprinkler system. Luckily, the 2 Anti-Magic Words uttered by my dad did not destroy my West Point dream — at least not directly (it got obliterated in a different, even-more bizarre manner that may lend itself to a future blog post). It took me awhile to get behind the wheel again, but dad’s the one who learned the important lesson: He never said the 2 Anti-Magic Words to me again.

I’m 38 years old. I’m learning how to walk again after my brain surgery. My sister is with me. She knows all about the 2 Anti-Magic Words. It’s been decades since she or anyone else in my immediate family has directed those specific words at me. Over time, consciously or subconsciously, we just developed work-arounds. Alas, no one thought to advise the hospital staff about this issue…

A nurse, no-doubt with honorable intentions, excitedly exclaimed the 2 Anti-Magic Words as I attempted to ambulate the halls. Because I gripped a walker and the physical therapist ably lassoed me via the gait belt, I didn’t fall. But the nurse’s well-intended enthusiasm was met with a surly “Oh, shut the hell up” response. Future therapists were (I assume) warned. I can’t recall the 2 Anti-Magic Words ever being used during my formal outpatient rehab efforts. Amen to that!

I’m 40 years old. I’m climbing Mt. Vision on my bike. I’m 54-miles into a 123-mile race. Riders who started the race after me are already bombing down the Mt. Vision descent. They keep cheerily lobbing the 2 Anti-Magic Words at me. I want to murder them. If I wasn’t surrounded by teammates (i.e., witnesses), I would’ve jumped off my bike and hurled rocks at them. Instead, I just labor on, seething with deep internal hatred.

Two weeks ago, I shared my Rapha Race report on this blog. A person I’ve never met (but whom I admire from afar because he writes brilliantly about the pathos and pleasures of cycling) included the 2 Anti-f*cking-Magic Words in his Comment to my post.

My heart stopped. My hands and feet turned cold for lack of blood and I literally “saw red” because the blood, instead, had coursed into my eyes, which I wanted to gouge out with the nearest spoon or chopstick. How DARE he lob that sh*t at me:

Good job out there…

Good job

Are you f*cking kidding me?!

“Good job” in cyclist-speak is kind of like “Bless your heart” when said by a Southern woman — it’s basically a way to insult someone without being overtly rude.

“Good job” (cycl.) means: You poor sad, sack of pathetic lard. Thank Dog you exist so that I can compare myself against you and feel vastly, and justifiably, superior to your lameness. 

My coach, who knows this Commenter quite well, assures me that the Comment was NOT made using “cyclist speak.” I am supposed to “take it at face value” like “a normal person” would.

“Good job” is supposed to be viewed as a genuine compliment.

But the rehab nurse, and my dad, and my dance instructor, and my gymnastics coach all delivered “Good job” sentiments with the same “genuine compliment” coating and I choked on every one.

That “Good job” stuff just doesn’t go down right with me.

If you “Good job” me, you destroy some crucial (probably-totally-fucked-up) part of me. You kill my meant-to-be-always-striving core.

You say “Good job,” I say “I quit” — I may or may not add “And f*ck you, too.”

If you are my friend, or if you care about me even one little bit, then you will not ever say “Good job” to me.

You can either say:

(A) “Keep going, CZ!” [or whatever nickname you use for me] or

(B) ….

Nope, actually, that’s pretty much it.

Just substitute “Keep going” for “Good job” any time you’re talking to/about me. That little substitution transforms the 2 Anti-Magic Words into something pretty dang awesome and powerful.

If you are my enemy, or my competitor, or just an all-around general A-hole, well then, watch out, sucker: Now that I’ve laid all this out there, I feel like I might have just destroyed the words’ destructive capacity. So if you “Good job” me in the future in a now ill-advised attempt to throw me off my game, you are hereby duly warned that you will, instead, invoke a full-fledged GAME ON response. Worlds of terror, hurt, and confusion may rain down upon you rather than on me. The Anti-Magic Words may transform into reverse-karma-fate-thwarting-chaos-laden words of wicked wizardry. In other words: Who knows what will happen?! But it likely won’t be Magic and I probably wouldn’t try it if I were you.

And, finally, if you’re a well-intentioned stranger who innocently mistakes me for a “normal human being,” then: I forgive you. And I will henceforth endeavor to accept your words at face value.

But I’d still like to know what the antonym of “magic” is.

Parting Thought: Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning. ~Joseph Campbell

3 Responses to “What’s the antonym of “magic”?”

  1. Carissa Barker May 10, 2013 at 4:47 am #

    My unmagical word is “relax”, which reliably has the reverse effect. BTW, I recommend the rhyme rather than synonym…tragic!

    • justadventures May 10, 2013 at 9:17 am #

      Oh, yeah, I can definitely see “relax” being an anti-magic word!


  1. Because you never know… | JustAdventures - September 5, 2014

    […] bloggers I’ve ever read. He’s the guy who “inspired” my Antonym of Magic post. He’s also someone I never, ever, EVER wanted to meet in real life because I knew damn […]

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