Posted by Bruce Kahl on July 12, 2005
In Reply to: It can't be magic if it ain't fun to say... posted by Victoria S Dennis on July 12, 2005
: : : : Why do we say 'open sesame'? where does it originate from and why do we associate the phrase with magic?
: : : It's from 'Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,' one of the tales of Arabian Nights. See: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/alibaba.html
: : Here's a rule of thumb worth keeping: "magic words" don't become magic, and certainly don't persist over centuries, if they aren't fun to say. Felicitous and euphonious. "Open sesame" has lived on and on, spawning a million jokes about "open, says me!" which delights the children who thought it up. "Hocus pocus" is another. Regardless of its source, or seriousness, it perisits because it's (all together now:) fun to say.
: : Not just magic words. We get lots of queries on this forum about oaths and what they "mean." Hells bells, folks, some things are just fun to say. The most colorfulversions survive. "What in the blue blazes" will live on, "by pharoah's foot" will fade away.
: Sesame oil is a mild laxative, and was traditionally used as such by the Arabs; thus "Open Sesame!" in the original Arabic was a lavatory joke. (VSD)
I have also seen some explanations that state the seed capsules split open with a shattering plop on ripening which could also explain the origin of the phrase.