Thursday, December 22, 2011

On a One-Horse Open Sleight

To do things lightly with the hand is what legerdemain is all about; to do things swiftly with the fingers is what prestidigitation is all about. The first term means 'lightness of hand' and the second term means 'fast fingering'.

But what is 'sleight of hand'? 'Sleight' is not the past tense of 'sleigh'. Rather, it is the essence of slyness. The Old Norse has it as sloegð, which seems to me a lot like 'slither'. A sleigh is something that cunningly slithers along, I suppose, although it is Frisian (?) or Dutch (?) in origin.

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