In another topic, cindyb uses conjure to mean think. My son at 24 years uses the word similarly and also with the shade of remember.
I have never heard my generation use it without the magical implication. Is this a generational thing? cindyb, your approximate age might be helpful here.
I looked in the online OED. There is no hint of this new meaning. The free dictionary has a couple of examples, but no dates are listed.
I, too, associate conjure with magic. Specifically, making something to appear from nothing. I checked and found my understanding to be correct. Therefore this makes perfect sense. Many of my memories come from nowhere. I don’t even remember where they came from. No doubt a sign of old age. With that thought, to conjure a memory would be more correctly used by the older generation.
I have the opposite impression, that to “conjure” up a memory is an older usage. Maybe it’s being revived. For comparison, I was born in 1954; none of my peers would have used that term, but I read a lot of old books and I think that’s where I first got it. By “old” I don’t mean G K Chesterton and Rudyard Kipling, but further back; an early translation of the original Swiss Family Robinson, perhaps, or even The Thousand and One Nights (although conjuring would usually be more literal there).[Later:] Of course I agree that “conjure” literally refers to magic; I only mean that by the 1800s they were using it figuratively about one’s memories and imaginations. [Later still:] Just found this at the OED:
conjure (v.): late 13c., “command on oath,” from Old French conjurer “invoke, conjure” (12c.), from Latin coniurare “to swear together; conspire,” from com- “together” (see com-) + iurare “to swear” (see jury (n.)). Magical sense is c.1300, for “constraining by spell” a demon to do one’s bidding. Related: Conjured; conjuring. Phrase conjure up “cause to appear in the mind” (as if by magic) attested from 1580s.
I really like the Online Etymology Dictionary; I use it all the time, enough that I get tired of feeling I have to spell it out. Yet there’s no getting around it; “OED” means the Oxford English, means it to enough people (even to me) that I should have restrained my laziness and said what I meant. Instead I allowed the link to speak for me.
I’m not exactly apologizing because I may still do it again. But I promise I’m looking for a better way. Sigh.
It might be racial in nature. Conjure Doktors are best known among southern blacks, and the increasing integration of the younger generation would spread usage among whites. I’ve been using conjure in a non-magical sense all my life, and I was born during the Truman administration; I’m so high-yellow, my wife didn’t believe I wasn’t white.
I also didn’t note any mention of Conjurs/Conjures in the dictionaries I consulted. These are real, (non-voodoo) snakes very similar to Black Racers but slightly thinner, and very much more aggressive.
Emmett, why is it you think cindyb’s usage doesn’t have a magical implication? Metaphorically, at least. It’s the most common usage I’ve encountered for conjure, and I’ve always (to the extent that I can remember) assumed that it meant “I’ve tried everything to remember, but all has failed, including magic.” I suppose that sense may have vanished in recent times, but I see no evidence one way or the other in cindyb’s statement.
Born ’48, if it helps.
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