hey presto

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audiolaik

Senior Member
Polish
Hello,

I accidentally found the following phrase, namely hey presto. (source)

As far as I know, it is BrE speakers that use it in the main. (source)

Is it in widespread use, dear native speakers? Does it sound humorously?

Thank you!
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    So that we don't all have to follow the link, Hey-Presto is a magic studio.

    Presto, like "abracadabra," is a cliché magic word, the sort that a stage magician might utter as he performs a trick. The word comes from the Latin word for "quickly" or something like that, so that the cliché phrase "presto change-o," for example, implies a quick change.
     

    audiolaik

    Senior Member
    Polish

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I might use it for humorous effect, and you certainly might hear it in one of those length infomercials. I don't think that I've ever encountered the "hey, presto" phrase, on the other hand, but it is just two interjections strung together. You could just as easily precede the "presto" with "wow" or "whoa" if your point is just to draw attention.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I've not heard it much recently since I moved to the US but it was commonplace in UK - not (usually specifically) intended to be humorous but simply meaning "As if by magic..." as your second link states.

    If somebody explained how a complicated coffee machine worked using that phrase, I'd not think they were trying to be particularly humorous, just meaning that it's so complicated (to them) that it seems like magic. It would be as lighthearted/humorous as using the expression "just like magic" in the same context.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I might use it for humorous effect, and you certainly might hear it in one of those length infomercials. I don't think that I've ever encountered the "hey, presto" phrase, on the other hand, but it is just two interjections strung together. You could just as easily precede the "presto" with "wow" or "whoa" if your point is just to draw attention.
    No - not over here, "hey presto" with the two words put together is a set-phrase meaning "ta-da!" when you produce or reveal something suddenly "as if by magic". It comes from magicians saying it when they produce a rabbit from a hat or similar. It therefore does have a slightly humorous effect, but is fairly common nonetheless.
     

    audiolaik

    Senior Member
    Polish
    No - not over here, "hey presto" with the two words put together is a set-phrase meaning "ta-da!" when you produce or reveal something suddenly "as if by magic". It comes from magicians saying it when they produce a rabbit from a hat or similar. It therefore does have a slightly humorous effect, but is fairly common nonetheless.
    Thank you, timpeac, for your clear explanation!

    You could just as easily precede the "presto" with "wow" or "whoa" if your point is just to draw attention.
    Could I? So why is it only hey that is mentioned in the dictionary?:confused:
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Some of us have used hey presto in all kinds of quite formal contexts for years (spoken, but rarely written). It has precisely that "as if by magic" meaning that is very hard to convey concisely otherwise.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    As in "I love WordReference Forums : you type a question on your keyboard, send the message out into the world and Hey, presto! you get all sorts of great information and sometimes answers :) "
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    bibliolept said:
    You could just as easily precede the "presto" with "wow" or "whoa" if your point is just to draw attention.
    Could I? So why is it only hey that is mentioned in the dictionary?:confused:
    I guess it's because in BrE (as timpeac said) the set phrase is "hey presto" with no pause or comma, whereas in AmE the expression is evidently "presto", which can be preceded by any interjection you like (or none).

    EDIT: I see bibbles got there before me:) Not surprising, I'm the slowest typist in the universe...
     

    audiolaik

    Senior Member
    Polish
    audiolaik, panjandrum and timpeac are BE speakers: to them, "hey presto" is a very common set phrase. I don't believe that this is the case in AE.
    I guess it's because in BrE (as timpeac said) the set phrase is "hey presto!" with no pause or comma, whereas in AmE the expression is evidently "presto!", which can be preceded by any interjection you like (or none).

    EDIT: I see bibbles got there before me:) Not surprising, I'm the slowest typist in the universe...
    Now it is as clear as a bell!

    Thank you!
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Hi, I just made up the sentence below purely for the sake of inquiry. I'd like to know if I'm using "and hey presto" correctly:

    Isn't it funny that when you come across a new word, check out the definition, memorize it and hey presto! It starts popping up everywhere.
     

    mollymollica

    New Member
    Italian
    Hi,
    "hey presto" is a conjuror's phrase. Conjuror is one who performs tricks that appear to defy natural laws...In simple words a magician.
    I picked the phase up when I lived in England. It can be used in everyday language to describe the amazing result of something that you're making of building etc.
    It's consider humorous and eloquent. Having said all these I could be wrong since I'm not a native speaker of the English language.
     
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