Imagine Imagination: The Image and Magic of Imagination
By Rocky Reichman
“Imagine a world in which socially responsible and eco-friendly practices actually boost a company’s bottom line,”
reads the Cover quote for the Jan. 29, 2007 issue of BusinessWeek.
The word imagine is quickly becoming the most popular term used in the business world. “Imagine it” is
a phrase favored by investors and entrepreneurs alike. Loved by corporate managers and chief executives. “Imagine it”
means to think creatively and form a mental image of something. “Picture it.” Imagination (noun form) is the ability
to form images and ideas in the mind. When marketers pitch their products to investors and say “Imagine it,” they
are telling the investors to think creatively and see all the benefits their product has. The marketers are telling the investors
to visualize their idea, to see it clearly and with a positive mindset.
Imagination is not the same thing as conception. To quote an etymologist called “Stewart” in
Webster’s Dictionary, Unabridged, imagination is “distinguished from conception as a part from a
whole. The business of conception,” says Stewart, “is to present us with an exact transcript of what we
have felt or perceived. But we have also a power of modifying our perceptions, by combining the parts of different ones so
as to form new wholes of our own creation.” This is called Imagination, a modification of what we have perceived.
Our own creation. It is not reality, but within our minds we can make it so.
The word imagine carries great power. “Imagine it” implies that you can do anything with your thoughts.
Let your mind wander. Go beyond your usual thinking borders, beyond what you perceive. Make your own world and your own ideas,
not limited by the parameters of reality. When marketers say “Imagine it” to investors, they are sending their
audience the message that they can do whatever they want. That, with their product, investors will be able to achieve anything.
And imagination is not only used in business meetings or product pitches. Imagination is what makes a novelist successful.
What enables a writer to craft a good, interesting story that takes readers to another world, planet, universe. Marketers
use imagination to make up creative slogans and advertisements. People use their imaginations every day to daydream or think
about their lives.
Imagination is popular and powerful.
Now that we have learned about the popularity, power and purpose of imagination, let’s see what other words imagine
and imagination might be related to. To start us off, here is a list of other ways to say “imagine”
or “imagination”: imaginal, imaginableness, imagining, imaginary, imaginational.
Someone who forms ideas is an imaginer. Time to move on to some different words.
Is the word imagine related to image? How about the words magic or mage?
Image comes from Old French image, from L. imago(-inis), an imitation, copy, image. It means “to represent
or form an image of; to form a likeness of in the mind by the fancy or by recollection. To imagine.”
Gotcha! There’s the link. Look at the definition of image, then study what imagine means. Poof! They may
be completely separate words with different definitions, but they both involve “forming or creating the likeness of
something in the mind.” Imagination is the formation of mental images.
Image is related to imagine, but not to the words magic or mage. Their roots may look the same--“mage”
and “magic” almost fit into the word imagine itself--but there is still no connection between them. Magic
and mage do, however, have something in common: they both involve “making up or creating” something,
whether it be thoughts or powers.
Magic comes from Latin magice, from Greek magike (supply techne, art), the magic art, sorcery, from
magikos, of the Magi, from Magoi, the Magi or priests of the Medes and Persians skilled in sorcery. Magic
is “any occult art or science, especially the supposed art of putting into action the power of spirits, a knowledge
and control of the secret operations of nature, the science of producing wonderful effects by the aid of superhuman beings
or of departed spirits, sorcery, enchantment.” It can also be “the practice of sorcery, conjuring, enchantment,
fascinating power.” A Mage is someone who practices magic, “a magician, enchanter.” In modern times, the
art of stage magicians is sometimes called “sleight of hand” or trickery. (Etymology and definitions from Webster’s
Imagination is a powerful thing to have--and an even more powerful word to know.
Go. Make magic with your imagination. Then, your power and rhetorical skills will truly “boost your company’s
bottom line.” Imagine it….
Click here to read other Etymology articles in this issue.