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In one of the early books (IIRC it was the first one; sorcerers stone, philosophers stone) Harry uses the term "magic word" to refer to the word "please" when talking to Dudley.

The Dursleys reaction shows that this term was considered taboo there (due to the word "magic"). If this was the case, how did Harry ever come to learn this phrase?

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    It was Chamber of Secrets :) And as the actual answerers have said, Harry lived nigh on 10 years in the Muggle world and all of his early childhood was there. Also, you're quite right that the Dursleys hated any mention of anything behaving otherwise than how it should and all of that and Uncle Vernon blows up at the thought of a flying motorbike, that's all true. But I always got the impression that it didn't get to the point of them being scared of even the word 'magic' in context until Harry actually went off to Hogwarts and started learning it – Au101 Sep 29 '15 at 23:24
  • @Au101 Ah, thanks. That's a good point – gandalf3 Sep 29 '15 at 23:35
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    @Au101 I thought it was CoS but didn't have my books to check. I think it got scarier after Dudley got his pigs tail. That and the half giant. – CandiedMango Sep 30 '15 at 6:41
  • So we got a question with a -1 score that has two answers with +16 and +14 score. Does this confirm that it IS possible to create a good knife from a bad steel? :) (btw - the question makes sense especially for the ones that are not native English speakers) – vap78 Oct 1 '15 at 11:39
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Harry had a life, albeit a somewhat limited one, outside of the Dursley home. He went to school and interacted with teachers, I'm sure we have all heard our parents or elders refer to please as a "magic word" when we were younger.

Of course there is no completely canon answer for this, but we know he interacted with muggles daily and it's a common phrase so it's safe to assume he picked it up from them.

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"The magic word" meaning please or thank you is a common English idiom. E.g. see here.

It was perfectly natural for one child to say this to another; it was only Dudley's parents who might have thought to attach any significance to the phrase at that time. Even though they may not have used the phrase at home, due to the taboo on the word magic, Harry could easily have picked it up e.g. at primary school.

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