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Topic: Should magicians use the word trick?
Message: Posted by: Kayo_City (Apr 28, 2004 04:14AM)
I been a member for a few weeks now and the one thing I've noticed is that almost everyone refers to magic as magic tricks! I don't! I was watching a street perfomer here in dublin and all he said was magic trick this and magic trick that! I think the word trick should be left to spectators as it takes away from the whole magicial experience created by the magic effects. What do you thick?
Message: Posted by: MacGyver (Apr 28, 2004 05:15AM)
I agree with you, that what we do is more than "tricks".

But I also oppose banning the word "trick".

I feel like it's banning "french fry" because they aren't french, ect.


I think that whatever personal feelings you have about the word "trick", you should be kept to yourself and let the rest of the world continue to use the word.

I just don't like it when people try to play word police on any topic.
Message: Posted by: willrob999 (Apr 28, 2004 05:34AM)
I actually feel we shoud not use the word trick as it does apply trickery and not magic so I actually use the word effect instead but its up to your personal prefrence.
Message: Posted by: KerryJK (Apr 28, 2004 06:08AM)
[quote]I actually feel we shoud not use the word trick as it does apply trickery[/quote]

No it doesn't. As a juggler I do tricks which have no gimmicks or secrets concealed from the audience, so no trickery there. In skateboard and freestyle BMX competitions they compete by performing 'tricks' where the actual skill is the point, so no trickery there. A dog rolling over or playing dead is doing tricks, but isn't trying to put one over on people.

It's just one of those funny language things.. trick can refer to deception as a verb or a noun, but when used in a performance context it tends to refer more to a neat stunt to entertain people with. If you think that description belittles the art, tell me what other profound reason there might be for putting all that effort into making bits of cardboard change colour.

The word "effect" refers to the end result as seen by a spectator and is therefore possibly a more strictly accurate term to describe magic tricks where the dexterity of the performer isn't the focus of the performance. But phonetically it's slightly more of a mouthful and it tends to conjure images of unseen boffins in a backroom movie prop department (funnily enough calling something an "effect" is more an acknowledgement that there's something you're not seeing than calling it a trick), which is probably why it hasn't taken over as the dominant term for discussing live performance magic. What would you rather be saying, "Look what I can do" or "look what I can look like I can do"?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Apr 28, 2004 06:36AM)
Language is no simple matter.



Have to get both the subject and context specified before applying a label.
Message: Posted by: Jem (Apr 28, 2004 07:15AM)
I have never been really comfortable with hearing what we do being described as "tricks", although I understand that many laypeople seem to do term it as such. To me, the term "trick" seems to demean or devalue the magic that we are trying to create.

However, I agree with the guys here that it is afterall just a word, and I certainly don't object nor take offense to anyone using the terms "card trick" or "magic trick". I just feel kind of uncomfortable about it, that's all. It is my hope that they may see it as "magic" rather than just "trick".

Personally, I try my best to avoid using the word "trick". But that's just me.
Message: Posted by: Big Daddy Cool (Apr 28, 2004 09:16AM)
I call it "magic" whenever possible. A "trick" is something you DO TO SOMEONE. Magic is a shared experience.

If you do tricks, then quit please. I'm serious. Quit calling yourself a magician and quit performing. Please. I'm begging you. You are a prime reason why the lay public despises "magicians" so much.

And since we are discussing terms let's quit calling ourselves magicians. I market myself as an entertainer period. I will even settle for the term mystery entertainer. But please quit feeding the stereotype!
Message: Posted by: KerryJK (Apr 28, 2004 09:56AM)
I've already explained my definition of tricks in this context (if you haven't read my earlier post in this thread, please do so now to get where I'm coming from) they are not done "to" people in the way you mean (I'm assuming you're not including regular misdirection and curveball explanations in this), they certainly do not demean the spectator (I'd say the "kneel before Zod" approach of getting all pretentious about doing mystical things to trivial objects insults their intelligence far more than taking the effort to show them a cool trick they might enjoy). I do tricks, I'm not ashamed of it and refuse to apologise for using the term. Since this is really based on differing definitions of the word, I won't comment on the plea for me to quit because of it.

To use my earlier example, when I juggle I do juggling tricks, not object flying demonstrations, not throwing entertainment, or any other lifeless euphemism. When I do magic, I do tricks and illusions. I really could not call myself a "mystery entertainer" and keep a straight face.. I mean, what is that? Do I book you not knowing if I'm going to get a magician, a singer, a drag act or a performing poodles routine? Great, I love surprises! I do suspect however that the only prospective clients for such drab, pedantic titles would be functions for tax accountants and traffic wardens.
Message: Posted by: Payne (Apr 28, 2004 10:29AM)
I do tricks and am proud of it. In fact my business cards read "Purveyor of Japes, Cheap Tricks and Minor Amazements"
As Eugene Burger says "The house of magic has many rooms" just because mine seems to be in the basement somewhere in no way invalidates it.
Some of us do tricks while others perform magic. There's space for us all.
Message: Posted by: Rob Johnston (Apr 28, 2004 01:45PM)
The word "trick" does not bother me too much. I use it every now and then. I think people make too big of a deal about whether or not to use this term. It is just a term.
Message: Posted by: bcharles (Apr 28, 2004 02:10PM)
I veiew what I do as effects and try not to say
trick(s) around laypeople. However, I sometimes say trick(s), but don't think it adds or takes away anything.

Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Apr 28, 2004 02:50PM)
Is this about HERE among magicians or in front of the audience?

For them, "something" seems to suffice.
Message: Posted by: MacGyver (Apr 28, 2004 05:18PM)
Hmm I do tricks and laymen seem to love them, so I don't know where the whole theory of "tricks are bad" comes from.

Anyway, I just don't like anyone playing word nazi.

Like it or not, what we do are tricks:

trick ( P ) Pronunciation Key (trk)
[b]An act or procedure intended to achieve an end by deceptive or fraudulent means.[/b] See Synonyms at wile.
A mischievous action; a prank.
A stupid, disgraceful, or childish act or performance.

A peculiar trait or characteristic; a mannerism: “Mimicry is the trick by which a moth or other defenseless insect comes to look like a wasp” (Marston Bates).
A peculiar event with unexpected, often deceptive results: “One of history's cruelest tricks is to take words that sounded good at the time and make them sound pretty stupid” (David Owen).
[b]A deceptive or illusive appearance; an illusion[/b]: a trick of sunlight.

A special skill; a knack: Is there a trick to getting this window to stay up?
A convention or specialized skill peculiar to a particular field of activity: learned the tricks of the winemaking trade.
[b]A feat of magic or legerdemain.[/b]
[b]A difficult, dexterous, or clever act designed to amuse.[/b]
All the cards played in a single round, one from each player.
One such round.

A period or turn of duty, as at the helm of a ship.
Slang. A prison term.
An act of prostitution.
A prostitute's customer.
A session carried out by a prostitute with a client.
Slang. A robbery or theft.

tr. & intr.v. tricked, trick·ing, tricks
To cheat or deceive or to practice trickery or deception.

Of, relating to, or involving tricks.
Capable of performing tricks: a trick dog.
Designed or made for doing a trick or tricks: trick cards; trick dice.
Weak, defective, or liable to fail: a trick knee.

Whether you like the word's connotations or not, what we do ARE tricks, and I think any nonsense of pro-actively not calling them that is just rubbish.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hallahan (Apr 28, 2004 07:11PM)
Of course we do tricks, but the issue of what to call magic tricks between ourselves as magicians, and what to call them during a theatrical presentations is a distinction that has to be made.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling magic tricks during a presentation, but some magicians don’t like to. Of course, it all depends on your presentation. In the book “Our Magic”, David Devant (or was it Maskelyne?) said to use the term “magic experiment.”

In the movie “Merlin”, there was a really funny scene (well it was funny to me anyway) where Merlin, who has sworn off magic, pulls the moon out of the sky for his girlfriend, and then rolls it between his fingers like a coin, i.e. a coin roll!

His girlfriend says (paraphrased from memory), “I thought you weren’t going to do magic anymore.” He replies, as he moves the moon-coin out of sight under his raised hand, and then moves his hand to show the moon restored to the night sky, “That wasn’t magic, that was a trick!”
Message: Posted by: Steve Hart (Apr 28, 2004 09:40PM)
Silly Rabbit, "Tricks are for Kids" Right?

How about saying, "For my next bit of Wizardry!"

"This next act of prestidigitation...."

"I will create legerdemain...."

We could just say, "Hey, watch this!"

Of course those are the famous last words of most idiots who accidently killed themselves.

Steve Hart
Message: Posted by: Ustaad (Apr 29, 2004 01:27AM)
It is up to the performer whether to call his/her effect a TRICK or MAGIC; which I think, is directly related to ones performance. And ones performance is judged by the audience.

At the end of an effect, the performer may get a grand APPLAUSE or may find the audience ASTONISHED with their, Hands on cheeks - Mouth wide open - Eyes popped out - and :question: lingering on their mind.

That's it! The audience has judged your effect as MAGIC or a TRICK.




P.S. Hence magicians would continue to use the words 'MAGIC' and 'TRICK' for times to come!
Message: Posted by: Wolfgang (Apr 29, 2004 02:00AM)
I'm going to let y'all in on a little secret. I can't perform real magic. So I resort to tricks to make it appear I'm doing real magic. Hence, I've never had a problem calling them such.

I can, however, understand why people get hung up on the word; there is a connotation of gimmickry to it.

But let's not get carried away. What's next? We'll tell prostitutes they can't turn tricks and tuners they can't trick out their cars? (Not that I endorse either activity.)
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Apr 29, 2004 07:58AM)
Okay, let's split hairs here:

You are a performing magician. What do you do? You perform "magic". You don't perform "effects". The "effect" is the result of something else, in this case, the magic.

A "routine" is a collection of magical pieces, magic tricks, feats of legerdemain, acts of conjuring, etc. that are "seamlessly woven together" ;) to create an effect or tell a story.

Magicians are so hung up on believing that folks will think they have some satanic power that can topple mountains and turn the Nile to blood that they feel uncomfortable in using the term "magic". Just explain that it's an illusion (if you feel particularly hypocritical by not doing so), call it "magic", and proceed. If the President can redefine "is", surely we can redefine "magic".

There will always be some people that see things that didn't really happen. Isn't that what performance magic has always been about? When I performed Casino Royale for a group of ladies the other day, all the volunteer could say later was "He KNEW how much money I would bet. It was RIGHT THERE ON THE PAPER!" For those of you who know this routine, a smiley face - ;).

"Spectators", "laymen", etc., come to your performances to see you perform "magic". They go to the circus to see the little dogs perform "tricks".

Give them "magic".

Amos McCormick
Message: Posted by: Mike Robbins (Apr 30, 2004 11:04PM)
When I first started I hated the word "trick". I'd say that what I did was "magic" or an "illusion". I've chilled a bit as I've aged and have come to realize that it's more important to communicate with your audience on their level than to try to play semantical games. If they understand "trick", then so be it. I have yet to find a lay audience who seemed to be more comfortable with "prestidigitation" or "ledgerdemain" and most of them think of an "illusion" as something that involves a big box, a lady, and a tiger and I don't perform such feats as that.

Occasionally, I'll run into another magician who vehemently hates the word "trick" so I'll avoid using the word when communicating with him/her. I have found a couple of such people, however, who tend to flash and unwittingly expose the workings and then tirade about how it's "magic" and not a "trick". Uh huh. Sure, if you say so.

Message: Posted by: DarryltheWizard (May 1, 2004 12:07PM)
To me there are puzzles, tricks and magical moments-the magical moment,of course , creates a more lasting impression.I try not to say trick too often because of the belittling connotation of, ' I will trick you'. I might say, ' For my next bit on nonsense...er I mean magical adventure... If you have a puzzle type of trick like the pom-pom stick, I try not to bring out the puzzle aspect of the effect, but using comedy or a strong patter plot that covers the puzzle aspect.
Darryl the Wizard
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (May 1, 2004 02:39PM)
The meaning of the word "trick" depends entirely upon the context in which it is used.

For example: if you have [i]The Trick Brain[/i] by Dariel Fitzkee, you will recall that he has a specific definition for the words "effect" and "trick." He uses "effect" to mean one of the 19 basic "things you can do with an object or person," such as a production, vanish, transposition, transformation, etc. He uses "trick" to mean "an effect performed upon a specific object," such as "producing a rabbit," "vanishing an elephant," "the color-changing knives." In this context, "trick" is a trade term, and it should not be offensive to any of us, as long as we are using it among ourselves.

Our choice of words when performing for the public is an entirely different matter. The spectator does not understand the word "effect" when we say, "For my next effect..." Statements like that set up what I call "red flags" in the minds of the spectators. Sometimes it is best not to call the "next trick" anything at all. Just do it.

Jonathan Townsend suggests "piece, routine, something." These work, and can even be the source of a good laugh, used in the proper (or improper) context. "Trick" can be used on occasion, if you have the right context for it. "And now, the most difficult trick I know -- I'd like to borrow some money."

I think we would often be better served to worry about how well we do our "tricks" than what we call them.
Message: Posted by: Wolfgang (May 2, 2004 10:55AM)
On 2004-05-01 15:39, Bill Palmer wrote:
I think we would often be better served to worry about how well we do our "tricks" than what we call them.
Well said.
Message: Posted by: vincentmusician (Sep 20, 2021 02:58AM)
Doug Henning said Magical Demonstrations. Someone said dogs do tricks. I perform Magic. My opinion is that I try not to use the the word Trick. I usually do not say anything at all. I just go into my routine. At the end I just say thank you, I hope you enjoyed my Show. Cheers!
Message: Posted by: gregg webb (Jan 6, 2022 09:29PM)
I usually think it is o.k. to use "trick" when among other magicians, but to use something else when in public (with non-magicians). Then, there are many words that could be used, like experiment, or feat, or wizardry. Right now in history I would say use anything but "magic". Just my 2 cents.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Jan 7, 2022 10:10AM)
I don't understand why they need to be called anything. They're supposed to be stuff that magicians can do, i.e., the impossible. No need for a label.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Jan 7, 2022 10:28AM)
[quote]On Jan 7, 2022, George Ledo wrote:
I don't understand why they need to be called anything. They're supposed to be stuff that magicians can do, i.e., the impossible. No need for a label. [/quote]

Yup, I remember an old guy back in 1960 saying to an audience, "When I was young, I was given a magic set and had fun doing tricks,
just like many of you. But, somewhere in my thirties I moved beyond that and can now show you some awesome glimpses of wonder."

and he did ...
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Jan 7, 2022 11:27AM)
Eschew excessive pretension. :)

Your story determines what you call things in front of your audience, why you are doing them, and what you want out of it.
Message: Posted by: Julie (Jan 7, 2022 12:40PM)
To build on what Pop said: sometimes, when setting-up the audience for a friendly "sucker trick", the word "trick" is entirely appropriate.

It makes a delineation between this fun trick and your other more impressive "miracles". :)

Message: Posted by: tommy (Jan 7, 2022 01:39PM)
Legitimate magicians tell the audience it is a trick: they normally do so by first proposing some incredible nonsense which cannot be true and then it is proved true with a rational experiment! The procedure results in a simultaneity of opposites: where the audience knows it is a trick but it looks real in effect. One could just tell them it is a trick up front but that would be rather crude an inartistic. Better to tell them a tall nonsensical tale, through which they can enter into the absurd spirit of the thing, knowing it is for entertainment purposes only.
Message: Posted by: Ray Pierce (Jan 7, 2022 07:27PM)
Much of my life I have spent as an educator and when I’m on stage, it’s no different. I begin by explaining to the audience:

“Many people don’t really know what to call what I do for a living. Others may not even know what I’m going to be doing here tonight. Is it magic? Is it a trick? I like to define it like this. A trick is something I read in a book, buy in a magic shop or learn from someone else. When I take that, develop it, hone it to make it something unique and special then in my hands, it can become magic… but that’s not what matters. The most important part in this process is you. Because when you see what I do and your brain short circuits for that millisecond to create a sense of wonder and amazement, then in your mind… you have created the illusion. That’s what makes what we can do here so great! If I was just here by myself I would just be doing some tricks but together we have a chance to make something really special that I hope you’ll remember for a long, long time.”
Message: Posted by: funsway (Jan 8, 2022 05:26AM)
Ray - a fine clarity as always. I would venture that there is a factor of 'confidence" involved too. You "know" what is possible with a live audience, and they follow (lead?)

Your words take me back to my first Magic Convention in the late 50's. A group of us teenagers were in a side lounge where several "notables" dropped by and offered advice. One was a person I thought I would never meet - Cardini. To paraphrase his words:

"You can show tricks to spectators or create magic with an audience. When they participate in the wonder they own it."
Message: Posted by: Ray Pierce (Jan 10, 2022 09:57PM)
I will admit that it took me many years to have the confidence to say this with impact. For me, framing what they are about to see is vital. It places their expectations where I want them. More importantly it establishes our relationship as non-adversarial which is unlike many magicians. I want them to understand we are working together for a common goal and are on the same team. In some ways this is my greatest lie as it is an all out battle for total control to fry their minds in the most powerful way possible… yet, if I framed it like that, it probably wouldn’t be as achievable. It is in fact a classic con but for the right reasons… to give them a rich sense of wonder they will cherish forever.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Jan 15, 2022 04:06AM)
My magic typically operates by me first proposing something which my audience knows is fiction and then proving that fiction true with facts in effect.

It’s no wonder my audience wonders how can that fiction be true and hopefully that wonder will last for ever and ever after.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Jan 16, 2022 10:13AM)
When did there become a universal truth as to what "magicians" should do?
Message: Posted by: tommy (Jan 16, 2022 05:33PM)
Ever since magicians transcended the state of the physical universe, they have done whatever they like. :)
Message: Posted by: stevevoltz (Jan 26, 2022 08:35PM)
I agree with Pop and Ray and that it's all about the framing and what words your character would say to describe what's about to happen. I use "illusion" because it's what my old professor character would say, but that said, in my opinion there's barely a dime's worth of difference between much maligned word "trick" and the usually preferred word "illusion." Both describe something that will look like one thing but in reality, the secret of which the performer isn't going to reveal, is another. "Now I know it looks like I just tore this newspaper up, but I didn't. It's an illusion," is not a whole lot different from "I know it looks like I just tore this newspaper up, but I didn't. It's a trick." "Trick" does have some connotations of hidden mechanics that "illusion" doesn't so to misdirect from that you might say "It's a trick your eyes are playing on you" or something similar.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Feb 4, 2022 11:40AM)
I use the word experiment, because my experiments are scientific in effect: which more than I can say for my patter.
Message: Posted by: DragonLore (Mar 19, 2022 09:45PM)
Since this seems to be a recurring discussion here on this forum, I have a strong feeling that the most correct answer is the intellectually unsatisfying “It depends”.

That being said, I am a big fan of the Spanish school of magic and have seen many performances by Juan Tamariz that start with something like “Now I going to do a little trick for you”. He then proceeds to entertain me with his unique presentation style and to amaze me with what seem to be impossible miracles.

This leads me to the conclusion that it’s ok to use this much maligned word in one’s act, though there are, of course, other options that may align better with one’s character or with the particular theme of the show.

Among magicians or in the literature, I’ve seen a more narrow definition of the word being used, but this is a different topic.