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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Should magicians use the word trick? (3 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Dublin, Ireland
59 Posts

Profile of Kayo_City
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?
That's all i have to say about that!
City Livin'
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St. Louis, MO
1419 Posts

Profile of MacGyver
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.
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106 Posts

Profile of willrob999
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.
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Northampton UK
621 Posts

Profile of KerryJK
I actually feel we shoud not use the word trick as it does apply trickery

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"?
Jonathan Townsend
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Eternal Order
Ossining, NY
27219 Posts

Profile of Jonathan Townsend
Language is no simple matter.



Have to get both the subject and context specified before applying a label. all the coins I've dropped here
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342 Posts

Profile of Jem
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.
Big Daddy Cool
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The Houdini Room at The Casa de Cool
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Profile of Big Daddy Cool
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!
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
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Northampton UK
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Profile of KerryJK
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.
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Profile of Payne
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.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Rob Johnston
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Inner circle
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Profile of Rob Johnston
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.
"Genius is another word for magic, and the whole point of magic is that it is inexplicable." - Margot Fonteyn
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South Carolina
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Profile of bcharles
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.

Jonathan Townsend
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Eternal Order
Ossining, NY
27219 Posts

Profile of Jonathan Townsend
Is this about HERE among magicians or in front of the audience?

For them, "something" seems to suffice. all the coins I've dropped here
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Inner circle
St. Louis, MO
1419 Posts

Profile of MacGyver
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)
An act or procedure intended to achieve an end by deceptive or fraudulent means. 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).
A deceptive or illusive appearance; an illusion: 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.
A feat of magic or legerdemain.
A difficult, dexterous, or clever act designed to amuse.
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.
Bill Hallahan
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New Hampshire
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Profile of Bill Hallahan
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!”
Humans make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to create boredom. Quite astonishing.
- The character of ‘Death’ in the movie "Hogswatch"
Steve Hart
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Palm Bay, FL
384 Posts

Profile of Steve Hart
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
"Motivational Magicians are some of the highest paid magicians, find out why?"
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Iindia - States
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Profile of Ustaad
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 Smile 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!
MAGIC is a SECRET, without the SECRET there is no MAGIC.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke.
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Profile of Wolfgang
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.)
"Sure, I do Scotch and Soda in every show. What? You mean there's a trick by that name?"
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Southwestern Southeast
3997 Posts

Profile of ClintonMagus
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" Smile 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 - Smile.

"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
Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before...
Mike Robbins
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Elite user
Anchorage, Alaska
447 Posts

Profile of Mike Robbins
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.

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
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Profile of DarryltheWizard
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 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
"Life without mystery is like a candle
with a snuffed out flame." Albert Einstein
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