Laypeople

All beginners in magic should address their questions here.
User avatar
Mahdi Gilbert
Posts: 36
Joined: May 5th, 2016, 10:06 am
Contact:

Laypeople

Postby Mahdi Gilbert » May 5th, 2016, 10:36 am

How many of you refer to your spectators, audiences, and non-magicians as 'laypeople'?

If you do, then why?

If you do not, then why not?

Personally, I find it to be an offensive and denigrating label and I hear it every single time I'm around a 'magician' and I'm very curious as to why people in the magic community use that term.

Anthony Vinson
Posts: 191
Joined: July 10th, 2010, 12:34 pm
Location: Georgia

Re: Laypeople

Postby Anthony Vinson » May 5th, 2016, 11:07 am

Would you prefer Muggles? By definition the word laity fits; it's generally understood, and acts only to differentiate and not to denigrate. Is it overused? Perhaps, but so are countless other words and phrases.

User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 23640
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Laypeople

Postby Richard Kaufman » May 5th, 2016, 11:24 am

It's just convenient, Mahdi. What would you prefer?
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

brianarudolph
Posts: 349
Joined: February 26th, 2012, 9:22 pm

Re: Laypeople

Postby brianarudolph » May 5th, 2016, 11:34 am

Hey Mahdi!

Now that you've made me think about this, I realized that I use all three terms in different ways:

I do reserve "laypeople" specifically for conversations with magicians only. In that context I use it to refer to any group of one or more people who do not have any significant level of magic background (including secrets, methods, history, AMA memberships, etc.) I do not use it as a derogatory term (something, with apologies to J. K. Rowling, that I think "muggle" certainly does) but rather to mean "someone without any intimate familiarity with the art of magic." The term itself may partially have been borrowed from religious tradition in which some "non-ordained" congregants have been trained to some "lower level" (again, in a non-derogatory way) to assist with religious services. They are often called "laypeople", "lay ministers", etc.

I seem to always use "spectators" when referring to anyone observing my performance in a close-up or small parlor setting - regardless of the magic expertise they possess (as I intentionally never want to presume what the mix of my "observers" is.)

I seem to always use "audience" in the same way as I do "spectators" but for large parlor and stage performances. In other words, in the way that you just made me realize that I've been using the terms all my life: a small group of "watchers" are "spectators" and a larger group of "watchers" is an "audience."

But I do totally understand your point as to how the term "laypeople" - even when used just between magicians - sounds offensive. It would be nice to hear suggestions for better terms to use when magicians talk shop. Both "observer" and "watcher" sound too bland, anonymous, uncaring and generic, so I'd rather not use those. Plus anyone can "watch" or "observe" regardless of their magical background.

At least this is not as bad as in the tech world, however. I'm increasingly hearing "techies" referring to someone who is simply not quite as "technically sophisticated" as the techie is (or thinks he/she is) as a "luddite" - even though that term originally meant someone who intentionally and actively destroyed new technology because they perceived it as threat. It has more recently grown to mean someone who simply resists new technology. But I hear it being intentionally used more and more in the techie community as an intellectual insult meaning "someone too stupid to grasp new technology" and I fear that its usage is only further decaying in that direction.

Perhaps we can find a better term than "layperson" and "laypeople" to refer to those not as acquainted with the magic profession as a reasonable magician would be, I'm just at a loss (as I rush to a lunch meeting) to think of a better term to offer from the point on top of my head right now.

Jonathan Townsend
Posts: 7610
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Westchester, NY
Contact:

Re: Laypeople

Postby Jonathan Townsend » May 5th, 2016, 12:31 pm

It's part of the magic shop sales thing - you're smarter than they are because you bought the book and the trick and the dvd so now have justification (you bought that secret for your hard earned dollars) and can look down at the folks outside the magic shop who just don't have a clue how tricks work... so buy that item and feel special for having secret knowledge of the practice.

Folks honestly don't believe buying a magic shop item conveys any knowledge of magic... right?

First rule of fight club.

Taking a performing arts perspective... back to audiences. :)
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

performer
Posts: 2021
Joined: August 7th, 2015, 10:35 pm

Re: Laypeople

Postby performer » May 5th, 2016, 9:50 pm

"Normal human beings" might be as good a term as any. Nobody could possibly accuse magicians of being normal human beings so the difference is quite obvious.

User avatar
Brad Jeffers
Posts: 802
Joined: April 11th, 2008, 5:52 pm
Location: Savannah, GA

Re: Laypeople

Postby Brad Jeffers » May 5th, 2016, 10:17 pm

brianarudolph wrote:Perhaps we can find a better term than "layperson" and "laypeople" to refer to those not as acquainted with the magic profession as a reasonable magician would be

If you want an alternative term, refer to them as "the public".

Jack Shalom
Posts: 367
Joined: February 7th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Brooklyn NY

Re: Laypeople

Postby Jack Shalom » May 5th, 2016, 10:39 pm

The term "layperson" embodies a useful distinction in discussing magic methods, notwithstanding some people's disapproval of that particular term.

It's not the case, in my opinion, that the words "the public" can convey the same nuance, since members of "the public" have varying degrees of magical knowledge. At times, in discussing magic, it's important to address issues that concern those members of the public who are not familiar with the mechanics of deception. It's useful to have a convenient word for those people.

Nothing to do with the commodification of secrets, though I understand the thrust of the remark. Bad attitudes will continue with or without the particular words.

"Non-magicians"?

Brad Henderson
Posts: 3392
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: austin, tx

Re: Laypeople

Postby Brad Henderson » May 6th, 2016, 12:16 am

I use the term 'real people'.

J-Mac
Posts: 161
Joined: July 19th, 2009, 3:03 am
Location: Ridley Park, PA USA

Re: Laypeople

Postby J-Mac » May 6th, 2016, 12:46 am

Unsuspecting victims... :twisted:

Jim

Ian Kendall
Posts: 2319
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Edinburgh
Contact:

Re: Laypeople

Postby Ian Kendall » May 6th, 2016, 3:02 am

I'm with Brad (however strange that sounds...)

I call them 'real people'.

brianarudolph
Posts: 349
Joined: February 26th, 2012, 9:22 pm

Re: Laypeople

Postby brianarudolph » May 6th, 2016, 6:23 am

Magician A: Last night I did the best show of my life. My timing was impeccable. My card manipulation was more technically precise than Lance Burton's and more beautiful than Jeff McBride's. I was more hilarious than Terry Seabrooke, more spectacular than David Copperfield and more wonder-inspiring than Doug Henning. My finale of Metamorphosis put Houdini's to shame and made Jonathan Pendragon's look sedated. Afterwards, the audience's applause was so thunderous that I barely escaped after three encores.
Magician B: Were you performing for real people?
Magician A: No. Imaginary.

Despite that brief detour through bad humor, I like "real people" for "non-magicians" too. Also, it can only help that when magicians refer to "real people" among themselves that the term reinforces the notion that non-magicians are people we want to view in every sense of the word as "real" since they are the bulk of the ones who pay to see us perform - not to see us do things that make us feel in any way above them.

J-Mac
Posts: 161
Joined: July 19th, 2009, 3:03 am
Location: Ridley Park, PA USA

Re: Laypeople

Postby J-Mac » May 6th, 2016, 6:40 am

I generally use the term, "spectators".

Jim

performer
Posts: 2021
Joined: August 7th, 2015, 10:35 pm

Re: Laypeople

Postby performer » May 6th, 2016, 6:52 am

I think laymen is as good as anything. I don't find it offensive any more than when a member of the clergy uses the same word to describe people who are not church people. Mind you, I am an exception since as a psychic reverend and holy man of the cloth myself I call them "punters" but that is another matter entirely.......................................

Leo Garet
Posts: 247
Joined: March 14th, 2015, 9:14 am
Favorite Magician: Nobody In Particular

Re: Laypeople

Postby Leo Garet » May 6th, 2016, 10:43 am

As Mister Kaufman says, it’s convenient. It's a fully rounded and traditionally accepted general term. Terminology, even jargon to some degree.

If anybody feels it’s somehow demeaning, so be it it. Alongside “laity,” it’s a word/phrase that’s been part of my vocabulary forever; inside and outside Magic.

I often use the word laypeople, layperson(s)and layfolk. No malice. Magicians know to which group I’m referring and to repeat, it’s terminology. Practical and useful. If magicians don't know, they should.

Much like “spectator”. Frowned on by some to whom “participant” is far more chivalrous, accurate, and honourable. “Patter,” too is a no-go area for those who think that “script,” “libretto” are more worthy.

Why the fuss? Why change it/them?
Leave 'em alone.

Bill Mullins
Posts: 4287
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Huntsville, AL

Re: Laypeople

Postby Bill Mullins » May 6th, 2016, 11:01 am

George Bernard Shaw: "All professions are conspiracies against the laity."

User avatar
Mahdi Gilbert
Posts: 36
Joined: May 5th, 2016, 10:06 am
Contact:

Re: Laypeople

Postby Mahdi Gilbert » May 7th, 2016, 10:44 am

Maybe it's not so much the word itself that makes me cringe but that it is usually being said by people with no true understanding of magic or deception (who quite naturally consider themselves to be conjurers) who say smugly aloud, "This fools the laymen every time."

You know who you are

John Signa
Posts: 280
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: San Jose, CA

Re: Laypeople

Postby John Signa » May 7th, 2016, 11:14 am

Magicians are best at fooling themselves.

John LeBlanc
Posts: 904
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Houston, TX

Re: Laypeople

Postby John LeBlanc » May 7th, 2016, 11:20 am

This strikes me as a semantic dispute, and my answer depends on the context. When we engage in shoptalk -- among ourselves -- a convenient shortcut word for people who aren't magicians is layman or layperson; we all know what that means. I use "normal person." In outside talk, I use "audience" or "audience member."

Layman, mentalism/mentalist, silk -- these are shoptalk words.

John

Ted M
Posts: 876
Joined: January 24th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Dani DaOrtiz
Location: Madison, WI

Re: Laypeople

Postby Ted M » May 7th, 2016, 3:16 pm

Mahdi Gilbert wrote:Maybe it's not so much the word itself that makes me cringe but that it is usually being said by people with no true understanding of magic or deception (who quite naturally consider themselves to be conjurers) who say smugly aloud, "This fools the laymen every time."

You know who you are


It sounds like the problem here is that no, they don't know who they are.

Plenty of people of all sorts lack self-awareness.

It's just really extra uncomfortable when public performers lack it.

performer
Posts: 2021
Joined: August 7th, 2015, 10:35 pm

Re: Laypeople

Postby performer » May 7th, 2016, 8:29 pm

In any event most "magicians" are simply laymen who know how the tricks are done anyway. We should probably discuss who deserves to be called "magicians" rather than who should be called laymen. For the record I consider very few "magicians" to be magicians anyway. Quite frankly they don't deserve the title. But they all delude themselves that they do. I don't think I have met fifty MAGICIANS in my entire life. Certainly not more than a hundred. And you would be very surprised at the names I don't consider to be magicians.

User avatar
erdnasephile
Posts: 3296
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm

Re: Laypeople

Postby erdnasephile » May 8th, 2016, 8:38 am

Yes--it's not the word, but the attitude behind the word that is of issue here, IMHO. It's the lack of respect for the audience that is most problematic.

I would take it a step further though. Even the sentence: "This fools the laymen every time" doesn't bother me per se if the reason for the sentence is to point out the difference between fooling the laity versus magicians, which IS different in many cases (and NOT because one group is inherently more intelligent or worthy than the other).

However, if the sentence is being used derisively or dismissively then I think that's emblematic of a bankrupt attitude. Worse, if it's being used as an excuse for a sloppy or careless performance, then I find that more offensive than any particular word or phrase.

Leo Garet
Posts: 247
Joined: March 14th, 2015, 9:14 am
Favorite Magician: Nobody In Particular

Re: Laypeople

Postby Leo Garet » May 8th, 2016, 8:43 am

I generally refer to the farternity as Magicians and magic club members, although not all members of the faternity are magic club members. And some non-members are Magicians. And.....here we go round in circles to nowhere.

We're all layfolk, anyway. Step outside the back door and we're in a world that's familiar, but populated with people who may not be Magicians and/or magic club members, but know and do things that we have no idea about. They're the "experts," we're the layfolk.

I'm not a Politician and have no desire to be, but I know more about how to run the country than anybody in Parliament. And so does my neighbour and my brothers. The only thing wrong with them is that, like politicians, they too have no idea of how to run the country.
:) ;)

Steve Mills
Posts: 302
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Saint Charles, IL

Re: Laypeople

Postby Steve Mills » May 8th, 2016, 3:40 pm

Two possible definitions:

1. A person that could care less about the Precursor pdf

2. One who is not defined by the drool on his / her shirt
Let him rave, that men may know him mad.Yul Brynner as Rameses II

Bill Duncan
Posts: 1431
Joined: March 13th, 2008, 11:33 pm

Re: Laypeople

Postby Bill Duncan » May 8th, 2016, 5:15 pm

Has anyone bothered to look the word up?

Jonathan Townsend
Posts: 7610
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Westchester, NY
Contact:

Re: Laypeople

Postby Jonathan Townsend » May 8th, 2016, 8:15 pm

Bill Duncan wrote:Has anyone bothered to look the word up?


In Greek? Still a matter of context. Knowing the distinctions between a prank, a trick and a magic trick may have gone the way of reading those old Greek books.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

webbmaster
Posts: 76
Joined: November 30th, 2016, 11:38 am
Favorite Magician: richard Kaufmann

Re: Laypeople

Postby webbmaster » February 27th, 2017, 1:26 pm

What I think may be getting lost in the shuffle is the fact that we don't (or shouldn't be) using the term 'layman' or laymen' IN OUR PERFORMANCES...just in our discussions about our art. In public we should use terms like 'member of the audience' or such. But in our discussions of our art is is very important to decide if you are going to perform for magicians (who like to watch other good magicians) or for the PUBLIC, or both. The style is different as are which tricks to use depending on which group one is working for. If wanting to work for BOTH groups...you need two different kinds of shows...one for each. If you try to do magicians' magic on the PUBLIC, they won't GET what even the effect is supposed to be because it will go over their head. It is like an 'inside joke' not even being comprehended if you are not 'on the inside.

That's about all I can say about this.

brianarudolph
Posts: 349
Joined: February 26th, 2012, 9:22 pm

Re: Laypeople

Postby brianarudolph » February 27th, 2017, 7:32 pm

Leo Garet wrote:I generally refer to the farternity as Magicians and magic club members, although not all members of the faternity are magic club members.


No offense meant here, Leo ... with everything going on I'll take some humor anywhere I can find it now. That said, and while I'm sure they're both typos, I've regretfully been around a "farternity" of magicians a few times. And I'm a bona fide, card-carrying member of the magic faternity.


Return to “General”