Words that a Magician Should Never Utter in Front of Laymen

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/20/08 11:12 AM

Neil Patrick Harris's appearance on the TV talk show Ellen the other day was great because Neil is always great: a true performer and about as comfortable in his own skin as a person can be on TV. He did "Bruised" for Ellen, and used the word "Riffle" as he was doing a Hindu Shuffle. Ellen immediately picked up on that and said, "Riffle? Is that magic talk?"

Great question.

We use words in our field that we shouldn't say in front of laymen when performing. Most of us do it at one time or another, and frequently they just pop out because we've read them or heard them so many times.

So, let's start with Neil's word, "Riffle," as the first of a list of words we should never use in front of laymen because they just make no sense. (I should point out that Neil is a friend and I'm sure he won't be offended if I use him as the starting point. I would use myself, but I've never been on a talk show and would wet my pants before even getting to the first trick.)

What are some words, magic terminology, that you've used in front of laymen that would have been better left unsaid?
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Postby erdnasephile » 09/20/08 11:56 AM

"Silk"
"Effect"
"Indifferent Card"
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Postby Rennie » 09/20/08 12:03 PM

The most common I say or hear are the words "An ordinary deck". I have a feeling many laymen do not realize there are gaffed decks anyway, so why say it ?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/20/08 12:18 PM

It's surprising, actually, how many laymen know about both Svengali and Stripper Decks. Not by name, of course, but I can't count the number of times I've had laymen either riffle the end of the deck (thinking it was a Svengali) or run their fingers down the sides (thinking it was a Stripper). I would never say "ordinary," but simply allow the deck to be examined.
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Postby Dave V » 09/20/08 12:27 PM

I had a guy do this with my stripper deck. Good thing it was an end stripper. He checked it, nodded in approval and I proceeded as planned.
"I still play with a full deck, I just shuffle slower"
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Postby Pete Biro » 09/20/08 12:29 PM

You have a free choice.
Take a card? (They might keep it?)
I will take and put....
Stay tooned.
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Postby amp » 09/20/08 03:02 PM

I saw on You Tube the other day Mike Skinner using the word upjog the card. Which I thought was kind of odd.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3TguvRRqzU
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 09/20/08 03:06 PM

As I noted in my post on the NPH appearance, dribble is right up there with riffle.

Ordinary is a terrible word for magicians no matter what is being described as such.

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 09/20/08 03:12 PM

Well, he was working on a video for magicians. Also, Michael was heavily medicated at that point in his life. He was way past his prime at this point.
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Postby Irving Quant » 09/20/08 03:26 PM

I've heard some card guys say "riffle shuffle" to a layman.
Back in high school I was guilty of "I will DRIBBLE the cards and you say stop", until it was pointed out to me at a convention.

I think that the people that say the magic terminology during performance to non-magicians are the people that don't perform much or spend too much time around magicians.Its just one of those things you lose with practice.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 09/20/08 03:38 PM

I see no reason to avoid actual words like riffle. I knew the name of a riffle shuffle long before I ever saw a card trick. I see no reason to dumb down my vocabulary. Most folks are smart enough to understand what youre saying when you use an unfamiliar word. They simply infer the meaning from the context of the use. Its how we grow our vocabularies.

I do draw the line at statements of obvious fact (cooking show patter), and statements that remind or inform people of the existence of tricky props. The unthinking use of ordinary, unprepared. and even (horrors) ungaffed, are foolish at best.
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Postby amp » 09/20/08 05:11 PM

Dustin Stinett wrote:Well, he was working on a video for magicians. Also, Michael was heavily medicated at that point in his life. He was way past his prime at this point.

Oh. Thanks Dustin.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/20/08 05:11 PM

I don't think most people are familiar with the term "riffle" shuffle.
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Postby Nicholas Carifo » 09/20/08 05:58 PM

In todays internet-google-happy environment...

I suggest all magicians refrain from uttering ANY ACTUAL NAME OF A MARKETED EFFECT while performing.

To say, "I'll show you a trick called MYSTERIO", just invites the google-crowd to find it easily in seconds. Even if it does not reveal the effect on google, it does indeed give the impression it's "just something you bought". To many laymen that translates to "needs no talent on your part". Incorrect, but often misconstrued.

Magicians... RENAME your effects if you must name them at all.
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Postby Irving Quant » 09/20/08 06:27 PM

I'm with Richard, the term "riffle" is not something well-known. If you tell the spectator to give the deck a riffle shuffle, they have no idea what you are talking about. They start to have a minor panic attack for not knowing what it is yet you demanded it as if they should.
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Postby erdnasephile » 09/20/08 06:50 PM

Eugene Burger once wrote about the difference between asking the spectator to "shuffle" the cards compared with asking them to "mix" the cards. His theory was that the former term subtly put more stress on the spectator than the latter phrasing--the fact of which could be used to the performer's advantage.
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Postby David Thomas » 09/20/08 07:31 PM

Nicholas, couldn't agree with you more, if you say, this is crazy man's handcuffs, and do it and amaze everyone there, they will all go on youtube and search, crazy man's handcuffs! Youtube is filled with rubber band trick tutorials and they won't appreciate your non-originality. Unless you're talking about Dai Vernon or Downs or Houdini or Dingle, never say who created it.
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Postby David Nethery » 09/20/08 08:14 PM

Nicholas Carifo wrote:In todays internet-google-happy environment...

I suggest all magicians refrain from uttering ANY ACTUAL NAME OF A MARKETED EFFECT while performing.

To say, "I'll show you a trick called MYSTERIO", just invites the google-crowd to find it easily in seconds. Even if it does not reveal the effect on google, it does indeed give the impression it's "just something you bought". To many laymen that translates to "needs no talent on your part". Incorrect, but often misconstrued.

Magicians... RENAME your effects if you must name them at all.



YES ! I was going to say that , too.

Why do people think they should say things like:

"For my next trick I will present the famous Zombie Ball . First I cover the ball with an ordinary foulard ..." :mad:
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Postby David Scollnik » 09/20/08 09:58 PM

My Webster's dictionary from 1974 defines 'riffle' as a method of shuffling cards (one of several definitions given) and describes the procedure. So does the present-day on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary. I'm pretty sure I was familiar with the term and this meaning of it before I learned any magic. I've always considered this meaning to be generally known to the public, but clearly opinions on the matter vary.
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 09/20/08 10:15 PM

David Nethery wrote:
[color:#FF0000]Why do people think[/color] they should say things like:



If you examine the highlighted portion above, I think you'll find the error in the premise of your question.
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Postby Cugel » 09/20/08 11:01 PM

I totally agree with Bill Duncan.

I think Ellen asked the question only because NPH was clearly not riffling the cards. What he did is what a layman would probably refer to, if asked, as a series of cuts. She asked because his description didn't match the action.

If you hold the deck up for a spectator peek and use the word "riffle" as you allow cards to riffle off your fingers, it takes laymen a nanosecond to understand that you use the term "riffle" to explain the fact that you are clearly "riffling" through the cards. I don't think riffle is a taboo word at all. Ordinary folks use it to describe riffling (and rifling) through paperwork, or "the guy at the airport rifled through my luggage" and so on.

Now if you said, "I'm going to do a spectator peek..." that's a whole different level of nugatory and pointless magician waffle...
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/20/08 11:17 PM

Bushwa. So you're envisioning a scenario in which a layperson says, "I'm sorry, but you're really cutting the cards rather than riffling them."
Talk about taking things too literally!
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Postby Henley » 09/20/08 11:25 PM

I always thought that the word "riffle" was part of everyone's standard lexicon. Like "riffle the pages of a book".

Another word that fits this topic is "faro", hence the Charlie Miller "...I shot him" line.
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Postby Mike Remington » 09/21/08 12:16 AM

"I'm going to put my balls in your hand" especially followed by "Hold them tight"
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Postby Cugel » 09/21/08 06:10 AM

Richard Kaufman wrote:Bushwa. So you're envisioning a scenario in which a layperson says, "I'm sorry, but you're really cutting the cards rather than riffling them."


No, I'm imagining a scenario where Neil Patrick Harris performs a Hindu shuffle force and Ellen DeGeneres thinks it's odd he called it a riffle so comments, "Riffle. So that's like a magician word, huh?" That's what I'm imagining. No! Wait! I remember now. I didn't imagine it. I saw it with my own eyes.

;)

That's all.

Richard Kaufman wrote:Talk about taking things too literally!


Hey. No fair. You started this thing.

By the way: what's a Bushwa? Is that a Republican term?
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Reason: Two in the Bushwa
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Postby Jon Allen » 09/21/08 07:00 AM

"Before your very eyes" What are *very* eyes?

"Thin air" As opposed to thick air?

"Ultimate *********" Nothing is the ultimate.

"Ummmmmm......" and "Errrrrrr....." Why don't you know what you are saying?

"This card is ambitious" How can an inanimate object have dreams and desires to improve itself?

"I will cut the cards.......like so." Like what???????
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Postby amp » 09/21/08 07:58 AM

David Nethery wrote:
Nicholas Carifo wrote:In todays internet-google-happy environment...

I suggest all magicians refrain from uttering ANY ACTUAL NAME OF A MARKETED EFFECT while performing.

To say, "I'll show you a trick called MYSTERIO", just invites the google-crowd to find it easily in seconds. Even if it does not reveal the effect on google, it does indeed give the impression it's "just something you bought". To many laymen that translates (to "needs no talent on your part". Incorrect, but often misconstrued.

Magicians... RENAME your effects if you must name them at all.



YES ! I was going to say that , too.

Why do people think they should say things like:

"For my next trick I will present the famous Zombie Ball . First I cover the ball with an ordinary foulard ..." :mad:




I think it's ok to say Zombie Ball. You know there is Chinese (linking) rings ,cups and balls ,invisible deck and zig zag woman.So saying the name of some tricks is OK.
Now saying something like Egg Bag is dumb it spoils the the surprise and the bag should be a bag.
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Postby amp » 09/21/08 08:16 AM

[quote="Richard Kaufman"]Neil Patrick Harris's appearance on the TV talk show Ellen the other day was great because Neil is always great: a true performer and about as comfortable in his own skin as a person can be on TV. He did "Bruised" for Ellen, and used the word "Riffle" as he was doing a Hindu Shuffle. Ellen immediately picked up on that and said, "Riffle? Is that magic talk?"

I thought it was odd. NPH is an actor and could have a more interesting script. He could have said that every time he's on this show he gets hurt?However, time is a big factor on TV.
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Postby Mike Remington » 09/21/08 10:08 AM

Cugel wrote: What he did is what a layman would probably refer to, if asked, as a series of cuts.

In some parts of the world, like where I live, a Hindu shuffle is the normal way of mixing cards for laymen. It is not called a Hindu shuffle, however.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/21/08 10:34 AM

Bushwa is a euphemism for "[censored]." I don't know what politics would have to do with that.
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Postby Dave Egleston » 09/21/08 11:59 AM

OOPS!

and

Oh, [censored]!

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Postby Jim Maloney » 09/21/08 12:14 PM

Dave Egleston wrote:OOPS!

and

Oh, [censored]!

Dave

See also: "Things you never want to hear your doctor utter."

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Postby Cugel » 09/21/08 05:50 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:Bushwa is a euphemism for "[censored]." I don't know what politics would have to do with that.


Well, add "bushwa" to the list.
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Postby Pepka » 09/22/08 02:39 AM

I did know a magician many years ago who would announce the exact name of every single marketed trick. "And now David Roth's Shell Coins Across." He just wouldn't listen. I do however love when a magician knows there are probably one or two of us in the audience and might mention something as an inside joke. Like in Mark and Jinger's Wakeling sawing routine, Mark says that this experiment was first attempted by a Dr. Wakeling.
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Postby John Archer » 09/22/08 06:48 AM

I quite often say "Would you please give them an Ascanio spread'. Never causes any problems.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 09/22/08 08:04 AM

Don't forget Jerry had a trick in the Crimp that required the spectator to do an Elmsley count.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Jon Allen » 09/22/08 01:40 PM

John Archer wrote:I quite often say "Would you please give them an Ascanio spread'. Never causes any problems.


You should learn to do it yourself.
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Postby John Archer » 09/22/08 07:30 PM

Good idea..... Do you know anyone who can do it Jon.......
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/22/08 07:45 PM

I've never seen anyone do the Ascanio spread like its originator. The cards spread like a flower opening--an amazing thing.

I met this stripper named Nancy Ascanio once, but that's a different story ...
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Postby Bill Palmer » 09/22/08 08:48 PM

David Nethery wrote:
Nicholas Carifo wrote:In todays internet-google-happy environment...




Why do people think they should say things like:

"For my next trick I will present the famous Zombie Ball . First I cover the ball with an ordinary foulard ..." :mad:



This is a perfect example of really crappy patter. Unless you are actually performing the Karson routine, as written, you should not mention the Zombie Ball.

What does the spectator think? Does he think "WOW! I didn't know Zombies had silver balls, and look how BIG they are!" or does he think, "How many Zombies actually can dance?"

So, you bring out a ball and say, "And now, the Zombie ball. I have 50% control over the zombie that was attached to this."

Another one "What I'm going to do now is...."

Another one "What I want you to do now is...."

Another one "And now, the amazing Square Circle."

If you could show me just one actual "square circle" (not the production box, but the geometric figure) I would say that you had shown me something far more amazing than anything anyone has ever produced from a "Square Circle."
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