Asking British people their names

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performer
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Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 27th, 2015, 8:08 am

This is really for Magic by Alfred who didn't quite understand my reluctance to ask people their names and furthermore my reluctance to give it. It is a British thing and although I am more extreme than other Brits about the matter it is really a cultural thing. We don't like people asking personal questions either unless we know them well. And of course when performing for people we do not know them well. So polite Brits will look uncomfortable and answer the questions anyway and impolite ones like me will tell you to mind your own business.

Oh, and too much eye contact in Britain is not encouraged either. There will be a certain amount but it will taper off during conversations and may even be considered rude.

Here is a full explanation of the matter. Please note the following excerpt:

"The thing to understand here is this: the British sense of personal privacy is very different from the American one. Asking someone's name, even implicitly by offering yours, is a premature violation of that privacy until some goodwill has already been established between you."


http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogs ... rself.html

Leo Garet
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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Leo Garet » August 27th, 2015, 9:54 am

performer wrote:Here is a full explanation of the matter. Please note the following excerpt:

It’s hardly an explanation, just an observance. Interesting nonetheless. Equally interesting are (some of) the comments, which reveal as much, if not more about “etiquette” as the main article.

In general, I’ll talk to anybody (almost) but I’m happy in quiet. Eye contact? Well, “it’s rude to stare” is an old saying, and it’s something to keep in mind. It can be invasive.

But, please, spare me from shoegazers.

performer
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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 27th, 2015, 11:39 am

The comments below seem to be mostly by Americans so of course they don't count. After all we are an older nation and by dint of such our opinions should be the ones that matter.

I do like the remark by one British person that the reason we don't want to know people's names is that we are not going to use them anyway.

I really detest the false friendliness of bank tellers in Canada having the impudence to address me by my first name. I expect to be called MR Lewis. Furthermore I am quite horrified by the North American habit of waitresses who insist on telling me their name when they take my order. I haven't the slighest interest in knowing their name and I do wish they would keep it to themselves.

Oh, and I detest tipping too.

Leo Garet
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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Leo Garet » August 27th, 2015, 12:50 pm

performer wrote:Furthermore I am quite horrified by the North American habit of waitresses who insist on telling me their name when they take my order. I haven't the slighest interest in knowing their name and I do wish they would keep it to themselves.

In general, me too.
But I suspect it has much to do with company policy rather more than their desire to be friendly.

Bill Mullins
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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Bill Mullins » August 27th, 2015, 1:51 pm

Leo Garet wrote:
performer wrote:Furthermore I am quite horrified by the North American habit of waitresses who insist on telling me their name when they take my order. I haven't the slighest interest in knowing their name and I do wish they would keep it to themselves.

In general, me too.
But I suspect it has much to do with company policy rather more than their desire to be friendly.



They do it because (in general) it increases tips.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 27th, 2015, 2:02 pm

I will second that, Bill! It sure does! Just last night at my regular Bar/Restaurant gig at Ricardo's in Santa Rosa, i encountered two families that came back to see me (they had both been in several weeks before). They lit up with delight (no not the TT one) when I greeted them all by name. They commented how impressed they were that I actually remembered their names. I've been working hard on learning and remembering people's names because it makes them feel good, and IMHO, is an indication that you consider them special and that you care about and appreciate them. I know they loved the magic, but I think the $20 and $25 gratuities, respectively, for the 10-15 minute set I did for each was attributable to more than just conjuring. I honestly don't care if every single person on the British Isles would take it as an affront if I were to ask their name, because I'm staying right here in good old California where I'm getting all the great work I could ever desire.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 27th, 2015, 2:27 pm

You had better stay where you are, Alfred. Waitresses in Britain don't always get tips let alone magicians. I would say waiters/waitresses only get tipped about 50% of the time and then ten percent is the norm. Any more than that is exceptional. And magicians will probably get nothing. And that is usually more than they deserve. Not that I have a cynical nature of course.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 27th, 2015, 2:38 pm

Did you know that Paul Revere was actually a close-up magician, and the real reason for his famous ride was that he was chasing a British guy who stiffed him at the pub?

Tom Gilbert
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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Tom Gilbert » August 27th, 2015, 9:18 pm

Harry Lorayne has sections in his memory books on remembering people's names.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 27th, 2015, 11:55 pm

Tom Gilbert wrote:Harry Lorayne has sections in his memory books on remembering people's names.


Indeed. Alfred will be astonished to hear that I have actually studied them!

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 28th, 2015, 6:42 am

Yes, Performer, you are right, I guess I am astonished that you have studied that material! But my mere astonishment gives way to flabbergastery as to why you would do so considering your intense antipathy towards magicians asking people their names, let alone memorizing them.

Dougini
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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Dougini » August 28th, 2015, 7:10 am

I think I understand. It is a CULTURAL thing. I might even say regional. Having known British people, I am aware of the "less open" side of them. Respect is PARAMOUNT! One should NEVER defy a person's desire for privacy! Some of us are more open than others. And others are NOT.

Respect. Politeness. Recognizing those who may be sensitive, and realizing you're gonna be told to "mind your OWN business", if you push them. Even some Americans are like that. I'll be frank, the British are far less likely to PUNCH you in the face for it. Bar fights and fisticuffs are far more prevalent here.

My suggestion is to learn the culture. Learn WHY eye contact and asking personal questions might be a no-no. Then RESPECT the person/persons. And have a sense of HUMOR! After all, ain't we just PEOPLE? :)

Doug

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 28th, 2015, 9:09 am

Actually I think Americans are far more likely to shoot you than punch you in the face. I do concede this might be more efficient although terribly impolite. I am afraid we British do not believe in that sort of thing. Shooting people in the UK is considered socially unacceptable and almost on a par with asking people their names.

As for Alfred's astonishment about me studying Harry's name stuff he shouldn't be surprised. I am a big fan of his material both memory work and magic. The memorisation of names stunt that he does to an actual audience is very powerful indeed and since you are a fan of this Dale Carnegie tosh you may know it is part of their courses. However, their system is nowhere near as good as Harry's. However, they do use it in their free demonstration sessions and I think it clinches the sales of the course more than anything else. The instructor remembers the names of everyone in the room and it is very powerful.

I do remember a wonderful character in the UK by the name of Frank Rae. I have no idea if he is still alive or not. He had all sorts of schemes to make money and often landed himself in trouble over it. I still remember the time he opened his own bank and got people to invest money in it! He did a memory act which was quite good and incorporated the name thing with the audience in the same way that Harry has demonstrated hundreds of times.

He would run around the audience before the show and get their names in the same way that Harry does. However, I remember the time he did this in a British working men's club running around beforehand asking people their names. Alas the club bouncer approached him and said, "You are not allowed to do that. You can't run around bothering the customers before the show. You have to let people drink in peace" Frank protested that he WAS the show but the guy wouldn't budge. That is what happens when you ask people their names in Britain. Be warned.

I still remember the time at the end of News at Ten Frank was mentioned. This programme was the National News and the main news show in Britain and was on every night at 10pm. Right at the very end of the show the announcer said, "and now for the story about the memory man who forgot to pay his bills". I won't go into the rest but you get the idea.

Frank was a wonderful character and I liked him very much.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Leo Garet » August 28th, 2015, 10:53 am

Bill Mullins wrote:
Leo Garet wrote:
performer wrote:Furthermore I am quite horrified by the North American habit of waitresses who insist on telling me their name when they take my order. I haven't the slighest interest in knowing their name and I do wish they would keep it to themselves.

In general, me too.
But I suspect it has much to do with company policy rather more than their desire to be friendly.



They do it because (in general) it increases tips.

Good point. Being a non-tipper and living in a non-tipping village, that thought didn’t occur.

I should perhaps qualify “non-tipping” and add that fly-tipping is rampant.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 28th, 2015, 12:36 pm

Dougini, I agree with you about understanding and being sensitive to cultural differences. I believe in showing respect toward pretty much everyone except criminals and abusers. I very very rarely perform for British people, but if I am lucky enough to know that someone is British prior to asking their name, I will definitely avoid doing so or from making much eye contact. I assume that saying "hello" at the inception of encountering someone while I am working is socially acceptable, and I am likely to know immediately if they are British from their reply, assuming that an audible one is forthcoming. However, if I happen to accidentally cross the line of British social acceptability, the unfortunate recipient of my name inquiry will just have to, as the current saying goes, "get jiggy with it" and understand my culture.

Performer, I would agree with your implicit thesis that Dale Carnegie's book is not important if one simply does not care about winning friends and influencing people. As one who makes a living performing interactive close up magic, I do not have the luxury of such indifference.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 28th, 2015, 1:18 pm

Alfred. I know more about Dale Carnegie than you might realise. And don't worry too much about the British. If they are already in the United States they will be perfectly accepting of the strange customs you have. After all we invented you in the first place.

I will confess we are a little averse to the odd habit of Americans being able to purchase guns like bars of chocolate but we put it down to a less civilised society that has a lot to learn from afternoon tea and the mother country.

However, if you ever work in Britain don't try that name stuff there. Mind you, I know perfectly well I am overstating the case a trifle. It isn't quite as bad as I make out.

One thing I do detest in a magician is any kind of physical contact. This may well be a British thing too. Sometimes in the context of a trick such as the ash trick or the sponge balls you do have to touch people but it should be restricted to stuff like this and be quite brief. But things such as touching people without a reason or putting your arms on their shoulder or suchlike I find quite abhorrent. I recoil if anyone so much as touches me on my arm and I will ostentatiously rub my arm clean with the other hand.

I have seen well known performers, both British and American make this awful mistake. One even ADVOCATED it in a book. Ugh. I shudder at the thought....................

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Leo Garet » August 28th, 2015, 1:47 pm

performer wrote:Mind you, I know perfectly well I am overstating the case a trifle. It isn't quite as bad as I make out.

Indeed you are.
And no, it's not.
;)

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 28th, 2015, 1:53 pm

Indeed but it should still be kept in mind. It IS a reality after all.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 28th, 2015, 3:21 pm

Performer I bloody well agree with you about the gratuitous touching of people. That's where I draw the line - with some exceptions. I do often touch womens' hands in the context of a card or coin trick or quasi-fortune telling, saying something along the lines of "Wow, I love this job!" or something similar. I find they react quite well to it, as does the audience at large; it almost always evokes laughter and adds to the fun and entertainment. I do not do this with male spectators as I think there is definitely a division along gender lines as to the acceptability and propriety of touching, even in the U.S., and even then, obviously, as to where you touch a female. I have never encountered anyone who appeared to be overtly offended by it. Of course I studiously avoid any touching whatsoever of the wives or girlfriends of what might be the aforementioned gun-toting type.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 28th, 2015, 3:46 pm

I touch women's hands all the time! But then I have to since I am a palmist and have to point out what the lines mean. I do use a pointer and a magnifying glass for this along with a small flashlight but my hands inevitably come into contact with theirs.

Mind you I would never say something like "I love my job" either with magic or palmistry. That would make me shudder a trifle. Which proves the contention that magic is all things to all men. In other words we are all different.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 28th, 2015, 4:18 pm

Well P, I could see where you wouldn't say such a line in the course of what purports to be actual palm reading, as such banter would, by definition, be inappropriate and completely out of context. But in the performance of "magic," I think it depends wholly on the performer and his/her performing style. I think you said a long time ago in an interview that you considered magic primarily as a prop or vehicle for ENTERTAINMENT, and that is my philosophy as well. So didnt you realize we were in at least semi-agreement all along? But don't get me wrong, I do not advocate mediocre performance of the tricks and routines; I think we should all strive for smooth and excellent execution in everything we perform, but when I talk to laymen or event planners or bar/restaurant owners, I hold myself out as a "magical ENTERTAINER," not a "magician." Hearing people laugh and cut up is as much music to my ears as gasps of astonishment. But that's just me...

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 28th, 2015, 5:44 pm

Laughter is important but you should never crack jokes if you are not a comedian. Luckily with magic there is a kind of laughter provoked by the astonishment. And there is situation comedy. I can often make people laugh by saying something on the spur of the moment. I should probably remember some of these impromptu remarks for future occasion and in fact I often do.

However, even when doing magic rather than palm reading I could never say "I love my job". I would feel very uncomfortable saying something like that. It is just not my style. I am not a fan of flirting with women when performing. It just isn't me.

And of course style changes over the year as your personality changes. Oddly enough I think I saw that with clips of Don Alan at work. Of course you can't tell much from TV clips but he seemed more gentlemany in his younger years. In later clips he seemed more edgy and slightly more -I can't think of the exact word----"aggressive" will have to do although that is not the right word either. More "pushy" might perhaps fit the description better. And he was one of the tiny few close up magicians I thought were of a very high standard although I hated the occasionally smutty lines he would use. I do not approve of that sort of thing.

What I am trying to say is that your performing style and philosophy should depend on your personality. It is not the magic you perform which is so important as the illusion you create about yourself.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 28th, 2015, 7:37 pm

If you look closely at my previous commentary I think it is clear that you just seconded my emotion, my right old friend.

Harry Lorayne

Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Harry Lorayne » August 29th, 2015, 4:50 pm

Dale Carnegie (yes, Carnegie himself personally) approached me after my first book was published - 1956 - and said he'd like to teach my systems in his classes. I said "sure." He said, "But I want to call it the Dale Carnegie system." I said "Absolutely not." He did it anyway. So, I don't think I can legally call him a crook, so I better not - but he sure didn't "make me a friend or influence me" in any way, shape, manner or form. Damn cr..., no - better not.

And I never had any trouble whatsoever asking British people for their names and making eye contact. Not with the hundreds of people I met personally and then remembered their names on British TV shows like The Parkinson Show, The Paul Daniels Show, Just Amazing, and more, and the personal appearances that I did there. Here's a piece from the Daily Mail, dated May 13, 1981 and captioned WAR OF MINDS

"Perhaps the most impressive mind on view this week belonged to a small silver-thatched New Yorker named Harry Lorayne. On The Paul Daniels Magic Show (BBC 2) Mr. Lorayne stunned everyone by reeling off the names of the entire studio audience, all 176 of them, having met them only once an hour earlier as they filed through the door.
"Some of the names were Asian and Polish jaw-breakers, but little Harry got them all. How did he do it? 'I have a system,' he said modestly." The trick of the week."

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 29th, 2015, 6:27 pm

Thanks Harry! You know Performer, bless his heart, almost had me convinced that asking a British person their name was the next worst thing to (or maybe even worse than) talking trash about their mums. And I was getting ready to invest in a pair of very dark shades just in case I were to encounter someone from the U.K. while doing close up here in the U.S. for fear of making the allegedly dreaded eye contact - lest they think I was giving them the evil eye or something.

That's disillusioning about Dale Carnegie; it makes me wonder now how much of what I thought were innovative ideas were really his own. According to Wikipedia, he wasn't reticent to "borrow" freely from others:
"Perhaps one of Carnegie's most successful marketing moves was to change the spelling of his last name from 'Carnagey' to 'Carnegie,' at a time when Andrew Carnegie (unrelated) was a widely revered and recognized name."

According to another source Andrew Carnegie asked him, "Did you steel my name?" (OK that part I made up).

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » August 29th, 2015, 8:17 pm

I well remember Harry's British TV appearance. I saw it with my own eyes. It created quite a sensation at the time. I remember the day after the show was aired I was in a cafe and I heard the next table raving about it.

However, there is a world of difference between doing a public demonstration and engaging British people in conversation for the first time. For a demonstration or show of course there will be no resistance whatsoever unless you are daft enough, like the above mentioned Frank Rae to perform in venues where the bouncer will object to you annoying the customers. However, if you are speaking to British people for the first time in the name of God don't ask their names too early. You will see the slight (and in some cases more than slight) discomfort at the question. I certainly don't like it. It really is none of people's business until a certain amount of rapport is built up and not always even then.

British you know.

Harry need not have worried too much about the Dale Carnegie memory systems. It is quite different from his and nowhere near as good. They do not use his peg system and simply do the classic Giant Memory demonstration with rhyming key words. Their memorising of names system works fairly well but is not as sophisticated as Harry's system. They tell you to use the initials I.R.A which in Ireland means a terrorist organisation and in America something else. It is an abbreviation for Impression, Repetition and Association. You impress the name on your mind when you meet the person. You repeat the name in conversation. And finally you associate the name in some way or other but NOT in the way that Harry teaches where you associate the name to a personal feature in the person's face.

Harry may perhaps be intrigued to know that I use his day for any date system in a way he probably never envisaged. I do it in every psychic reading I do. I usually finish off with a bit of numerology and of course for this I need the client's date of birth. So it occured to me that since I have it anyway I may as well divine the day the person was born on. Before Widdle gets too excited I do not pretend to read the person's mind or get a psychic flash. I merely mention it in passing as if it was the most natural thing in the world for me to know. I let the client make of it whatever they want. If on rare occasions they ask how I know the name I merely shrug and say, "It is the sort of thing I do" and let them figure out what it means.

But back to Dale Carnegie. He made no secret that the ideas in his famous book were not his. In fact he mentioned it in a speech. He was warned that he had a hostile and cynical audience so he stated straight out to them, "I hear you are a hostile audience. All I can say is that the ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don't like their rules whose would you use?" He got a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

Harry Lorayne

Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Harry Lorayne » August 30th, 2015, 11:40 am

Yes, he borrowed (stole)- but managed to always make it nowhere as good as what he stole. It would have been, and would be, fine - if he made all BETTER. Otherwise, what's the point, it's just plain stealing - and lousing up.

Even using the three letters - from my books: OAR - Observe, Associate, Remember.

Ross Welford
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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Ross Welford » October 13th, 2015, 8:11 am

I started reading this thread with curiosity. I got the the end of about the second paragraph and rolled my eyes. "Surely," I asked myself, "This isn't Mark Lewis again?"

And, Lo! It is!

SO: relax, folks. It's just Mr Lewis doing his thing again (as it were).

For the record: there is NO problem asking British people their names, or calling them by the first names in a social situation, and hasn't been for years.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » October 13th, 2015, 10:07 am

There IS a problem. Try asking me.

Besides I wasn't talking about social situations. I was talking about performance.

Ross Welford
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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby Ross Welford » November 10th, 2015, 10:38 am

OK, Mark. It's a problem for you. Not for anyone else. Neither in social situations or performing.

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Re: Asking British people their names

Postby performer » November 10th, 2015, 1:09 pm

Welford old chap. It IS a problem if I deem it to be. And I do. When performing for people I do ask their name but am very reluctant to do so. A simple "sir" or "madam" as in older times should suffice. However, I only do this in a stage or platform situation. I would NEVER dream of it doing close up magic. It is a gross impertinence and an invasion of privacy. I do not approve.

In North America even coffee shops have a dreadful habit of asking customers their name and they call it when the order is ready. I abhor this and refuse to cooperate. I will even leave the premises if necessary. It is a dreadful invasion of privacy and I do not approve.

Americans are a strange people and they do indeed think it is wonderful for all and sundry to know their names even when all and sundry, (particularly British sundry) haven't the slighted interest in what their bloody names are.

However, in Her Brittanic Majesty's Realm of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland we expect a bit of decorum.

And again this is not just my opinion. Read this again. After all if it is on the internet it must be true:
http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogs ... rself.html

And if it isn't then it serves you right for bringing back an old thread.


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