Do Magicians Speak English? by Mike Rogers
Quite often there will be two or three magicians working the same trade show. These magicians will frequently spend time together during breaks and slow periods. Once at a show Paul Gertner, Dick Stoner and I were standing around my booth solving the problems of the magic world while waiting for the show to open. Like other magicians we discussed various tricks, moves, and the events going on in magic. After the session broke, with each heading to his own exhibit, one of the salesmen from my company, who had been in on the fringes of the session, asked me if magicians ever spoke English. It seems our shop talk totally boggled him. What did it mean when a Mexican turned over, and just what do the French do when they drop? Why did we need to know that a gambler had a palm, for doesn’t everyone have a palm? Also, why do some people have palms that are classic? Did the Biddle Grip and Drop Switch have anything to do with pornography?
Until then I had never given much thought as to how the jargon of magic might sound to a layman. When you think about it much of what we say in our private conversations must make us sound as if we are burglars, perverts, junkies, or perhaps just plain idiots. Every industry has its own vernacular, the computer industry probably leading the pack. However, those of us in magic need not take a back seat when it comes to unique and interesting verbiage.
What does the listener think when he hears us in a discussion of the Pass. Are we suggesting our time is spent trying to pick up girls? Is the Classic Pass used by the time honored ladies’ man, while the Shuttle Pass is reserved for trying to score on the airport shuttle. How about the Bluff Pass? Is it used by the guy who is only joking? Peter Studebaker tells a good story about two magicians discussing various methods of dealing seconds, centers, and bottoms. One magician suggested that the other certainly had a nice bottom. Can you imagine the layman hearing that conversation? How about the magician guilty of flashing the big balls, or one that loves the Paddle Move. You’d certainly keep your child a great distance from these guys!
Would the layman listener assume the Dribble Force to be a medical problem, and do magicians really do so many tricks at the tip of their thumbs? If the conversation included the value of a locking key wouldn’t the listener assume that all keys are used to lock something? Why would magicians think differently?
If the discussion were of the IBM it might suggest that we magicians all favor the IBM PC rather than the MAC. What would the listener think if he heard that a convention had too many Zombies and not enough dealers? Would it mean a bunch of stoned tricksters with no source for drugs? I guess the close up pad would indicate that home is not far away-
Finally, to bring this to a close I’ll relate a conversation that actually happened between Ken Fletcher and me a few years ago. Ken and his Magic Masters crew are truly masters at demonstrating the Coin in the Bottle. Their presentation is so strong that it sends you home digging into the bottom of the shoe box looking for the old folding coin. Ken and I were in the lobby of the Atlanta Hilton enjoying a brew and talking magic. The Coin in the Bottle was the subject when I asked him, “How do you keep the rubber from breaking?” His reply, “Put on two rubbers!” Can you imagine the fly on the wall who might have been listening?