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PhotobucketDear Leodini,

As a leading magician in the Philippines, you are no doubt in a position to enlighten me about something that has bugged me for a while.

I have pursued magic as a hobby. I spend time to practice and invest money in buying props and literature to expand my knowledge of the art. I also perform as often as I can for relatives and friends. However, I have never asked money in exchange for my performances. For this reason, I probably belong to the amateur category.

PhotobucketThis is my issue. I hate the word amateur. It connotes lack of skill and ability, which I think does not do justice to my level of knowledge and skill. Without meaning to brag, I think with the inordinate amount of time and money I spend on magic, I’m knowledgeable enough about it and skilful enough to perform it. I believe I have performing skills comparable with the skills of professional magicians.

May I know what terms other than amateur that can suitably describe my status as a magician. I need to adopt a word that doesn’t sound disparaging of my skill and proficiency level.

Mr. Confused Braggart

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Hi Mr. Braggart, I’m a magician in the Philippines, not a word maven. English is my second language, so I won’t pretend I can suggest an English terminology that will describe your evaluation of yourself.

However, let me try to enlighten you with a convoluted answer.

Dictionary.com defines amateur as “a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure and not for financial benefit or professional reasons.” That seems to describe you, but I think you have no issue with this part of the definition.

PhotobucketHowever, Dictionary.com also defines amateur as “a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity,” which I think is the part you are complaining about.

Don’t complain. That is the nuance of the word.  Dictionaries didn’t invent it, or conjure up its definition.  They just provide meaning to the word the way English speakers use them.

The antonym of amateur is, of course, professional, which is defined by dictionaries as “someone following as a business an occupation ordinarily engaged in as a pastime; a person who is expert at his or her work.”

Your beef is about the connotation of amateur as someone inexperienced, unskilled or unknowledgeable, which you claim you are not even though you belong to the general class of magicians who don’t pursue magic as a profession and is an amateur.

Well, take heart.  The lack of expertise among amateurs is a general, not universal, notion.  Meaning, it has exceptions. There are amateur magicians who do not fit the description or definition.

Take Cyril Regalado.  A lawyer by profession, he is an amateur magician when he is not lawyering.  Yet, I think he is one of the most skillful sleight-of-hand artists in the Philippines.  His skills brought him to Germany in 1997 after he qualified to compete in FISM, the only Filipino magician to have ever competed in that prestigious event.

Bob Dureza is another example of an amateur magician who can put many professional performers to shame with his skill and vast knowledge of our art.  He works for the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and takes up magic to entertain himself.  But he can talk about magic, its history, famous performers, theories in performing, tricks, secrets, props, and so many other related topics till the wee hours.  I always consult him with things about magic I don’t understand, and he always has good answers to things that confuse me.

So you see, while the money part of the definition of amateur seems universal, the lack of skill and ability part is not. It has exceptions, like Cyril and Bob above.

PhotobucketOr like you.  Based on your description of yourself, you are an exception to the definition.

In which case, let me suggest a more apt terminology for you: exceptional amateur.

How did I do?

Stay magical,

Leodini

www.leodini.com

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