Lewis never used the jargon of his day and of his peers, and thereby avoided the corrupting influence of words that were both in fashion and carried with them fashionable ideas. He would not have used the word “text” to mean everything written or spoken, in the current academic fashion, because it imports, partially and quietly and under the table, the deconstructionist idea that all speech is without meaning and has only the meaning the reader decides to give it. Hamlet is not a play, and certainly not great literature; it is a text, as are romance novels, grocery lists, and the obscenities scrawled in men’s rooms in highway rest stops.
Jargon is easily absorbed, especially by academics and clerics, who are exquisitely sensitive to the movements—and to the vocabularies thereof—of the wider world. Why this is, I am not sure; perhaps their vulnerability to jargon reflects a mixture of a pastoral desire to speak the language of the people they are ministering to and an unhealthy desire to fit into the inner ring, inevitably of the enlightened and sophisticated, marked by the use of such jargon.
Lewis did not use such jargon, I think, because he was active in prayer and charity, an astute reader of his culture who was unusually sensitive to its peculiar language, and a courageous man willing to talk in ways of which his colleagues did not approve. The first gave him a clearer vision of himself and the world, the second a better understanding of the temptations he faced (to adopt the fashionable jargon, for example), and the third the willingness to speak as he should to his readers even when this carried a social and personal cost. Jargon marks the speaker as a member of the club, and Lewis was courageous enough not to join when joining meant a break with those to whom he was called to speak.
Here are five of my favourite countermeasures, tried and tested against a variety of cold-callers, from double-glazing salesmen to people conducting lifestyle surveys from a call centre in Mumbai:
1. Be even friendlier than the cold-caller. This counter-intuitive ploy wrongfoots the caller and enables you to occupy the moral high ground. Greet them effusively, say how nice it is to get their call, ask where they are calling from, what sort of day they have had, etc. Then, when you have softened them up, change tack. “Listen, mate, I hope you are not trying to sell me something, are you? Don’t you hate those creeps who try to flog you something over the telephone?!” It is extraordinary how quickly they beat a retreat.
2. Ask cold-callers for their home number. I have tried this several times and the results have been gratifying. Having met chumminess with chumminess, and given the impression that there is nothing I want more than cut-price kitchen cabinets from Croatia, I ask the caller if they can give me their home number so that we can continue our discussion on a future occasion. Invariably, they refuse – which gives me the perfect cue to harangue them for ringing my home number.
3. Engage them in polite academic discussion. I find this an effective way of dealing with those smarmy types who begin their sales pitch with the dreaded words: “This is just a courtesy call.” Rather than just ranting at this travesty of the English language, I ask them what exactly they understand by the word “courtesy” – and whether they regard getting someone out of the bath to discuss mobile phone charges as exemplifying the quality.
4. Refer them to non-existent legislation that they may be breaking. Crude, but effective. Nothing disconcerts a cold-caller more than an authoritative voice warning them that they are in breach of section 117 of the Telecommunications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2007.
5. Ask their age. When they respond with puzzlement, I tell them that age explains why I object to cold-calling so much. I then tell them, quite truthfully, that I have watched my 91-year-old mother get out of her armchair and hobble across the room to field an inane phone call from a complete stranger, and I have raged at that stranger as I am now raging at them. They usually get the message.
From Max Davidson at The Telegraph