Verbal Vending by Trevor Plumbly

Reading between the lines

Generally speaking if anyone wants to nudge someone into a deal undoubtedly the best method is cajolery in one form or another. Cajolery is the gentle but devious way of achieving ones ends as opposed to coercion which is often more direct and cost efficient. Coercion tends to shove you through the gate, while cajolery politely opens it and allows you to consider the whole thing was your idea in the first place. Hell, with enough spin you can make some poor sucker feel really good about being shafted. Real estate agents and used car dealers have always been accredited as being the masters of the art, but I’m not really convinced that that’s the case these days – they do colourful phrases quite well but the substance of their pitch is a bit one-dimensional, a sort of amiable ‘would I lie to you’ theme which I find basic and lacking in finesse.

Having had some years in the art and antique trade I can translate a few gems from the absolute masters of the art of verbal vending. The incredible thing is that’s it’s so simple! All they need is a grasp of the language, a good dictionary and a bit of patter and the punters natural vanity does the rest.

1. “An interesting work, unsigned but showing an interesting blend of cubism and naivety in the artists bold use of colour.” = A kid could’ve painted it.

2. “An early piece with some later restoration.” = The blokes in the workshop bunged it together last week.

3. “A delicate elegant piece.” = It’ll fall to bits in no time.

4. “A bold work that suggest it was painted at a pivotal point in the artist’s career.” = He was probably drunk when he did it.

5. “Well decorated but unmarked, possibly 18th century.” = We haven’t got a clue.

6. “A solid piece in the country style worthy of full restoration.” = It’s ugly and just short of firewood.

7. “A melancholy work by the artist with sensitive undertones.” = He had a hangover at the time.

8. “A vibrantly disturbing work, hinting perhaps at the artists inner turmoil.” = He was stark-bollocking mad.

9. “The economic use of brushwork in this work suggests that the departure from his previous technique signals a fresh clarity of expression.” = He was running out of paint.

10. “Rarely offered.” = We found it at the back of the storeroom.

11. “The chairs are typical of the Regency period with delicate back carving and finely turned supports.” = If you’re over 6 stone don’t sit on the bloody things.

12. “From the personal collection of the artist.” = Nobody wanted to buy it from him.

13. “Popularly accepted as William and Mary but subsequently in-house research indicates a later period.” = We’re making it up as we go along.

14. “Historically Important.” = Nobody under the age of 80 would be interested.

15. “A serious, thought provoking work.” = He was on the wagon when he did it.

16. “Restored to museum standard.” = We tarted it up.

17. “Profusely carved in faded mahogany.” = It’s over the top and it’s been in the sun too long.

18. “Reluctantly offered by a noted collector.” The Bailiffs took it.

19. “A derivative work that could be viewed as an homage to the early abstract movement.” = He copied it.

20. “An enigmatic work described by one critic as; “Questioning our perception of the artist’s underlying challenge to the cognoscenti.” = We don’t know what we’re talking about either.


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