Discerning people nowadays, surely, have Friends; Close Friends; and Lake Garda Friends. These last they look forward to meeting annually at the Gardone Riviera Conference.
It was one of these, dear Alex Sepkus, who, I think three years ago, introduced me to the 'Chinese' story-teller Kai Lung. Ernest Bramah's stories seem to have appealed in the 1930s particularly to those who, in Dorothy Sayers' phrase, are intoxicated with words. Wimsey, for example, and Belloc.
The essential linguistic register in these rococo tales is a combination of extreme ritual self-deprecation with an equally mannered elevation of the person addressed ... even in situations which factually belie the language employed.
Here, for example, Ernest Bramah descibes a murderous bandit kidnapping a hapless traveller:
"Precede me to my mean and uninviting hovel, while I gain more honour than I can reasonably bear by following closely in your elegant footsteps, and guarding your Imperial person with this inadequate but heavily-loaded weapon."
I could not help thinking of Kai Lung when I read of how a lofty (although diminutive) individual called Tsu Pich had treated a mean and lowly personage called Kal Chick. Consider this passage:
"For some weeks now, I have become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish. It has become clear to me that Kal Chick must take time away from the parish to receive pastoral support, so that his needs can be assessed".
Concerned: nowadays, lofty and grand people are never angry or even worried. In the impassibility of their Olympian fastnesses, they are concerned.
Issues: in today's world and today's Church, we happily do not have problems. We do, however, have issues, which no longer means that our wives have born children, but that ... er ... we have ...er ... problems.
Receive pastoral support: modern management never does anything hostile, vindictive or harmful; everything done is always for the good of the victim.
His needs ... assessed: ditto.
So, in the idiom of Kai Lung and Tsu Pich, an ordinary vernacular English analysis such as "This guy needs to be taken away and thoroughly beaten up" gets translated into "We shall give him pastoral support and assess his needs".
It makes the legendary Spanish Inquisition seem almost inviting, doesn't it?