Contributor: Adam Mac

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Nguyen, known as Win, had lived in a small town on the outskirts of Halifax for nearly two years. He had work in the city, friends, and life was pretty good. His English, however, was still poor, he felt—native fluency being his standard. So, he took advantage of every opportunity to improve his English, and being a gregarious person, there were lots.

Early on, some of the locals sniggered. Win wasn't stupid, and he knew he was the butt of many silly jokes, but he didn't care. Over time, his persistence won over even the surliest, old postmaster Ferguson, and the burliest, Chief Taggert. A quick study, Win got to where he could verbally diagram sentences during conversations, and this impressed a few, then intimidated some more, and ultimately annoyed everyone. He kept on doing it but only in his head.

At the office, one of the favourite topics to bitch about was telemarketers. Hang-ups and call screening were the common solutions. Win used to be polite, but now he hung up, too. Tony had tried bullying, but it took a lot more effort than he'd imagined, so he gave up. Ian had just set up a business line with a pay-per-call service and was collecting 10 cents a minute for telemarketing calls. Shelagh, the English expert with a Master's from Dalhousie, exasperated at playing thesaurus, got the messianic idea that Win should practice on telemarketers.

It was genius! In the evening, Win set up a dummy online account with a luring marketing profile—a St. Mary's undergrad working two jobs—and waited … but not long.

"Good evening, is Mr. N-GOO-YEN there?"

"Call me Win."

"Thank you, Mr. Win. We understand you have an excellent credit rating, and you're just the type of individual that qualifies for our new platinum double plus card."

"You mean 'who?'"

"'Who?' I'm sorry sir, I don't follow."

"You said 'the type of individual that.' Shouldn't it be 'the type of individual who?'"

"Sure. If you like. But you do know what I meant, right?"

"With that ... uh, what's the word ... oh yeah, clarification. With that clarification, I get it. Can I phrase it that way?"

"Yes, you may Mr. Win, but—"

"Wouldn't 'subject to that clarification' sound better?"

"Absolutely sir, but I'd like to get back to the—"

"Excuse me, please. I have one more question. What does this 'double plus' mean?"

"It means the highest level."

"Excuse me. Just one more question, please. Wouldn't it be clearer—or is it 'more clear'?—“

"Either way, sir."

"—to say 'peak platinum' or 'pinnacle platinum' instead of 'platinum double plus'?"

"It's just a name, eh?"

"Ah, okay. So, is this card better than a Visa gold card? Or, an MNBA or MNFL card? And platinum, is that really the best card, because platinum isn't the most expensive—"

"Sir, I really don't know. But sir—uh, Mr. Win—I'm running out of time for this call, so if you don't mind I'd really like to get back to the reason I called."

"Yes. Yes. But could, uh, would you first give me some feedback? You see I'm practicing my English— my conversational English—and I'd appreciate— Hello?"

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