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"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Unsolicited definition of ‘unsolicited’

I may have to start using another word instead of “unsolicited.”

Recently, someone decided to call and tell me about “special” subscription rates for a well-known newspaper with a high readership, and wouldn’t I like to sign up? My number is in the so-called National Do Not Call Registry and I can typically spot telemarketers by looking at the caller ID, but this one got through.

“No, thanks. I’m sorry, but I don’t accept unsolicited calls,” I said, which is my default reply to a telemarketer. I was about to ask him to stop calling me when he interrupted.

“This isn’t an unsolicited call,” I heard him say matter-of-factly, and he relaunched into reading his spiel.

I certainly had not asked him to call me. I considered pointing out what “unsolicited” actually meant, but during his next pause I said, “I’m sorry, I’m not interested. Please put this number on your Do Not Call list,” and then hung up.

Now, take what happened this past weekend. Someone decided to offer a free estimate — he didn’t even ask if I’d be interested in one. His sales pitch was more along the lines of: “We’ll look at your place and give you a free estimate for our cleaning service. When can we come by?”

I said that I wasn’t interested and that I didn’t accept unsolicited offers.

“Excuse me?!” he said, raising his voice. He was clearly surprised, and from the tone of his voice, he even sounded offended. “I’m not soliciting anything!” he said.

Irony aside, that’s clearly not what I said (and we’ll ponder the definition of “solicit” another time), but he sounded genuinely caught off-guard by what I had said. I tried to explain that he was offering something I didn’t ask for. He didn’t seem to get it. Perhaps it was then that he realized that he still had my attention, though, because he went right back into his pitch. I calmly repeated that I wasn’t interested, and ended the conversation.

After this latest incident, I looked up “unsolicited” to confirm what it meant, because those guys obviously did not define the word the same way I did. Here’s its definition according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (via


Not looked for or requested; unsought: an unsolicited manuscript; unsolicited opinions.

Okay, so I know I used the word correctly. But now I’m thinking about substitutes, in case more people don’t think of “unsolicited” in the way it’s defined above. Way back, my seventh-grade science teacher once described how he handled telemarketers politely but firmly. He asked them, “Did I ask you to call me?” — then he’d wait for the “no” and said, “Please don’t call me again,” and hung up. That’s one way to do it. I’m also considering saying, “Sorry, but I don’t accept phone spam.” But in that case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the caller said, “Excuse me?! I’m not phone-spamming you!”

Posted at 9:07 pm | Filed under Musings & everything else

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