I suspect many of us have experienced (and probably enacted) one of the standard put-downs of intellectual life. It may be a seminar paper, a student presentation, a conference lecture, but at some point or other someone will ask: ‘have you read such and such?’

Given the veneer of respectability that surrounds such events, you usually have two options: say yes, you have, and cut the person off; say no, and give up the high ground completely.

So, after discussing this with Christina, let me make a few alternative suggestions for how to respond:

1. ‘Given that your suggestion is a blatant effort at one-upmanship, I’m not going to engage in your desperate game’.

2. ‘Isn’t word association a wonderful thing! Obviously, a word I said has triggered something in your cerebral cortex, and out pops a suggestion for a book’.

3. ‘Could you say a bit more? … No, I’m afraid that’s completely irrelevant to my work and I have no idea why you brought it up, you tool’.

4. ‘I bow to your superior knowledge and wide reading …’