Lexicon of Inconspicuously Ambiguous Recommendations (L.I.A.R.)

For S.F., T.S.F, and I.K.

Over dinner this past Saturday, I also mentioned a story about another difficult co-worker. I had emailed him a blurb with funny referrals that could be interpreted in two ways. Well, it turns out that that blurb is still out there on the Internet, even after all these years. Here is the blurb:

Some years ago I ran across an article about a professor whose students and colleagues would approach him asking him for employment references. Often he did not want to provide a reference because, frankly, it would not be glowing. If he told the truth about the colleague or student, he might lose a friend or get sued. If he wrote a nice reference letter, he would feel wrong because, after all, he had misled someone who was counting on his judgment.

What could he do? After thinking about it for a while, he decided that he could tell the truth and make the person who asked for the referral happy, too. So, he invented what he termed a Lexicon of Inconspicuously Ambiguous Referrals, LIAR for short. Here are some examples:

  • You would be lucky to get this person to work for you.
  • I am glad to say that this is a former colleague of mine.
  • I can assure you that no one would be better for this position.
  • I cannot say enough good things about this person.
  • I most heartily recommend this person with no qualifications whatsoever.

Each of the above phrases can lead to two diametrically opposed interpretations.

This enraged my co-worker, because he was in the process of looking for another job and he thought I was making fun of him. But I didn’t know this; I never claimed to be telepathic.

A whole collection of these quotes were published in a small book, which I bought used on Amazon.com. Unfortunately, I can no longer find my copy of that book. I’m sure it’s buried somewhere in the piles of books that dot my apartment.

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Published in: on 26 March 2009 at 9:59 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Отличный блог, интересное и полезное содержание!


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