Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » August 2005 » L.I.A.R.

[« So much for resolve....] [Back to School edition.... »]

08/23/2005: L.I.A.R.

A few ditties from a book I found by Robert J. Thornton (Professor of economics at Lehigh University, Pa.) called L.I.A.R. --The Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations or (Positive sounding references for people who can’t manage their own sock drawers.) - published by Barnes & Noble, 2003.

Mr. Thornton writes:

"Back in 1987, I wrote an article entitled, “I can’t Recommend The Candidate Too Highly.” The article contained a handful of humorous double-meaning phrases for letters of recommendation….

To my great surprise, the news media took a considerable interest in the “method” that I had devised for writing letters of recommendation that could be interpreted either positively or negatively. Theoretically, a write of such a letter could convey honest information about a person being “recommended” without a fear of a lawsuit – although my hope than and now is that no one would take my method too seriously."

Mr. Thornton has “punctuation rules” to cover a variety of situations to create just the right amount of ambiguity in whether the candidate is being praised or dissed. For example, he invents a mark called “the quomma”: A “questionable comma” that … “looks like a comma but could also be mistake for a, say, a small coffee stain, a defect in the paper or maybe even a dead gnat or fruit fly.” The purpose being “the reader thinks it might be a comma, but can’t be sure if it really is a comma or something else entirely.”

The effect would turn take this sentence:

“He won’t do anything which will lower your high regard for him.”

Changed by a real comma:

“He won’t do anything, which will lower your high regard for him.”

But which would be rendered ambiguous by the use of Mr. Thornton’s “quomma” and could then be interpreted positively or negatively.

So this invaluable reference guide has some 350 ambiguous sentences and phrases covering 15 assorted subjects; like Incompetence, Dishonesty, Absenteeism, Character Defects, Unemployability, Loose Morals and Stupidity.

So here are a few GEMs:

To describe a candidate who is not very industrious: “In my opinion, you will be very fortunate to get this person to work for you.”

To describe a person certain to foul up any project: “I am sure that whatever task he undertakes – no matter how small – he will be fired with enthusiasm.”

To describe a person who remains troubled: “He has a somewhat troubled past, But I’d say that now he’s turned his life around 360 degrees.” (In other words…he’s right back where he started.)

To describe a record for a criminal past: “He’s a man of many convictions.” Or it’s variant: “She has a long and notable record.” (In fact she/ he’s got a criminal record a mile long and the police know she / he very well.)

To describe a character defect: You’ll be very impressed with his performance at work.” (He’s really quite a convincing actor.)

To describe a person beyond description: “I can’t begin to tell you what a fine person she is.” (I can’t even think about beginning to tell you.)

To describe an alcohol or substance problem: “He once had an alcohol problem, but I understand that he doesn’t drink anymore.” (He doesn’t drink any less either.)

To describe a disagreeable employee: “Her input was always critical.” (She never had a good word to say.) or “There’s no questioning his abilities.” (He gets angry if you do.)

To describe a dishonest person: “He won’t give you lame excuses for his shortcomings.” (They’ll all be whoppers.) or “You simply won’t believe her credentials.” (She faked most of her resume.)

This book is Too Funnie and may come in handy one of these days.


Karen on 08.23.05 @ 08:53 AM CST

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