Lucy Vickery

Between the lines | 10 May 2018

In Competition No. 3047 you were invited to supply an imaginary testimonial for a high-profile figure that is superficially positive but contains hidden warnings to a potential employer.
This was an exercise in the artful deployment of ambiguity, as displayed in Robert J. Thornton’s L.I.A.R. The Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations, a handbook for those who, whether out of kindness or fear of litigation, wish the precise meaning of their ‘recommendations’ to remain opaque. One-liners suggested by Professor Thornton include ‘In my opinion you will be very fortunate to get this person to work for you’, to describe a slacker, and ‘I most enthusiastically recommend this candidate with no qualifications whatsoever’ as shorthand for ‘rank ineptitude’. (One competitor confided that only after years of reading testimonials did he realise that ‘generally’ actually meant ‘not particularly’.)
A special mention goes to David Silverman, who endorses Vladimir Putin’s ‘uniquely positive, assertive leadership style that no one who has worked for him would question’. The winners, in a smallish field, pocket £30 apiece.

I am happy to write in support of Oliver’s application to manage the England football team. He is a firm but fair disciplinarian, warts and all, who favours clean living and physical fitness, and sets store by an aggressive midfield. He will approach home internationals with a burning zeal, requiring teams to shoot first and ask questions later. He is no fan of the cavalier player, and will tell any player who puts on airs and graces to ‘use your head, chop-chop’. He likes a level playing field, but not the levellers. He has firm views on the staging of Sunday matches, and has a stock answer to those who address the subject. His policy on double substitution is from Matthew 24:40: Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

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