Things I’ve written that have amused other people, Episode 7


A customer asked for advice on how to accomplish something, the details of which are not important, except to say that what they were trying to do was far more complicated than the twenty-word summary would suggest. And I wasn't convinced that it was a good idea, sort of like asking for advice on how to catch a baseball in your teeth or pick all the cheese off your cheeseburger.

I explained several of the pitfalls of their approach, the ones that I could think of off the top of my head, things they need to watch out for or take precautions against, and I concluded with the sentence, "This idea is fraught with peril, and I fear that my answers to your questions will be interpreted as approval rather than reluctant assistance."

That sentence immediately went into many people's Raymond-quotes file.

Comments (10)
  1. Rick C says:

    Wouldn't it have made sense to make that the FIRST sentence of your reply?

  2. kog999 says:

    i agree with rick. The customer probably read up to the answers and then just stopped reading. not that it would have made any difference if that had read it anyway.

  3. ERock says:

    I can no longer see the words "fraught with peril" without immediately also thinking about "the path of a true martial artist."

  4. MItaly says:

    [ i agree with rick. The customer probably read up to the answers and then just stopped reading. ]

    The difference with a forum/newsgroup is that there the reply would be "tl,dr; could you write that for me? :)" (or, better: "plz give meh teh codez xD").

  5. OmarF says:

    It sounds a bit like what may have happened to our chief statistician in Canada. Reading between the lines, the politicians took his discussion about what he would do if they changed the rules as acceptance of the rule change. He finally had to resign to get his point across. He should have used your quote in the first place.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/…/article1647348

  6. Karellen says:

    Sounds like an "old shoe or glass bottle" moment.

    weblogs.asp.net/…/408925.aspx

    (Bonus quote from that article: "You need to stop building things for money until you understand the basics of construction.")

  7. Pi says:

    Raymond, I give you a star. You are welcome.

  8. silky says:

    Rick C said:

    Wouldn't it have made sense to make that the FIRST sentence

    of your reply?

    Not really no, as people would tend to ignore the first sentence as useless preamble. If they've been following a chain of Q/A style answers, it seems natural to continue to read the last item in the list (even though it may seem out of place). Anyway, in the end it's subjective, so any decision is arguable one way or the other, so pick an approach and see if it works.

  9. JamesNT says:

    Very nice!  I am going to have to remember that line:

    "This idea is fraught with peril, and I fear that my answers to your questions will be interpreted as approval rather than reluctant assistance."

    I cannot tell you the number of times I have gone out of my way to explain the difficulties of someone's idea to do xyz but as soon as I explained how it might be done, they go around and tell EVERYBODY that, "James told me exactly how to do this and according to him everything will be just fine!"

    JamesNT

  10. David Walker says:

    Great phrase: "Fraught with peril".  Many things in this world are fraught with peril…

Comments are closed.