Telling lies #5: Bluff

medicine bluff

A bluff as a geographical feature is a broad cliff or bank, overlooking a body of water (or a dried up water course) which was created by erosion.  A bluff is blunt, solid and strong.  It is perhaps this show of strength that gives us the lie.  A bluff person is somone of solid build, quiet strength, simple honesty.

A bluff as a lie is commonly used in gambling.  It involves presenting a strong position to deter an opponent from meeting your bet.

In business bluffing is a frequently used technique.  A seller will bluff a buyer by inferring that they have many buyers interested in the goods.  A buyer will bluff the seller by inferring that this is only one of many competing offers.

Every job interview in history has involved bluffing.  Interviewees bluff the employer as to the depth, success or seniority of their previous roles.  Interviewers bluff the candidate with regard to the attractiveness of the role, the seniority of the role, the budgets available, the autonomy possible and so on.  A certain element of bluffing is expected on both sides, but there are limits to acceptability before a bluff becomes an outright deception.  A candidate can get away with inflating their previous salary by 10 or 15% to negotiate a raise from their prior role.  But when they begin the job, and their taxation documentation comes across the employer will have a strong sense of the prior salary.  A candidate who inflated their salary by 50% could be accused of a lie instead of a bluff, because that could represent a significant difference in seniority sufficient to exclude them from the role.

A good bluffer, a really good bluffer, is never caught in the bluff.




Wet Words

Ireland of the drought has gone. After an extended spell of hot, dry weather the rain returned to the Emerald Isle with a bang. Not soft, gentle Irish rain, but instant heavy tropical torrential downpour. Sere brown grass and cracked dry ground could not absorb the deluge, so flash floods ensued. Gone as quickly as they arrived and we are left with that muggy, sultry fug that follows heavy rain on hot ground.

I am loving this because I get to use adjectives that Irish people only employ in foreign lands. This summer the vocabulary of Ireland is turgid with climatic superlatives. Gone are the gentle, suggestive watercolour words that usually characterise our weather talk. Instead we use emphatic, direct descriptors that fly in your face like the beggars in the Jemma el-Fnaa in Marrakesh. Primary colour words, like the poker players in “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Loud, strong words, with corners and consonants, that shout ‘hot’ and ‘bright’ across the street instead of the usual lithe, graceful, vowly creatures that whisper gently into your ear of ‘mist’ and ‘drizzle’.

So I have just now learned that language too is determined by the weather. Who knew?

Summer Downpour on Campus; by Juliana Gray

When clouds turn heavy, rich
and mottled as an oyster bed,

when the temperature drops so fast
that fog conjures itself inside the cars,
as if the parking lots were filled
with row upon row of lovers,

when my umbrella veils my face
and threatens to reverse itself
at every gust of wind, and rain
lashes my legs and the hem of my skirt,

but I am walking to meet a man
who’ll buy me coffee and kiss my fingers—

what can be more beautiful, then,
than these boys sprinting through the storm,
laughing, shouldering the rain aside,
running to their dorms, perhaps to class,
carrying, like torches, their useless shoes?