HotAIR - Literal Risks Project


Literal Risks Project

An international scientific survey

by Alice Shirell Kaswell, AIR staff

We proudly announce a new AIR project -- The Literal Risks Project (or "LiRiPr," for short).

LiRiPr (the Literal Risks Project) seeks to collect the instruction (for doing something or other) that could be interpreted wrongly with the most bizarre or unfortunate consequences.

Whence LiRiPr (the Literal Risks Project)

The project was inspired by the following note from investigator Nick Rhodes:

I received an e-mail from someone claiming to be called "Your Name". Upon further investigation it appears that the sender had entered this as a reply when prompted by the e-mailer program: "Please enter Your Name". This does seem a little ridiculuous, but is correct when interpreted literally (the sender was Greek).

A similar thing happened to my brother, who is quite a literal person. He interpreted "Apply shampoo to wet hair" to mean "Use the shampoo to make your hair wet". He also had problems with the instructions for making coffee: "Pour on boiling water" and wondered how to drink the beverage which was then in the kettle.

Send Your Data

If you have a top-grade entry to contribute to LiRiPr (the Literal Risks Project), please send it to us at <>. Genuine instructions, only. Please include:

1. The exact wording of the instruction.

2. A 22-word (or shorter) description of where you saw the instruction and what it probably was intended to mean.

3. An 18-word (or shorter) description of how the instruction can be misinterpreted by the literal-minded.


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