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TL;DR: I told a professor something fundamental about a friends' work that is absolutely wrong, and I should have known, but I was drunk. Will it help the situation if I clarify and apologize via e-mail?

Yesterday evening I attended a festivity at my old university. I got drunk and talked to a professor who is working in a field related to my studies. In particular, I told him that a friend and coworker of mine did his master thesis on a topic that is related to a project the professor is working on. However, I got it mixed up and this is not true. He appeared surprised and said he was going to look into that.

Now I regret getting drunk and I am wondering whether I should email him to clarify (and apologize). Either he did know that I was in the wrong, and did not correct me out of politeness, or he will actually ask around and several people will know that I gave the professor wrong information. The latter option would be very embarrassing to me, since I actually attended my friends' thesis defense and I know what it was about.

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    If I was the professor, I would appreciate the correction, but it would feel awkward if the student felt very sorry and embarrassed about it. I would appreciate a short e-mail with the purpose of "correction", so that I don't have to look into it (and confusion is avoided for the case that I actually do.) – lighthouse keeper Mar 7 at 13:15
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    You should apologise if you a) were inappropriately drunk, or b) said anything inappropriate. And to just clear this up, you are probably too late, if that prof knows how to run a search engine. – Karl Mar 8 at 16:59
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    DOn't apologize or make a big deal about it. Don't tell them you were drunk. Say you mixed up two different friends, that happens all the time. – Issel Mar 8 at 17:23
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    How well do you know the professor? If you got drunk together I imagine you know him at least a bit on a personal level, is that true? – gerrit Mar 9 at 8:36
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    The professor having been surprised could actually be a good thing. You can use this as hook for your e-mail, in the way of “Oh yes, you were right. I checked again and the fields are indeed not as related as I thought.” – Boldewyn Mar 9 at 13:04
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I don't see why Germany should be any different from other places, but generally it is a good idea to apologize for stupid things said drunkenly. And since this may have a bearing on the reputation of a third party you probably have an obligation to make sure the record is correct.

Sooner is better than later in such things, so the professor doesn't spend effort on a lost cause.

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    Well, the teatotaller faction generally is very small in Germany, so there is a good chance that prof was sloshed himself. ;) And while most Germans know that the prohibition has been repealed, we´re not sure how Americans feel about the issue of being drunk in public. I.e. we´ve got the feeling they feel a bit different about it than we do. – Karl Mar 8 at 17:35
  • I would add that if possible I would give the apology in person rather then per email. If that is hard to do, maybe a phone call is better then an email. – quarague Mar 9 at 8:11
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    Maybe I have a different threshold, but I would hardly call what the OP described a "stupid thing said drunkenly". It is an honest mistake that can perfectly happen while sober. Correcting the mistake is good (I would not go so far as to call it an "obligation" either, as this happened during an informal gathering), but the words "stupid" and "drunk" do not need to be in the email, as the first one is false and the second one is irrelevant. – wimi Mar 9 at 8:55
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This shouldn't be a big deal. If I were in your position I would simply email the professor and apologise, say you had made a mistake. But keep it professional, don't make a big deal about it, and you don't need to draw attention to the fact you were drunk... especially since not everyone's drunkenness presents as making up random things about people, and it might lower the professor's opinion of you. Just say something along the lines of, "Hi, it was nice to have a chat the other night. I know I spoke to you about x, but I realise I was mistaken."

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    Right, it seems like the mistake could have been easily made while sober, too, so no need to make the drunkenness central to the apology. – Matthew Leingang Mar 8 at 23:24
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There is no need to apologise for being drunk, as this is really not relevant; such a mixup could happen in any state of mind. There is also no need to apologise profusely for giving him false information; it is just a small mixup that is of little consequence to anyone. To keep the consequences at a minimum, it would grace you to spare your professor the wasted time of looking up (or even going through) an irrelevant thesis, by sending him an email along the following lines:

Dear X,

A few days ago I suggested that my coworker's masters thesis might be of interest to you, as its topic is related to your field. Today I realised I got his thesis mixed up ; his is not at all related to your work. Sorry for the confusion.

Regards,

You could start off the email with some niceties depending on how familiar you are.

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    If there is another one, he should be prepared for the followup "oh, what was the thesis that did relate". If there isn't another one, he should not say that there was. OP said "mixed up" but not "mixed up with another one". I'm just saying, careful with the wording to make sure the problem isn't made worse. – msouth Mar 10 at 19:00
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    @msouth Agreed. Upon rereading the question, it seems that I read something that was not written. If there isn't another one, the phrase "...with another one" should be omitted indeed. – Servaes Mar 10 at 21:35
  • Just want to take a second here to thank you for taking the time to respond and update your answer--it is nice to have one's effort (even if small) be acknowledged and reciprocated. It makes the site work better if we can just submit improvements to a question rather than having to submit our own to address a problem with an existing question. Welcome to the site, I hope you keep contributing and enjoy your time here. – msouth Mar 12 at 17:39

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