Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lies


Lies

The word lie, meaning to speak falsely or tell an untruth, has been part of the English language since the 1100s. Its roots are buried deep in Germanic languages. Lie’s linguistic cousins show up in Norse (ljuga), Danish, (lyve), Gothic, (liugan), Frisian, (liaga), & German (lugen).
It shouldn’t surprise us that we have an impressive number of synonyms, near-synonyms & idioms available to substitute for that terribly direct & offensive three-letter word, lie.
Instead of lying, businesslike folk might reframe, mislead, evade, misspeak, or misstate, while artsy types might buff, burnish, embroider, or fictionalize. We can also whitewash, inflate, dissemble, spin, or stonewall, and those of us who lie regularly can lay claim to any number of afflictions: necessary disingenuity, factual flexibility, serial exaggeration, or the ever-popular; fictitious disorder syndrome.
Ah, but all lies are not equal. For instance, to lie is to make a deliberately false statement, to prevaricate is to quibble or confuse in order to avoid the truth, to fabricate is to invent a false story, to equivocate is to deliberately use ambiguity to mislead, & to fib is to tell a falsehood about something unimportant.
Good readers if you have any thoughts on all this dishonesty, I’d love to read them in the comments section.


Big thanks to this week’s sources: Ralph Keyes’ Euphemania, the 1959 Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Wordnik, Etymonline, & the OED.

5 comments:

  1. I love all those weasley words like "Misspeak" and "Reframe". I think they're hilarious. All of these words are just, as you say, simple lies.

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  2. Weasley words -- a fine category for a post, eh?

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  3. Factual flexibility. Wow, what a concept. Anne is right, weasley words indeed!

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  4. Hey Christine - I loved the label factual flexibility. I had a pal years ago who claimed his loving wife's truths were just not quite the same as his. I wish I'd known some of these terms at the time.

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  5. With the upcoming campaigns for the Presidency, we'll discover many who are adept at factual flexibility, "necessary" disingenuity, evasion, reframing, and all the rest. Sigh.

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