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, or spin, 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, Disney Images, Wordnik, Etymonline, & the OED.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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