Famous American Fibs
- The check is in the mail.
- I'll start my diet tomorrow.
- We service what we sell.
- Give me your number and the doctor will call you right back.
- Money cheerfully refunded.
- One size fits all.
- This offer limited to the first 100 people who call in.
- Your luggage isn't lost, it's only misplaced.
- Leave your resume and we'll keep it on file.
- This hurts me more than it hurts you.
- I just need five minutes of your time.
- Your table will be ready in a few minutes.
- Open wide, it won't hurt a bit.
- Let's have lunch sometime.
- It's not the money, it's the principle.
Bits & Pieces, December 9, 1993, pp. 12-13.
From the French Enlightenment essayist, Michel de Montaigne, based on a proverb traced to the fourth century church
Lying is indeed an accursed vice. We are men, and we have relations with one another only by speech. If we recognized
the horror and gravity of an untruth, we should more justifiably punish it with fire than any other crime. I commonly find people
taking the most ill-advised pains to correct their children for their harmless faults, and worrying them about heedless acts
which leave no trace and have no consequences. Lying -- and in a lesser degree obstinacy -- are, in my opinion, the only faults
whose birth and progress we should consistently oppose. They grow with a child's growth, and once the tongue has got the knack
of lying, it is difficult to imagine how impossible it is to correct it.
On the Father Front, Winter, 1992-93, p. 4.
Bob Harris, weatherman for NY TV station WPIX-TV and the nationally syndicated independent Network news, had to weather a
public storm of his own making in 1979. Though he had studied math, physics and geology at three colleges, he left school
without a degree but with a strong desire to be a media weatherman. He phoned
WCBS-TV, introducing himself as a Ph.D. in geophysics from Columbia U. The phony degree got him in the
door. After a two-month tryout, he was hired as an off-camera forecaster for
WCBS. For the next decade his career flourished. He became widely known as "Dr. Bob." He was also hired by the
New York Times as a consulting meteorologist. The same year both the Long Island Railroad and then Baseball Commissioner Bowie
Kuhn hired him.
Forty years of age and living his childhood dream, he found himself in public disgrace and national
humiliation when an anonymous letter prompted WCBS management to investigate his academic credentials. Both the station and the
New York Times fired him. His story got attention across the land. He was on the Today Show, the Tomorrow Show, and in
People Weekly, among others. He thought he'd lose his home and never work in the media again. Several days later the Long Island
Railroad and Bowie Kuhn announced they would not fire him. Then WNEW-TV gave him a job. He admits it was a dreadful mistake on
his part and doubtless played a role in his divorce. "I took a shortcut that turned out to be the long way around, and one day
the bill came due. I will be sorry as long as I am alive."
Nancy Shulins, Journal News, Nyack, NY.
Lying seems to be a way of life for many people. We lie at the drop of a hat. The book
The Day American Told the Truth says that 91 percent of those surveyed lie routinely about matters
they consider trivial, and 36 percent lie about important matters; 86 percent lie regularly to parents, 75 percent to
friends, 73 percent to siblings, and 69 percent to spouses.
Daily Bread, August 28, 1992.
While pursuing a story about equivocation in high office, I was told, "He gave an if-by-whiskey speech." My source, asked about
his curious compound adjective, said he thought it was a Florida political expression possibly borrowed from a Minnesota
Congressman. That triggered a call to Richard B. Stone, now a Washington banker, but a former U.S. Senator from Florida
familiar with that state's political patois. He immediately recognized the phrase, meaning "calculated ambivalence," and
provided the following anecdote:
Fuller Warren, Florida's governor in the '50s, was running for office in a year that
counties were voting their local option on permitting the sale of liquor. Asked for his position on wet-versus-dry, he would say:
"If by whiskey you mean the water of life that cheers men's souls, that smooths out the tensions of the day, that gives
gentle perspective to one's view of life, then put my name on the list of the fervent wets. But if by whiskey you mean the devil's
brew that rends families, destroys careers and ruins one's ability to work, then count me in the ranks of the dries."
William Safire in New York Times Magazine.
When regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful.
A USA Today poll found that only 56% of American teach honesty to their children. And a Louis Harris poll turned up the
distressing fact that 65% of high school students would cheat on an important exam. Recently a noted physician appeared on a
network news-and-talk show and proclaimed, "Lying is an important part of social life, and children who are unable to do it are
children who may have developmental problems."
Daily Bread, September 23, 1991.
A lie has no legs. It requires other lies to support it. Tell one lie and you are forced to tell others to back it up.
Stretching the truth won't make it last any longer. Those that think it permissible to tell white lies soon grow
I would not tell one lie to save the souls of all the world.
First, somebody told it,
Then the room couldn't hold it,
So the busy tongues rolled it
Till they got it outside.
Then the crowd came across it,
And never once lost it,
But tossed it and tossed it,
Till it grew long and wide.
This lie brought forth others,
Dark sisters and brothers,
And fathers and mothers--
A terrible crew.
And while headlong they hurried,
The people they flurried,
And troubled and worried,
As lies always do.
And so evil-bodied,
This monster lay goaded,
Till at last it exploded
In smoke and in shame.
Then from mud and from mire
The pieces flew higher,
And hit the sad victim
And killed a good name.
Writing letters of recommendation can be hazardous--tell the truth and you might get sued if the contents are negative.
Robert Thornton, a professor at Lehigh University, has a collection of "virtually litigation-proof" phrases called the
Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations, or LIAR.
Here are some examples:
*To describe an inept person--"I enthusiastically recommend this candidate with no qualifications whatsoever."
*To describe an ex-employee who had problems getting along with fellow
workers--"I an pleased to say that this candidate is a former colleague of mine."
*To describe an unproductive candidate--"I can assure you that no person would be better for the job."
*To describe an applicant not worth consideration--" I would urge you to waste no time in making this candidate an offer of
Larry Pryor in Los Angeles Times.
One never errs more safely than when one errs by too much loving the truth.
The kings of Italy and Bohemia both promised safe transport and safe custody to the great pre-Reformation Bohemian reformer, John
Hus. Both, however, broke their promises, leading to Hus's martyrdom in 1415. Earlier, Thomas Wentworth had carried a
document signed by King Charles I which read, "Upon the word of a king you shall not suffer in life,
honour, or fortune." It was not long, however, before Wentworth's death warrant was signed by
the same monarch!
Today in the Word, April, 1989, p. 16.
No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.
Those who think it's permissible to tell white lies soon become color-blind.
Signals of lying: increased blinking and pupil dilation. A facial expression incongruous with what's being said. Increased
body movement (especially hand gestures). Shorter sentences. More speaking pauses and errors. More negative words and extreme
Men hate those to whom they have to lie.
The three most commonly told lies in this country: "Gee, you haven't changed a bit"; "I never got the message"; "I put that
check in the mail to you yesterday."
Bruce Keidan in Philadelphia Inquirer.
What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on I can no longer believe you.
A store manager hear his clerk tell a customer, "No, ma'am, we haven't had any for a while, and it doesn't look as if we'll be
getting any soon."
Horrified, the manager came running over to the customer and said, "Of course we'll have some soon. We
placed an order last week."
Then the manager drew the clerk aside. "Never," he snarled, "Never, never, never say we're out
of anything--say we've got it on order and it's coming. Now, what was it she wanted?"
"Rain," said the clerk.
James Dent, in Charleston, W.Va. Gazette.
A manager was asked by his laziest employee for a recommendation for another job. The manager thought hard all night for
something that would be honest without hurting the young man's chances. He finally wrote: "You will be lucky if you can get him
to work for you."
Greg Wetmore, in Reader's Digest.
As reported in USA Today, Jerald Jellison said, "Each of us fibs
at least 50 times a day." He explained that we lie about our age, our income, or our accomplishments. And we use lies to
escape embarrassment. A common reason for "little white lies," we're told, is to protect someone else's feelings. Yet in so
doing, we are really protecting ourselves. According to Jellison, here are some of our most commonly used fibs: "I wasn't feeling
well." "I didn't want to hurt your feelings." "The check is in
the mail." " I was just kidding." "I was only trying to help."
The story is told of four high school boys who couldn't resist the temptation to skip morning classes. Each had been smitten
with a bad case of spring fever. After lunch they showed up at school and reported to the teacher that their car had a flat
tire. Much to their relief, she smiled and said, "Well, you missed a quiz this morning, so take your seats and get out a
pencil and paper." Still smiling, she waited as they settled down and got ready for her questions.
Then she said, "First question--which tire was flat?"
Two men worked on a large ocean-going vessel. One day the mate, who normally did not drink, became intoxicated. The captain, who
hated him, entered in the daily log: "Mate drunk today." He knew this was his first offense, but he wanted to get him fired. The
mate was aware of his evil intent and begged him to change the record. The captain, however, replied, "It's a fact, and into
the log it goes!"
A few days later the mate was keeping the log, and concluded it with: "Captain sober today." Realizing the
implications of this statement, the captain asked that it be removed. In reply the mate said, "It's a fact, and in the log it