Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

March 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

by Renie Stag Smith

Hyperbole — literary term for extreme exaggeration.

When my daughter was quizzing my granddaughter over literary terms that her second grade class had been learning, Raistlynn wanted an example when her mother asked her what “extreme exaggeration” was.  My daughter and I gave her two.  Her mom had stayed up for the previous three nights until 4:00 a.m. writing a research paper for her seminary class and she said, “ I’m so tired I could sleep for a week!”  I have research papers coming in when I return to school from spring break, and I gave her the example, “Mimi will have a million papers to grade when she gets back to school!”  Jenn, once again, prompted Raistlynn, “What do you call extreme exaggeration; what do you call it if I say, ‘I’m so hungry I could eat an elephant’?”  My five-year old grandson, who was listening to this conversation, cupped his hands conspiringly in the direction of his sister and whispered very slowing, but distinctly, “lying!”

Lying – we’ve all done it, from the “little white lie” to major “whoppers.”

Lies come in all shapes and sizes.  We learn to lie when we are youngsters because of fear.  We are afraid that we will get in trouble for some transgression and so we lie to get out of it.  I remember my then four-year old son, JW, being caught red-handed on top of the counter, with his hand in the cookie container.  When I asked him if he was taking cookies to eat after I had told him it was too close to dinner to eat any sweets, he promptly and confidently lied, “No, I was just counting the cookies to see if we needed to make more of them!” And then he dropped the cookies ceremoniously back into the jar as he counted aloud, “One, two, three, four…”

As we grow older, we continue to lie to get ourselves out of trouble.  I can’t tell you how many times students have fibbed to me about why they didn’t have their homework.  And, yes, students still try the feeble falsehood, “But, really, Ms. Smith, my dog ate my homework!”  (This aside is pure poetic justice — one of my teaching buddies had had that same, weak excuse given to her by one of her students.  Later that semester, this teacher took students’ projects home to grade and her dog ate that student’s homework.  She managed to salvage part of it, but enjoyed it when she told young lady, “Sorry, but my dog ate your homework!”)

As parents, we lie to our children to protect their safety or ours.  My children believed that the minute a woman gave birth, she sprouted a pair of eyes in the back of her head and that if a mother parted her hair and showed those eyes to any child, those extra eyes would disappear, never to return!  I wanted my children to think I was more magical in my ability to figure out when they were doing something they shouldn’t than just telling them, “When it gets quiet, that’s when I know you’re doing wrong!”  So, I lied.

My brother recently confided in me that he lied to his son for safety reasons two weeks ago even though his child is sixteen now (sorry, Hunter, I can’t tell you what it was yet; see me in about ten to fifteen years, but it has something to do with your speeding ticket!).

We lie to our children about our pasts, our abilities or lack thereof, money, things that would make us look less parental in their eyes.

We actually teach our children to lie, which is something a parent isn’t supposed to do! I often told my daughter, Jade, as she was growing up, that if she were to get into a situation where she didn’t feel comfortable, she should lie and say I would kill her if I knew what she was doing and to place all the blame on me – just get out of the situation.

I taught my children not to hurt other’s feelings when they asked minor questions such as, “Does this dress make me look fat?” or “How do you like my latest hairdo?” or “Do you think I’m smart?”

I lied to Jenn’s closest high school friend the weekend she was staying with us when her parents were out of town. Her twirling skirt fell off in front of the Friday night football crowd as she was performing a baton routine at the front of the band during halftime.  Five thousand eyes watched her skirt drop!  She scooped it up quickly and touched the Velcro together again to hold it in place, but not before most of the crowd noticed, and yet I told the crying, almost inconsolable young lady later that night, “No, I don’t think anyone saw it!  I didn’t and you know I always watch just you and Jenn.”

We teach our children that in order to be good friends, they’ve got to keep other’s secrets, even from their parents.  I’m glad that all of my children and I had such close relationships when they were growing up that their friends could come and tell me anything.  (Come to think of it, my children never told me their secrets…)

As adults, we lie to get out of social situations that we don’t want to be in – “Sorry, I’ll be out of town for that benefit dinner so there’s no reason to buy a ticket,” when we don’t support the cause.  Or, “I already bought some candies from another student,” when we can’t afford to buy one from each of the students who are selling them to earn money to go on the latest field trip.

We blur the truth when we talk about the fish we caught, the vacation we went on, the grades we received in school.

Some of us go so far as to lie about the work we claim is our own.  Recently, a reporter for the Washington Post, Sari Horwitz, was caught lying about writing she stole from other authors.

We lie by omission.  We don’t tell the buyer of our used car what’s wrong with it and why we want to get rid of it.  Television commercials don’t tell us the entire price of an Infomercial’s product price (plus shipping and handling; get two for the price of one but only if you order in the next 15 minutes…)

Presidents lie.

Princes and Princesses lie.

Politicians lie.

Professional sports figures lie.

Priests lie.

Paparazzi lie.

People lie.

Lying is an intrinsic shield against the world and its problems.  But is this a good shield?  What do you think?  Let me know by leaving your comment on my blog…

Compulsive lying?

Stop Lying? Can you do it?


4 Responses to “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”
  1. Desi G. says:

    Come to think of it, since you put it this way, I am a total lier!! I lie to escape things I don’t want to do and people I don’t want to see. Although, in high school I was outside doing my homework in the nice fresh air when I decided to go in the house and get me something to drink. My fluttering in the wind paper, stuck in my notebook, caught the attention of my dogs eye apparently and he decided…….LUNCH! I walked out and caught him! I quickly grabbed my notebook and she rushed inside to show my mom (who is a kindergarten teacher) and she laughed at me! I was so mad, I had done most of the paper and only had to do my reference page and I would be done!! This paper was not salvageable, I had to redue the whole thing in its entire! The next day I went to school and showed the old and the new to my teacher and to my surprise, what did she do? Yes! She laughed too!! But, I didn’t lie!

  2. Sharon says:

    WOW!!You are so open! Your article was very good, but I plead the 5th!

  3. Tanya says:

    Well, you and I lied. We knew who the joker was but we wouldn’t tell. 🙂

  4. Peggy says:

    Renie, Did we use extreme exaggeration or did we lie when it was our fault that our hotel in Canada was evacuated? We’ll never tell!

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