The joys of British under statement
Posted by Word Camel on November 14, 2004
In Reply to: Economical with the truth posted by Lotg on November 13, 2004
: : : : : : : : : : I read this in an AP story this moring. Someone accused, or at least suspected, of a crime was "...economical with the truth...".
: : : : : : : : : : The dateline was London. Is this a fairly common British phrase or is some reporter being cute?
: : : : : : : : : From this site:
: : : : : : : : : Meaning
: : : : : : : : : Conveying an untrue version of events by leaving out the important facts. A euphemism for lying, in short.
: : : : : : : : : Origin
: : : : : : : : : Recorded from the 18th century, although rarely used. Brought into the contemporary language by the UK Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, who used the phrase during the Australian 'Spycatcher' trial in 1986.
: : : : : : : : A rather pretentious variant was that of the late Minister, Alan Clark, who used the phrase, 'economical with the actualité' to mean the same thing.
: : : : : : : : DFG
: : : : : : : As to how widespread:
: : : : : : : Only yesterday I read the report of a police interview in which the accused admitted to being 'economical with the truth' - in fact, she was not being 'economical', she was being 'interpretive' of the meaning of a question.
: : : : : : : At the risk of offending those that appear to believe that the human race continues through widespread immaculate conception, I shall ask a question with sexual overtones without apology:
: : : : : : : Did "Wild Willy" Clinton use any memorable expressions in fessing up to his non-sexual ejaculatory escapade with Ms Lewinsky?
: : : : : : : Politicians do come up with some of the most memorable, after all.
: : : : : : I remember Clinton saying that "he did not have sexual relations" with *her*, but she did have sexual relations with *him*. A fine line indeed.
: : : : : I know that comedians and political detractors have joked and derided the use of "I did not have sexual relations with that woman.". But, you know if I had done that sort of cavorting with a woman I would not have dignified the contacts by calling them "sexual relations". "Sexual relations" are good. Kinky foolishness may be fun but it is still just "kinky foolishness".
: : : : In the UK, a member of Parliament can have some form of punitive action taken against him if he directly accuses any other member of being a liar during a debate within the House of Commons. The phrase "I suggest that the honourable gentleman is being economical with the truth" has become over recent years the customary euphemistic means of doing exactly that.
: : : I think TheFallen in the post immediately above has answered my question in the OP.
: : Another expression about one who lies frequently --- "he'd lie when the truth wouuld do"
: David FG referred to 'economical with the actualité' as being pretentious. I agree. (And it's so ridiculous I like it too, think I'll use it some time.) However, just the original term you've queried, 'economical with the truth' is equally pretentious. It's either a sarcastic, watered down, or really 'nice' way of saying someone lied. As for Clinton's one way sexual relationship - hmmm.... wonder how he pulled that one off (oops, didn't mean to say it that way).
I'm rather fond of the delicate art of verbal savagery. There's a fine tradition going back many years. I was reading the book "Longitude" a few years back and was struck by how similar the ins are outs of the English political classes were, then and now. Britian is the only place I know where the simple phrase, "Yes, well." said with slightly lifted eyebrow can sum up everything from Enron to the musical pretentions of Celine Dion more devastatingly than almost any other comment one can make. It's so elegant and compact, yet everyone knows precisely what you mean by it. Love it. Miss it.
- Understatement TheFallen 14/November/04