Quotations about   lying

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Indeed rhetoricians are permitted to lie about historical matters so they can speak more subtly.

[Quidem concessum est rhetoribus ementiri in historiis ut aliquid dicere possint argutius.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Brutus, sec. 42 (46 BC)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Orators are indeed permitted to lie about historical matters so they can speak more subtly."
  • "For it is the privilege of rhetoricians to exceed the truth of history, that they may have an opportunity of embellishing the fate of their heroes." [tr. Jones (1776)]
  • "Fabrication's certainly allowed when practitioners of rhetoric write history, to frame a point more cleverly." [tr. Kaster (2020)]
Added on 14-Sep-20 | Last updated 14-Sep-20
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Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.

Robert Brault (b. c. 1945) American aphorist, programmer
(Attributed)
Added on 8-Sep-20 | Last updated 8-Sep-20
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Politics demands a great capacity for self-deception, which rescues the politician from hypocrisy. He can normally manage to believe what he is saying for the time it takes him to say it. This gives him a certain sincerity even when he is saying opposite things to opposite people.

Garry Wills (b. 1934) American author, journalist, historian
Confessions of a Conservative, ch. 15 (1979)
    (Source)
Added on 1-Jun-20 | Last updated 1-Jun-20
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Lying is an indispensable part of making life tolerable.

Bergen Evans (1904-1978) American educator, writer, lexicographer
Quoted in “The Euphemism: Telling It Like It Isn’t,” Time (19 Sep 1969)
    (Source)

Sometimes misquoted with the words "Euphemisms persist because," but these are non-quoted text leading up to the quotation.
Added on 20-May-20 | Last updated 20-May-20
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Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 2 “The Totalitarian Movement” (1951)
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Added on 19-May-20 | Last updated 19-May-20
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CHORUS: Full of wiles, full of guile, at all times, in all ways, are the children of Men.

[δολερὸν μὲν ἀεὶ κατὰ πάντα δὴ τρόπον / πέφυκεν ἄνθρωπος]

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Birds, ll. 451-2 (414 BC) [tr. Rogers (1906)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Man naturally is deceitful, ever indeed, and always, in every one thing." [tr. Warter (1830)]
  • "Man is naturally deceitful ever, in every way!" [tr. Hickie (1853)]
  • "Man is a truly cunning creature." [abridged tr. O'Neill (1938)]
  • "A treacherous thing always in every way is human nature." [tr. Henderson (1998)]
Added on 15-Apr-20 | Last updated 15-Apr-20
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Of course I lie to people. But I lie altruistically — for our mutual good. The lie is the basic building block of good manners. That may seem mildly shocking to a moralist — but then what isn’t?

Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) English writer and raconteur [b. Denis Pratt]
Manners from Heaven: A Divine Guide to Good Behavior (1984)
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Added on 19-Oct-17 | Last updated 19-Oct-17
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Villainy, when detected, never gives up, but boldly adds impudence to imposture.

Goldsmith - impudence to imposture - wist_info quote

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774) Irish poet, playwright, novelist
“A City Night-Piece,” The Bee, #4 (27 Oct 1759)
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Added on 3-Jun-16 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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You must not tell lies because if you do you will find yourself unable to believe anything that is told to you.

Shaw - lies - wist_info

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism, and Fascism, ch. 74 (1928)
Added on 4-Nov-15 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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Lying is done with words, and also with silence.

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) American poet, essayist, feminist
“Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying” (1975)
Added on 21-Oct-15 | Last updated 21-Oct-15
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The more lies are told, the more important it becomes for the liars to justify themselves by deep moral commitments to high-sounding objectives that mask the pursuit of money and power.

Bertram M. Gross (1912-1997) American social scientist, academic, bureaucrat
Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America, ch. 9 (1980)
Added on 30-Sep-15 | Last updated 30-Sep-15
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The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 39 (1903)
Added on 23-Sep-15 | Last updated 23-Sep-15
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I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 19 [ed. Festing-Jones] (1907)
Added on 16-Sep-15 | Last updated 16-Sep-15
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One lies more to one’s self than to anyone else.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Journal (6 Dec 1813)
Added on 9-Sep-15 | Last updated 9-Sep-15
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An Ambassador is an honest man, sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.

[Legatus est vir bonus, peregrè missus ad mentiendum Reipublicae causâ.]

Henry Wotton (1568-1639) English author, diplomat, politician
Reliquiae Wottonainae (1651)
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Wotton wrote in an apology to Velserus in 1612, that during his travel through Augsburg in 1604, "This merry definition of an ambassador I had chanced to set down at my friend's, Mr. Christopher Fleckamore, in his Album". It seems to have been intended as a pun when translated to English. Sometimes translated as "An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country."
Added on 23-Mar-15 | Last updated 23-Mar-15
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A man who himself does not believe what he tells another … has even less worth than if he were a mere thing. For a thing, as something real and given, has the property of being serviceable. … But the man who communicates his thoughts to someone in words which yet (intentionally) contain the contrary of what he thinks on the subject has a purpose directly opposed to the natural purposiveness of the power of communicating one’s thoughts, and therefore renounces his personality and makes himself a mere deceptive appearance of man, not man himself.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Metaphysics of Morals [Metaphysik der Sitten], “The Doctrine of Virtue [Tugendlehre]” (1797) [tr. Gregor (1964)]
Added on 20-Feb-14 | Last updated 25-Sep-15
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By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Metaphysics of Morals [Metaphysik der Sitten], “The Doctrine of Virtue [Tugendlehre]” (1797) [tr. Gregor (1964)]
Added on 13-Feb-14 | Last updated 25-Sep-15
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The worst of all deceptions is self-deception.

Socrates (c.470-399 BC) Greek philosopher
In Plato, Cratylus (c. 360 BC)
Added on 10-Dec-13 | Last updated 21-Aug-14
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The cruelest lies are often told in silence. A man may have sat in a room for hours and not opened his teeth, and yet come out of that room a disloyal friend or a vile calumniator.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish essayist, novelist, poet
Virginibus Puerisque, “Virginibus Puerisque,” sec. 4 (1881)
    (Source)
Added on 2-Oct-08 | Last updated 21-Oct-15
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The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. Even when you make a tax form out on the level, you don’t know when it’s through if you are a crook or a martyr.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
“Helping Girls With Their Income Tax,” syndicated column (7 Apr 1923)
    (Source)

Collected by Rogers as "Helping the Girls with Their Income Taxes," The Illiterate Digest (1924).
Added on 15-Sep-08 | Last updated 12-Mar-20
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You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
(Attributed)

A possible precursor to this quote is the widely-republished Jacques Abbadie, "Traité de la Vérité de la Religion Chrétienne," ch. 2 (1684): "One can fool some men, or fool all men in some places and times, but one cannot fool all men in all places and ages. [… ont pû tromper quelques hommes, ou les tromper tous dans certains lieux & en certains tems, mais non pas tous les hommes, dans tous les lieux & dans tous les siécles.]"  A similar passage was used in Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, ed., Encyclopédie: ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, Vol. 4 (1754).

First attributed to Lincoln by Fred F. Wheeler, interviewed in the Albany Times (8 Mar 1886): "You can fool part of the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time."

First cited in detail in Alexander K. McClure, “Abe” Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories, (1904), in the above form; it was cited as a speech in Clinton, Ill. (2 Sep 1858), but the passage is not found in any surviving Lincoln documents. No Lincoln reference is found in contemporary writings.

Also attributed to P.T. Barnum and Bob Dylan. See also Lawrence J. Peter. More detailed discussion of the quotation can be found here.
Added on 13-Sep-07 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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Get the facts first. You can distort them later.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
“Comment,” New York World (16 Aug 1925)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Enough Rope (1926)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Jun-20
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SHERIDAN: Oh, now that is a lie!
DELENN: Minbari do not lie.
SHERIDAN: Well then it is slander.
DELENN: To be slander, it must be false. That’s two down.
SHERIDAN: Well then it’s damned inconvenient.
DELENN: The truth always is.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5: Thirdspace (1998)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Jul-20
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A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.

H. H. Munro (1870-1916) Scottish writer [Hector Hugh Munro; pseud. Saki]
“Clovis on the Alleged Romance of Business,” The Square Egg (1924)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 31-May-17
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The truth is often a terrible weapon of aggression. It is possible to lie, and even to murder with the truth.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) Austrian psychologist
The Problems of Neurosis, ch. 2 (1929)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jun-17
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