Misuse of "lied" or "lying"

This is something that drives me nuts.

More and more often, in person and on TV (especially political talk shows), I see people mis-labeling something as a lie when in fact the person in question was merely mistaken.

For example…

Someone’s asked what time it is. They respond “2:45” then they check the clock and say “Oh, I’m sorry… I lied… it’s 3:00.”

That’s not a lie - unless they knew it was 3:00 and said 2:45 deliberately.

In general, as I understand it, lying is the act of knowlingly giving someone false or misleading information, full knowing it’s untrue.

To give someone wrong information because you believe it to be true, but find that you were wrong is simply being mistaken or misinformed…

So why do people refer to that as “lying”?

Not everyone thinks as literally as you or I. They may say it without thinking of the connotation.

Yeah. I don’t actually mean “hah! I deliberately misled you for the two seconds between my first answer and my checking my watch.” I mean, “I was mistaken, but I’ll say “I lied” because it’s fewer syllables.” I also say “I was wrong,” but even that’s often too much effort.

I also do it if I’m teasing someone.
“Hey, do we have milk left?”
“Yep.” [Checks fridge] “Wait, no, we don’t.”
“Oh, so what you’re telling me is that you lied?”

Depending on my mood, I might do a rendition of “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.”

Thank you for posting this, as it is a pet peeve of mine as well.

One of the reasons that it is commonly done is that one can make more political hay with it. For example, which of these two statements gets more airplay and print space and makes someone look bad:

“Bush was mistaken about WMDs” vs. “Bush lied about WMDs” ?

Now it’s spilling over into our day-to-day lives. I’ve had people accuse me of lying when I’ve made a mistake and gone back and corrected it. Instead of accepting it as a correction, they hear it as admitting a lie, and I guess that’s because politics and the media are now conditioning them that way.

My opinion, YMMV.

Well, I am not a politico on talk shows, but when I hear that sort of thing used, it is normally intended as a sort of self-effacing joke".

“Do you have the right time?”

“ten to six. Oops, I tell a lie, this watch is fast, so it’s only twenty (minutes to (six)”.
Or more delibaretly:

“Lovely cake, Celyn, is there any more of it?”

"nope - we have scoffed the lot .:frowning: "

“Oh. sob sob.”

“Hahah, I wsas telling fibs - yes, there is plenty more. Would you happen to want some, by any chance?” :slight_smile:
Yes, rather lame wit, but what the hell.

I use “I tell a lie” as a figure of speech. And it’s just that, and no more. It’s no more literal than if I talk about “all Hell breaking loose”.

OP - Chill out.

Sometimes I say things that aren’t 100% literally true. In the case of telling someone what time it is, I think it’s rather obvious that I didn’t actually lie, but was merely mistaken. Therefore, it’s slightly humorous to say “I lied,” as though I would bother lying to someone about what time it was, and then be overcome by guilt and give them the correct answer five seconds later. Also, it’s easy to say and it gets the point across quickly. And if we only ever said things that were literally true, we’d all become soulless robots. Literally.

“Lie” is not a word I use flippantly. To me, it’s a false statement that the speaker knew was false. In some cases, I conclude that the speaker “is either a complete fool or is lying.” We’re not talking about shading or spinning. There’s a big difference between “He was mistaken” and “He was lying.”

To me, cats and dogs do not actually rain from the skies. Nor are witches’ titties actually -30 degrees centigrade. In fact, I rarely actually kill two birds with one stone, even when I manage to get two tasks out of the way at once.

Exactly. I remember when I picked up this little affectation sometime in my early twenties. Someone I knew would say “I lied” about silly things (like mistaking the time), and I liked the self-effacing humorous quality of it, so I started saying it too.

Nobody who uses “I lied” in this sort of context really believes they are “lying” in the literal sense. It is creative fun with language. Knowing the rules allows you some room to break them.

I think this began as a sarcastic joke, and evolved into what is now a figure of speech.