Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Sorry, I lied."

Have you noticed this trend? If someone tells you something, and then finds out later that they were mistaken, or facts were other than they know, instead of saying "Hey, so I made a mistake..." they are just as likely to say "Sorry, I lied..."

This seems a bit strange to me. I mean sure, I understand the cultural meaning here... (and have occasionally used the phrasing myself) but I feel it could have disturbing ramifications. If this trend continues, it could change the meaning of "lie." Instead of being a deliberate falsification, it would soften the meaning of the word to "mistake."

And I'm not just talking about a change in definition in the dictionary. Society's entire perception of what "lie" means could change. A lie would no longer be so deliberately malicious, but rather an accident.

Why is this worrisome? Am I overreacting?

In the last century we've seen such a shift in moral perceptions. The world hates the word "sin" and despises moral absolutes. Condemnation of many acts that have been seen as evil for thousands of years now is decried as judgmental and narrow-minded. Since the world has normalized adultery, fornication, blasphemy, homosexuality and coveting, is it really that irrational of me to see "sorry I lied" as the next item on the list? Could this really a move (however unintended) towards blurring the definition and consequences of lying?



Kinsey said...

No, I feel uncomfortable when someone substitutes "I lied" for "I was wrong." It seems to me that besides mitigating the seriousness of lying, they are also (consciously or unconsciously) willing to have their reputation joked about.

Mirfain said...

Elena, if this trend is occurring countrywide, then I would say it is a misuse of language, but misuses of language have been going on for thousands of years. If "lie" loses the meaning that it currently has, another word will come to replace it, it's just the nature of language that the meanings of words change. Several words that mean bad things now originally were euphemisms for those bad things. It's just the nature of language. I'm concerned about the red light it gives as to the person's morality, but I wouldn't worry about the concept of lying disappearing from our language.
The world has always hated the word "sin" and has always used sweet names for foul things. This isn't anything new. What usually happens is that the sweet name becomes foul by association.

David said...

Those are good points you make. I have never been comfortable with people substituting 'lie' for 'mistake', but I hadn't thought of it this way before. There's already enough uncertainty around about the morality of lying ("white lies"), that it certainly doesn't help to use it in a casual manner like this.

As I see it, it is very important that we keep a clear distinction between 'deliberate misleading' and 'incorrect perception'.

Lanta said...

I've never said it, actually. Doesn't that give you more hope for the future? :P