Diabetes...a bald-faced lie, or a bold-faced lie?

Is diabetes a BALD-FACED LIE?

That question is the subject line of an occasional e-mail we send you. And whenever we do, many of you become quite bold when they see “bald.”

Michael: “Jenny, it’s ‘bold-faced lie”–you know, bold- faced, like ‘control-B’ on your keyboard.”

Ginny: “The correct term is: BOLD-FACED. Not ‘bald-faced.’ That’s just silly…”

Frank: “Bold faced lie, bold faced lie…not bald faced!!!!! Get the saying correct if you are going to use it. Yes it is a bold faced lie…I agree…but stop saying it wrong!!!!!”

So…which camp are you in? Bald or bold?

According to Michael Quinion, a former BBC radio producer and an advisor to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest use of this phrase is neither bald nor bold. This quote is from a novel published in 1793: “You are discovered in a barefaced lie…”

Mr. Quinion also offers this quote from an Ohio newspaper dated 1883: “…every one who is capable of putting it into readable English knows it to be a bald-faced lie.”

But 50 years earlier, this quote appeared in the Eclectic Review: “The sneer, the sarcasm, the one-sided statement, the perplexing reference, the qualified concession, the bold-faced lie…”

The exact meanings behind these phrases are unknown (brazen, beardless liars?), but we do know they were all being used informally 300 years ago. And even back then people were probably correcting each other: It’s bald! No– bold! Bare! Bald! Bold!

Finally Mr. Quinion gives us this quote from Jan Freeman in the Boston Globe (2002): “When we call a lie baldfaced or boldfaced … either one is just fine, though baldfaced is a bit more common.”

So we’re going to keep it common and stick with bald.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson

“Bald-Faced, Boldfaced or Barefaced?” Michael Quinion, World Wide Words, worldwidewords.org

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