28 October 2008

Lies and Statistics - part one

The heading of this part of my blog is inspired by a phrase attributed to Benjamin Disraeli and popularised in the United States by Mark Twain: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." And as I published in my last entry, we know that some statistics might simply be made up on the spot!

One definition of a lie is an untruthful statement, with the implied intention of deceiving others. This may be to maintain a secret or a reputation. It might be in order to protect someone's feelings, or to avoid a punishment.

Some people also include those occasions where someone has stated something which they don't know for sure is true, with the intention that it be taken for the truth.

Of course, once you start to lie, you need to lie repeatedly to maintain those lies. You therefore become a liar by force of habit. Remember, like all habits, these can be broken - if you truly want to.

Since starting this article, I have discovered much debate on the Internet disputing the fact that Disraeli was the first to say the phrase that I commenced with. Which means there may already be one lie in this part of my blog already! So in an effort not to fall foul of my own definitions I'll just mention Henry Du Pré Labouchère (1831-1912), Leonard H. Courtney, 1st Baron Courtney of Penwith (1832-1918), Cornelia Augusta Hewitt Crosse (1827-1895), William Abraham Hewitt (1875-1966) and Commander Holloway Halstead Frost (1889-1935) - all of whom have also been attributed with the phrase. Whew!

I think I'm going to be reflecting quite a bit on lies this week. As you will see, lying is actually quite a commonplace thing. More later.

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