Talk:bend the truth

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bend the truth[edit]

One can "bend", "distort", "stretch", "twist", and "slant" the truth. All of those are possible because the truth is metaphorically straight, but malleable in the hands of the clever. To call "bend the truth" an idiom would certainly be testing the elasticity of any reasonable definition of idiom. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 00:51, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

While the metaphor or figure of bending the truth is comprehensible for me without further explanation, you cannot normally bend the truth in Czech, although Google search finds some hits of the Czech word-for-word analogue google:"ohýbat pravdu", to my surprise. The question is, how do we document for the foreign-language readers that bending the truth is a common figure in English, when this particular figure is uncommon or nonexistent in their native tongues? --Dan Polansky 11:18, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
Your first clause ought to end the discussion. That is the point. A dictionary entry is to help decode. I do not see how it can help encode. I have not seem much effort to translate truly idiomatic expressions, in any event. Would it help if I started inserting trreqs to assist translators in locating them? DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 11:39, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
Oh, yes, it can help encode (e.g. through the use of categories, synonyms, etc.)! This is why including set phrases is important. Writers do use dictionaries! Lmaltier 14:21, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
I agree. Keep. It is not at all intuitive that the "truth" is "straight" and is subject to physical malformation. Consider that there is no comparable expression for what should logically be the opposite phrase: to "straighten a lie" (or to compact, untwist, or level one). bd2412 T 00:35, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
DCDuring, I don't see how the fact that a lot of similar phrases exists can mean that this is sum of parts. Not all that obvious what this means from the sum of its parts, so I suppose it should be kept, although I don't like it much. Mglovesfun (talk) 00:39, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
I brought it here because I am looking to understand better the concept of idiom. Are all of the others also idiomatic? stretch the truth, twist the truth, twist someone's words, distort the truth, slant the truth? We should have many opportunities since the lexicon is awash with verbs that have concrete main senses with figurative application to things that are not concrete. Is it only the Old English verbs that make for these being idioms? Help me out, please. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 01:40, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
(unindent) I would consider all the listed terms figurative and some peculiar to English, hence idiomatic in one sense of "idiomatic". I cannot stretch the truth or slant the truth in Czech as far as I remember, so knowing that the listed phrases are actually used in English is useful for a non-native speaker in English composition; yes, in the encoding direction (mentalese -> English) as contrasted to decoding (English -> mentalese). Truth is not a physical object; it has to be cast as a physical object such as metal wire before the listed verbs can be applied to it.
Whether these terms should be documented in the mainspace can be discussed; what I am saying is that (a) per being figurative, the terms are not plain and pure sum-of-parts such as "blue car" or "to wash dishes" but at best tricky sum-of-parts if sum-of-parts at all, and (b) that the terms need to be documented somewhere for the FL speaker of English.
In particular, I did not know that "to stretch the truth" means "to exaggerate"; several example sentences would be helpful I think. --Dan Polansky 09:55, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
I believe that, in the end, these things fit better in a thesaurus, which is a better tool for going from mentalese to words. We can always use principal namespace to collect them. It will take quite a while. I have begun tagging some Verb entries that we have as Category:English predicates if they contain a complement (not an adverb). I estimate we have a thousand or so in Category:English verbs. If we want to get a lot of these from the general population of users, we would need to let them know that we are not at all like other dictionaries. Perhaps we need a "metaphor of the week" ("MOTW") (eg, "Truth is straight but flexible") in addition to WOTD. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 11:36, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
Delete per DCDuring. A usage note s.v. truth may be in order, something like "Truth, whether referred to by the term truth or otherwise, is metaphorically considered straight, and can be bent; hence such phrases as bend the truth, twist the facts, and twist his words.". Perhaps such a usage note can be added to various of the verbs (bend, etc.) used, too.​—msh210 19:48, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure, but I think [[bend]] might actually need an entire additional sense; none of the current senses seems to cover “bend the truth”, “bend the rules”, etc. —RuakhTALK 21:25, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  • Before we get too committed to the idea that all metaphors should be included in en.wikt. please examine the quotes I have added to bend the truth and stretch the truth. Pay special attention to the quote from w:Tom Clancy at "bend". By my count he manages seven metaphors in the passage quoted. How many of them should we include? How do we differentiate between those in and those out? DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 20:57, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
Following are some candidate metaphorical uses of "bend" taken from COCA:
bend the rules, bend the law, bend one's knee (submit), bend the facts.
We already have bend someone's ear, bend one's elbow, bend over backwards. In the one's we have both of the "heavy" words are used in the same metaphorical universe. If that is what makes an idiom (vs. mere figurative use of a word), then bend one's knee is an idiom and the others are not. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 23:29, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
Copying the Tom Clancy quote over for reference:
  • 2001, Tom Clancy, The Bear and the Dragon:
    KGB had always been on the lookout for hard facts, but then reported those facts to people besotted with a dream, who then bent the truth in the service of that dream. When the truth had finally broken through, the dream had suddenly evaporated like a cloud of steam in a high wind, and reality had poured in like the flood following the breakup of an icebound river in springtime.
I'm not seeing the problem here. Most of the figurative uses here are similes, X like Y, which I think we have long since agreed do not belong in a dictionary. To say that a man is as strong as an ox, or strong like an ox, is not the same as saying that he is an ox (which is itself only a sense of the word ox). There is simply nothing metaphorical about the behavior of a cloud of steam in a high wind, or a flood following the breakup of an icebound river in springtime. Now, "hard facts", I can see as having an idiomatic element, because it is assigning a physical characteristic to an abstract thing. bd2412 T 23:55, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
A simile requires an explicit marker. The most common ones are "like" and "as". There are indeed two uses of "like" in the passage. One marks the "dream evaporating like a cloud of steam". The other marks "reality pouring in like a flood". I see nothing else to mark anything as a simile. Accordingly, the remaining non-literal expressions must be metaphors and a mix that made me laugh out loud when reading them:
on the lookout for facts (wandering over the greensward?)
hard facts (not those on paper or carried on puffs of air)
people besotted with a dream (cheap dates if you catch them right after waking)
service to the dream (the dream is my lord) (Note the connection to "bend" as an indication of subservience.)
truth had broken through (some unstated barrier)
All of these are metaphors, whether or not they are reflected in secondary senses of the polysemic component words. The difference between multiword metaphors that should be included and those that are not meritorious is the one that eludes me. We have no effective objective criteria and don't seem to want any. We usually don't even take the trouble to determine whether any professional lexicographers at other reference works think terms are worth inclusion. Thus, in practice, our criteria appear to be utterly subjective. But, since we are all reasonable men and women, representative of the users we are ostensibly serving, that's supposed to be OK. I don't think that there are even enough of us expressing opinions to be a statistically sufficient sample of whatever population we represent.
BTW, similes that we have are cunningly concealed at Category:English similes. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 01:59, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
On the lookout for facts - facts can be in writing, or can be of a physical thing. I see a dam being built over a river, the construction of the dam is a tangible fact for which I can be on the lookout. Twisting the facts, on the other hand, would be purely idiomatic. If I said someone was twisting the facts, would you visualize that person physically manipulating something? Hard facts I have conceded above, and I think it should have an entry. Similarly, to be besotted by something or to be in service to something are both as easily and generally applicable to abstract ideas as to physical entities. To say the truth had broken through is a bit closer of a case, but not the same because the phrase "to break through" is often used with abstractions. Any emotional experience you can think of can be described as having "broken through". Bending applies to a much smaller universe of abstractions - the truth, the law, the rules, your mind, but note how the meaning is different in each case. If love or anger or purity has "broken through", the meaning of "broken through" remains roughly the same. To bend the truth or the facts, on the the other hand, does not mean the same thing as to bend the law or the rules (or to bend your ear, or your mind). bd2412 T 03:06, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
"Truth" is not always straight per se, but:
  • True (adjective): Conforming to a specification or standard, esp. being geometrically precise (e.g. straight, square, round, or in alignment). [1]
  • True (verb, transitive): To straighten. To make geometrically precise. [2]
Bending in the physical sense is a specific type of distortion, but I think this sense of "bend" is really just:
  • Bend (verb, transitive): Syn. distort, as applied to non-physical or non-geometrical entities, such as truth, process, or mind.
And likewise for "twist". However, in the current definition of "distort" (etymologically, "to twist apart") sense 3 is over-specific. If the definitions were improved a bit, the meaning of the phrase would be obvious from its constituent parts.~ Ningauble 17:49, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
Dunno, I don't think that if you can substitute one word for another, that makes them all sum of parts. Consider and shit, and crap, and whatnot. Mglovesfun (talk) 18:51, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
I think that "bend the truth" and "twist the truth" are exactly synonymous with "distort the truth", with no difference in connotation, but that "stretch the truth" is more specific as to the type of distortion. Physical bending, twisting, and stretching are all distinct types of distortion. ~ Ningauble 04:14, 24 December 2009 (UTC)
In any event, I have augmented or revised bend, stretch, and distort to reflect the kinds of senses that other dictionaries have, some of which seem to me to be applicable. "Bend", in particular, was missing quite a few senses (c. five), one relevant to the discussion.
The sad fact is that we can rarely rely on en.wikt definitions to resolve our own definitional questions. The good news is that every RfD is likely to reveal opportunities for component-word entry improvement. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 19:18, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
"True" and "truth" are different things. Would you say that a straight line is the truth? If you make something geometrically precise, have you made it the truth? bd2412 T 20:28, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
Yes, that was a bit of a digression. (Reading dictionaries tends to cast my mind adrift on a stream of consciousness.) "True" and "truth" are not the same part of speech, and have different senses. Although one speaks of the "trueness" of an assertion or a doorjamb and may say that they are "true", a true assertion may be called "the truth" but not a true doorjamb. However, calling a true assertion "the truth" is really only a loose way of speaking: it is the thing asserted rather than the assertion that is "the truth". Only an artistic spirit or a Pythagorean would call a doorjamb "the truth", even in this loose sense.
But still, I digress. : ) ~ Ningauble 04:14, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

'kept, no consensus for deletion -- Prince Kassad 19:24, 23 November 2010 (UTC)