Pants on fire

On an investigative crime program I was watching recently, one of the detectives said, "The creep is lying through his teeth. It's so obvious. I have no doubts about his guilt."

As the show progressed, a family member of the victim used the same phrase: "lying through his teeth."

I started thinking about that phrase. If you're lying through your teeth, what might that mean?

Lies can be written, such as in an email, perhaps, but my guess is that most lies are spoken. Did you break that vase? No. Did you eat that last piece of pie? No. Did you clean your room? Yes. And so on.

It can be easy to lie depending on how tender your conscience is. It could be just as easy to tell a lie that's so outrageous, so deep-seated, and so sincere that you can totally smile while you're lying. That would be lying through your teeth. And if you were a seasoned liar, all the easier to be smooth about the lying. It could even become second nature to lie if you did it often enough.

Lying through one's teeth may just be a way of making the lie more believable: "No, I had nothing to do with the murder. Believe me. I wasn't even there. I was miles away. I was at home and asleep. Besides, he was my friend. I'd never harm him. You can't possibly think I had anything to do with this. No. It's not possible."

Why don't I believe you? Liar, liar, pants on fire. Are your pants on fire?

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati.]

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