pants on fire

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pants on fire

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Aug 09, 2012 4:30 am

aaa
<2012 “Romney says an Obama administration offer to waive some federal welfare rules for state programs . . . ends the requirement that recipients of government assistance must work. . . White House spokesman Jay Carney called Romney's attack ‘categorically false and blatantly dishonest.’ He said the waivers are only available to states that increase the number of people moving from welfare to work. The Politifact fact-checking site rated the ad [[attack ad]] ‘pants on fire.’”—USA Today, 8 August>
I've heard this phrase only once in my life when my son’s former girlfriend, who was visiting from Italy, used it jokingly – her English was marginal – to mean ‘liar,’ when she said, ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire.’ So, I would guess that the pants on fire is the abbreviation.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN FOLK LORE

Folk speech categories among children include slang and euphemisms, riddles and jokes, insults, tongue twisters, . . . A typical saying addressed to someone accused of speaking less than the truth is as follows: “Liar, liar, pants on fire, hang them on a telephone wire [[or, ‘nose as long as a telephone wire’]].” Such a saying acknowledges a falsehood, exposes it to others, and ridicules the fibber.
_____________________

The following quotes are from archived sources:
<1984 “Much of the speech was drowned out by hecklers yelling ‘US out of Central America,’ ‘two more weeks,’ ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’ and ‘fascist.’”—Boston Globe, 21October>

<1989 “ABC's latest Burning Questions documentary, on the erosion of ethical behavior, could have been catchily titled "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.”—Dallas Morning News (Texas), 1 June>

<1997 “This week, Mary Eberstadt took out against it in the Weekly Standard under the title: ‘Pants on Fire! Who Really Believes Kathryn Harrison's Incest Tale?’”—The Washington Times (D.C), 22 March>

<2005 “Liar, liar, pants on fire. Accusations of fabrication and fibbing flew across California this week as the ongoing governor vs. education officials escalated to playground proportions.”— Oakland Tribune (California), 20 May>

<2012 “That accusation has been rated as pants on fire false by the PolitiFact political fact-checking site.”—NPR All Things Considered, 24 February>
_____________________

Ken G – August 8, 2012
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Re: pants on fire

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:15 am

"Liar! Liar! Your pants are on fire!" is a playground taunt I recall from my childhood in southern England in the mid-1960s.

Thinking about it now, I suspect it was an Americanism, since 'pants' is/was not a usual term in England for trousers, and in the general run of things one's underpants are not visible to the viewing public.

But perhaps I'm inferring too much.
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Re: pants on fire

Post by trolley » Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:34 am

It is a taunt that I recall from my chilhood, as well. I had a vague memory that there was another verse. I couln't find it in my search but I did find this on Yahoo Answers:

Best Answer - Chosen by Voters
“Liar, liar, pants on fire. Hangin’ on a telephone wire!” is a paraphrased version of the 1810 poem “The Liar” by William Blake.

Deceiver, dissembler
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Shall they dangle in the night?

When I asked of your career
Why did you have to kick my rear
With that stinking lie of thine
Proclaiming that you owned a mine?

When you asked to borrow my stallion
To visit a nearby-moored galleon
How could I ever know that you
Intended only to turn him into glue?

What red devil of mendacity
Grips your soul with such tenacity?
Will one you cruelly shower with lies
Put a pistol ball between your eyes?

What infernal serpent
Has lent you his forked tongue?
From what pit of foul deceit
Are all these whoppers sprung?

Deceiver, dissembler
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Do they dangle in the night?

...Still not too clear why your clothes would burst into flame or be hung from a pole...
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Re: pants on fire

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:54 am

Great find, John.

I think the original was catchier.

At http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/846981 ... ts-on-fire is the amazing:

Beach rocks set US woman's pants on fire

(though there is no mention of the lady being untruthful in any way).

Perhaps it was just the lie of the land.
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Re: pants on fire

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Aug 09, 2012 9:22 am

I am sceptical concerning this purported 1810 poem of William Blake's, the rhyme scheme, rhythms, and numerous rhetorical questions of which are fairly reminiscent of Blake's well-known poem, 'The Tyger' (from his 1794 collection Songs of Experience).

I find that similarity suspicious in itself: why would Blake be reprising the format of a poem he had penned 16 years before, and be doing so merely in order to scrawl such a banal, bathetic piece of doggerel?

Its nonsensical and frivolous subject matter is completely at odds with the seriousness of purpose of the rest of his work, and it is also technically faulty in several ways -- it is not clear what person is being addressed in the poem, the scansion is inconsistent, the syntax is often forced, and there is a clumsy discrepancy in the use of the familiar and formal second-person singular pronouns in one of the verses (When I asked of your career / Why did you have to kick my rear / With that stinking lie of thine / Proclaiming that you owned a mine?). Two adjacent verses begin "When I asked ..." and "When you asked ..."; that too seems clumsy. (There are lots of other criticisms one could make, but these suffice to demonstrate the basic point that the poem is trivial in content and fumbling in execution.)

There's also the unanswered (and, I assert, unanswerable) question of how the taunt, with what sounds like American terminology, could plausibly have evolved -- in paraphrase -- out of an instantly-forgettable, mediocre poem written (allegedly) by an English mystic poet.

Most tellingly of all, I have been unable to tie the poem to a known collection of Blake's, or even to any publication information.

I suspect this poem and its purported attribution began as a prank by someone who fancied himself as a Blake imitator; and once having been launched into cyberspace, the wretched thing has since taken on a life of its own.
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Re: pants on fire

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:11 pm

I thought “Liar, liar, pants on fire. Hangin’ on a telephone wire!” was the original William Blake version.

Perhaps I'm getting it confused with "Lion, lion, burning bright - Should have left the dynamite!"
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Re: pants on fire

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Aug 09, 2012 11:21 pm

Leopard! Leopard! burning hot,
Change your spots, or you'll be shot!
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Re: pants on fire

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:12 am

.. the following version was recorded in Western Victoria in 1970 ..

Liar, liar, liar
Your pants are on fire
Your tongue is longer
Than a telephone wire


.. the version listed in the original post was recorded in Western Victoria in 1973 ..

WoZ waiting with the fire extinguisher
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: pants on fire

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Aug 10, 2012 10:42 am

.. it does seem Erik that a search of Blake's poems tends to verify your suspicions .. a glorious example of how the internet works to spread mischief ..

.. in looking around the two ideas that I did find interesting are the idea that the pants on fire is actually a reference to being spanked for lying and the suggestion that the length of the liars nose is a reference to Pinocchio .. true ?? .. who knows given that nobody knows where the rhyme originated or who wrote it ..

WoZ whose pants were often on fire
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: pants on fire

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Mar 18, 2018 7:23 pm

Here's an interesting quote and statistic:
<2018 "Mr. Trump’s presidency has been marked from the start with false or misleading statements, such as his outlandish claims that more people came to his inauguration than any before and that at least three million unauthorized immigrants voted illegally against him, costing him the popular vote. He has gone on to assert that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, a claim that his own Justice Department refuted, and that he would not benefit from his tax-cutting plan. . . .

Since Mr. Trump became a presidential candidate, PolitiFact has evaluated more than 500 assertions and found 69 percent of them mostly false, false or 'pants on fire" false."— New York Times, 17 March

The latter seems to indicate the worst in the series as an unabashed lie!
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Ken Greenwwald — March 18, 2018
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Re: pants on fire

Post by PauladePlume » Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:28 am

We stopped at, "Liar liar pants on fire!" No reference to telephone lines, telegraph wires or William Blake. And, I imagine it was an Americanism.

If I were to guess the origin of "pants on fire" as associated with lying, it probably relates to the idea of burning and catching on fire in hell. Lying is a sin per Commitment no. 9. Hence the warning: stop lying or your britches are gonna burn! Having grown up in the American South, this has always sounded to me like a Southern phrase, which likely had church-based origins.
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