One to Lie and One to Listen
Oh, lies. Lies are what make us human, what keep us from being bored to death; lies are the very foundation of our civilization. (Sure, when Pablo Picasso says stuff like this, you say he’s profound; when I say it, you roll your eyes at me.) Lies form the basis of our faiths (“There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet”), our politics (“All men are created equal”), and our societies (“Anyone can grow up to be a millionaire”), and what’s more, they grant us nobility by allowing us excuses to fuck and kill each other, rather than doing it for no reason like some stupid animal.
And yet, why is there no taxonomy of lies? To lump them all together, to commingle through lack of effort the lies of Nixon with the lies of Swift, is to mock the great and wonderful human capacity for compartmentalization. Sure, every kid in Boogie Down has a poster of Linnaeus on the wall of his bedroom, and any hipster chick worth her Asthmatic Kitty baby tee can tell you the difference between an ignorantio elenchi and a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter. But where is the man who will teach us to keep our crookedness straight, to show us the difference between a dirty lyin’ dog and a dissimulating son-of-a-bitch, to remind us that not only is A not always A, but that there’s more than one way of saying that A is in fact Q?
Ladies and gentlemen, I am that man. I bring you Initial Notes on a Taxonomy of Lies, with the formal names of each bogosity in cod-Japanese because Latin is played.
KYOGEN TAI-WAGAMI (The Lie Against Myself). This lie, known as “rationalization” in the Freudian idiom, is an extremely common sort of lie, commited on an almost minute-by-minute basis by almost everyone. Unlike the other-directed falsehoods that follow, the purpose of this lie is to forestall suicide by convincing yourself that your current path is really for the best, and that there’s no need to take particular notice of the festering gut-bag that you are in reality. It can take the form of simple self-deception (“This job isn’t so bad, and besides, I’m really making a difference”) to outright fabrication (“I don’t need to work out today, because I worked out harder than usual on Wednesday”). This is generally an extremely desirable type of lie, and even if it weren’t, it’s impossible to get rid of, like capitalism and groin comedy.
Example: instead of “I am unattractive and have a repellant personality”, say “I can’t relate to the women of today”.
KYOGEN I-DATSUROU (The Lie of Omission). This lie, a favorite of the elderly, convalescents, residents of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and other people leading a low-energy lifestyle, allows one to lie without actually saying anything. In more primitive times, before we learned that it was never appropriate to have unspoken thoughts, it was known as “tact”. It is still the lie of choice for many self-important people because they don’t consider it to actually be lying, and for some reason they think not lying is desirable. Note that this lie is not to be found on the internet.
Example: instead of “Thank you for reading your poetry to me; it was boring, pretentious, and horribly clumsy, and to call it sophomoric would be to unjustly slander many talented second-year college students”, say ” “.
KYOGEN TAI-HONMEI (The Lie Against Certainty). This lie is similar to the kyogen i-datsurou, especially insofar as people who don’t like to be thought of as liars often employ it so that they may later congratulate themselves on not lying; but here, rather than not saying anything, one says something that can be interpreted as neutral, or even positive — anything but the mockery and disdain that usually lies behind it. Any time the word “interesting” is employed, a kyogen tai-honmei has been committed.
Example: instead of “That dress makes you look disgustingly fat, even for you”, say “That dress really emphasizes your figure”.
HIRUTAI KYOGEN (The Simple Lie). This lie is the most basic of other-directed lies, consisting of a statement contrary to actual events or opinions. It is easily mastered, low-maintainence, and useful in any number of situations — all the hallmarks of a classic. Unlike the more subtle and graceful sorts of lis, it can be used by anyone of any age or level of experience; indeed, children are often more adept at it than their adult counterparts. The downside of this type of falsehood is that its very democratic nature works against it: its commonality has rendered it the least socially acceptable kind of lie. When somone calls you a “lying fuckface”, it is usually in response to a hirutai kyogen. Nonetheless, it is a perennial favorite that is never out of style.
Example: instead of “I am fucking your girlfriend”, say “No, I am not fucking your girlfriend”.
KYOGEN AIRONIKARU (The Ironic Lie). This lie, while deceptively similar to the Simple Lie, is in fact a form of lying so subtle and profound that some people do not believe it to be lying at all. The Ironic Lie, which requires a lifetime to truly master and has been perfected by only a few extremely brilliant practicioners in New York, Paris, and parts of Ireland, consists of saying something that is, generally speaking, exactly the opposite of what you mean, and then — and here is where the devilish difficulty comes in — placing the burden on the listener to recognize that you are lying. Not only does this elevate it beyond the level of base and common lying, but it allows the liar to place the blame on his audience, rather than on himself, if he is ever caught in the lie. While incredibly effective and remarkably graceful, the Ironic Lie is fiendishly difficult, requiring not only sharply honed lying skills and a judicious use of language, but a significant financial investment in the quotation mark industry. Simply put, the kyogen aironikaru is the Cadillac of lies. (Note: rumors have been circulating since fall of 2001 that irony is, in fact, dead. Experts are said to be looking into the matter.)
Example: instead of “I am fucking your girlfriend”, say “Oh, yeah. I’m ‘fucking’ your girlfriend”.
KYOGEN I-SHOUHOU (The Lie of Commerce). This lie, which is well on its way to supplanting most of the other types of lies though a vigorous breeding rate, is the other-directed lie perfected. The art of it lies not so much in the nature of the lie itself, but rather in the liar’s ability to convince her audience that the lie is not only true, but in fact quite outstanding. While looked down upon by traditional practitioners of lying, the Lie of Commerce has attracted some of America’s best and brightest, who say that it’s pointing the way to the future and that other types of lying had better get on board for the big win. If you have no particular talent or skill, but are gifted at stringing together a lot of words and concepts that don’t really mean anything, the kyogen i-shouhou is probably for you.
Example: instead of “Give me $300 a month for the rest of your life”, say “You’re in good hands with Allstate”.
KYOGEN I-GESAKU (The Lie of Fiction). This lie, of which your author has reluctantly become a practitioner in the wake of rampant rumors about the death of irony, is unique among falsehoods in that it is not only acceptable, but actively encouraged. Some people even attribute a sort of nobility, a greatness to this form of systematized lying, which is amazing considering how complete its falsity; it’s quite simple for a skilled practitioner of kyogen i-gesaku to construct a standard English sentence in which every single word is a lie. The trick is to know when it is appropriate and when it is not; for instance, following a confession that you have stolen your friend’s car, used it to rob several convenience stores, and employed it in aid of the vehicular manslaughter of a handful of municipal law enforcement officers, it is usually improper to say it was just for a story you made up.
Example: instead of “I am a neurotic guilty Catholic with a variety of sexual dysfunctions”, say “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”