If there are half-truths, as there are, there must be half-lies as well. So when is a lie not a lie? When is it, for example, merely an untruth? The Economist's Johnson column [ A taxonomy of dishonesty ] looked at this last week and said that the essence of a lie rests in its purpose to deceive. Johnson noted:
"Lying requires an intent to deceive—which implies knowing that what you’re saying isn’t true."
... and that might just let a lot of politicians off the hook.
But it's not much of a relief to me as, when I make things up and publish them in this blog, or tell my grandchildren tall stories, I still seem to be lying, even though I'm only (in my view) just teasing and testing and mildly untruthing. For example, I wrote this in 2014:
This morning's RIA news agency bulletin carries an article about a dispute in a Crimean bar over the meaning of ESD. ... An argument over ESD theory ended in a man being shot. Police in the city of Simferopol, the capital of the Russian Crimean region, are quoted as saying that a fight broke out between an ethnic Russian and an ethnic Ukranian as they argued over the true meaning of ESD, and how Vladimir Putin's policies have helped shape it.
Police spokesperson, Inspector Svetlana Samutsevich, said: "In the course of the fight, the suspect took out a pistol firing rubber bullets and aimed several shots at his opponent." She added that one man was detained and the victim was taken to hospital, although his life was not thought to be in danger.
A commentator on ESD in Russia and eastern Europe, who asked not to be named, said: "It seems that many Ukrainians and Russians love to discuss philosophy and history, often over a drink, but such discussions rarely end in shootings. However, as we all know, ESD raises such passions that it's surprising that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often. It's certainly a good thing that those attending UNECE seminars are not routinely armed, and it's a real pity that so few details of the men's discussion are known, since any contribution to ESD theory would be welcome."
Confession time: it didn't happen – but then you might have worked that out ...