SkillSpark

All about learning English

A Pack of Lies

If a ‘fib’ is a small, unimportant lie; more or less its opposite is ‘whopper.’ A whopper is a big, blatant lie–something only the most gullible people would accept as true. For instance, a friend of mine in college once claimed that for his tenth standard exams he worked hard, and during the actual exam, which lasted about a week, he did not sleep the entire week. He claimed he studied all night, took the exam the next day, and continued this routine for an entire week without any sleep at all. Lies such as these qualify as ‘whoppers’– exaggerated claims that are nearly impossible to believe. I guess we all tell a whopper some time or the other. Both ‘fib’ and ‘whopper’ are used informally and among friends.

Another type of lie is ‘bluff’. Bluffing involves the kind of lie where you exaggerate your strength or confidence, and thereby confuse the other people in such a way that they believe you. For instance, someone trying to enter a museum without a ticket can perhaps bluff their way in by trying to walk in confidently. Bluffing does not always have to be negative.

For example, even if you are nervous about a particular exam, you can act very confident as you go in for the exam, and thus perhaps bluff yourself into doing well in the exam.

Unlike other types of lies that focus mostly on hiding the truth, the concept of ‘bluffing’ involves subtle psychological manipulation. In popular card games such as poker, for example, it is often necessary to pretend that you have better cards than you actually do. Bluffing does not improve your cards, but by giving others the impression that your cards are good, you manage to change the way they play. This psychological manipulation is essential in bluffing. But if someone senses that you are bluffing, they can make you act on your boast (knowing you cannot) and thus force you admit that you were lying. One episode of the TV serial Seinfeld, for example, features a man named George who has been lying about having a fancy country house. The people who suspect he is lying ask him to show them the house, and they end up driving for hours before he is forced to admit that it was all a lie. By allowing themselves to be manipulated to an extreme, they call George’s bluff, since George had only planned to bluff enough to give the general impression that he was very rich.
When you call someone’s bluff, you force them to act true to their boast, and expose their lie. And in general, a lie isn’t always just a lie. There are subtle variations in meaning, giving us a variety of lies.

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