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15 June 2009

Monday's Words

This is a bald eagle, isn't he beautiful. Of course most of my American friends will recognise this magnificent bird although it may not be quite so familiar in other countries. Their are several different types of eagle, the most well known of course being the golden eagle. The 'bald eagle' is so called not because he doesn't have feathers on his head, but because his head is white. This brings me to an interesting entry in Michael Quinion's ' World Wide Words'* recently.

The question came up about whether it was correct to say 'a bald faced lie', or a 'boldfaced' lie. Apparantly 'barefaced' is the most usual form Quote: "This is still the usual form in Britain and to a lesser extent in Canada. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Americans started to use "bald-faced lie" instead, which has become the most common form in today's US newspapers."

In actual fact, as Michael goes on to say, the original phrase was a 'barefaced' lie, neither bold nor bald!

"Both forms are based on colloquial uses from the seventeenth century. Someone bare-faced originally had the face uncovered, and hence was figuratively acting in an unconcealed or open way (Shakespeare is the first known user of both literal and figurative senses). From the
latter part of the seventeenth century onwards, it took on a sense of something or someone who was audacious, shameless or impudent, so that a barefaced lie was one in which the speaker made no attempt to disguise it as truth."

Isn't that interesting? So whether you write about someone telling 'bold' 'bald' or 'bare' faced lies, it's nice to know how the term originated. I don't suppose that beautiful 'bald' eagle could care less though!

*Thanks to Michael Quinion of WORLD WIDE WORDS
World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org