10 things you might not know about lies

Truth is a battleground these days. Five Chicago-area police officers are accused of lying on the stand. A Republican protester shadows Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's events dressed as "Quinnochio." A basketball coach loses a $1 million-a-year job at the University of South Florida because he lied on his resume. The truth hurts. Here are 10 examples:

1/ Psychologist Robert Feldman found that, on average, two people just getting to know each other lied three times in 10 minutes.

2/ Two years ago, Egyptian lawmaker Anwar al-Bulkimy said bandages on his face were the result of an attack by masked gunmen who robbed him of $16,000. But a doctor disputed the story, insisting that al-Bulkimy had undergone plastic surgery. The member of parliament — dubbed the "nose-job MP" in the press — then admitted the lie, but excused himself by saying it occurred while "I was under the influence of anesthesia."

3/ Children as young as 2 can fib, but those terrible toddlers are terrible liars. First, they don't really know what they're doing; their brains aren't developed enough to understand that mommy or daddy might actually believe the untruth. And they can't maintain the falsehood: After denying doing something, like peeking inside a bag, they then willingly describe the toy inside.

4/ Barack Obama's keep-your-health-care promise and George W. Bush's weapons-of-mass-destruction claim — were they intentional lies or simply misunderstandings? The debates may never be settled. But there's no doubt another president, Dwight Eisenhower, knew his administration was telling a whopper in 1960. The Soviets shot down a U-2 spy plane, and the U.S. said it was a weather research plane that went off course. Pilot Francis Gary Powers was equipped with a needle filled with poison, and the CIA figured he would use it. But after the U.S. told its lie, the Soviets sprang their trap, revealing that Powers had been captured alive and admitted spying.

5/ People tend to lie about lying, or at least they tidy it up with euphemisms. The truth is "embroidered," or the dissembler has a "failure of memory." Language expert Ralph Keyes recalled a psychiatrist describing his client as "someone for whom truth is temporarily unavailable." British official Robert Armstrong popularized the phrase "economical with the truth" in the 1980s. Just this year, CIA Director James Clapper was accused of lying to Congress and insisted he had testified in the "least untruthful manner" possible.

6/ Robert Hunt was a con man who claimed to be at various times a space shuttle astronaut, a gynecologist, a Marine, a U.S. senator, an inventor, a contractor and a major league ballplayer. According to a 1992 Boston Herald story, his father said his son's shenanigans started early. When Hunt was 14, he sold a neighbor a bunch of canaries. A few days later, the man was screaming and pounding on the Hunts' door, demanding his money back. Turns out, when the birds took a bath, the yellow chalk washed off to reveal sparrows.

7/ George Washington's "I cannot tell a lie" story about a hatchet and a cherry tree is itself total blarney. Without a hint of irony, the lie was perpetrated by Mason Weems — an Anglican pastor no less — who clearly had no problem laying it on thick in deifying the first president. The "story" ends with George's father so proud of his son's honesty that he allegedly said, "Such an act of heroism in my son is worth more than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver and their fruits of purest gold."

8/ "No one has any intention of building a wall," said East German leader Walter Ulbricht in June 1961, less than two months before construction of the Berlin Wall began.

9/ Whom do you lie to the most? Possibly yourself. The apparent contradiction of self-deception — how can you believe an untruth you tell yourself? — has roiled the academic world since Sigmund Freud turned our inner worlds inside out. But consider: In a survey of 1 million high school seniors, every student thought they were above average in getting along with others.

10/ Slang terms for a lie include blarney, bulldust, humbug, bark, ben, bleeder, blazer, bounce, caulker, clanger, clanker, clincher, cobber, crammer, double-thumper, fib, fudge, hum, porky, old moody, whopper, tall tale and Madoff. (OK, that last one isn't true — yet. You could say we embroidered.)

Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the newspaper's weekend editor.

mjacob@tribune.com

sbenzkofer@tribune.com

SOURCES: "The Liar in Your Life" by Robert Feldman; "They Never Said It" by Paul F. Boller Jr. and John George; "How We Know What Isn't So" by Thomas Gilovich; "Why We Lie" by David Livingstone Smith; "The Divided Berlin 1945-1990" by Oliver Boyn; "Closed Borders: The Contemporary Assault on Freedom of Movement" by Alan Dowty; "The Second Arab Awakening" by Adeed Dawisha; "Euphemania" by Ralph Keyes; "Dictionary of Euphemisms" by R.W. Holder; "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green; "Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne; Boston Herald; Los Angeles Times; nytimes.com; theguardian.com; english.al-akhbar.com