What kind of lies does he-who-shall-not-be-named tell? Bald-faced or bold-faced?

“I’m starving! I haven’t been fed in days!” says William. “Just look at that face!”

That’s a typical cat lie. But is it a bald-faced lie? Or even a bold-faced lie?

When I was a kid, interested in both language and typography, I always assumed the phrase was “bald-faced,” even though I was hazy about that sense of bald. Merriam-Webster’s blog, A Thing about Words, had a great post on this subject the other day. It turns out, much to my surprise, that the original expression was “barefaced,” going back at least to the 1830s, but it was supplanted by “bald-faced” in the 1950s. Aha! That explains what I thought as a kid.

So what’s up with “bold-faced,” which sounds to me like a term from typography? And apparently typography is (or at least might be) where this odd version of the expression comes from, as word processing was becoming well-known toward the end of the century. Since my dad was for decades the editor of the Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey, he taught me the distinction between fonts and typefaces — you can look it up — a distinction I had to push aside when word processing introduced a slightly new meaning of “font,”

And what does all this have to do with the question in the title to this piece? The interpretation is up to you, but I think that our fearless leader tells bald-faced lies, which are about as transparent as cat lies.


Categories: Linguistics