Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

“Genuine gold fears no fire.” -Chinese proverb


Are storytellers good liars? Maybe. A recent quiz in The New York Times called “Can You Spot the Liar?” features videos of people answering questions with truth or lies. The related article states that body language may be a poor reflection of veracity and that verbal clues are more accurate. Does that mean that writers, who can craft compelling stories, are better at lying?

My own track record reveals a mixed bag:

  • Balderdash– I’m excellent at this game. Whenever I don’t know the true meaning, I imitate the cadence of a dictionary definition. I’ve been able to really convince some players. Thumbs up.
  • Sneaking– I tried to sneak into a convention once with my brother’s ID. Maybe not the best of ideas, but he’d already paid for it and couldn’t make it that particular day. I wanted to check out the place and meet up with my boyfriend who was also attending the event. The guard at the door looked at the nametag and then my face. “Is that your name?” she asked. I didn’t want to lie, so I silently stood there with her staring at me for a full minute. After giving me the stink eye, she eventually let me pass through. Thumbs down.
  • Mafia– I’m not the last to get knocked out in this game and have a medium lifespan. I can never guess the true culprits, though. Neutral.

Although I’m not a great liar, I’m wonderful at being lied to. I have certain traits that make me more susceptible, such as being:

  • Gullible- As a child, I succumbed to the great marshmallow trick one April Fool’s Day. Even in college, my friend insisted that strawberries grew on trees. “Really?” I said, even though I’d actually seen strawberry plants in my parents’ garden before. I thought maybe somewhere out there existed a tree that sprouted strawberries….
  • Trusting- It’s hard for me to figure out when people close to me are fibbing. (This is also true about unreliable narrators in books.) I remember doing Two Truths and a Lie with my family and discovering that my dad had played rugby before. Who knew?
  • Empathetic- I’m a sucker for scams. A frantic woman approached me one day, saying that her husband had been injured in a work accident. She asked me for money but offered to give either her drivers’ license or cell phone as collateral and proof of her sincerity. I decided to help her out. Figuring she’d need her license to take her spouse to the hospital, I requested to keep her phone. I ended up holding a plastic toy while she sprinted away to her car. (I probably should have known better when I saw that her car had been parked in a weird position, making it difficult to read the license plate.)

Please share your experience with tall tales.

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  1. That’s a fun post, for April Fools’ Day, Jennifer.
    I didn’t know the game Balderdash, although I like gameboards. So I will check it out.
    Like you, I am trusting so more than once I have also fallen for fake stories of people “apparently” in trouble, asking for money.
    On the other side, people trust me, too. So I admit that it has occasionnally served me.
    I’m not too proud to admit that when my kids were young and we played Slamwich, I was so good at lying that they never suspected that I did. When they found out, they were shocked. Moms aren’t supposed to lie. Even with boardgames. They still remember the day they caught me.
    It was time to explain to them that moms are human beings too, with qualities and flaws too.

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      Now I’m the one who’s stumped. I’ve never heard of Slamwich, so I’ll need to look that up. Thanks for dropping by!


  1. Got Scammed? says:

    […] been a victim of several scams myself because I’m so gullible. My most recent iffy encounter was with a woman wandering a parking lot near a grocery store. She […]

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