Cock and Bull Stories
“I completely forgot” is twice as true as “I don’t remember that.” “It hurts” is as often untrue as “I don’t know.” Opinions are less often lies than facts. Thirty-six percent of unbidden speech is a lie, but only nineteen percent of questions are met with lies. People confess truthfully to thirteen percent of their lies, but twenty-eight percent of the time that a person confesses a lie, the confession is itself a lie. Almost everyone is honest when it comes to telling how they are. Lie detectors show no activity at the standard greeting. Children are more apt to lie about what they like, and senior citizens about what they dislike. Books are the subjects of lies more than movies. People seem to lie most between three and seven p.m. They lie more in cold weather. People achieve the formidable lie frequency of eighty-four percent lie/sixteen percent truth only amidst high but tolerable background noise and in comfortable clothes. Grammar invariably deteriorates relative to the enormity of the lie, while the level of the voice will rise according to the speaker’s investment in the lie. However, most of a liar’s audience will believe better grammar, and are convinced that a low tone indicates deep feeling. Despite such inconsistencies, lies convince ninety-eight percent of the time. Most lies that are believed are never questioned: Most lies hold up poorly under pressure. One out of every twenty times that a person relates a dream in nightmarish detail they have made it all up, but in only one out of every two hundred dreams does the dreamer tell a knowing lie in the course of his dream.
The statement “It just slipped out” is true only twelve percent of the time, most of that twelve percent consisting of the excuse of an obscenity. It’s not quite as true as “It didn’t even occur to me,” which is true thirty-eight percent of the time, and generally untrue in reference to the infidelity or anger of either speaker or addressee. “I can’t imagine” is true just nine percent of the time. Scientists attribute this low number not to the quality of the general imagination, but to the rarity with which people discuss unimaginable things. “That’s not what I meant” is a lie thirty-one percent of the time. Allegations in accusation are lies fifty-five percent of the time. Phobias are lies ninety-nine percent of the time. Secrets are lies ninety-five percent of the time. Patients lie eighty-two percent of the time, and doctors eighty-four percent of the time.
Truth achieves its highest percentages in sentences that begin with impersonal expressions, that is, which have it as their subject. “It is hard to understand you” is rarely a lie. Truth also has more of a chance in sentences that take a proper noun as their subject in place of a pronoun. Linking verbs appear more prone to convey lies, while active verbs are generally used in the service of truth. Thus a sentence such as “He is busy” is less likely to be true than a sentence such as “It’s comforting that Terry comes so often.” Sentences in the future tense of course will not lie and a sentence couched in the subjunctive would never be exactly truthful. When subjects are asked to transcribe recordings of their own statements of varying truthfulness, these subjects rarely punctuate their statements of untruth as exclamations, but they never enclose their lies in parentheses. These same subjects remembered their lies with far greater accuracy than their statements of truth.
Most people claim to lie for lack of anything better to say; this claim is often a lie. Lies take longer to tell than truths. The average lie lasts thirty-four seconds. Five percent of lies become convincing memories for their creators. Ninety-two percent of all true statements are forgotten by the addressee within twenty-four hours; but only sixty-five percent of lies die within the day. The insane tell purposeful lies less than their counterparts. There are fewer criminals who have confessed their crimes to no one than beneficiaries who have told no one their good deeds. There are more lies in suicide notes than love letters. People do not lie more often to someone they think often lies to them. People who repeat their lies do so to an average of four people. The most accurate indicator of a lie in body language is the flicker of the tongue before speech. Honesty most commonly occurs in conjunction with the slump of the back. A liar often shows the teeth before a rehearsed untruth, and in the moment of delivering a spontaneous lie may cradle some other body part in the hand. Women believe thirty-six percent of true statements are lies; men believe women lie twenty-seven percent of the time. People who find out they’ve been lied to say they thought as much twenty-five percent of the time, and say they don’t understand why sixty percent of the time.
Forty-nine percent of this report is estimated to be a lie. Sixty-eight percent of the lies herein are estimated to be inadvertent, the result of sloppy research or impure data. Eighteen percent of the lies are estimated to be rhetorical, necessary sacrifices in the pursuit of a larger truth, slight exaggerations that convey an appropriate sense of things, or juxtapositions of facts that would suggest a relationship where none such exists. Twelve percent of the lies are estimated to be unconscious, the result of typological errors or a common dyslexia. Two percent of the lies are estimated to be malicious, with the intent to harm the reader emotionally, or to place the reader under the powerful and intrusive force of inappropriate suggestion, or to slander a certain other entity, or to support certain theses the themes of which are beyond the scope of this project. Of the true statements herein, sixty-eight percent are inadvertent accuracies committed by a free-and-easy but also happy-go-lucky author. Eighteen percent are the carefully verified results of painstaking, sober scientific inquiry. Twelve percent of the true statements are not the property of this institution and are the regrettable product of stolen research, out-and-out plagiarism, illicit experimentation or forbidden collaborations. Two percent of the true statements made in this report are divine revelations or prophetic divinations, the personal pronouncements of the late Saint Clair the Obscure, in her certified and timeless role as Mouthpiece of god and/or Orchestrator of fate, and they ought to be accepted outright.
We haven’t been here long enough for any lightbulbs to have burnt out. We have been here long enough to have burnt a hole in the carpet, but we have not been here long enough to be able to hear the difference between our driveway and the neighbors’ driveways. We have been here long enough to have developed the reflex which stops the screen door from skinning the backs of our ankles, but one day was enough for that. We haven’t been here long enough to identify the things that scratch in the walls or long enough to have mown the lawn, although almost, and we haven’t been here long enough to know the trick with the key or to leave the door unlocked. We haven’t been here long enough to know the dark house like the backs of our hands, or to have shown each other the backs of our hands, or to have had anything in our hands behind our backs. We’ve been here long enough to have demonstrated our desire over all the house’s hot spots, but one day was enough for that. We’ve been here long enough to know the steps that squeak but who’s counting. We’ve been here long enough to know the burners are gray when they’re hot, and to know just how much the hot water heater is prepared to give, but neither one of us has explained how headlights run what looks like backward on our walls nor can we identify what children’s song the doorbell plays.
We’ve been here long enough for food to have molded in the fridge and for potato peels to have stained the wall behind the trash can. We have been here long enough to each stick to a side of the bed. We haven’t been here long enough to be sick. We’ve been here long enough to have run the vacuum but we haven’t. We haven’t been here long enough to sleep badly if the toilet doesn’t run. We’ve been here long enough to sit on the porch with something to read. We’ve been here long enough to usually just leave the blinds down. We’ve been here long enough to have lost socks, to have gone out to dinner, to have run out of soap. We have not been here long enough to rearrange the furniture. We have not been here long enough to decorate for the holidays. We’ve not been here long enough to have given our friends a tour. We haven’t been here long enough to have set the kitchen clock to the exact correct time. We haven’t been here long enough to have seen a really gorgeous day. We have not had our meter read. We’ve never opened the door to a stranger. Our return address is still slightly inaccurate. We carry our phone number around.
We have not been here long enough for our pictures to leave pale squares on the walls. We have not been here long enough to pull off a doorknob or break a dish. We have not been here long enough to find anything in the couch cushions. We have not been here long enough to get bad news. Our electricity’s never gone out, and we’ve not been here long enough to respond to a flash flood watch, but we know it happens. We haven’t been here long enough to kill any insects. We haven’t been here long enough to discuss a pet. We haven’t been here long enough to fall asleep anywhere else but in bed. I tell how when I’m almost asleep I cannot remember which way I point, how the room would be if I opened my eyes. He says that in the rooms without windows he doesn’t know what’s where outside the wall. We agree we’ve been here long enough to each frequent some rooms more than others. He is often in the chair in front of the fireplace we’ve got to get unstopped and I usually sit at the head of the dining room table we never eat at. I look through the row of French doors at all the birds who come to the bird feeders we haven’t bought seed for. We haven’t even bought a calendar.