Reverse the truth

Discussion in 'English Only' started by farhad_persona, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. farhad_persona

    farhad_persona Senior Member

    Farsi
    Hello
    How you guys doing?
    Is "reverse the truth" a common phrase in American English ?
    Can you please offer some examples for me to understand it better?
     
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    It's your job to provide the examples, farhad_persona, though one would do. It's called context and background, and it's a forum requirement.
     
  3. farhad_persona

    farhad_persona Senior Member

    Farsi
  4. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    I've looked high and low for it and found nothing, whch leads me to doubt that it's an expression. In the context you give, I would gloss 'reverse the truth' as 'lie'.
     
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    If, by 'phrase' you mean a 'fixed phrase' it is not; it is simply words strung together.

    As Beryl says, they mean "lie" but 'reverse the truth' is more diplomatic -

    cf. "does not accord with reality"; "is at variance with known facts"; etc, which are other sets of words meaning the same thing.
     
  6. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    I have to disagree with the views above; it doesn't just mean 'lie'. From the context it means the same as the set phrase "to turn truth on its head": for example in the link in post #3, A accuses X of bias towards B, whereas B's position is that X is biased towards A.
     
  7. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Hmmm... although I see what you mean, the bottom line is an accusation of lying.

    John: "David hits me all the time." (this is true)
    David: "John hits me all the time" (this is false.)
     
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Why are you asking, FP? Have you come across the expression anywhere?
     
  9. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Until now, no Americans have responded.
    The answer is no.
     
  10. farhad_persona

    farhad_persona Senior Member

    Farsi
    I found another example :

    Why is Ex-Wife reversing the truth?
    In a recent conversation with my ex-wife, I discovered that she has taken a
    situation and completely reversed it, making up her own truth about it.
     
  11. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    You'd best tell us you found that, farhad.
     
  12. farhad_persona

    farhad_persona Senior Member

    Farsi
  13. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    farhad_persona. Please comply with the forum guidelines and do not post a bare link. Please read name your source.
     
  14. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I expect it's an expression coined by a newspaperman looking to catch the eye.

    The only thing which catches my eye here is imprecision of language.

    Truth is not a process, so it can't be put into reverse.
     
  15. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    "Truth is not a process, so it can't be put into reverse."

    So the truth cannot be, figuratively, turned inside out or upside down? To reverse doesn't necessarily involve motion. I quite like the expression "reversing the truth", because it's concise and easily understood.
     
  16. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    You must help me understand it then, Velisarius.

    I can't see that it has a precise meaning.

    There's an important difference between inversion and reversing. I don't think the truth can be inverted either.
     
  17. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    The truth about something may be expressed as a relation.
    If Jim is taller than Mary, then it follows that the statement (a) 'Jim is taller than Mary' is the truth.
    It also follows that the statement (b) 'Mary is taller than Jim' is the reverse of the truth.

    It is less good style to say that statement (b) 'reverses the truth', but it does not seem false or ungrammatical to say so.
     
  18. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    There's a difference, of course, between saying something which is the reverse of the truth and reversing the truth.
     
  19. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    The cases where we can properly say that a statement is the reverse of the truth seem to me to be limited to those where it expresses a relation which itself could be understood as reversed.

    Provided a statement falls within that category, then if we can say that the statement is the reverse of the truth, there seems no reason (other than style) why we should not say that that statement reverses the truth.
     
  20. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Just so. I give an example at #7
    There might also be the case:

    If "Over the years, George has consistently been generous in his giving to charity." it true, the reversal of this truth is
    "George only started donating to charity last week."
    "George has never given money to charity." or
    "George's historical means of support has been the money he receives from charity."

    The reverse of a truth is a lie.
     
  21. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Personally, I would limit the use of the expression by applying two logical parameters: (1) that only a statement can be called the reverse of the truth and (2) that the statement can only be one that expresses a relation which itself can be seen as reversible; and two parameters of style: (a) to avoid as far as possible using 'reverse' as a verb in this connection ('reverse the truth') and (b) in any case, not to speak of people 'reversing the truth'.
     
  22. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    We must not forget the meaning of to reverse = to turn around completely. I would be quite happy with,

    "Do you understand what you have just said? You have turned the truth around completely."

    If you can reverse a decision, you can reverse the truth.
     
  23. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    The difficulty about saying 'reverse the truth' is that it seems to be saying 'change reality to its opposite' - which cannot logically be done.
     
  24. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I was once on car-parking duty for a music festival in which I sing, and an elderly lady drove up in a Morris Minor. I told her, falsely but comfortingly, that I had kept a place for her and that, if she would reverse into it, she'd be able to make an easy getaway after the concert.

    'I don't do reversing,' was her emphatic reply. It's a quality she shares with the truth.

    I don't think truth does inverting, or converting either.

    Most of the proposed interpretations of this expression have simple English names, which could probably be applied to the Palestinians in the example. I don't really know why we aren't trying to do that.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  25. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    It's important to distinguish between truth as an absolute concept, unalterable by definition, and a statement which purports to be the truth.
    When we say that a statement 'is the truth' this does not mean that the statement is that absolute concept, the truth.
    It is just a way of saying that the statement is true.
    Thus if we say a statement is the reverse of the truth, this means that it states the opposite of what we consider to be true. It is not a metaphysical claim.
    Likewise, we should not interpret the expression 'That statement reverses the truth' as a metaphysical claim that the statement turns absolute truth into its opposite (a logical impossibility).
    Nevertheless, it is better style to avoid such expressions, in order not to give any opening for such an interpretation.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013

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