Metaphorically True

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Luke: Obi-Wan? Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father.
Obi-Wan: Your father was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view.
Luke: "A certain point of view"?
Obi-Wan: Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

This trope is Blatant Lies—at least from a certain point of view. The statement has a justification that rests on a very, very shaky technicality which most people would not consider valid. Usually this entails some feeble excuse or Exact Words. It may require a Personal Dictionary or outright Insane Troll Logic.

This is most commonly used by oracles who are trying to create a Prophecy Twist but haven't sufficiently mastered the art of double meanings. Instead of taking advantage of a non-obvious but genuine ambiguity of phrasing, or relying on elaborate symbolism, the oracle takes an unambiguous statement and tries to pretend that there was another valid meaning. It is also what separates a Literal Genie from a Jackass Genie, as the latter stretches the interpretation of the wish beyond the bounds of credibility just to get the wisher into trouble.

Less commonly, it is used in the wake of a Retcon, in an effort to smooth over the inconsistencies introduced by that Retcon. In the original example shown at the top of the page, the line from the third movie practically Hand Waves the fact that the line from the first movie was originally intended to be describing two people, despite any of Lucas' belated claims to the contrary.

Compare No Except Yes, Double-Speak, False Reassurance, Loophole Abuse, Keeping Secrets Sucks, Both Sides Have a Point (or contrasting, depending on the circumstances), Stealth Pun, Visual Pun.

Contrast Prophecy Twist, in which the alternative interpretation is not anticipated by the characters (and hopefully the audience), but makes sense when revealed. Also contrast Motivational Lie, where a lie or partial truth inflames the hero to succeed rather than fail.

Examples of Metaphorically True include:


  • There was a series of adverts for Carfax that showed cars in dire shape, and the sound of a description being typed that minimalized the problem, getting erased, then a description being typed that made the car sound like it was great! It was an advert for car histories. The ads included...

Anime and Manga

  • Everything said by Xelloss in Slayers is technically true in the manner in which he phrased it, though not always in the manner in which the listener chooses to hear it. The closest he comes to telling an actual lie is to deliberately mispronounce the name Bibble.
    • For example, he introduces himself as 'Xellos, the mysterious priest!' After that statement, the 'mysterious' part is in no way questioned. As to 'priest'... well, he does indeed serve a god.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, what Kyubey tells to Kyoko when asked if Sayaka could be turned back into a human after having turned into a witch is technically not meant to say that it is possible... But the way he phrases it doesn't make it look impossible either. This gives Kyoko enough hope to try, and ultimately results in Kyoko having to sacrifice herself to put Witch!Sayaka out of her misery when it doesn't work. Later on, Kyubey acknowledges that he phrased his statement that way because he wanted Kyoko to die, so that Homura was left with no companions to fend off the ultimate witch, Walpurgis, when it appears, unless Madoka accepts a Puella Magi contract.
  • Saint Seiya, the reason why Shaka, the Golden Saint of Virgo, followed Big Bad Saga.
  • Everything Ryuk says in Death Note is true. The problem is that he never gives you the entire context. Like his telling Light not to think a human who's used a Death Note is able to go to Heaven or Hell actually means there's no afterlife for anyone. Though Light already figured that to be the case on his own.
  • Schneizel of Code Geass uses this to such great effect, it's scary.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Honda/Tristan enlists the help of Yugi and Jonouchi/Joey to confess his feelings to a classmate. Yugi helps to write a love letter and Jonouchi slips it into her desk. A Sadist Teacher discovers the love letter and gleefully humiliates the girl by reading the love letter out loud. When she tells the sender she will let them off easy if he shows himself, both Yugi and Jonouchi stand up, admitting to writing the letter and putting it in the desk respectively. Honda also stands up and says that his feelings were written in that letter. The teacher points out that only one of them could have done it and Jonouchi replies that none of them are lying.

Fan Works

  • Kyon, in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, tells a Yakuza that his PDA is custom,[1] and says that he got Akasaka's picture because if you do it right, people just look right through you.[2]

Nonoko: And it's going to turn me into a magical girl?
Achakura: For values of 'turning you into a magical girl' equal to 'you having a costume that protects you and operates on principles most people won't understand, and wielding equipment that few on Earth have ever seen, let alone held,' yes, this will turn you into a magical girl!

Film - Animated

  • In Rango, the leader of the mariachi band says that Rango will die. The movie's plot progresses and he's still alive and well to see the end credits. When one of the band members questions the narrator on this, he says that Rango will still die -- someday, because everyone does.
    • Looking at it metaphorically, it's even more applicable. When he's shamed and had his lies exposed the Rango persona dies as a character; when he comes back to fight, the nameless lizard he was dies and is subsumed by Rango.
  • Disney's Aladdin used this in the direct-to-video conclusion of the series, Aladdin and the King of Thieves. An oracle tells Aladdin that his father, Cassim, is trapped within the world of the Forty Thieves. Well, he is. It's just that Cassim is not only there voluntarily, but what he's trapped by is his own greed.
  • In Tangled, Flynn Rider's opening narration includes the phrase "This is the story of how I died." He then hurriedly adds that the audience shouldn't worry because it's actually a very fun story and it isn't really even about him, thus leading you to understand that he's just being metaphorical. Except he's not. He does die, in point of fact. He just doesn't stay dead.

Film - Live Action

  • Star Wars
    • In Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan tells Luke that the statement "Darth Vader betrayed and murdered your father" is, indeed, true "from a certain point of view." This is a Retcon, but it's a pretty good Retcon, and rather tragic in context. ("You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!" Note the use of the past tense.) It's therefore understandable that Obi Wan feels betrayed and horrified and very bitter, and that the old man would put off telling Luke his daddy is actually an evil Sith Lord as long as possible (for Luke's sake, if for no other reason). In the original draft writen by Leigh Brackett, Anakin and Darth Vader were different persons, and indeed Vader killed Anakin after turning to the dark side. Also, Anakin was supposed to be a force ghost that would help Luke (that role was later filled by Obi-Wan). However, Brackett died, and Lucas and Brackett's substitute Lawrence Kasdan rewrote the script, adding the famous twist, so it's obvious that they had to fix "Darth Vader betrayed and killed your father" somehow. In a clear case of Fridge Brilliance upon rewatching A New Hope, before Alec Guinness delivers the original line he fractionally hesitates with a considering look. You can practically see him considering what would be the best thing to tell Luke. That hesitation is amazingly lucky for the Retcon.
    • While this looks weaselly, it does fit later hints that the Jedi see the Sith as something like the walking dead, former people who've been turned into monsters by the Dark Side. Mace Windu says "which was destroyed, the master or the apprentice?"—not, say, slain. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon referred to Darth Maul as "it", while Yoda later warns Obi-Wan that Anakin is "gone" and has been "consumed" by Darth Vader - a line probably written for the purpose of bolstering the point-of-view of Obi-Wan's original statement to Luke.
      • Palpatine/Sidious does something similar, but to more sinister intent, when he tells the newly-suited Vader that in his anger he killed Padme. It wasn't Anakin/Vader's force-choke that really killed her, but it was her shock at Anakin's betrayal that caused her to lose the will to live. So, from a certain point of view, Palpatine was telling the truth.
      • According to the novelization, and as far as Palpatine knows, the damage to her windpipe is what killed her. The explanation for the whole "lost the will to live" thing is that the robot doctors were built by the alien race that run the base she dies on and just made something up to cover for not actually knowing what they were doing when dealing with a human.
    • Palpatine usually is more deft.

We also learn that Palpatine's genius is not in lies (despite what Yoda says about the Sith) but in carefully using the truth to his advantage. [...] When you look at the things he says to Anakin, to the Jedi, and to the Senate, you come to the surprising realization that he doesn't actually lie in this movie. He simply states the portions of the truth which are convenient to him, and ensures that those who know the rest of the truth do not live to speak it.

  • In Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, everything Princess Natalia Dragomiroff says to Hercule Poirot. S/he had to lie to throw him off the trail, but Honor dictated s/he couldn't do it outright. So s/he "merely" gave the nearest equivalent answer, like Mr. Whitehead became Mr. Snowpeak.
  • Saw
    • In the first film, one of the victims says the Jigsaw Killer is "technically not a murderer" because he never kills anyone directly; he just puts them in situations where death is very likely. The point is really moot, as almost any jurisdiction would consider putting somebody in such a situation to be murder. Saw 2 does at least have the Jerkass detective hero calls Jigsaw out on this defense: "putting a gun to someone's head and forcing him to pull the trigger is still murder."
    • Without the murder charge, his actions usually qualify as assault, kidnapping, and torture, often with lasting damage even for the survivors - possibly a Fate Worse Than Death in some cases. Several of Jigsaw's disciples actually do commit straight-up murder in their games. But by the sixth movie even the real Jigsaw seems to be having a hard time coming up with new "games" that actually leave his victims with a chance to survive. For example, half his games are of the "decide which one of these people will live or die" variety. Well, if one person is guaranteed to die, then you are committing murder because your trap is specifically designed to kill people without any hope of escape.
    • In the third movie, the victims were all helpless to save themselves and were reliant on the guy who had spent years plotting to kill them. Whatever happened to that whole 'testing their will to live' thing?
  • Used in several of the Star Trek films, mostly by Spock. The later instances are call-backs to the first, from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:

Saavik: You lied.
Spock: I exaggerated.

Spock: Mr. Scott, I understand you are having difficulties with the warp drive? How much time do you require for repair?
Scotty: There's nothing wrong with the bloody th--
Spock: Mr. Scott, if we return to spacedock, then the assassins will surely find a way to dispose of their incriminating footwear, and we will never see the Captain, or Dr. McCoy, alive again.
Scotty: Could take weeks, sir.
Spock: Thank you, Mr. Scott.
Valeris: A lie?
Spock: An error.

    • This one, though, eventually comes back to bite Spock in the hinder:

Kirk: I want the names of the conspirators.
Valeris: I do not... remember.
Spock: A lie?
Valeris: ...A choice.

Spock: You lied.
Spock Prime: I implied.


  • Discworld:
    • In Small Gods, Vorbis explains to Brutha that the claim that the Omnian priest sent to convert the Ephebians was killed by these ungodly savages represents a "deeper truth". According to Vorbis, this is much truer than the mundane truth, that the Ephebians listened, threw vegetables, then sent him away, and he was killed by the Quisition as an excuse to start a holy war.
    • In A Hat Full of Sky, "never lie, but don't always tell the truth" is among the pieces of advice Miss Tick gives Tiffany.
    • Monstrous Regiment: "Upon my oath, I am not a dishonest/violent man. Kind of hard to be a violent or dishonest man when you're actually a woman.
    • Carrot does this surprisingly frequently when negotiating with hostile characters. However, he has never (as far as anyone can prove) told a direct lie. In fact, he has a tendency to use the truth as a weapon. Both he and his it's-complicated Angua have told someone impeding their progress that unless the person stands down, they'll be forced to carry out the orders they were given regarding resistance, and that they'll regret it terribly if they do, but they won't have any choice. In the circumstances an implied threat is very clear - Shame If Something Happened. However, the orders on both occasions were "leave the offending party alone, and see if you can find a workaround in this morass." The people they're sort-of threatening never notice.

"Sergeant Colon was lost in admiration. He'd seen people bluff on a bad hand, but he'd never seen anyone bluff with no cards."

  • George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire: "The Hound is dead. -- Sandor Clegane is at peace."
  • In Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time the Aes Sedai tried to get people to trust them by swearing an unbreakable oath to "Speak no word that is not true". If you think about it, this oath is meaningless. Individual words have no inherent truth value; it's phrases that can be untrue. Fridge Logic aside, in the books it does prevent them from directly lying. But the Aes Sedai think they have Omniscient Morality License (even though they are actually fairly complacent and ignorant), so they see all their oaths as unfortunate restrictions rather than moral standards to adhere to, so this trope and other deceptions abound. People realize this and anyone likely to deal with the Aes Sedai is warned to pay close attention because "The truth they speak may not be the truth you think you hear."
    • And they STILL manage to complain about people (mostly the male main characters) not trusting them! If you think about it, it's actually bordering on Fridge Brilliance. While it's true that individuals words cannot be untrue, it has been demonstrated that what the Aes Sedai believe is the crucial factor (as an Aes Sedai can say something that is not true if they believe it to be true). If the Aes Sedai believe that is it possible to speak an untrue word (and based on their actions it's clear that most of them don't possess even a basic understanding of logic), then they can't.
    • It also doesn't help that they've believed and thus proclaimed a number of important things which are sporadically provable to be false (such as the existence of traitors within their order), so random people over the centuries have heard Aes Sedai "lie" to their faces. And as there's a fairly simple and obvious way to remove the oaths, and Aes Sedai culture involves keeping individual discoveries like that to themselves, there have probably been any number of non-traitorous Aes Sedai over the years who can and do lie as well. Even if the Aes Sedai are willfully blind to it, somebody's bound to notice eventually.
      • Non-Black Ajah Aes Sedai using the Oath Rod to remove the Oaths? What. Not if every single Aes Sedai's reaction to the idea of unBinding themselves (either forever, or just at retirement) is any guide: "When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming Aes Sedai. From the day I reached the White Tower, I tried to live as an Aes Sedai. I have lived as an Aes Sedai, and I will die as an Aes Sedai. This [unBinding at retirement] cannot be allowed!"
  • In a novel by Albert E Cowdrey, a megalomaniacal criminal wants revenge on the human race for his imprisonment. Before he's allowed out of prison, he's asked a few questions, and there's a machine that can tell whether he's telling the truth or not. When asked if he regrets his behavior, he says yes (meaning he regrets that his mistakes got him caught). When asked if he wants to harm anyone, or something like that, he says "I do not wish to harm any human individual."
  • In the Mahabharata, Drona is convinced to lay down his weapons after hearing that his son, Ashwatama, is dead. Before doing so, he asks Yudhishtara, who notably cannot tell a lie, if this is true. Yudhishtara replies, "Yes, Ashwatama the elephant is dead"—with the key words muttered under his breath. You see, the son was still alive, but the Pandavas had killed an elephant with the same name. Before the start of the battle, the Pandavas proposed a number of rules, on which both armies agreed, that would ensure that everyone would fight honorable. About every single rule is broken within the first days of battle by the heroes of both sides.
  • In The Legend of Luke from the Redwall series, Vilu Daskar (evil pirate captain) promises to let some of the prisoners free if they tell him where treasure is, neglecting to mention that the last time he made this promise, he set them free by tying weights to them and throwing them overboard. Fortunately, the heroes don't fall for it, and the whole treasure story was just a plan to trick Vilu Daskar anyway.
  • The Inheritance Cycle has the elves, who, as Brom says, are masters of saying one thing but meaning another. They are able to do this because speaking in the ancient language prohibits one from lying, though they can still say something that they believe to be true. Eragon uses this technique at one point in an attempt to conceal his actual feelings regarding Arya.
  • In the Flashman novel Royal Flash Flashman swears that he will let a Mook who has tried to kill him go, if he tells him what he wants to know. The mook tells and Flashman lets him go ... over a cliff and into a chasm. He said he would let him go!
  • In The Silence of the Lambs Clarice Starling tells Dr. Hannibal Lecter that her father was a marshal. Later on, when she is recounting to him how the man died, Lecter catches enough clues to easily deduce that the man had actually been a night watchman. Starling's defense is that the official job description had read "night marshal".
  • The Principia Discordia either plays this straight or subverts it depending on your own point of view, in this exchange in an interview with Discordianism's founder, Malaclypse the Younger (Mal-2):

Interviewer : Is Eris true?
Mal-2: Everything is true.
Interviewer: Even false things?
Mal-2: Even false things are true.
Interviewer: How can that be?
Mal-2: I don't know man, I didn't do it.

  • In David Weber's WarGod series, Lady Leeana asks her mother for permission to go riding. Mother wants to make sure that Leeana is planning on taking her guards along, and Leeana assures her mother that she knows that she won't be able to go riding unless her bodyguard goes riding too. She's planning to run away from home, and she knows that unless she gets rid of her bodyguard by sending him out riding on a long errand, he'll try to stop her.
  • In the Lensmen stories, it is a vital plot point that humanity (and the other allied races of civilisation) be Locked Out of the Loop, because of the consequences of realizing the truth. Even so, Mentor of Arisia goes to extraordinary lengths to keep Kim Kinnison from learning the truth without openly lying to him, right up to and including altering Kinnison's perception of what species Fossten is.
    • Causing endless problems in fandom, as Smith admits to in his essay The Epic of Space.
  • In Frank Herbert's Dune , Baron Harkonnen suborned the Suk doctor Yueh by taking his wife, Wanna, hostage and torturing her. If Yueh betrayed Duke Leto, the Baron promised him that "I'd free her from the agony and permit you to join her." Subverted in that, as the Baron has Yueh killed, the doctor tells him "You think I did not know what I bought for my Wanna." Yueh uses the opportunity to implant a poison gas pellet in Leto's tooth, which Leto is able to use in an attempt to assassinate the Baron. The Baron barely escapes with his life, while several of his Mooks aren't so lucky.
  • The John Dickson Carr novel The Nine Wrong Answers has authorial footnotes that use this trope to an almost gleeful extent, to the point that the final one points out that at no time did previous footnotes technically lie about niceties like whether a man who was poisoned actually died, and whether a man really was who he was claiming he was. (Although some critics maintain that Carr slipped in a few places and really did make the "incorrect" claims.)
  • Twilight author Stephanie Meyer (in)famously claimed that vampires are unable to reproduce. When Bella later got knocked up, she went back and used Weasel Words to try and claim she actually meant that only female vampires can't have kids all along (evidently by claiming an obscure definition of "have").
    • If her Exact Words were "vampires cannot produce children" then she could argue that she simply meant two vampires can't reproduce (which is true). In the same way that you might say a couple with one infertile partner can't have kids.
  • Christopher from The Lives of Christopher Chant is very fond of these, and his friend the Goddess isn't above half truths either.
  • Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series. In Order of the Phoenix this is justified, since he fears Voldemort may be able to listen in on Harry's thoughts.
  • Schmendrick the Magician in The Last Unicorn. As the narrator puts it, he's not lying, just arranging events in a more logical way.
  • The Druids of the Shannara books are well known for only telling the heroes they recruit exactly as much as they think the heroes need to know and no more. Allanon, the Druid who started this tradition, justified it with the fact that his father gave a full briefing about the Sword of Shannara to Jerle Shannara, who then failed to properly wield it to defeat the Warlock Lord. The incomplete briefing he gave to Shea 500 years later allowed Shea to win.
    • Walker Boh notably averts this trope when her teaches exactly how to use the Sword of Shannara. Possibly this is done, since the family already knows some about it and it is better to have full control than the half-knowledge which tends to fail if doubt exists. But considering he's part of the family that was strung along for over 300 years, maybe he also was tired of it.
      • Still, he didn't tell about the wishsong, or that Grianne's destiny was to succeed him. And he certainly didn't tell Grianne that the Sword of Shannara would work on her so well.
    • Also done in the second book of the series, Elfstones of Shannara, in a very sympathetic way. The dying King Eventine Elessidil asks his son about Amberle, his beloved granddaughter, who he has learned has just returned from her quest with Wil Ohmsford to prevent The End of the World as We Know It. His son hesitates, then tells his father, "She's safe. Resting." While this isn't exactly a lie, she's actually been turned into a tree. The old king, relieved, is able to die peacefully.
  • In The Knights of Samular by Elaine Cunningham Renwick Caradoon used such tricks to twist the Abyss out of his contract with an incubus lord and—after this bright idea gone bad anyway and he needed help—fool already suspicious Blackstaff (which may be more impressive).

"A prideful wizard, a summoning gone awry," Renwick said, genuine sorrow and regret painting his tones. "But before her death, my niece gave me the means to banish the demon."
Khelben gave him a searching look, and Renwick felt the subtle tug of truth-test magic. It slid off him easily; few spells recognized a lie fashioned by placing two truths next to each other. Let Khelben think Nimra was the prideful wizard who had summoned the demon.

  • The young adult novel Middle School Blues contains a lampshaded example of this trope. The set-up is this: Cindy's friend Jeff has run away from home, Cindy thinks she knows where he is, but she doesn't want to tell anyone because she doesn't want to raise his parents' hopes if she's wrong. She decides that she has to check it out for herself. Cindy goes to investigate, after telling her parents that another friend, Becca, asked Cindy to spend the day at her house. When she's caught, her parents accuse her of lying about going to Becca's house. Cindy insists that she didn't lie, she had been asked to spend the day at Becca's, and she never said that she was going there. Her parents are distinctly not amused by this, and explain that being deliberately misleading is no different from lying.
    • Cindy herself is on the receiving end of this when she goes back to school the next day to find the Alpha Bitch telling everyone that Cindy ran away to be with Jeff...
  • In Karen Traviss' Republic Commando series, Walon Vau exploits this trope to lie convincingly to a Jedi, telling him that Kal Skirata was not working for "the enemy"... but referring to a different enemy than the one the Jedi was asking about.
  • In Vivian Vande Velde's The Conjurer Princess, the morally questionable wizard whose talent is seeing the future tells one of the adventurers that if they go on a quest, he had better be prepared to die. Said character walks out of the party but later returns for a Big Damn Heroes moment - and is captured, put on his knees in front of an executioner...and ducks away at the last second. Prepared to die, indeed. Extra half-truth bonus points because it was the other adventurer who died on the quest.
  • In Holly Black's Modern Faerie trilogy, pixie Kaye invokes this to fulfull a quest to find a faerie who could lie, which is impossible. She succeeds by claiming SHE can lie. She can lie...on the ground.
  • In the Dragaera series, Anti-Hero Vlad Taltos is a mob boss required to testify "under the orb" (that is, under magical lie detection) when a neighboring boss disappears. Among other applications of this trope, Vlad tells the prosecutors "as far as I'm concerned, he committed suicide." By treating Vlad and his subordinates like he wanted to die.
  • In Warrior Cats, Fireheart and Graystripe are caught coming back onto ThunderClan territory after sneaking away to check on RiverClan (who are suffering because the river is flooded). When asked to explain themselves, they claim that they wanted to see how far the floods went, which was true, but not the whole truth.
  • This comes up several times in The Lord of the Rings, mostly to do with how the Men of Rohan and Gondor have muddled ideas about Lothlórien and Fangorn from the fact that their legend describe them as 'perilous' and 'dangerous'. As Gandalf explains, both those things are true, but that doesn't make them malevolent.

Live-Action TV

  • Star Trek:
    • The Ferengi have this trope as a point in their "Rules of Acquisition".

126. A lie isn't a lie, it's just the truth seen from a different point of view.

    • In a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, Garak was dying because an Obsidian Order anti-torture device in his brain was breaking down, and as Bashir struggled to remove or replace it, Garak gave several wildly varying accounts of the event that had gotten him kicked out of the Order and left on Deep Space Nine. At the end of the episode, Bashir demanded to know which version was true.

Garak: "My dear doctor, they were all true."
Bashir: "Even the lies?"
Garak: "Especially the lies."

      • As it turns out in the relaunch novel A Stitch in Time, they actually were almost all true. Kinda.
    • The original trope name could just has easily been Vulcan Truth instead of Jedi Truth. Vulcans are always honest, except when they're deceiving, misleading, or flat out lying.
    • In the original series episode "The Enterprise Incident", Spock explains to the Romulan Commander that the Vulcan reputation for being truthful is overblown. They'll lie just like anyone else if they have a (logical) reason to.
      • In one early episode of Star Trek: Voyager, Tuvok tells Chakotay that he is always honest, to which Chakotay points out that he wasn't being honest when he pretended to be a Maquis in order to infiltrate Chakotay's ship. Tuvok then counters that he was being honest to his principles and within the defined parameters of his mission. Chakotay recognizes this as a load of crap.
      • In another episode, he flat out lies to intimidate a prisoner. Janeway bluffs that she is gonna send the prisoner off to some people she's scammed (the prisoner, not Janeway). She asks Tuvok to tell her about the conditions of that world's prisons, and Tuvok wildly invents a tale of deplorable conditions where most prisoners don't survive long enough to be put on trial. The prisoner knows just enough about Vulcans to believe the story that they never lie, so she caves in.
        • The trick is that in both these cases, Tuvok had a perfectly logical reason to lie. We might reasonably assume that most Vulcans would not lie, for example, to spare a friend's feelings, or get out of a tedious duty, and other species would remember those instances of honesty as unusual, even extreme.
  • The Minbari in Babylon 5 claim that they never lie, and a mere accusation of doing so warrants "a lethal response". While the humans initially take this at face value, Mollari, having been told otherwise by Lennier, explains that the Minbari are allowed to tell white lies to save someone from embarrassment or dishonor. Even other Minbari are irritated at the Grey Council following this trope. Kalain says at one point that the Grey Council "never tells you the whole truth."
    • A good example of Minbari half truths comes with Delenn early in Season 3. She is shown footage of a Shadow vessel and is asked if she had ever seen a ship like it before. Delenn says no. When she is later questioned about this by Sheridan she replies that whilst she was well aware of what the ship was, that was the first time she had actually seen one.
  • In one of the Lost's best-known twists, John Locke, at the conclusion of his first flashback episode, is revealed to have been a cripple in a wheelchair prior to crashing on the island and miraculously regaining his ability to walk:

Tour Guide: You misrepresented yourself.
Locke: I never lied.
Tour Guide: By omission, Mr. Locke. You neglected to tell us about your condition.

    • Another Lost example is the cover story told by the survivors who escape the island. They claim that Boone died of internal injuries from the plane crash, Charlie drowned, and Libby did not survive long either, all of which are technically true, but leave out massively important context details: Boone died from being inside a smaller plane when it fell from some trees while he was trying to use its radio, Charlie drowned saving Desmond by sealing the door preventing the Looking Glass station being flooded and Libby did not survive for long... as a result of injuries from an accidental gunshot from Michael (who had just killed Ana Lucia in cold blood).
    • Benjamin Linus is distrusted by every character on the show for his pathological penchant for this trope. "John Locke is dead" is somewhat different than "John Locke is dead because I killed him."
      • Similarly, when Jack asks him, "Did you know Locke killed himself?", Ben can honestly answer, "No."
    • Sometimes Ben just straight out lies.
  • Russell T. Davies has been accused of this during his time in charge of Doctor Who, particularly with respect to foreshadowing the season finales:
    • Series 2 continually said that Rose was going to die, and Rose (narrating) introduces the final two-parter as "the story of how I died". She doesn't die. She is taken to a parallel world and is presumed dead by the authorities.
    • In the Series 4 finale, we are repeatedly told "One will still die". Nobody dies. Donna suffers a metaphorical death, erasing all of her Character Development and her relevance to the show.
    • A straight in-story example in the old series. The Black Guardian tells Turlough that the Doctor is evil and must be stopped. When called out on it he claims he was not actually lying because "the Doctor's good is my evil".
    • There has been a rumor going about that John Simm will return as The Master. While Simm has shown interest in playing the role again, and Steven Moffat has stated that maybe (emphasis on maybe) The Master might return someday, Simm posted a recent tweet that he doesn't plan on playing Master anytime soon. It's unknown whether this means he turned the role down or he hasn't been offered it yet, though.
  • On Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, the duo use this trope to get environmental activists to sign a petition to ban water. They sent someone to a gathering of them to get names for a petition to abolish the use of "dihydrogen monoxide". They went around saying all kinds of technically true things about water while making it sound like a toxin. They got lots of names. The point of the exercise was to demonstrate how many people in the environmental movement would sign a petition without bothering to check any of the facts first.
    • The claims are true. This stuff has killed thousands of people in multiple high-profile incidents, and the petitions to ban dihydrogen monoxide are also nothing new. They've been circulating online since at least The Nineties. The TV show didn't originate this meme.
  • Adam and Jimmie of The Man Show got dozens of women to sign a petition to end Women's Suffrage (the right to vote) by phrasing it to sound like they meant "suffering". Things like, "Women have been suffraging in this country for decades, and nobody's done anything to stop it!"
  • Aquila has a scene where an archaeologist explains, referencing the ancient African proverb about truth being an elephant surrounded by three blind men, that he simply gave the boys a point of view not involving copious amounts of money.
  • On Misfits, a show about a bunch of "problem teens" on community service,[3] the inevitable conversation soon arises - "what did you do to end up here?" While most of them admit to plausible-sounding crimes (drunk-driving, arson, drug possession etc) Nathan constantly insists - to the point where it becomes a Running Gag - that all he did was steal some "pick'n'mix". As we later find out, the incident actually did start with him stealing some sweets. He neglected to mention, however, that (in a Crowning Moment of Funny) he subsequently ran riot in the bowling alley, trying to hurl himself down the back of one of the bowling lanes and causing a fair bit of criminal damage. When he was finally restrained he refused to pay for the damages (or co-operate in the slightest), persistently mocked the security guard and eventually attacked the guy with a stapler.
    • However, it's entirely possible that Nathan really doesn't think he did anything wrong beyond eating the pick'n'mix.
  • In Blake's 7, the crew gets captured by an enemy that can keep them from lying, so they resort to evasions to prevent them from finding out that Orac is a computer.

Tarrant: If he’s not on the ship, I don’t know where he is.
Caliph: How tall is he?
Tarrant: (gestures to waist level, Orac's "height" when on a table.)
Caliph: A dwarf?
Tarrant: We never think of him as one.
Caliph: What is the color of his hair?
Tarrant: He hasn’t got any. A bald dwarf shouldn’t be too hard to find.

  • Deconstructed in The Wedding Bride, a fake movie from How I Met Your Mother about Stella's failed relationship with Ted from her ex-boyfriend's perspective, making him the good guy getting The Woobie Stella out of a loveless marriage, when in reality, it was nothing like that. We see the real reaction of said guy who was left at the altar, Ted.
  • In Farscape, Crichton hits on this trope as a way of fooling the Scarran heat probe, which forces people to tell the truth. For example, while disguised as a Peacekeeper defector, he tries to get access to his captive Sebacean girlfriend by propositioning a Sebacean nurse, and he gets caught by a Scarran:

Scarran: Why the deception?
Crichton: Cos -- horny! Looking for a Sebacean woman.
Nurse: You attacked me and attempted to release one of the patients.
Crichton: No offense, but she's sexier than you are.
Scarran: What would you have done had you gotten her?
Crichton: Taken her back to my ship. Frelled her. Made babies.

Fox Reporter (Archive footage): How much did you have when you took the reins?
Michael Steele (Archive footage): About $20 or so million.
Fox Reporter(Archive footage): And now you're down to three? So I realize you spent a lot of money for the campaign...
Michael Steele (Archive footage): Yeah, we spent a lot of money, but I mean, Greta, you can't look at it in terms of what you begin and what you end.
Jon Stewart: [Bemused] " can't look at it in terms of where you begin and where-" That is some Jedi bullshit right there, Michael Steele. "Yes, Greta; if you want to look at the budget in a linear, arithmetic way where we started with a high number and ended with a very low number, but what you're forgetting is children's dreams and rainbows, you can't put a price on that - is that a quarter behind your ear? Wait, a dove, SMOKE BOMB, Steele out."

  • Very well done in Nikita, where Alex is hooked up to a brainwave-reading lie detector that can't be fooled. She gets around it by stringing together several statements that are each individually true, but together paint a very different picture than what actually happened, and gets herself free from suspicion.
  • Discussed on The Amazing Race 19 by Marcus when talking about keeping that he had been a professional football player a secret. Technically, as a tight end, it was his job to protect the quarterback, so it was not lying to say he was in "protection," and as he was retired at that point, if asked if he was a football player, it was technically correct if he said no.

Newspaper Comics

  • This Dilbert strip. It's true that the phrase was said.

Tabletop Games

  • Meta example: In Exalted, it's not uncommon for new books to retcon or reinterpret statements made earlier in the series; for instance, "Fair Folk don't have Charms" became "Fair Folk don't have Charms as such, but they do have special powers that we're just going to call Charms." Freelancer Michael Goodwin explicitly said that "There are levels of Obi Wan truth operating here."
    • In fairness, nearly everything about the Fair Folk is a lie on some level, up to and including their physical appearance.
    • In another rather similar case -- "Infernals don't have Charms." What was really meant was, "Their patrons, the Yozi, have Charms, which the Infernals use by extension to exert their malefic will upon Creation." (Not true anymore, either. Now Infernals can make their own personal Charms.)
  • This is one of the ways that Games Workshop explain differences in the millennia-old backstories that occur in Warhammer 40,000 materials over multiple editions. It usually boils down to "The old stories were mistranslated, corrupted by years of oral tradition, or outright lies planted by seditious agents of Chaos." Which sounds suspiciously like the way "out of character" explanations of Imperial dogma and propaganda sound, and most of the fluff is written from the viewpoint of Imperial scholars.
  • In Nomine: Balseraphs take Dissonance (which is bad for any Celestial) when they're caught lying. One of the few ways to remove this Dissonance is for the Balseraph to get the person who noticed the variance from truth to believe it's true ... from a certain point of view.


  • Othello: Iago never actually tells a flat-out lie. Instead, he simply plays up everyone else's insecurities, creatively spotlights and phrases certain information, and lets them draw their own conclusions.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Mrs. Lovett: "No, I never lied. Said she took a poison, she did. Never said that she died."

Video Games

  • In Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All, Phoenix is told 'I never killed anyone'. That's not a lie, but the person saying it did hire an assassin to commit the murder. This is almost a case of Suspiciously Specific Denial: the only reason the liar gets away with it, since Phoenix has a lie-detecting Magatama, is because the lie is so specific that it is, in fact, the truth. Phoenix just asked the wrong question. He should have asked: "Were you responsible for the victim's death?" Bet he never made that mistake again.
    • It's also somewhat implied that this wouldn't have worked if the liar wasn't such a complete sociopath that he legitimately thought hiring someone else to kill someone he wanted to get rid of wasn't the same thing as killing them, and absolved him of responsibility for the death.
  • In Touhou canon, Cute Witch Marisa Kirisame notoriously steals books from the Scarlet Devil Mansion's library. She claims it's not stealing because all the inhabitants of the Scarlet Devil Mansion are youkai, who will live many times longer than her, and they can simply take the books back when she dies. She calls it 'borrowing without permission'. Luckily, the Youkai don't mind; or at least; don't mind beyond mind-boggling Bullet Hell duels; but that's standard operating procedure.
    • It's also worth pointing out that while Marisa claims the youkai can have their books back when her human life ends, in some games' backstories it's mentioned that she's working on an Elixer of Life, to prolong her life without losing her humanity. Trust Marisa to pair a Half Truth with Loophole Abuse.
  • In the Roguelike game Ragnarok, an Amulet of Eternal Life turns you to stone. That makes a certain kind of mythic sense, but it's not "life" as we'd recognize it.
  • ADOM, another Roguelike, has the gauntlets of peace—and their artifact counterpart, the Gauntlets of Eternal Peace --, which make it almost impossible to hit anything while you're wearing them. The "peace" either means you can't kill anything, or you will die quickly and be at peace since (duh) Everything Is Trying To Kill You and you won't be able to fight back. Even better, the gauntlets are autocursing. At least they give you a moderate defense and armor boost while you search desperately for that scroll of uncursing.
  • If you haven't played the Knights of the Old Republic it wouldn't be much of a spoiler to say that you shouldn't fully trust anything that any Jedi has to say to you. Indeed, their self-serving tendencies of filtering truth through "certain points of view" is significantly responsible for their eventual downfall.
    • In the first game, on the other hand, the only real example of this trope is Jolee's claim that "the Jedi left me" (and he doesn't consider himself a Jedi any more at this point). The other Jedi certainly do tell some outright lies, but don't continue to defend them as 'true' once they're exposed as lies.
    • While the Jedi Truth is an important plot point in the first game, the second game takes it to the point of Deconstruction with Kreia and the rest of the Council. As the film section reveals, Atton is used as the writer's mouthpiece on that particular topic.
  • In The World Ends With You, Uzuki offers Neku a way out of the game if he kills his partner Shiki. However, before Neku can deliver the killing blow, he's stopped by Mr. H, who says that since his life is tied to his partner's, he'll die too...

Neku: "All that about letting me out of the game - that was all a lie!"
Uzuki: "Like, that is so rude! I do not lie. If I erased you, that's still letting you out of the Game!"

    • Unfortunately, there's no similar way to weasel out of her claim that Shiki was a spy for the Reapers. No one calls her on this.
    • At one point, Game Master Konishi tells Neku and Beat that she's going to hide in the same place for seven days, while they try to find her. However, she's able to move all over the city, because the "one place" she chose was Beat's shadow.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the Red Truth can be twisted in this manner.
  • A rare positive version courtesy of Another Century's Episode: When it was announced that the Play Station 3 installment would be limited to three mecha per series, fans were upset - until the game's director posted on his blog, revealing that Mid-Season Upgrades and Mecha Expansion Packs would fall under the heading of their base machine and therefore only count as one, meaning they can fit in more playables while still maintaining the whole "three per series" idea.
  • Castlevania Order of Ecclesia has Death's Ring, whose description is "One hit kills instantly." It is indeed true. Take one hit and you will instantly die.
  • Might as well be named "Kirei Truth" after the I-tell-no-direct-lies priest from Fate/stay night. Spending 3 routes while only telling one direct lie (which is a joke, and he's instantly called out on it) while still manipulating the protagonist and turning out to be the Big Bad in two routes and The Dragon in a third? Yeah, he's very good at this.
  • The Elder Scrolls: One of Vivec's stories of his involvement in the death of Nerevar indicates that the official Temple stance of it not being his fault is a literal Half Truth: Vehk the God was not to blame, but Vehk the Mortal is. Since Vivec ("V'vehk") is both of those...
  • In Skies of Arcadia, Belleza befriends the protagonists, who take her with them to Temple of Pyrynn to find the Red Moon Crystal. She gains their trust by telling them a sad story about herself: that her father was a sailor who was killed in the Valua-Nasr war, and she was left orphaned. This much is true. What she did not mention at that point is that her father was a Valuan sailor, not Nasrean, and she is in fact an admiral of the Valuan Armada. Her hatred of war was also not a lie; she believes that Valuan hegemony will bring stability and end war.

Web Comics

  • The Order of the Stick: After Roy, Haley, Elan and V attempt to escape from the prison, Durkon fools Miko with two examples of this trope back-to-back. One by saying that the five of them had never left their cells (because Durkon had stayed behind), then claiming that the cell door wasn't secure because of a mechanical defect (if you count "being able to be picked by a rogue" as a mechanical defect.)
    • O-Chul pulls one too. When asked by Hinjo if he made the decision to destroy Soon's gate, he answers he did make that decision, and it was his blade that did the deed, and he will say no more lest he speak ill of the dead. After making said decision, the tide of the battle turned and it was no longer required. Miko ended up with his sword and destroyed the gate anyway - the resulting explosion killed her.
    • There's a later subversion with the Oracle. Belkar's asked if he would get to cause the death of one of the following: Roy, Miko, Miko's horse, Vaarsuvius or the Oracle himself. The Oracle simply responds "Yes" without ever saying which. On Belkar's return visit, the Oracle claims this prophecy has already been fulfilled. He argues, using increasingly dubious logic, that Belkar caused the death of Roy, (a somewhat plausible argument) then also that he indirectly caused Miko's death, (really reaching for that one) and that he killed Miko's horse. (Which is complete BS). Belkar finally loses patience and fulfills the prophecy then and there--by stabbing the Oracle to death. The dying Oracle then reveals that he didn't actually believe any of the stuff he was spouting, he was just trying to weasel out of being stabbed (though fortunately Death Is a Slap on The Wrist).

Oracle: Yeah... I wasn't really buying those theories either... Worth a shot though...

  • Irregular Webcomic returned to the origin of this trope a few times.
    • This explains Obi-Wan's high opinion of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.
      • Alternatively, only Imperial Stormtroopers are exactly this precise. Others are either more so or less.
      • From a statistical perspective, precision refers to distribution, while accuracy refers to how close something is to where it actually ought to be. So, of the Stormtroopers' shots are actually clustered in the wrong place, they could indeed be very precise without being at all accurate.
      • Consider that he had been on Tatooine while they made the transition from Clone Troopers. He probably thought it was just a name change and didn't anticipate the drop in quality.
    • Ah, the Jedi Code.

Anakin: Oh, there's all sorts of loopholes in the Jedi code. Obi-Wan says you can lie to the son of a former padawan about the fate of his father, for example. Like that'll ever come up.

Lies of omission do not exist.
The concept is a very human one. It is the product of your story writing again. You have written a story about the truth, making emotional demands of it, and in particular, of those in possession of it.
Your demands are based on a feeling of entitlement to the facts, which is very childish. You can never know all of the facts. Only I can.
And since it's impossible for me to reveal all facts to you, it is my discretion alone that decides which facts will be revealed in the finite time we have.
If I do not volunteer information you deem critical to your fate, it possibly means that I am a scoundrel, but it does not mean that I am a liar. And it certainly means you did not ask the right questions.
One can make either true statements or false statements about reality. All of the statements I make are true.

Western Animation

  • Robot Chicken turned it into a full blown musical for their Star Wars special.
  • As the above Amulet of Eternal Life, Xanatos, from Gargoyles, discovered a cauldron which allowed a person to live "as long as the mountain stone". He was smart enough to test it first. Yup, Stone.
  • In the episode "The Ninja" of Batman: The Animated Series, Bruce explains to fellow prisoner Summer that they escaped because Batman arrived and took down the bad guy. Hey, his voice changed so it was mostly true...
  • Katara's voiceover at the beginning of each episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender is this, though possibly unintentionally. It's revealed that the four kingdoms were not always at peace before the conquest of the Fire Lords. In fact, 400 years before the time of the story, the Earth Kingdom was in a similar expansionist phase.
    • This could be one of the reasons why Sozin wanted to "share Fire Nation prosperity."

Real Life

  • A proverb about "the blind men and the elephant", where each man touches a different part of the elephant and declares that he knows its true form, comes from India. (It's known from written sources dating back at least seven hundred years.)
    • There is a second part to that story. In this story, six blind elephants try to figure out what a man is like. The first elephant puts his leg on the man and declares that a man is like a pancake. All the other elephants agree.
  • During the Battle of Copenhagen, in order to ignore a recall signal from his senior officer, Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson held a spyglass to his near-blind eye, and reported, "I really do not see the signal."
    • This is suspected to be where the saying "To turn a blind eye" comes from.
  • Hugo Boss made uniforms for the SS. This is true. However, for most people this conjures up an image of a large fashion house aiding the most evil regime of all time. This is not true. In 1936, Hugo Boss was a fairly small family-run business whose main source of income was making uniforms for the German Postal Service, that just happened to land a highly lucrative government contract.
    • The implication of "Hugo Boss" (today being a major fashion house) is also often that the company was the sole designer and supplier of the uniforms, when in fact they were designed by the government and production farmed out to many other companies as well.
    • Similarly, it is true that Fanta was invented in Nazi Germany. However, it is not true that Fanta was invented by Nazi Germany, as in following some order or plan envisioned by the Nazi government, as it is often reported.
  • "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." --Bill Clinton (See Technical Virgin) and "The government does not torture people" --George W. Bush (doing it with participation of the government would be comic book villainy, indeed. Now, allowing to...).
    • To make that first one better (or worse), the definition of "sexual relations" set for the purposes of the hearing was such that it was definitely true... technically speaking.
  • A large number of proposition bets used by grifters can be solved by looking very carefully at the wording. For example, "I bet you that I can take a brand new deck of cards, make the ace jump out of the pack, fly across the room, and write your name on your forehead". If you hear this said aloud, most people assume that the ace will do all of the actions listed. Looking more carefully at the syntax of the sentence reveals that the actions can be done by the person making the bet rather than by the ace. (Incidentally, the usual way to win the bet is to flick the ace up from the bottom of the pack - where it usually is in most new, unshuffled decks - catch it, throw it across the room, and then take a pen to write the person's name on their forehead.)
    • The actual syntax of that proposition makes it impossible for the grifter to win, as he will fail to fly across the room. He might when he tries to collect...
  • "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work liberates"), posted at the gates of Nazi concentration camps. It did liberate the worker... of his life.
  • Politics as a whole can rest on this; for example, take this example of a British MP claiming that his party had not broken an election promise, as the law would not take effect until after the next election (but was voted on comfortably three years into Parliament).
  • There's a free picture that comes on some iPod Touches that says "I didn't slap you, I high-fived your face." Technically true, since in a high-five only one hand needs to be involved.
  • A billboard for Rebecca Black touted that her Friday video had over 100 million views on YouTube, trying to make it look like she was popular. While the part about the views is true, most of the people who watched it clicked the dislike button.
    • Similar thing happened for Mass Effect 3 - the developer claims that its conclusion "has provoked a bigger fan reaction than any other video games' conclusion in history". It's true. They fail to mention, however, that it was a hugely negative reaction.
  • An old, possibly apocryphal story about underage soldiers in the American Civil War says that when they went to join up, many of them would write "18" on a piece of paper and stick it in their shoe. When the recruiter asked how old they were, they could join without having lied, as they were "over 18."
    • The same story is told in most of Europe in regards to soldiers signing up in WWI and WWII.
  • The Other Wiki has an article on this sort of deception, mostly on the history of those who, for religious reasons, employed it as the result of being technically unwilling to lie.
  • In a US election speech, George H. W. Bush declared that if he was elected President, there would be "no new taxes". Well, he was elected and true to his word, there were no new taxes... but the population of the US got very irate over the fact that he raised all of the existing taxes.
    • Of course, while making the statement he honestly thought that the government didn't actually need taxes and was just leeching from honest businesses. Then he got in charge and the truth dawned on him.
  • An old standby for people making a journey - "We're not lost; I know exactly where we are... I just don't know where we are in relation to where we want to be". Or "We're not lost; I know exactly where we are... right here."
  • Before being revealed as Watergate scandal source Deep Throat, W. Mark Felt stated "I never leaked information to Woodward and Bernstein or anyone else!" This is actually logically true; since he met only with Bob Woodward, he could not have met with Woodward AND anyone.
  • People write books about such tricks and how to recognize them. How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. Okay, that was statistics. Let's step it up: How to Lie with Maps by Mark Monmonier.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court had to settle an argument related to this in Bronson v. United States; testimony that is "literally truthful but technically misleading" is not perjury. In their defense, the Court was somewhat dubious of sustaining a perjury prosecution on the basis of a possible misunderstanding. To provide further context, Bronston's testimony was only technically incomplete, but on its face only answered a specific part of the question, and the lawyer in question failed to ask an obvious follow-up question. "Q. Do you have any bank accounts in Swiss banks, Mr. Bronston?" "A. No, sir." "Q. Have you ever?" "A. The company had an account there for about six months, in Zurich." (Bronston had had a personal Swiss account as well previously, but note that the subject at hand was the company's bankruptcy.)
  • Noam Chomsky being a professional propagandist, unsurprisingly he pulled a lot of these in his career, and was caught on many of his tricks -- especially in now-infamous support of the Khmer Rouge (a lot of his articles and others criticizing them are linked here):
I checked every citation in the entire article. Not one of them was wholly truthful. At best they were slippery equivocations, with the obvious meaning being a lie, and an alternate, hidden meaning, true but irrelevant, to provide an escape hatch should the lie be discovered.
James A. Donald, Chomsky Lies
  1. Yuki made it from Asakura's junk data remnants
  2. He made himself invisible
  3. who develop superpowers