Lie-to-word ratios: Men with Pens

As well as collecting crap acronyms, I also collect examples of phrases with a high lie-to-word ratio.

I’ve been interested in the idea since reading a New Yorker profile of George Meyer many years ago (full article only available to subscribers, sorry). He gave the example of Country Crock:

“It’s not from the country; there is no crock. Two words, two lies.”

(Obviously, if you’re ploughing the rich linguistic seam of oddly-named butter substitutes, the UK’s I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is practically a PhD thesis in a tub, but let’s not go there.)

Since I collect them in real life, I might as well start putting examples on this blog. Today’s example is Men with Pens. For many years, this copywriting agency bigged up its macho, no-nonsense credentials and became very successful indeed. Business owner James Chartrand attracted criticism for sexist comments, but basically all was well. Until December 2009, when Chartrand outed herself as a woman.

In this example, the word “men” is actually two lies. She’s not male and she’s not plural (although she gave a very convincing impression of being a whole agency with several staff members). So the first word is two lies.

I assume there’s debate in the world of lie-to-word collectors about whether prepositions count. Should the “with” count as a word when you’re working out the ratio? I’m still not sure about this one myself.

As for the “pens” bit… well, it’s a metaphor, innit? Nobody literally expects them to do their work with pens rather than keyboards. And anyway, James Chartrand probably does own multiple pens. She can afford it. So I think she gets a pass on that one.

So Men with Pens comes out as three words, two lies. A lie-to-word ratio of 2:3.

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Explore posts in the same categories: borrowed rhetoric, lie-to-word ratio, lies

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