"A half-truth is a whole lie” is a popular proverb that’s been directed at newspapers and politicians since at least the 1880s and 1890s. “This half truth is tantamount to a whole lie” was cited in print in 1873. “It is often said, you know, that a half truth may be made ‘to do duty’ as a whole lie” was cited in print in 1878 and said by Rev. Dr. Edwin Harwood of New Haven, CT. “We have the authority of a noted clergyman for saying that ‘a half truth is a whole lie’” was cited in print in 1886, but it’s not known who the “noted clergyman” was.
“"A half truth is generally more dangerous than a whole lie” was described in July 1858 as “the witty saying of a wise German.” Since at least 1947, “"a half-truth is a whole lie” has been described as a Yiddish proverb. The syndicated columnist “Ann Landers” (Eppie Lederer, 1918-2002) explained in 1978, “I can translate that Yiddish phrase without help: ‘A halber emez iz a gantzer leegen’ means ‘a half truth is a whole lie.’”
July 1858, The Journal of Agriculture, pg. 368:
We never listen to the one-sided views of such people, without remembering the witty saying of a wise (Pg. 369—ed.) German, “A half truth is generally more dangerous than a whole lie.”
15 December 1873, The News and Courier (Charleston, SC), pg. 2, col. 3:
This half truth is tantamount to a whole lie.
April 1878, Southern Presbyterian Review, pg. 362:
A half-truth is always a whole lie.
26 October 1878, New Haven (CT) Evening Register, ‘Religion and the Schools,” pg. 1, col. 5:
It is often said, you know, that a half truth may be made “to do duty” as a whole lie.
(Rev. Dr. Edwin Harwood of New Haven—ed.)
Letters on Christian Religion
By William Henry B. Proby
London: J. T. Hayes
I should like to remark that it is one of those sayings which the proverb touches: ‘A half-truth is a whole lie.’
Contributions to the Science of Education
By William Harold Payne
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
We have the authority of a noted clergyman for saying that “a half truth is a whole lie.”
28 December 1888, Perrysburg (OH) Journal, pg. 2, col. 3:
Only by the “developement of sentiment” we must understand leeding opinion on whole truths, and that is what the newspaper will not give us; they give us only half-truths, and petty shrunken halves at that, and every half-truth is a whole lie.
(From Rev. Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst’s Thanksgiving sermon at the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, originally published in the N.Y. Evening Post—ed.)
10 August 1892, Muskegon (MI) Chronicle, “Slanders and Lies,” pg. 4, col. 3:
A Democratic half truth is worse than a whole lie, for it borrows the livery of the Lord ro serve the devil.
8 January 1902, The Ravalli County Democrat (Hamilton, MT), pg. 1, col. 2:
A half truth is a whole lie.
1 June 1947, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), ‘Say It Simply” by Carl Carmer, pg. TW2:
“A half-truth is a whole lie.”—Yiddish
26 December 1978, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), Ann Landers column, sec. 4, pg. 6, col. 2:
CONFIDENTIAL to Please Come to the Rescue or Call Your Rabbi: I don’t have to call anybody, I can translate that Yiddish phrase without help: “A halber emez iz a gantzer leegen” means “a half truth is a whole lie.”
Routledge Dictionary of World Proverbs
By J. R. Stone
New York, NY: Routledge
A half truth is a whole lie. (Yiddish)
New York City • Government/Law/Politics • Friday, November 02, 2012 • Permalink