A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 02, 2010
“(Liar, liar) Pants on fire”

The St. Petersburg (FL) Times originated in 2007 a website, Politifact.com, to check political facts. Statements are judged on a “Truth-O-Meter” with grades of True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False, and Pants on Fire.

“Pants on fire” is said of any lie and is derived from the children’s rhyme: “"You liar, you liar, your pants are on fire, your nose is as long as a telephone wire,” or simply, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”

“Liar, liar, pants on fire” is cited in print since at least 1933. “Liar, liar, your tongue’s on fire” is cited in print from 1937. One possibly related poem was cited in England in 1841: “Liar, liar, lick spit; Turn about the candlestick. What’s good for liar? Brimstone and fire.”

It is frequently claimed that “Liar, liar, pants on fire” is related to an alleged 1810 poem by William Blake, titled “The Liar,” that begins: “Deceiver, dissembler; Your trousers are alight. From what pole or gallows; Shall they dangle in the night?” There is no record that this poem was written in 1810 by William Blake; the poem appears first on internet blogs in the 2000s. The alleged William Blake poem is featured in a “Liar Liar Pants on Fire” entry in the Uncyclopedia, a Wikipedia parody.

PolitiFact.com - About
How the Truth-O-Meter works
The heart of PolitiFact is the Truth-O-Meter, which we use to rate the candidates’ claims and attacks.

The Truth-O-Meter is based on the concept that – especially in politics - truth is not black and white. Depending on how much information a candidate provides, a statement can be half true or barely true without being false.

PolitiFact writers and editors spend considerable time deliberating on our rulings. We always try to get the original statement in its full context rather than an edited form that appeared in news stories. We then divide the statement into individual claims that we check separately. For example, a Bill Richardson TV ad produced two claims. (We only make Truth-O-Meter rulings on those individual claims. We don’t make them in our articles because they often summarize multiple Truth-O-Meter items that had different rulings.)

When possible, we go to original sources to verify the claims. We look for original government reports rather than news stories. We interview impartial experts.

We then decide which of our six rulings should apply:

TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.
MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
HALF TRUE – The statement is accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.
BARELY TRUE – The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
FALSE – The statement is not accurate.
PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

Google Books
The early naval ballads of England
By James orchard Halliwell-Phillipps
London: Printed for the Percy Society by C. Richards
Pg. 135:
LIAR, liar, lick spit,
Turn about the candlestick.
What’s good for liar?
Brimstone and fire.

13 August 1933, Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Fat Pat to Rassle Savage Because the Public Wants It,” pg. 2-B, col. 7:
DELUGED by letters, swamped by phone calls. and buried under an avalanche of telegrams demanding a match between Pat McGill and Steve Savage (it is so, you liar, liar, pants on fire; there were several people who called up), Jack Lewis of Lakeview park will bow to public demand.

Google Books
Forum and Century
v. 97 - June 1937
Pg. 361:
So for all the little niceties of life we must take, “No,” and, “I don’t want it,” “Give me this,” “Get me that,” “Dry up,” and “Liar, liar, your tongue’s on fire,” until we despair of anything plumbing the bottoms of their little hearts.

Google Books
American prefaces: a quarterly of critical and imaginative writing
By University of Iowa
v. 6 - 1941
Pg. 299:
“You liar, you liar, your pants are on fire, your nose is as long as a telephone wire. I don’t believe it.”

21 March 1942, Christian Science Monitor Weekly (Boston, MA), “Salute to Spring” by Margery Rae and Esther Robb, pg. 9, col. 4:
Even an adult might like to hoot this one:

Liar, liar,
Pants on fire.
Nose as long
As a telephone wire!

Google Books
Let us consider one another
By Josephine Lawrence
New York, NY: Appleton-Century
Pg. ?:
He began to recite slowly, while Leidy stared at him as if hypnotized.
“Liar! Liar!
Your pants are on fire!
Your nose is as long
As a telegraph wire.”

Google Books
New York Folklore Quarterly
By New York Folklore Society
v. 9 - 1945
Pg. 27:
Liar, liar,
Your pants are on fire;
Your nose is as long
As a telephone wire.

Google Books
Borrowed summer: and other stories
By Elizabeth Enright
New York, NY: Rinehart
Pg. 185:
“Liar liar pants on fire,
“Nose as long as a telephone wire!” sang Fenella to the timeless scornful tune of childhood.

Spring 1958, West Virginioa Folklore, pg. 45:
You liar, you liar,
Your pants are on fire!
Your nose is as long
As a telephone wire.

26 August 2007, Orlando (FL) Sentinel, “Truth, lies and pants-on-fire politics” by Scott Maxwell, pg. B2.
(Story about the St. Petersburg Times‘ PolitiFact—ed.)

Tony’s Musings
Monday, 9 June 2008
The Pit of Foul Deceit
The school rhyme used by children goes

“Liar, liar, pants on fire
Hangin’ on a telephone wire!”

It is a paraphrased version of the 1810 poem “The Liar” by William Blake

Deceiver, dissembler
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Shall they dangle in the night?

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Wednesday, June 02, 2010 • Permalink