"belie": another reversal?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 5 19:44:40 UTC 2011

Consider the title of Michiko Kakutani's essay in NYT Oct. 9, 2001:

"The Age of Irony Isn't Over After All; Assertions of Cynicism's
Demise Belie History."

The issue is "belie." In the wake of Nine-Eleven, _Vanity Fair_ editor
Graydon Carter had suggested that it might be "the end of the age of
irony" and historian Taylor Branch talked of "a turning point against
a generation of cynicism for all of us."

Kakutani finds evidence from as far back as "Volpone" that irony,
satire, and cynicism are ever with us - and a good thing too.

But if she's right, doesn't that mean that *history* "belies" the
supposed death of cynicism in 2001, rather than the other way round?
History "proves" that cynicism is forever.

History tends to contradict factually the current claim: does the
claim equally "contradict" or "misrepresent" the facts of history?

I'm not even sure anymore, though when I first read the phrase it
seemed completely backwards. My understanding is that "belie" implies
a factual contradiction, a "giving the lie to." But Kakutani uses it
simply as "contradict" in a weaker sense, something like "fly in the
face of; disregard the facts of."

Or is this just another absurd niggle by yours truly?


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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