"belie": another reversal?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Nov 6 02:00:16 UTC 2011

Jon, do senses 1, 3.b, 5, and even 6 of "belie" (v.2) have the
reversed meaning you bemoan?  They seem like they might allow
something to "belie history" -- "assertions of cynicism's demise"
tell a lie to history; misrepresent history, are at variance with
history; deny the truthfulness of history; reject the truth of
history, are faithless to history.

On the other hand, I too would rather have said "history belies
assertions of cynicism's demise" -- which I think fits sense 7, show
to be false, prove false or mistaken.

Is "belie" as ambidextrous as I read the definitions?

(However, I am skeptical that history can belie the death of
anything.  History is the past; cynicism may have died recently.)


At 11/5/2011 03:44 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>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

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

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