Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! (1970)

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Tue Sep 9 11:17:27 UTC 2003


Careful with this scanning stuff. Remember there are some of use who
have monosyllabic "wire" and "liar." (Surely not my Milwaukee wife


>At 2:54 PM -0400 9/8/03, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>>>I prefer my wife's, at least for the traditional association of long
>>>noses and liars (which at least gives me a reading).
>another possibility via google (which favors the Preston household
>version, with the slight variants "your nose is longer than a
>telephone wire", as well as the footloose "nose is longer than a
>copper telephone wire", which scans worse than Ogden Nash) is the
>nicely graphic
>"...hang them up on a telephone wire"
>"...hanging from a telephone wire"
>But I agree that the nose-length one is more semantically motivated,
>besides which I'm not sure why one would drape a burning pair of
>trousers over the telephone wire, even if copper is a good insulator.
>Did the prevarication/nose length correlation antedate Pinocchio, I
>>>Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>>>>  The full form (as I am told by mu wife, Milwaukee, childhood memory
>>>>  from early 50s) is
>>>>  Liar, liar, pants on fire
>>>>  Nose as long as a telephone wire.
>>>>  Us Louisvillians had no such pome.
>>>The version I remember (I was an Army brat, so I can't localize it, but
>>>the time would be the mid-'60s) had, as the second line, "Can't get over
>>>the telephone wire".
>>>Jim Parish
>>Dennis R. Preston
>>University Distinguished Professor
>>Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
>>      Asian & African Languages
>>Michigan State University
>>East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
>>e-mail: preston at
>>phone: (517) 432-3099

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
      Asian & African Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
e-mail: preston at
phone: (517) 432-3099

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