[Ads-l] Quote: liars might be divided into three classes - liars, great liars, and scientific witnesses

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 13 21:16:55 UTC 2022

The saying  "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" evolved over time.
Here is a member of the family of expressions from "The Times" of
London in 1882.

[ref] 1882 April 4, The Times, Parliamentary Summary, Quote Page 9,
Column 3, London, England. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
The evidence of experts is apt to be listened to with incredulity, and
the saying of a well-known Judge that liars might be divided into
three classes—liars, great liars, and scientific witnesses—recommends
itself to many.  But tribunals of experts or tribunals assisted by
assessors are in favour; the advantage of the presence of knowledge as
well as good intentions on the judgment seat is admitted ...
[End excerpt]

The saying evolved over time which makes it difficult to trace.
Changes were incremental, and there was no single originator who
deserved credit. Here is an overview showing key phrases, dates, and

Many thanks to previous researchers Stephen Goranson, Peter M. Lee, and others

1882 Apr 04: three classes—liars, great liars, and scientific witnesses

1885 Jun 27: three sorts of liars, the common or garden liar … the
damnable liar … and lastly the expert (Attributed to "counsel")

1885 Nov 26: grouped witnesses into three classes: simple liars,
damned liars, and experts (Attributed to "well-known lawyer")

1886 Apr 10: three kinds of liars who testify in courts: "Lawyers,
liars and experts" (Attributed to "distinguished judge")

1889 Aug 12: There are liars, and d----d liars and experts (Attributed
to "eminent judge")

1891 Jun 13: three kinds of falsehood: the first is a ‘fib,’ the
second is a downright lie, and the third and most aggravated is
statistics (Anonymous)

1891 Oct 10: There are three degrees of falsehood: the first is a fib,
the second is a lie, and then come statistics (Anonymous)

1891 Oct 19: false statements might be arranged according to their
degree under three heads, fibs, lies, and statistics. (Attributed to
Charles Dilke)

1891 Oct 28: Mr. Parnell's dictum respecting fibs, lies, and
statistics (Attributed to Mr. Parnell)

1892: three degrees of unveracity—"Lies, d——d lies, and statistics."
(Attributed to "some wit")

1892 Jan: There are lies, there are outrageous lies, and there are
statistics (Anonymous)

1892 Feb: three degrees in liars: the liar simple, the d — d liar, and
the expert witness (Anonymous)

1892 Jun 29: three kinds of unveracity—namely, lies, damned lies, and
statistics (Arthur Balfour)

1895 July 27: three degrees of veracity—viz., lies d—d lies, and
statistics (Attributed to Lord Beaconsfield, i.e., Benjamin Disraeli)

1907 Jul 5: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and
statistics (Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain)


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list