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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) untrustworthiness in speech

caricature of president Donald trump

On Tuesday (or early Wednesday here in the UK), President Trump delivered his first official State of the Union address. The 1 hour and 20 minute speech was, according to one analysis, found to contain on average one provable falsehood every 4½ minutes. Which reminds us:

Mendaciloquence—untruthfulness in speech, or the telling of falsehoods—is a word dating back to the early 1700s in English, although an adjectival form, mendaciloquent, appeared in an early English dictionary as far back as 1616.

Its root, unsurprisingly, is the same as its more familiar cousin mendacious—and all told, it’s one big Latin mishmash.

Both mendacious and mendaciloquence comes from mendacium, a Latin word for a lie which was in turn derived from mendax, a Latin adjective meaning “lying” or “deceitful”. Mendax itself comes from menda, a Latin word for an error or misstep, or a careless mistake made in writing; the change from “careless misstep” to “deliberate deceit” was probably due to confusion with mentiri, a Latin verb meaning “to lie” or “to feign”.

Mentiri meanwhile comes from the Latin word for “mind”, mens, and probably originally meant something along the lines of “to have second thoughts”, or “to think something through” and thereby buy the time needed to concoct a story.

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