Economical with the truth

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Economical with the truth is popularly used as a euphemism for deceitful, whether by volunteering false information (i.e., lying) or by deliberately holding back relevant facts. More literally, it describes a careful use of facts so as not to reveal too much information.

A similar expression appeared in Mr. Punch's History of the Great War, published in July 1919:

Lord Kitchener has been charged with being "very economical in his information" vouchsafed to the Lords...[1]

The modern phrase entered popular usage after it was used by the British then-Cabinet Secretary Robert Armstrong during the Spycatcher trial in 1986. It derives from Edmund Burke:[2]

Falsehood and delusion are allowed in no case whatever: but, as in the exercise of all the virtues, there is an economy of truth. It is a sort of temperance, by which a man speaks truth with measure that he may speak it the longer.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Graves, Charles L. (July 1919), Mr. Punch's History of the Great War 
  2. ^ Beckett, Francis (14 April 2003). "A perfect spy". NewStatesman.  "... [Kenneth] Rose points out indignantly, goes back to Edmund Burke."
  3. ^ Burke, Edmund (1849). The works of Edmund Burke, with a memoir 2. Harper & Brothers. p. 248.