economical with the truth
Believed to be from a quotation by the British-Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke (1729–1797): “Falsehood and delusion are allowed in no case whatever: But, as in the exercise of all the virtues, there is an œconomy of truth. It is a sort of temperance, by which a man speaks truth with measure that he may speak it the longer.”
- Hyphenation: eco‧no‧mi‧cal with the truth
- (idiomatic, euphemistic) Not telling the whole truth, especially in order to present a false image of a situation; untruthful; lying. Often used with sarcasm or satire.
I would be being economical with the truth if I were to tell you that I was enjoying myself.
1987, Andrew Kakabadse; Ron Ludlow; Susan Vinnicombe, Working in Organisations, Aldershot, Hants: Gower, ISBN 978-0-566-02432-0:
- A senior British civil servant, arguing that the book ‘Spycatcher’ should not be published, let slip how ‘being economical with the truth’ is an option in matters of government policy. The phrase became a headline in Australia, highlighting, as much as anything, British duplicity. In fact, it originated with Edmund Burke, the eighteenth century statesman and constitutional theorist. […] In effect, the idea of ‘being economical with the truth’ underlines the challenge any manager or public servant faces – that unguarded, inappropriate, or even appropriate comment can lead to damaging and undesirable reactions.
2013 November 6, House of Commons Treasury Committee (UK), Project Verde (HC 728-II (incorporating HC 300, Session 2013–14)), volume II, London: The Stationery Office Ltd., published 23 October 2014, ISBN 978-0-215-07845-2, page Ev 85:
- So, I am now asking you, was he economical with the truth? Bearing in mind you are now telling us that there were heaps of telephone conversations, things that you described elsewhere as “lovely” conversations, “nice” conversations, “interesting” conversations and that when politicians ring you, you take notice.
2016, Ian Garden, Battling with the Truth: The Contrast in the Media Reporting of World War II, [Stroud, Gloucestershire]: The History Press, ISBN 978-0-7509-5632-1:
- There was one overriding technique used by both sides to dupe the public, and it was the deliberate omission of key information about any demoralising incident, operation or battle, such as facts about their own or even the enemy's losses. […] This approach can probably be best described as ‘being economical with the truth’ – a phrase whose literal meaning has rather been lost over the years, as it has rather erroneously come to signify telling outright lies.
- ^ Edmund Burke (1796), “Letter I. On the Overtures of Peace.”, in Two Letters Addressed to a Member of the Present Parliament, on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France, 10th edition, London: Printed for F[rancis] and C[harles] Rivington, St. Paul's Church-yard, OCLC 187301184, page 137.