Friday, April 13, 2012

"I'm not going to lie"

Do you get this? "I'm not going to lie, I haven't started the paper yet." "I won't lie, I've been procrastinating a lot." In emails, I mean--I can't recall having a student say this to me in person (though it may have happened). Why point out that they're telling the truth? I generally assume that they're telling the truth (although I'm not so naive as to believe that students always tell me the truth; rather, in most individual cases, I assume that a student isn't lying unless I have a good reason to believe that he or she is. It doesn't make a difference, in most cases: You do the work or you don't, whatever the excuse). In fact, in these cases, pointing out the truth-status of one's claim immediately makes it--or preceding claims--suspect.

So again: Why inform me of the fact that you're not going to lie? Because here's what that does: It leads me to assume that, in other cases, you have lied. Furthermore, "I'm not going to lie: I didn't do the homework" doesn't get you out of doing the homework. There are no points for honesty here. Am I supposed to feel somehow privileged that I'm the one professor whom you choose not to deceive? Are you to be congratulated for your supposedly exceptional ethical sense, which somehow mitigates your laziness?

I know, I know: "I'm not gonna lie" has become a Phrase, a Thing, People Say It. (I find it irritating, to be honest. In my curmudgeonliest moments, I mentally compile a list of New Things People Say that annoy me. "Remodel" as a noun is right up there; at least I normally don't encounter it in my work. So is "speaking to" an issue. Oh, there are so many; a parenthetical can't contain them all.) So it probably doesn't mean much, in itself, except as a sort of awkward transition into an admission that they're somewhat hesitant to make. But in the last six months or so I seem to be getting it a LOT (further confirming its status as a Thing), and I never know how to respond.

So I don't respond--to that phrase, anyway; to the emails, it depends--and I'm using this venue to say the things that I'd like to say. And if you'd like the more concise version, below are three slightly pithier rejoinders from which to choose.

a) I'm not going to lie: calling attention to the truth-status of your claims is a weak rhetorical move.
b) I'm not going to lie: you're failing the class.
c) I'm not going to lie: I still think you're lying.


ntbw said...

Or how about, "Well, I AM going to lie: I totally believe you,"

JaneB said...

I think students do this to try and gain back some moral ground - they didn't do the reading, but LOOK they aren't giving you excuses about it. The implication is, "my classmates lie when they haven't done the reading, they pretend to have done it, so be grateful that I'm not doing that and cut me some slack please".

I was brought up to think that doing something wrong and then lying about it was worse than just two separate little bad things added together; maybe that applies to the students too?

Dr. Koshary said...

It feels to me like a self-serving way to avoid admitting guilt or shame. Instead of admitting that they did something foolish, for which they ought to be embarrassed, they try to spin it as a virtue: I did wrong, but I am honest about it!

Perhaps you could order your students in future syllabi to replace "I'm not going to lie..." whenever they think to write it with "I am ashamed to admit it, but..."

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I get a lot of this. It makes me crazy. Do people think they get bonus points for being honest? For f's sake, just do the damn work. Blerg.

heu mihi said...

What's weird is that I feel like this is a new phenomenon. And I do hear students say it to each other--"I'm not gonna lie, I hate these shoes" etc. So I'm going to keep hoping that it's just a fleeting catch phrase that they'll all drop in a year or two. Please?

Unknown said...

It's a phrase that often adds nothing to the statement being made. Instead of "I'm not gonna lie, this pizza tastes good" just say, "this pizza tastes good." This is a real life example. I heard a teen say, "I'm not gonna lie, this pizza tastes good." Next time I want to praise a pizza I think I'll say, "I'm GOING to lie, this pizza tastes bad!

Jake said...

"I find it irritating, to be honest." See what you did there. Well done.

moserrw said...

I understand this is an old post, but I recently had a discussion with my brother about this topic and would like to contribute:

I personally believe that this phrase, "I'm not going to lie" is acceptable to use in certain situations. If I am about to deliver some difficult news, I might use this phrase to stress that I am not bending the truth:

Person A: "How did the boss like my presentation?"

Person B: "I'm not going to lie, she absolutely hated it. You will probably be fired."

Some people may reply with "She said it was okay"

Person B is letting Person A know that they are not filtering the truth in any way; the average person may lie to not hurt someone's feelings, but Person A is absolutely not lying.

Am I wrong to think that the phrase "I'm not going to lie" is acceptable to use in this situation? I think of it as a way to let someone know, "the average person may not be 100% transparent, but I will be."


Unknown said...

“To be honest” is somehow different, though?