Fibs = lies? Sometimes

Someone asked me the other day if I could explain the difference between a “fib” and a “lie.”

My quick answer to him was that I “like the word ‘fib’ better.”

“Fib” has a less-damaging ring to it than “lie.”

I’ve given some further thought to the question, which actually is a pretty good one.

Here’s my more thoughtful answer: A fib is meant to describe a false statement that doesn’t carry as much consequence as a lie.

I used the term “fib” to describe, in this latest instance, what NBC reporter/news anchor Brian Williams had said about being shot down in Iraq. He fibbed about it. He wasn’t shot down. He was riding in a helicopter that accompanied the ship that actually was shot down.

Why is that a “fib” and not a “lie”? Because all it means is that one man’s career is likely ruined. The rest of us will carry on.

What, then, constitutes a lie?

Let’s try this one: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” That came from President Bill Clinton as he wagged his finger at the American public and told a lie about what he did with the White House intern. All by itself, that shouldn’t constitute a lie. Except that the result of that untrue statement — which he also made to a federal grand jury — resulted in his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives.

I suppose I could go on with more actual lies, such as when the Bush administration kept telling us about Saddam Hussein’s alleged complicity in the 9/11 attacks. We all know where those lies led us.

It’s one thing to fib about a personal experience and another thing to lie when it involves the future of the country.

Awww, what the heck. I still like the sound of the word “fib” better.