What Kind of Lie?

I stumbled across a page earlier – I don’t even remember what site, now – that referred to a “bold-faced lie.” This is another one of those phrases that have evolved to the point that there are now at least a few variants, but little certainty on the “correct” (i.e., earliest or original) variant.

See, I grew up hearing “bald-faced lie” about 70% of the time and “bold-faced lie” the rest. These days, I hear the latter probably 80% of the time. I wonder which one is correct. The problem is that there are good explanations for at least three variants:

  • “Bare-faced lie” – British dominant version, according to some. Possible explanations:
    • This could make sense, as “bare” would mean naked, exposed, unconcealed, or obvious. Thus, “bare-faced”: obvious on its face.
    • I also have read that it could originally have been a derogatory reference to Native Americans. In the same sense as “Indian giver,” the phrase would thus imply unfair dealings by the native inhabitants of North America, many of whom have little facial hair by nature.
    • Possibly it dates to the sixteenth century, when beards were the social norm in English society, making a clean-shaven face audacious, like telling an obvious falsehood.
  • “Bald-faced lie” – Common American usage. Same explanation, but updated and possibly Americanized.
  • “Bold-faced lie” – Common American usage. Possible explanations:
    • Bold, as in audacious. It takes a “bold face” to tell an obvious lie.
    • Bold, as in typeface. The lie is so obvious, it might as well have been printed in bold to draw attention.

So, once again, the glorious Internet has given me more questions than answers. Does anybody know anything about this?

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