My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is even better than the previous book Romps, Tots and Boffins: The Strange Language of News by Robert Hutton which was a look at journalese. Would They Lie to You? is a much more cynical look at how people tell stories to journalists (and by extension to the public).
Presented as if it is a leaked document teaching the inner circle how to use language to manipulate the truth without actually breaking it. The opening quotes summarise it perfectly “I didn’t lie, you just asked the wrong questions – Rob Ford“. Having spent some of my working life in Whitehall I recognise some of the techniques presented, and it made me laugh in the same way Dilbert does.
Like its predecessor it is divided into sections on a theme, although there is more explanation this time, and also more in the way of examples of the techniques being used. Names aren’t always named, but anyone that has been paying attention to the news over the last decade or so will recognise a lot of it. Most of the section is narrative, with only a handful of terms in the glossaries (although there are still a fair number of expressions given the cynical urban dictionary treatment, which is where most of the humour comes from). I was particularly amused by the Estate Agent section, especially the definition of ‘cosy’ that implied that you’d never need to worry about losing the TV remote control as you could probably reach the TV from the sofa…
Overall an amusing and interesting read. Worth it if you are a student of language, watch the news or just want to be able to tell when a politician or other person is being evasive (hot tip: if a politician’s lips are moving, then they’re evading the question).
I was lucky enough to receive an advance reading copy from the publishers, Would They Lie to You, by Robert Hutton will be published on 4th September 2014.