Comment: The expression "give the lie to" has shifted its emphasis over the centuries, from the very direct "accuse (someone) of lying" to the much more abstract "show or imply (something) to be false". Some modern dictionaries, such as the Macquarie Dictionary (1997) and Merriam-Webster (2000), still give both meanings; others, such as the New Oxford Dictionary (1998), only the second. Large British and American databases, such as the British National Corpus, show that the phrase is usually used abstractly: one "gives the lie to" propaganda/a claim/an argument/a theory — whether in the context of academic discussion or political debate. The validity of an intellectual position is questioned, not the integrity of the person(s) associated with it. Yet, the simplicity of the phrase "give the lie to" probably gives the lie to the complexity of the challenge it expresses.
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