Monday, 29 April 2013

Belie

Explaining, Talking, Chatting, Boy, Girl, Cartoon

BELIE

Verb trans. Past tense belied. Present participle and verbal noun belying.
[Old English beleogan = Old Frisian biliuga, Old High German biliugan (German belügen)]

  1. Obsolete Deceive by lying. Only in OE
  2. A. Tell lies about (someone); slander. ME  B. Obsolete Tell lies about (the truth, something). LME-M17
  3. Obsolete Give the lie to, contradict; reject as false. L16-M17
  4. A. Misrepresent; give a false notion of. E17. B. Disguise, mask. E18
  5. Act or speak at variance with, be false of faithless to; show to be false, fail to corroborate or justify. L17

I recently wrote a short personal essay on fatigue (caused by multiple sclerosis) and the effect it has on my writing ability. I showed it to a friend, also a keen writer, and she remarked:

"The clarity with which this is written belies the subject."

She was right of course. It made me smile because I knew it was true - an essay about the difficulty I experience in writing clearly due to fatigue, written by me in clear language, casts doubt on its own credibility. It also made me open my notebook and write down belie, as it's such a beautiful and versatile verb.

Typically used as per definition (5), belie has a wonderful quality of sounding as if it should carry a negative connotation, whereas it's often used in expressing the most striking of compliments. For example, one might say: "His youthful vigour belies his advancing years."  Or perhaps: "Her professional demeanor belies a caring and sensitive boss." Of course, it can mean you've been caught too: "Alice's chocolate covered fingers and becrumbed lips belied her claim to have not been in the biscuit barrel."

With regards my short essay, I was very pleased with what I consider to be a most complimentary use of belie; if I had managed to escape the clutches of chronic fatigue, even for a moment, to be able to write about its effects and symptoms, then I had succeeded in my essay. 

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