“Later that evening, Varick approached Arnold with a letter he had just received from an aide to the governor of New York confirming the fact that Joshua Smith had told a bald-faced lie about the passes … .”

A reader asks whether a brazen lie is bald-faced or boldfaced. He’s posed a tougher question than he knows; authorities vary. The website World Wide Words says that the original form, and still the most commonly used in Britain, is barefaced. “In the latter part of the 19th century, Americans started to use bald-faced lie instead, which has become the more common form in today’s US newspapers.” The third form, bold-faced, is sometimes considered an error, WWW says, but a researcher found it used in the early 19th century.


Garner’s Modern American Usage is one that rejects bold-faced in this sense, saying “The general sense of both bald-faced and barefaced is that something is shameless; the gist of boldface is that something is emphasized [as with big black type].”

I use bald-faced. I probably picked it up from the newspapers:


“This time I won’t move the football, Charlie Brown.”

“I know that’s a bald-faced lie.”


“It is no coincidence that the great nations of ancient history were all prolific in the art of war at sea.” — Blurb on the cover of a DVD documentary, “Ancient Ships: Early Naval Warfare.”

Michael Klossner writes: “Instead of prolific, they mean proficient.” I think he’s right.

Gain altitude quick! And keep in step:

“The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday that six states, Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia, will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.”


“The issue with Latvia is that you have a pretty permissible political environment, and you have quite efficient infrastructure for managing these funds from the East. The question is, why wouldn’t you want to go to Latvia?”

I haven’t been to Latvia, but I’ll bet that political environment is permissive.