Children and Fools Tell the Truth Meaning
Definition: In some cases, it is to one’s advantage to lie; only children and fools are unaware of this fact.
The English proverb children and fools tell the truth means that lying can sometimes beneficial or advantageous to someone. This isn’t making a moral claim that lying is good; it simply means that in some circumstances lying is advantageous for people because the truth can get you in trouble. The only people who don’t know this are children and fools.
This proverb, although not commonly used in everyday speech, may be used in contexts where lying about something will protect someone from unwanted consequences.
Origin of Children and Fools Tell the Truth
This proverb can be traced back to a 14th century French proverb that translates to,
To know the truth about everything, listen to drunkards, children, idiots, and women.
The proverb was first used in English in the 16th century, in Letters & Papers of Reign of Henry VIII:,
…an old saying that a child, a fool and a drunken man will ever show…the truth.
This implies that the proverb was already in popular use prior to its first appearance in print. Another variation of this proverb is “children, fools, and drunkards tell the truth.” How and why the proverb evolved to exclude drunkards is unclear.
Examples of Children and Fools Tell the Truth
This sample conversation between two university students shows how this proverb is used in speech.
Sandy: Should I be honest with my professor and tell him I couldn’t submit my paper on time because I was hungover?
Rhiannon: Children and fools tell the truth, Sandy. Just tell him you were too sick.
Sandy: But what if he finds out I lied?
Rhiannon: He won’t find out. He’s too busy to investigate it. If you tell him the truth, you could fail.
The English proverb children and fools tell the truth means that, in some circumstances, lying is advantageous and that only children and fools are naïve enough to believe otherwise.