首页  | 专栏作家

Unvarnished truth? 未加粉饰的真相

中国日报网 2024-04-19 17:32


Reader question:

Please explain “untarnished truth” in this quote: “What we want is the unvarnished truth. We want to know the good, the bad and the ugly.”

My comments:

The speaker wants the plain truth, warts and all.

Warts and all, by the way, means everything, including the bad (warts)

Literally, unvarnished truth means truth that is not varnished.

Varnish, you see, is a paint-like coating we see on the surface of cars and furniture. Varnish is used to make the surface of those things shiny and beautiful.

So, unvarnished means not varnished, without coating, with nothing artificially applied to make things look better or more pleasing.

Hence, unvarnished truth refers to what we call cold hard facts, facts in their original form, however tough to take.

Unvarnished truth is, to use another phrase, the naked truth, facts in their original unclothed form – like the fabled emperor without wearing clothes.

Hence and therefore, if we want people to tell us the unvarnished truth, as the speaker demands in our above example, we want them to tell us what happens in a plain and straightforward manner, without hiding anything or without dressing it up.

In legal language, we want them to tell us the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth.

In other words, we want all the truth including the inconvenient truths.

Inconvenient truths?

That’s truths or facts that inconvenience us, i.e. giving us trouble and discomfort because they are hard to deal with.

As an idiom, “unvarnished truth” was first recorded in 1883, although “unvarnished” had been used to describe a direct statement since Shakespeare’s time, according to the Free Dictionary. It says:

This expression has antecedents in the writings of Aeschylus (“Simple are the words of truth”), Euripides (“Plain and unvarnished are the words of truth”), and other ancient writers. Shakespeare came close to the modern wording: “In speaking for myself ... I will a round unvarnish’d tale deliver of my whole course of love” (Othello, 1.3).

All right, here are a few recent media examples of “unvarnished truth”:

1. Adding another wild-card to the 2012 campaign’s final days, a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden has written a tell-all Washington memoir in which he lacerates the former Delaware senator as an “egomaniacal autocrat” who was “determined to manage his staff through fear.”

The book is hardly an objective study of the vice president, however. Author Jeff Connaughton, a Biden Senate staffer turned lobbyist, is by his own admission deeply disillusioned with the capital and embittered about his experience with the man who inspired him to enter politics.

Connaughton wrote “The Payoff,” which came out last month, in the fashion of guilt-racked whistle-blower: he was a party to a corrupt system and now wants to blow the lid off the game.

“I came to D.C. a Democrat and left a plutocrat,” he confesses.

As chief of staff to former Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Biden’s successor, Connaughton was radicalized by his unsuccessful experience trying to get an amendment to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill that would have broken up the country’s largest banks. So he left Washington politics and wrote what he believes is the unvarnished truth about the country’s political system. The big reveal: Big banks control both parties.

“It’s time people understand why – and how – Wall Street always wins,” Connaughton writes at the outset of his book.

- Ex-Biden aide pens angry tell-all, Politico.com, October 25, 2012.

2. Like all royals the world over, Kate Middleton is surrounded by yes-men and -women from the moment she sips her royal tea in the morning to when she stumbles to bed after polishing off her royal gin at night.

(We might be projecting on that last part.)

But sometimes Kate needs real answers from folks who aren’t just gonna tell her what they think she wants to hear.

And for that, she goes to the one place anyone can go for brutally honest advice and a little light name-calling.

We’re talking, of course, about Internet comment boards.

Kate welcomed Princess Charlotte back in 2015, and like anyone else who’s ever raised two toddlers, she reportedly finds the experience overwhelming at times.

Now, The Daily Mirror is reporting that Kate seeks support and advice from momy-blog communities:

“Kate has turned to websites like Mumsnet and BabyCentre for guidance,” a source tells the tabloid.

“She has adopted an anonymous name, and mainly posts questions about issues she and Prince William disagree on, like watching cartoons before bed.”

But while Kate may turn to the Internet for some unvarnished truth, it seems she mostly finds more of what she gets at home – folks lining up to tell her how right and awesome she is:

“Using these websites has really helped Kate, although she’d never admit to using the web for advice – the Royal Family tend to ‘just get on with it’ when it comes to raising children,” says the insider.

- Kate Middleton Will Post a Royal Comment on Your Mommy-Blog, April 13, 2017.

3. The ability of the Conservative Party to self-obsess knows no bounds. They’ve been putting us through it for what looks like years.

And the latest bombshell to hit came late last night; Sir Simon Clarke, former cabinet minister writing a piece in The Daily Telegraph.

And one of the things he says is ‘the unvarnished truth is that Rishi Sunak is leading the Conservatives into an election where we will be massacred.’

Well, if that wasn't bad enough, he added a couple of paragraphs later.

‘If Nigel Farage returns to the fray as looks increasingly likely extinction is a very real possibility for party.’

If you look at Rishi Sunak’s personal ratings you’ll find they are now dire. In fact, it is a pretty extraordinary state of affairs when my personal approval rating with 2019 Conservative voters is literally double that of the Prime Minister.

And I haven’t even been a member of the party for 30 years, which shows you just how much trouble they’re in.

Is he right, that staying on with Sunak means inevitable electoral disaster for the Conservatives?

And can we put up with another leadership election? Can we put up with yet another Conservative Prime Minister? Would it make them look, a complete and utter laughingstock?

- Simon Clarke is right, under Sunak the Tories are headed for electoral disaster, by Nigel Farage, January 24, 2024.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣   编辑:丹妮)


One of a kind? 独一无二


Overarching question? 全局性问题


Weather on steroids? 极端天气


Pick up the pieces 整理残局


Shot across the bow? 警告性的一击


Won’t stand for it? 不能容忍

中国日报网 英语点津微信
中国日报网 双语小程序