Pants are on fire

中国日报网 2016-01-15 13:33



Pants are on fire

Reader question:

Please explain this headline: Donald Trump’s pants are on fire.

My comments:

This is not to be taken literally, of course.

Donald Trump is one of many Republican candidates running for the next President of the United States. His pants, or trousers, have not caught fire or anything of that nature. Instead, he’s been caught lying, like, repeatedly.

Like, non-stop, bare-faced and bold, blatant, shamelessly etc.

Let’s focus on “pants on fire”, though, and see how one’s pants catching fire has anything to do with lying through the teeth.

“Pants on fire”, in fact, has its root in the rhyme: Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!

In this children’s rhyme, children are told that if they tell a lie, their pants will catch fire. This is a just warning against lying, and is similar to calling a liar by the name of Pinocchio, the popular character created by Italian writer Carlo Collodi (1826-90). Pinocchio has a great sense of shame and whenever he tells a piece of untruth, he grows uneasy and his nose grows longer due to that stress.

Alluding to Pinocchio, if people catch someone lying, they sometimes say: You’d better watch out. Your nose is getting longer.

Or, similarly, they may chant the children’s taunt: Liar! Liar! Your pants are on fire!

So you see, to say that Trump’s pants are on fire is merely pointing out that The Donald is at it again, lying through the teeth and seemingly without giving a care.

Unlike Pinocchio, though Donald has no sense of shame, or at least he does not exhibit any.

When he said Mexican immigrants are rapists, for example, he did not blush.

He never blushes when he tells a lie, it seems, which as a matter of fact may stand him well now that this successful businessman wants to join the fray as a full time politician.

I mean, all politicians tell lies without blush and I don’t mean to be particularly harsh. It’s a just fact of life. It’s how they’re trained. It’s the nature of their trade. It just goes with the territory.

I mean, have you seen any honest politician go far?


anyways, to sum up, “pants on fire” is just another cry out on a big liar. And here are more media examples:

1. If this were a schoolyard, Apple would be that kid that everyone is pointing to and chanting “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Word is spreading fast that Apple did, in fact, reject the Google Voice app for its iPhone earlier this year, even though the company said in a statement filed with the FCC in July that, contrary to media reports, it had not yet officially rejected the app.

Now, we’re learning that that wasn’t necessarily true.

When the FCC launched its investigation, the agency requested statements from all of the parties involved - Apple, Google and AT&T. It was widely speculated that AT&T had a role in calling for the rejection of the Google Voice app but the company said in its statement that it was not involved. When the statements were released publicly, Google’s was largely redacted.


Apple hasn’t issued a response yet so, for all we know, there’s a reasonable explanation for the contradiction. Still, getting caught in a lie is never a good thing. It’ll be interesting to see how Apple digs itself out of this one.

- Was Apple a “Liar Liar” to the FCC about the Google Voice app?, September 18, 2009.

2. The midterm elections are just 10 days away and candidates are stepping up their ground games – increasing public appearances, churning out negative ads, making last-minute fundraising appeals and participating in final debates against their opponents.

There’s a lot at stake. The GOP is expected to remain comfortably in control of the House of Representatives and could even pick up a few seats, but the battle for the Democratic-held Senate is still very much up in the air.

And as things heat up, there are evermore exaggerations, distortions, and outright lies on the campaign trail. We received input from the community on what you think are the biggest GOP whoppers of the election cycle. Here’s a look:

ISIS working with Mexican drug cartels

Republican Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, suggested earlier this month that ISIS extremists are collaborating with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate America’s southern border.

“It’s not just an immigration problem. We now know that it’s a security problem. Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism,” said Cotton at a tele-town hall meeting. He added, “They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.”

U.S. officials and counter-terrorism experts have said multiple times that there is no evidence that terrorist groups like ISIS are attempting to infiltrate the U.S. through the nation’s southern border.

Ebola-infected people are going to walk across the border

Thom Tillis, the Republican candidate for Senate in North Carolina, also recently tied the Ebola crisis to border security. During a debate, the Republican insisted his opponent, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, had failed the state’s residents by not securing the border. “We’ve got an Ebola outbreak. We have bad actors that can come across the border. We need to seal the border and secure it.”

Health experts have said it’s highly unlikely that Ebola could come across the U.S.-Mexico border, pointing to the fact that there have been no cases in Central America. And there has been no evidence that anyone with Ebola has tried or is planning to cross the border.

President Obama hijacked the farm bill and turned it into a food stamp bill

Another whopper from Rep. Cotton. The Republican has come under fire from conservatives for voting against the final version of the farm bill, which is economically vital in his state of Arkansas. In an ad, he points his finger at Obama, arguing the president “hijacked” the bill and “turned it into a food stamp bill.”

Several fact-checkers have called out Cotton for those comments, noting that food-stamp funding has been part of every farm bill since the 1970s – when Obama was still a pre-teen. Cotton did support an initial farm bill that didn’t include nutrition subsidies but ultimately rejected the final version that combined farm and food policies.

Politfact rated Cotton’s claim as “pants on fire” and said it was an example of “hijacking history in Arkansas.”

- Pants on fire: The 5 biggest GOP whoppers this election cycle,, October 25, 2014.

3. It’s a cliché to say that democratic states can’t function properly without an informed electorate. But it’s absolutely true. And this is why, heading into the 2016 election year, I’m nervous about the future. With Donald Trump leading the Republican presidential contenders, even many Republican die-hards are shaking in their boots.

But Trump isn’t the cause, just the symptom. The deeper cause is a strain of anti-intellectualism that runs through the roots of American culture. And while this strain is found on both sides of the political spectrum (see some liberals on vaccines and chemtrails), it’s mostly concentrated among religious conservatives on the political right. For those who espouse anti-intellectualism, conspiracy theories have the same clout as legitimate science, the opinions of non-experts are just as credible as those of the experts, and ideology takes precedence over the cold hard facts.

The US has fostered a culture of anti-intellectualism more than “most other Western countries.” While traveling through Europe and the UK for extended periods of time, I’ve often been quite envious of how respectful other countries are toward those with knowledge in the fields of science and the humanities. In the UK, for example, it’s generally not seen as “uncool” to have a higher degree from a good university. Often, it confers the degree-holder a certain social respect and admiration. Many of the top comedians in the UK have attended institutions like Oxford and Cambridge, including Michael Palin, Eric Idol, John Cleese, David Mitchell, Richard Ayoade and Stephen Fry. And shows such as “QI,” which combines academic discussions with uproarious, irreverent humor, are popular hits.


Even more, Trump ended his year of media domination by receiving Politifact’s 2015 “Lie of the Year” award for the long catalog of erroneous statements that he made, and often stood by even after they were shown wrong. It’s amazing that a whopping 76 percent of the statements by Trump that Politifact checked were judged to be “Mostly False,” “False,” or “Pants on Fire.” By comparison, 71 percent of Bernie Sanders’ statements were rated “Half True,” “Mostly True,” or “True.” What an extraordinary contrast, yet one that’s not surprising given Sanders’ more academic approach to politics. Indeed, Sanders is the sort of rare — and rarefied — politician who’s actually paid attention to scholars over the year. He once even invited Noam Chomsky to give a talk at Burlington City Hall, in Vermont, in which Chomsky wasted no time presenting an incisive critique of U.S. foreign policy.

The real menace of Trump’s presidential campaign, though, isn’t that he’s a pathological liar with 39 percent of the Republican vote. It’s that he — along with Fox News — works to actively undercut the perceived trustworthiness of facts, expertise, and science. For example, in response to receiving Politifact’s dubious award for lying, he responded on Fox News by attempting to delegitimize the organization, calling them “a totally left-wing group” that’s “bad news, I mean as far as checking. You could tell something 100 percent and they will make it out to a lie if you’re a certain person.” Once again, Trump gets it wrong — “Pants on Fire!” In fact, 29 percent of the statements by Sanders are rated “Mostly False” or “False,” meaning that even a “totally left-wing” politician has been shown to misquote the truth on occasion. It’s not Politifact’s fault that Sanders happens to be better at getting the facts right.

- Donald Trump talks at a fourth-grade level. Maybe that’s why the Fox News audience loves him, by Phil Torres,, January 10, 2016.


About the author:

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

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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