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liar, liar

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

I’m always curious about the origins of sayings or in this case childhood taunts. In my neighborhood it was the saying ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire’ that would be chanted accusingly at a child that was suspected of fibbing. The phrase was only used among children in my experience. With a bit of investigating, I learned that there was a part two to that phrase that went ‘hang your britches from a telephone wire’. Others say that the second part is actually, ‘nose as long as a telephone wire’ or something similar.

According to Uncyclopedia, the saying is a paraphrased version of a part of an 1810 William Blake poem entitled ‘the Liar’. Here’s the Blake Poem:

Deceiver, dissembler

Your trousers are alight

From what pole or gallows

Shall they dangle in the night?

When I asked of your career

Why did you have to kick my rear

With that stinking lie of thine

Proclaiming that you owned a mine?

When you asked to borrow my stallion

To visit a nearby-moored galleon

How could I ever know that you

Intended only to turn him into glue?

What red devil of mendacity

Grips your soul with such tenacity?

Will one you cruelly shower with lies

Put a pistol ball between your eyes?

What infernal serpent

Has lent you his forked tongue?

From what pit of foul deceit

Are all these whoppers sprung?

Deceiver, dissembler

Your trousers are alight

From what pole or gallows

Do they dangle in the night?

It seems the poem is a likely origin and the original phrase might have been ‘Liar, Liar, pants on fire, Hang your britches from a telephone wire’ and the long nose version morphed came later probably pulling from Pinocchio’s misfortune.

Do you remember any other childhood sayings used as taunts or accusations? I only can recall one other myself which is a pretty weird one at that. It was done in a sing song voice at whomever was acting like a baby (ie: whining, crying, being a scaredy cat, etc.) It went like this:

Baby, baby

wash your hair in gravy

wrap it up in bubble gum

and send it to the Navy

I’m not sure what the heck that is supposed to mean but it would usually make the aforementioned baby cry a little harder so I guess it served it’s purpose.

Happy New Year Everyone! I’ll see you next year. 🙂

<3 calan

15 Responses to “liar, liar”

  1. J Says:

    i vaguely recall a version of ‘baby baby’, but with the word ukulele.

    and yay, vendetta’s back, she doesn’t get nearly enough screen time

    childhood chanting
    sometimes logically lacking
    rhyme takes precedence

  2. Seraphine Says:

    gingerdead and ennui
    sitting in a tree
    first comes love
    then comes dismemberment
    then comes ennui, she’s happily demented.

    i got made fun of for being skinny. they called me teeny tiny whistle britches, whatever that meant. but it embarrassed me.

  3. Seraphine Says:

    whatever happened to ennui? i don’t remember seeing her in your comics for months.
    did she finally give up on love?
    or did you give up on her?

  4. calan ree Says:

    J – your haiku is so true!

    Sera – aww 🙁 i’m sorry they made you feel embarrassed. forgive me, but ‘teeny tiny whistle britches’ makes me laugh. it’s fun to say and sounds like an adorable little character. i almost want to draw or sculpt her.

    Ennui is still near and dear to my heart and isn’t going anywhere. the last month or so got a little wonky with clay figures and wayward elves so less of the regular characters. Her last appearance was Nov 11th – http://gingerdead.com/2009/11/11/boneless/

    She’ll be back this month i’m sure. 😉

  5. Gabe Says:

    your pants are now hung
    I can see London and France
    looks mighty chilly

  6. Emily Says:

    I know when my sister, brother, and I were younger we used to say this one:
    Brick wall, waterfall
    (Name) thinks she’s/he’s got it all.
    But she/he don’t.
    I do.
    So BOOM! with your attitude!
    So BOOM! with your attitude!
    So BOOM! with your attitude!

    I know there was another one we used to say but I just can’t remember it now… I’ll post it if I think of it.

  7. J Says:


    it’s been stuck at the back of my mind, tormenting me like some sliver of popcorn between under my gums (and damn you for that calan) but after three days of working at it, i have finally recovered/reconstructed enough of that old childhood taunt to find it online. now finally my brain can rest free of that irritant between it’s poor poor synapses.

    “hala ka ukulele
    peanut butter jelly
    mama kissed the baby”

  8. Monkeybones Says:

    “I know you are, you said you are, but what am I?”

    “Copy-cat, Copy-cat
    You don’t know what you’re looking at”

    I remember any time we had to queue up for something, someone would squabble over their place in the line using this obnoxious little chant:

    “First the worst,
    Second the best,
    Third’s the one with a hairy chest
    Four is a golden eagle”

    That really used to irritate me, because it makes no sense and usually meant you got shoved out of the way or teased for having a hairy chest.

    Oh, and while this isn’t really a chant, if things really got out of hand, someone would always say “OHHHMM, I’m telling”. Not sure why that statement was always preceded by “Ohhhmm” in such a appalled tone.

    asinine children
    can be so fond of taunting
    Haha, you said “Ass”.

  9. calan Says:

    Emily – oh, i remember hearing that one when i was a little too old to use it. it has a killer beat. 😀

    J – that one is totally weird! what does hala ka mean? is it gibberish, yiddish,…?

    monkeybones – we used, ‘ i know you are, but what am i?” as a response to being called anything negative and the sing songy oooh i’m telling too. but, i never heard that hairy chest one before.

    these are great! thanks for sharing!

  10. Matthew Says:

    My favorite girl is back! Love that homicidal, fratricidal, nasty ball of cute.

    We never really did much of this taunt thing. We usually just got physical with our displeasure :). I remember using the liar liar one a few times and the i know you are one as well but they were the exception.

    No consequences?
    Well you know what this means right?
    Yep, i need a match.

  11. Seraphine Says:

    cracker stared with a
    salt-blistering crispiness
    dare you to eat me

    icy london, i
    see france, i see cracker crumbs
    in your underpants

  12. Matthew Says:

    I’m not sure i want to know why the crumbs are in those pants…:)

  13. calan ree Says:

    i’m curious too!

  14. Renee Says:


    I happened upon your site, recently while searching for pictures of sock monkeys to make bookmarks with. I love all your art work, how incredible. I guess I need to look up how to write haiku again, and dust off my brain. I ordered some things, and happened to come upon your liar liar picture, any chance I could get a card or two with this design? Kinda late but figure it doesn’t hurt to ask. OW!

  15. coraline Says:

    haha ive used all those with my brother except for the ukalele, and the hairy chest

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