Je lui ai raconté un mensonge officieux.
zhuh lwee ay raa-kaw-tay uh mah-saw zhoh-fee-seeYUH. Click below to hear this.
I told him a (little) white lie.
Yes, I did. I lied. But it was for his own good. He needed support, not criticism, so I told him that I could hear the difference in his trumpet playing. He still plays out of tune, and hits all the wrong notes, but he is trying, and he practices so earnestly.
I told her that she looks great in that color. What I didn’t tell her is that the dress itself is unflattering. What good would that do? Aren’t there times when it is more helpful to be kind than to be truthful?
Hence, the French word for a white lie, or, as many people say (doubtless to minimize any possible harm that could come of it), a little white lie. Do you remember what we said yesterday, about the word officieux? It means obliging, helpful, willing to help. That’s what we do when we tell a white lie. Our goal, our intent, is to be helpful.
Note that it doesn’t matter, in this French sentence, whether I am lying to him or to her. It’s the same pronoun, lui, in both cases. It’s an indirect object of the verb raconter, to tell or recount. You have to tell something to someone.
It’s interesting, by the way, to see what other languages call un mensonge officieux. In German, it’s a soziale Lüge, a “social lie”. In Spanish, it’s a mentirilla, a “tiny little lie”. And in Latin, my favorite, it’s a pia fraus, a “holy fraud”. Evidently, people have been lying in the name of keeping the peace in every place and since the dawn of time.
Alternate audio file link: je-lui-ai-raconte-un-mensonge-officieux