“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” is a saying I often heard when I was growing up in Ireland. I automatically assumed it to be an old Irish proverb, but since living in America I learned this quotation is widely attributed to none other than Mark Twain.
Have you ever heard this saying before??
Do you believe it to be an old Irish proverb??
Or perhaps you accept these witty and wise words were first uttered by the wittiest of all Americans, Mark Twain.
The Case To Support The Irish Origins Of This Phrase:
Irish storyteller, Mattie Lennon has called his new CD of Irish stories, ‘Truth and Lies,’ since the notion of including an odd embellishment or two for the sake of a good story is entrenched in Irish tradition.
The fact we’re running a giveaway this week for Mattie’s CD, got me thinking about this old Irish saying, and so arose this very blog post.
There’s another Irish or Gaelic expression that supports this idea and may even be the original expression from where this particular phrase found root. In the Irish oral storytelling tradition, the ‘seanachaí,’ or storyteller often says at the end of a tale:
Sin mo scéal díobh, agus má tá bréag ann, fá é,
Mar ní mise a chum ná a cheap.”
“That’s my story and if there’s a lie there, so be it,
For it wasn’t me that composed it.”
Gaelic Storm, a Celtic rock band, performs a song bearing the name, “Don’t Let The Truth Get In The Way.” Here are the lines from the chorus ….
“Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story
No harm, no foul, no crime.
Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story
It’ll get ’em everytime.”
Did the songwriter from Gaelic Storm quote Mark Twain in this song, or are these words borrowed from an old Irish proverb? I’m going to assume a Gaelic band is referring to an Irish saying.
“Never Let The Truth Get In The Way Of A Good Story”… Were These Words Ever Uttered By Mark Twain?
For anyone doing an internet search on this saying the inevitable answer found is that Mark Twain is the author of this quotation.
Is this true???? Or have we reached a stage that the notion Twain said it is so utterly entrenched on the world wide web, that there is absolutely no point in arguing against the idea.
Has this internet ‘fact’ regarding Twain, come to be so totally accepted, that there is no changing the belief? True or false, has it become fact simply by repetition of this attribution on multiple websites.
This thought made me laugh, especially when I considered the context of the quote in question.
To complicate matters further, I found a website called the “Unquotable Mark Twain.” Here this saying is included amongst those that should not be attributed to Twain.
But a big question remains … Is uncyclopedia.wikia.com just as unreliable as wikipedia.com?
And so, we may never find the answers to our questions about the origins of this saying.
However, I do not doubt that Twain may have heard and even repeated this expression, especially during his time in Nevada territory when he worked as a miner on the Comstock Lode. Many of his fellow miners where probably Irish.
A Good Life Lesson:
But let’s face it, does it really matter if the attribution of this quotation to Mark Twain is true or not? I think our Irish forefathers, who definitely had their own versions of this saying couldn’t have cared less if it was attributed to Twain, once we realize the saying itself can teach us a good life lesson.
A good life lesson???
How could lying be a good life lesson?
At its essence this saying tells us it’s alright to lie, omit the facts, or twist the plot for the sake of a good story.
Now, don’t worry! I won’t quote this expression to teach my kiddos how to tell a few fibs.
What I believe is this saying’s life lesson, is never to trust what you are being told. Many a story has been embellished or stripped down to its core, solely for the teller’s purpose.
How valuable is that little nugget of knowledge in our world today.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)