General Question

Blackberry's avatar

What does the saying, "Fact from fiction, truth from diction" mean?

Asked by Blackberry (31071points) December 24th, 2009

So yeah….what does it mean lol? I’m having trouble figuring it out, thank you.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

43 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Good question. I’ve been wondering myself.

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

It appears to be a silly diddy…a meaningless rhyme
which sounds good, and makes you feel good.

I like it.

Google says, “Did you mean: Fact from fiction, truth from fiction?”

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

Aye matey, I be a Skipper now…Yarrrrrr!!!!

Buttonstc's avatar

Are you certain that the second part is not:
“fact from dictum” ?

That would at least make more sense.

dpworkin's avatar

That’s what one would assume, but that’s not how the Flutherite who uses the phrase would have it. Perhaps is is merely an orthographic error.

wildpotato's avatar

It’s a little preamble, translating as “I’m a verbose douche. I like to sound wise and world-weary. Those of you who are impressed by mystical nonsense, pay attention.”

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It means I’m not reading the comment following.

dpworkin's avatar

Nor have I read the preceding posts.

Blackberry's avatar

@Buttonstc It could be dictum, I don’t know. The people that say it always use ‘diction’. So I guess no one really knows what it means lol. Thanks anyways :)

Buttonstc's avatar

Well, in my experience ” the people” are wrong frequently, when a phrase uttered by “them” makes little sense :)

If I see one more instance of “the people” describing the effects of this economy by speaking about the increased incidence of families loosing their life savings, im going to barf Give me a break !

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

It’s a trigger. In all of us there must be a few who after reading it one too many times will go on a murderous spree. Do you remember the movie “Telephon”?

Blackberry's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence Nope I don’t remember it lol, thanks though guys : )

dpworkin's avatar

Fat from Friction, Tooth from Affliction.

Blackberry's avatar

@dpworkin I don’t know what that means either, but thanks anyways lol.

janbb's avatar

I got nothing; wondered (briefly) the same thing and then moved on.

Jeruba's avatar

It means “Stop reading here.”

Buttonstc's avatar

It means, “I’m a pretentious dimwit who likes giving the impression of saying something wise sounding”.

They think it sounds wise. They are wrong.

Steve_A's avatar

Are you talking about the one fluther who says that on his answers?

I have no ideal either….

Steve_A's avatar

Well I got to the bottom of this, and simply asked what it means from the person them self.


“Fact from fiction, truth from diction.? Glad you asked, for I can certainly explain my reason and usage of it (I have tried before but this is where I say you have to think out-side-the-box slightly. Fact from fiction, what I am trying to convey there is that what I am telling you or saying to you I believe to be thought out fact based and logical, not make up or some folly, hence fiction. I feel many people just create stuff that sound good but don’t bother to see if it has legs to stand on. Truth from diction: that the facts being facts they are true (as true as I can determine) and not just diction, basically a bunch of words, phrases and BS. Politicians are good at sating a whole lot that basically whittles down to BS when you get rid of the extra wording. In short “Fact from fiction, truth from diction” says I am giving you the straight logical facts as I believe it with out a bunch of BS. Many people try to make it a referendum on them that I am trying to say that only I am right and they are wrong but that is people, led not by the logic but by the emotion, once they think it is an affront to them, they see or can reason nothing else. :-D”

janbb's avatar

Straight from the horse’s mouth.

Blackberry's avatar

Hmmmm, makes sense, thanks a lot Steve A : )

dpworkin's avatar

Does it really make sense? I have read it over carefully three times, and I do not find that it makes sense.

Blackberry's avatar

It could make sense if one actually used hard facts in their answer, it’s like a disclaimer before an answer saying: This is the actual answer, not an opinion. But I could see some using it of course for an opinion anyways to sound smarter lol.

Buttonstc's avatar

The problem is primarily with the use of the word “from” and it’s nebulously interpreted placement.

Once the person explains their usage of it, THEIR intended meaning is apparent.

Apart from that explanation, it’s meaning is muddled and unclear. And there is no larger context from which to infer one way or another. Just a confusingly terse phrase which isn’t even a sentence. Just a phrase hanging in the air.

The word from can mean “originating from” or “proceeding from” as well as “distinguished from”. With just a phrase and no context, there is no clarity as to which meaning is intended.

If one wants to make oneself understood, a much clearer way of saying precisely what is meant would be something like “fact INSTEAD OF fiction. Truth INSTEAD OF diction” or any one of numerous alternatives.

But if one is content to not be totally clear and just like a mystical oracle of BS wisdom, then the less clear phrase serves that purpose quite well.

It has that lovely aura of new agey pretentiousness and unclear meaning known only to the cogniscenti. You can only divine it’s meaning if you’re a member of the club.

Personally, I’m not overly fond of murky mystical BS. I prefer plain English. If you don’t want people to get the impression of pretentious snobbery then you should say what you mean plainly.

_________from______ (without any other context for clarification) is just not a clear plain way to say anything of value.

Blackberry's avatar

@Buttonstc Indeed, ‘instead’ makes more sense too.

Buttonstc's avatar

My other problem with this phrase is the use of the nebulous phrase “truth from diction”.

Why do I find this nebulous and confusing for most people reading it? Again because of imprecision.

If you stopped most people on the street and asked them about the meaning of the word “diction” the majority would associate it with precision of language and particularly of pronounciation.

Therefore, someone like George Bush with his frequent mangling of the English language would not be regarded as having good diction. Neither would all those who persist is axing questions (as opposed to asking them) be regarded as demonstrating good diction.

So what does any of that have to do with “truth” (either as proceeding from or distinguished from truth)? Well, absolutely nothing as far as I can determine.

Therefore, “truth from diction” is basically a nonsense phrase as far as I’m concerned. Granted, it’s rather high-falutin’
sounding a phrase, but nonsense nonetheless.

Read Lewis Carroll’s poem, ” The Jabberwocky” if you’re not sure what I mean by that.

BTW. Now, if you were to stop a bunch of people on the street to ask about the meaning of the word “dictum” you would doubtless get more puzzled looks.

However, if you asked people familiar with the finer points of English or even some lawyers, you would get something along the lines of what the person attempting to explain the original phrase wrote.

Dictum refers to a widely accepted meaning due mainly to the authority of the person uttering it (rather than any objective standard of truth).

This is what politicians and other blowhards attempt to do ( as was previously pointed out)

The utter all kinds of dictum which they expect the rest of us to swallow just because a person in authority is saying it. Truth based on objective verifiable facts has little to do with it. They utter dictum simply because they can or because they presume that their authority should suffice.

It’s kind of what Steven Colbert was getting at. His way of poking fun at dictum was to coin the term “truthiness”. It just SOUNDS like it should be true because it FEELS like it.

We get dictum proclaimed from all types of authorities which has little or no relationship to objectively verifiable truth all the time. Remember Bush standing on the aircraft carrier proclaiming “victory”. Just dictum. Or all the “authorities” making the case for the bailout and then defending them giving multi-million dollar year end bonuses. Also dictum. And nonsense.

If the phrase were “truth from dictum” it would at least make a bit more sense than “truth from diction” which seems to be focusing more on pronounciation than anything to do with facts.

My hunch is that the original quote, probably now lost in the mists of time, was far clearer in both expression and intent. The way it’s currently being used is just too needlessly nebulous to make much sense.

It only sounds wise, but is bereft of precision. This is why most people find it confusing and incomprehensible. It’s just a pleasantly rhythmic nonsense phrase all told. The intent may be noble. The application is too flawed to be of any practical value.

“All mimsy were the borogroves

And the mome raths outgrabe”


Blackberry's avatar

Makes sense, now when I see that phrase, I’m just going to think of this.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dpworkin hell, I’m with you

Buttonstc's avatar


Whenever I see that phrase I just skip over it entirely.

It’s a nonsense phrase designed to sound far more profound than it is in reality.

If someone can’t take the time to communicate clearly, I don’t need to waste my time reading nonsense phrases.

JFK or Lincoln it ain’t.

Jeruba's avatar

My compliments, @Buttonstc, on a thoroughly satisfactory explanation of what makes this expression both so nonsensical and so annoying. You gave it much more energy than I was willing to.

I don’t just skip over it. I disregard the entire comment that follows and go on to the next post.

Buttonstc's avatar


“I disregard the entire comment that follows and go on to the next post”

That’s pretty much what I do also. I may skim it a little, but if it’s a long thread I just skip even that and bypass entirely.

Do you remember what it was like when you were a little kid with a loose tooth that was almost ready to come out, but just not there yet ? I just couldn’t leave it alone and would keep working at it with my tongue all day long. Even tho adults kept advising me to leave it alone, I just couldn’t.

It was like a constant itch needing to be scratched. Impossible to just let it be.

And then that wonderful moment of relief when the final push frees it and it comes out. In spite of the mouthful of blood, the relief was indescribable.

That’s the perfect metaphor for this nonsensical phrase. Every time I’d read it, it was like hearing fingernails scraping on a blackboard.

I do realize that the energy I devoted to it was a bit disproportional, but I am now free from that niggling annoyance. It has been exorcised for good.

Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, free at last. (with deep apologies to MLK, Jr. ) :)

janbb's avatar

I have to say that I don’t think the problem lies in the use of the word “from”; I think the problem lies in the use of the word “diction.” It is a meaningless analogy besides being hubristic. Just sayin’.

Steve_A's avatar

Well if the person decides to have it there “saying”, then I believe the definition of it is up to them.

janbb's avatar

@Steve_A Respectfully beg to differ, Steve. Words have a meaning objectively, not just what we ascribe to them.

Buttonstc's avatar


So let’s see if I’ve got this right. According to you then, if I decide to adopt “mimsy were the borogroves” as my saying then the definition of that would be up to me ?

Is that what you’re implying there ?

So, if I decide that “mimsy were the borogroves” is my saying and it means that “the moon is blue” then that automatically makes it so because the definition is up to me ?

Really ?

Steve_A's avatar

@Buttonstc in your world if you decide too. Who am I to say no?

Buttonstc's avatar

But do I have the right to expect others to automatically understand what I mean by that ?

Obviously not.

I don’t live in my own little world. I live in reality. And if I’m trying to communicate with other people who are also living in reality, then I can’t be spouting off nonsense phrases just because I’ve decided they are “mine” and rightfully expect anyone else to have any idea what I’m talking about.

That’s called unreality.

Nonsense phrases are precisely that and nothing more when they are employed in the real world. It makes absolutely no difference what they mean to the person using them. That’s irrelevant to reality.

Steve_A's avatar

@Buttonstc I see what your saying.

I am still looking at as something as maybe an inside joke or the like….

Jeruba's avatar

From Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll:

`I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”’

`But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

`When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

`The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master—that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. `They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs: they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

`Would you tell me please,’ said Alice, `what that means?’

`Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. `I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

`That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

Buttonstc's avatar


That sums it up quit nicely.

Impenetrability indeed !

Buttonstc's avatar


I see what you’re saying.

However, I doubt you’ve thought through the practical implications of regarding it as an “inside joke” rather than a simple nonsense phrase designed to give an impression of profundity.

As far as I can tell thus far, the only two people who are in on this ” inside joke” would be yourself and the OU ( the Original User”).

Blackberry, myself, pdworkin, Simone, Jeruba, Janbb and countless others reading through this are finding it to be a puzzling nonsense phrase bereft of meaning.

So, the majority of folks reading this nebulous phrase included in so many of the posts written by the OU are finding it meaningless. So I guess that makes us all the butt of the joke.

(Are you really sure you want to continue down this road ?)

If so, this has to be the most insulting (to the reader) and the most inside of inside jokes in the universe, known to a group comprised of exactly two people. How cruel.

Steve, I think you’re really going way out on a limb here to defend the indefensible.

It’s pretty self-evident that this whole thing is a glorified nonsense phrase which happens to rhyme. That’s it. Pure and Simple.

It SOUNDS somehow profound without actually being profound. It seems like it SHOULD be impressive, but it isn’t because it is muddled imprecision which leaves everyone scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Obviously it has meaning for the OU but that meaning isn’t communicated clearly to the rest of the real world due to poor word choice and lack of context.

It seems as if you keep trying to invest it with a sense of importance which doesn’t stand up in the cold light of day.

If it’s an “inside joke” as you theorize, then it’s a poor one as it confuses everyone who encounters it.

If the OU wishes to continue prefacing all posts with it, that is certainly their right to do so.

Expecting it to be comprehensible in the real world is unrealistic to the extreme.

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