Monday, November 2, 2009


I came across a line like this in an article:

Jerry is 83 years old, an age belied by his firm step and straight posture and the clearness of his eyes.

What I'm interested in is that word "belie". Do you think this sentence uses that correctly? (Can the truth be belied?)



John H said...

Hi Alicia
i'm currently procrastinating by reading your blog. what a bad boy.

Anyway, belieing something shows it to be false or to contradict, as I understand it. It cannot show something TRUE to be false, it can show something that looks TRUE to be false.

If he is 83, a firm step can't show that he isn't 83.

Simple fix, I guess, would be to replace 'belied' with 'contradict' or some better word.

Or it could be rewritten completely:

"With a firm step, straight posture and clear eyes, you could never tell that Jerry is 83 years old."

I would like to fix 'clear eyes' into maybe 'cataract free' but that doesn't really flow too well.

Not great rewriting, but theres my input.

Now back to editing this story . . .

Riley Murphy said...

Hmmm...I don't think the sentence is structured correctly for the word - it wasn't his age that belied - because his age is a concrete and true fact - it's his actions that belied his age.

Jean Wogaman said...

I believe the sentence is technically correct yet awkward. It is a good example of why it is usually best to avoid the passive voice.

Perhaps better:
A firm stride, straight posture, and clear eyes belied Jerry's age of 83 years.

Jordan said...

I always have to look this word up when I use it. My dictionary has the primary definition as "to give a false representation to; misrepresent." So, yes, a fact can be misrepresented. In fact, it's kind of implied that what's being belied is the truth.

But I agree with Jeanie's assessment on passivity. The real subject of the sentence—that which is doing the belying—is the step, etc.

With belie, the subject of the sentence is the one misrepresenting the object (the truth), and that's exactly what they've done here—reverse the subject and the object with a crafty little passive.

Edittorrent said...

So what about:

His firm step, clear eyes, and straight posture were belied by his age?

Okay, still the passive problem.

Well, you know, this is why I don't like "belie". It gives me a headache.

Jean Wogaman said...

Alicia, try this

His firm step, clear eyes, and straight posture belied his age.

Take away your "were" and "by."

Leona said...

I"m using my I'm with Murphy stamp here :)