Jewish World Review April 11, 2003 / 9 Nisan, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

One fish-tale that isn't --- and that's no lie! | In what must be considered bad news for humor columnists and fishermen everywhere, an Iowa town is considering a ban on lying.

Members of the Mount Sterling City Council are considering an ordinance that would make it a crime to fib, exaggerate, overstate, distort, misquote, fabricate, falsify or invent things, stories or information. (Actually, the ordinance just covers lying, but I'm going to get in my licks while I can.)

To no one's surprise, Mount Sterling, population 40, is famous for its hunting and fishing. (I didn't know Mount Sterling was famous for its hunting and fishing, but then again I didn't realize Manatee County was famous for its mud boggin' before I moved here.)

"We wanted to slow down on this lying," acting mayor Jo Hamlet told Reuters. "Plus, I'm bored. It's been a long winter."

Well, Ms. Hamlet, if that is indeed your real name, you might be interested in knowing that this winter has been no longer or shorter than any other winter (discounting leap years), which makes your statement a lie or, to be more polite, a stretching of the truth, which is understandable (to me, at least) given the fact that you and your fellow citizens have been basically buried under 10 feet of snow for the past three months and your average daily high has been a temperature one normally associates with McMurdo Station rather than southern Iowa.

But intemperate weather is no reason to outlaw lying. Indeed, the reverse may be true; the more awful the weather, the more fibbing should be encouraged.

I am presuming (which, in itself, is a form of lying, I assume) that the nastiness of last winter's weather led to many instances of overstatement, distortion, etc. related to the aforementioned snow/cold. I'm guessing (lying again, of course) that there were tales of people burning their furniture to stay warm or licking the runners of their snowmobiles in a pathetic attempt to obtain nourishment. Caribou would migrate south in an attempt to find lichens or a McDonald's wrapper that would sustain them through a cold spell not seen since mastodons roamed the earth. Trout would leap into the air -- only a few degrees shy of shifting from gas to liquid -- and transform immediately into frozen fish sticks, complete with breading and heating instructions.

Do you know for sure, Ms. Hamlet (or is your name really Ophelia?) that penguins are not now as abundant in southern Iowa as catfish or that the local groundhog population has grown vicious claws and tusks and is now as feared a predator as was the saber-toothed tiger of eons past?

Lying is a serious charge, Ms. Hamlet (or is it Gertrude?). I should know as I have been accused of it many times. The fact that your few citizens have survived the winter without gnawing all the bark off the local trees should give you joy, not inspire you to pass an ordinance that robs them of the thrill of embellishment and overstatement. With a winter like you've just been through, it is understandable that people would turn to fantasy to keep themselves sane. Do not punish them by making these fantasies a crime, or they may sic the Groundhogs of Death on you, and that would not make for a pretty story.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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