“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.” Walter Scott
The “art of deception” seems a most poetic euphemism for telling a lie. But sometimes it can be fair to assign such a lyrical description for such an deceitful action because – well sometimes – the fraud fashioning the lies is in fact a (con)artist. Lies can be so engrained within this opportunist’s own being that like art – with each talented brushstroke – their lie develops more and more layers of elaborative watercolor and charcoal , adding depth and dimension, which seep into one another until it seems almost impossible that the lie cannot be anything but the truth.
Behold – you’ve well and truly had ” The wool pulled over your eyes.”
But where did the wool come from and are we talking lambs wool or fine cashmere? (Quality my friends is always worth paying extra for.)
Pulling the wool over one’s eyes is used in modern day English as an idiom when describing the act of beguiling a naive soul into believing the web of mistruths that you spin for them. But this isn’t a web of silk , no, you are so outstanding in your act of enchantment, so talented at twining the fabric(ations) together, that you’ve stitched together a wonderous woolen wig to perch upon your victims unsuspecting head.
A wig you say ? A wig indeed. The saying is in fact thought to originate from the 17th century where it was unbecoming to show the world what your momma gave you and thus it was common practice to wear powdered wigs on top of your own hair. These wigs are still worn today however usually only in courts of law – unless of course King Louis XIII of France is your style icon (each to their own.) Now these wigs were temperamental and so could slip and send the wearer into temporary darkness until readjusted – and so was likened to keeping someone in the dark by hoodwinking them with your lies. Similarly another suggestion for the origin of the saying is that in courts of law where it was etiquette to wear these woolen wigs, as it still is now, it was said that a great lawyer could enrapture the judge regardless of his clients innocence and thus was, through the power of speech, pulling the judges wig down to cover his eyes to blind him from the truth.
So Walter Scott had the right hunch all along with weaving webs of lies – but perhaps what he meant to say was :
“Oh, what a tangled wig we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”