0

They didn't give us all the information about the matter. They were selective with the truth.

I want to say that they intentionally gave only some of the truth about the matter and not some others.

3
  • some of the truth, part of the truth, not all the truth. "others" does not work here.
    – Lambie
    Jun 21 '19 at 14:08
  • The where selective doesn't make any sense. Had you meant to type they were selective? Jun 21 '19 at 15:11
  • @JasonBassford Yes
    – Sasan
    Jun 21 '19 at 20:21
0

As this NGram shows...

enter image description here

...the "idiomatic standard" here (particularly among politicians and pundits) is economical. Arguably, there's a slight difference in emphasis between being economical (not giving out the whole truth) and selective (choosing which things to divulge). But in practice nobody would be likely to care about such fine distinctions.

I certainly don't mean to imply there's anything "wrong" with selective as used in the example. It's fine as it is. But it might be worth knowing that near-synonymous economical is so much more common for this exact context.


Note that being economical / selective with the truth is a kind of euphemistic understatement that normally implies lying (or at least, deliberately misleading). An even more euphemistic variant was promoted by British politician Alan Clarke when referring to having made misleading statements about Britain's involvement in the Iraq war, when he admitted he'd been...

economical . . . with the actualité

...where using the French word actualité (intended to be understood as actuality = reality = truth, even though that's a poor translation) takes us even further away from clear direct English. Although everyone would understand his words, the choice of phrasing is itself an example of "attempting to mislead" (Clarke couldn't bring himself to admit that he actually lied and misled people).

6
  • 1
    I cannot understand how this answers the question.
    – Lambie
    Jun 21 '19 at 14:06
  • @Lambie: And someone upvoted you for that! I'd have thought economical (not giving out the whole truth) and selective (choosing which things to divulge) was a fair summary of the (mostly theoretical in OP's context) tiny difference in "literal" meaning. Effectively, I've confirmed that OP's phrasing means what he wants it to mean, and pointed out (with supporting evidence) that although selective is perfectly valid here, economical is about 100 times more common. What do you (and your supporter) think I've failed to cover adequately? Jun 21 '19 at 16:28
  • Personally, I would only ever say "to be economical with the truth", as in parsimonious, in some highly literary context. You don't even bother to show how it would be used in a sentence. Also, l'actualité usually means the news (as in newspapers). full truth, all the truth, partial truth, not the whole truth. In fact, I see no reason for the French at all. actualité does not mean truth at all in French.
    – Lambie
    Jun 21 '19 at 16:53
  • @Lambie: That's a fair point about French actualité. I (and Alan Clarke, I'm sure) know perfectly well that it doesn't exactly mean the same thing as English actuality. But in practice that's how he expected his usage to be understood (mainly, I suppose, by people who don't have intimate knowledge of French), and there's no doubt it's been repeated countless times since his initial "coinage". The key point is all these usages are euphemistic, so virtually by definition, "literal" interpretations are somewhat missing the point. Jun 21 '19 at 17:04
  • actualité is a false friend. It does not mean: actuality at all. It means: currency, in fact. le problème actuel=the current problem. :) As for truth, it is very common to say half-truth, full truth, partial truth etc. Right?
    – Lambie
    Jun 21 '19 at 18:00
3

Yes, "to be selective with the truth" means to tell some truths but not others about a topic. It at least implies that the result is to mislead, by omitting significant aspects of the whole truth.

3
  • "The where selective with the truth"|| What about that ?
    – Lambie
    Jun 21 '19 at 14:07
  • 1
    @Lambie I take that as a typo for "they were" Jun 21 '19 at 14:34
  • Right you are. Thanks.
    – Lambie
    Jun 21 '19 at 14:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .