‘Liar, liar, pants on fire’ – we all remember this chant from our childhoods. Perhaps you shouted it at someone, or had it shouted at you. Today, we reveal where this common phrase originated.
It is most likely to derive from the Bible, in King David’s Psalm XVI:
“And didst thou lie among us, saying,
‘Thy trousers, they burn with a fire as though from Heaven,
thy nose lengthened as though
Lucifer hath pulled it through the eye of a needle…’”
In 1794, 17th century English poet William Blake wrote The Tyger, a poem about the beauty and fear that nature can inspire. This is the first paragraph of the poem:
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
An 1810 parody poem titled The Liar, written in the same form as The Tyger, was also attributed to Blake, though his authorship was eventually strongly refuted. The Liar, is the story of a deceitful person who, you guessed it, tells lies. The first stanza references burning trousers:
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Shall they dangle in the night?
Strangely, it is not known why this poem was attributed to Blake or who actually wrote it.
Do you know of any other possible traces for this popular phrase?