One of the customers recently asked if the correct phrase is bold-faced lie or bald-faced lie.
Whether it is bold-faced, bald-faced or possibly bare-faced, all of these expressions are derived from a reference to an unshaven or hairless face. In the 16th century when beards and mustaches were common, a smooth, bare face was unusual and was regarded as a sign of youthful impudence. By extension bare-faced came to mean “undisguised, brazen, shameless, unapologetic.” Shakespeare speaks of “bare-fac’d power” in Macbeth in 1605.
As it applies specifically to an untruth, the earliest phrase was apparently bold-faced lie. The first known use of “bold-faced” in reference to a lie is a 1607 anti-Papist poem by Robert Picket: “Who so beleeues this Popish bold facest lie, / That’s grounded on, suppos’d admired Grasse, / May fatly feed, his follies foolerie: / Yet liue indeed, a very leane fed Asse.”
The earliest known example of barefaced lie is the late 18th century in a 1798 religious tract by John Fowler, who asks whether “watchmen would report a barefaced lie that would have criminated themselves” about the disappearance of Jesus’ body.
Bald-faced lie apparently didn’t show up until the mid-19th century. The earliest citation is a headline in an Iowa newspaper, the Sept. 12, 1860, issue of the Weekly Council Bluffs Bugle: “Another ‘Bald-Faced’ Lie Nailed to the Counter.”
The Bard of Buffalo Bayou has been bare-faced most of his life, with the exception of a few periods during which he was in hiding from his numerous detractors behind a bushy facial growth.
The notable Emily Brontë,
Drank some bubbly that made her feel jaunty.
She told a fresh guy
A big bare-faced lie,
And he pinched her Asti Spumante.