Lying down on the job

Sent by larK, who points out numerous holes in Baldo’s account. “So, he’s not mowing the lawn, but he said he would, yet he claims he doesn’t lie, at least outside of social media: did he state his intention to mow the lawn on social media? Otherwise: huh? And either way, this is funny why? Ha, ha, we all lie on social media?”

We think we’ve pretty much established that Baldo is written in English and translated to produce the Spanish edition. Nonetheless, here is the same day in Spanish, in case it proves helpful to anyone:


  1. Yeah, I think “we all lie on SM” is about it. Ha, ha?

    Baldo is in my “OK I read it but usually wonder why” group of comics. Not as bad as Family Circus but it’s close. Most Sundays I manage to skip FC and congratulate myself when I do.

  2. The Spanish is pretty much exactly the same as the English so it provides no further context or clues

  3. Agreed there are no significant differences in the Spanish edition. A small difference is that Papi’s question in the first panel is made into “Did you lie to me?” instead of simply “Did you lie?”. And that may just be because it would be less natural in Spanish to omit the object pronoun.

  4. is “bueno” a pause marker in Spanish like “well” is in English? because that bit looks a little weird to me…

  5. He hasn’t lied. He just hasn’t done it yet.
    Me: “I’ll cook dinner.”
    Wife, seeing me reading “I thought you said you were cooking dinner?”
    Me: “I will when I’m done with this chapter.”

    I didn’t lie. Baldo didn’t lie. He just isn’t doing it yet.

    But this cartoon is a bit of an anachronism. People used to ‘lie’ (if you want to call it that) on social media to make their lives look better — the same sort of lie in those family letters at Christmas, which lie by their selectivity about what to include and the spin put on it. But now we aren’t really so much lying on social media as presenting our individualized bubbles of belief.

  6. I thought the same as zbicyclist, which makes Dad’s accusation of lying seem a little harsh. Maybe “So when are you planning on doing that?” or something similar would have been more appropriate.

  7. But the dad suggests that he was using the present continuous tense. “You said you were mowing the lawn”. Different than “You said you would mow the lawn”.

    I imagined a previous conversation (preferably via text where Dad can’t immediately see/verify what’s happening).
    Dad: “Whatcha doing?”
    Baldo: “I’m mowing the lawn”
    Dad: “Oh, okay. After that I need your help moving some boxes”
    (then gets back home and finds he wasn’t mowing the lawn….)

  8. I’m okay with the flow. A to B to C to D without really analyzing at point C should take you back to point A but it doesn’t and you are caught in the flow of going to tangent D. It doesn’t work if you think about it but it’s a fairly natural flow and one we often go on that it’s not a stumper as to how it could possibly happen.

    But yeah, the joke is we all lie on social media.

  9. Darren, I don’t know that I would put so much weight on that continuous or progressive construction. We use it just as much for future firm plans. “We’re moving this Friday!”

    But that does bring in the question of whether a plan not carried out means the earlier statement of it counts retrospectively as a lie, or almost. Similar to the question of an insincere promise.

  10. zbicyclist: “People used to ‘lie’ (if you want to call it that) on social media to make their lives look better”

    Don’t they still do that? I’m not on social media, but I thought that was still a regular thing.

  11. My spanish is weak, but doesn’t the imperfect tense (ibas) in the first panel indicate he was (supposedly) in the process of mowing the lawn? I don’t think that can be used for future plans.

  12. Yes, the imperfect is used for various past senses that the preterite doesn’t cover, like past habitual or past continuous, as you point out. It’s the imperfect of “ir” , “to go”. So you could see the line as “you were going to mow the lawn”. Still in line with plan or self-prediction.

    (Of course if we stick with the theory that the English is the original version, the Spanish is relevant only as an indicator of how the translator regarded the sense of the English. They would have some insight as to the writer’s intentions — especially if they’re one and the same person!)

  13. Mitch4: I’m having trouble matching up the conclusion of your first paragraph (the last two sentences) with the premise in your first two sentences. How is the imperfect consistent with plan or self-prediction? The imperfect is on what Baldo was doing, not on what he said. From spanishdict:

    “The Spanish imperfect tense is used to describe past habitual actions or to talk about what someone was doing when they were interrupted by something else.”

    This would appear to be the second case. Baldo (allegedly) used the imperfect, which would seem to mean he specifically implied that the mowing was in progress at the time.

    Actually, I’m a little hesitant about the claim that it’s ambiguous in English. If someone said “I’m mowing the lawn” without the context of additional time words, I would take it as implied that they were doing it now. If they said “I’m moving to France” then I can think that those are future plans. I’m not sure, but I think the difference is that because moving is a long involved process spread out over a longer amount of time, so that it can encompass even the present where I’m mentally planning out the move. But for something more discrete and confined in time, like mowing the lawn, it would sound wrong to me to say “I’m mowing the lawn” to mean “I have firm future plans to mow the lawn.”

  14. WW: You are again saying >it uses the imperfect< without taking into account which verb it is. The verb “ibas” is the imperfect, yes, but the imperfect of “ir”, meaning “to go”. The verb for “cut” in that sentence is “cortar”, which is infinitive. Just like English GO + Infinitive this is a kind of imperfect future, “were going to cut”. The “were going” is where the continuous aspect you are looking for from the imperfect can be found.

    I obviously have no dispute with your authorities on the senses of the imperfect — but call in question their applicability here, since the verb for “mow” or “cut” is not in the imperfect.

    On the sense which the continuous can bear in English, I agree that “I’m mowing the lawn” without time indication is better understood as taking place at the time of speaking rather than the planning or intention sense seen in “We’re moving this Friday.” But I don’t think we can be confident that is what Baldo exactly was supposed to be saying. His dad is quoting him indirectly, not directly.

    So perhaps their much earlier dialog was: “What are you doing today?” / “I’ll be mowing the lawn, also working at my computer”. Where it could well be reported later, by the dad, in indirect quotation, as “I thought you said you were mowing the lawn”; but Baldo’s meaning was not immediate. For that matter, with that earlier dialog structure, even if Baldo had literally said “I’m mowing the lawn” as answer to what is he doing today, it could pretty easily mean not immediately.

  15. mitch4: Thanks for the clarification on the Spanish. I started learning Spanish a few months ago, but the subtleties of the tenses are still confusing for me.

    For the English, given your hypothetical earlier dialogue, I would expect the father to say “I thought you said you were going to mow the lawn.” Of course, the father could misrepresenting what Baldo said, which is why I said “allegedly.” Heck, the father could be completely lying and maybe Baldo never said anything at any time about mowing the lawn. But the father’s first sentence means to me “Earlier you said something that indicated you were already in the process of mowing the lawn.”

  16. Winter Wallaby – I don’t know that we can assume that Baldo specifically said “I’m mowing the lawn”. He could have announced his plans to mow, and now Dad sees that he still hasn’t done anything, and responds with “I thought you were mowing the lawn”, with an implied “planning on” before mowing.

    That and the fact that if Baldo really did mean currently mowing, then he literally lied, which makes him kind of a bonehead since Dad can see if the lawn has been mowed easily.

  17. As another example of how a cancelled intention can be seen retroactively as a lie, here … well, it’s French, not English; oh, and it’s nineteenth century, not current; ulp, and it’s literary (opera) not attested corpus;


    From the finale confrontation scene in Act IV of CARMEN:

    Je ne menace pas, j’implore, je supplie ;
    notre passé, Carmen, je l’oublie.
    Oui, nous allons tous deux
    commencer une autre vie,
    loin d’ici, sous d’autres cieux !

    I’m not threatening, I’m imploring, beseeching;
    our past, Carmen – I forget it!
    Yes, together we are going
    to begin another life,
    far from here, under new skies!

    Tu demandes l’impossible,
    Carmen jamais n’a menti ;
    son âme reste inflexible.
    Entre elle et toi, tout est fini.
    Jamais je n’ai menti ;
    entre nous, tout est fini

    You ask the impossible,
    Carmen has never lied;
    her mind is made up.
    Between her and you everything’s finished.
    I have never lied;
    all’s over between us.

    So Carmen, speaking of herself in the third person, apparently says that going back on her declaration (prior to this scene) that things are over between them, and agreeing to his plea that they take up together again, would constitute a lie.

    (Pasted from )

  18. Mitch, I almost can go along with your Carmen example. But it seems a little more to me like someone today prefacing a somewhat surprising statement or a mild confession / admission, with “I’m not going to lie to you ..”. But here what’s at stake is still whether something is a falsehood, the base sense of “lie”. And doesn’t give any support to calling a retracted promise or declaration of intent a lie.

  19. I think I go along with the “Dad called or texted, Baldo say he was mowing, Dad got home and no mowing has been happening.” Of course, that means that Baldo did lie.

  20. I feel like your title missed the opportunity for a “Baldo Faced Lie” pun.

  21. I think it could only be a lie if the father was out and called or texted Baldo and asked what he was doing at that moment and he replied “I am mowing the lawn”, short for “I am mowing the lawn RIGHT NOW”. If Dad was in the house all the time then Baldo is unlikely to have claimed “I am mowing the lawn right now” in response to that question (assuming a modest house with an easily visible lawn, not a mansion with 100 acres of parkland).

    So for me “I am mowing the lawn” is the sort of general answer about vague intention that anyone might say when asked at breakfast “What are you doing today?”, much the same as one might answer “I’m getting my hair cut”. No one is expecting you to be doing either process at just at the moment you are asked, and neither process takes all day. During most of the day Baldo won’t, in fact, be mowing the lawn or having his hair cut. It seems, though, that procrastination has taken hold and his general intention to mow is being pushed into the near but nonetheless ever-out-of-reach future.

  22. I think the look on Baldo’s face in the first panel suggests that he got caught out, but maybe at no more than not having started mowing the lawn yet (perhaps because he got caught up in lying on social media).

    He may have stated he was mowing the lawn in order to evade some alternate less appealing job he would have been asked to do:

    “I need help with X; what are you doing this afternoon?”

    “Mowing the lawn.”

  23. Oh no no no! Maybe you could make a case that, under those circumstances, it’s ethical or acceptable or okay to do … but you can’t defend that “it’s not a lie”. It most certainly is!

Add a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.