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Metaphorically True
aka: From A Certain Point Of View

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Sheriff Stilinski: So you lied to me?
Stiles: That depends on how you define lying.
Sheriff Stilinski: Well, I define it as not telling the truth, how do you define it?
Stiles: Pff... reclining your body in a horizontal position.

This trope occurs when a statement is not true — at least according to the most obvious meaning of the words — but if you squint hard enough it could be considered true. The justification generally hinges on a technicality which most people would not consider valid (e.g., "Japan conquered the world" is clearly false in the literal sense, but Japanese culture is very popular worldwide, which one could say is a form of dominance). One way to make this trope work is to play with the Exact Words, but particularly bad cases may require a Personal Dictionary or outright Insane Troll Logic.

This is most commonly used by oracles who are trying to create a Prophecy Twist but haven't sufficiently mastered the art of double meanings. Instead of taking advantage of a non-obvious but genuine ambiguity of phrasing, or relying on elaborate symbolism, the oracle makes an unambiguous statement and tries to pretend that there was another valid meaning. It is also what separates a Literal Genie from a Jackass Genie, as the latter stretches the interpretation of the wish beyond the bounds of credibility just to screw over the wisher. Also often used by The Fair Folk and others who Cannot Tell a Lie. It can be a (questionable) way to Take a Third Option when faced with the question of whether to tell the truth if it will cause harm.

Less commonly, it is used in the wake of a Retcon, in an effort to smooth over the inconsistencies introduced by said retcon. A particularly infamous example occurs in the Star Wars movies, where, "Darth Vader betrayed and murdered your father" was pronounced true "from a certain point of view" in the third film, even though in the first film the line clearly indicated that they were two different men. Nevertheless, George L insists that the metaphorically-true meaning was always what he intended.

This is also likely to come up in a Life-or-Death Question, where it may be that this is the answer that a particularly sadistic or unfair questioner wanted. Often someone will mention this unfairness, but it usually won't change the outcome.

Compare Distinction Without a Difference, Double Speak, False Reassurance, Loophole Abuse, Keeping Secrets Sucks, Both Sides Have a Point (or contrasting, depending on the circumstances), Stealth Pun, Visual Pun, Pragmatic Villainy, Blue-and-Orange Morality, Ignorance Is Bliss, and Lying by Omission.

Contrast Prophecy Twist, in which the alternative interpretation is not anticipated by the characters (and hopefully the audience), but is literally accurate and makes sense when revealed. Also contrast Motivational Lie, where a lie or half-truth is justified as what the hero 'needed to hear'.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • There was a series of adverts for Carfax that showed cars in dire shape, and the sound of a description being typed that downplays the problem, getting erased, then a description being typed that made the car sound like it was great! It was an advert for shady car histories. The ads included...
  • An ad for the Ford LTD said simply: "Ford LTD. 700% quieter." When the Federal Trade Commission asked Ford to justify this claim, they said that they meant that the Ford LTD was 700% quieter on the inside than the outside.
  • One of the GEICO "Did you know..." ads is "Did you know genies can be really literal?" We cut to a man rubbing a magic lamp, summoning a genie. The man asks for "a million bucks". The genie waves his hand and a million bucks appear. A million male deer, that is.
  • Occasionally, an ad agency will trademark a made-up word that sounds vaguely scientific and then claim a product has it (e.g. breath mint Certs with "Retsyn"). Since they made up the word, they can say it applies to any of the ingredients in the product. Competitors can't use the word since it's trademarked, even though they could be made of the exact same ingredients.
  • Anheuser-Busch chose not to advertise Budweiser during Super Bowl LV. However, Bud Light and Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade were still fair game and still got advertised.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • In a flashback, a very young Uryuu asks his father why he hates being a Quincy so much. Ryuuken replies there's no money in it. When Uryuu asks Souken if Ryuuken's telling the truth, Souken mulls it over and then says that, if viewed from the angle that being a Quincy doesn't put food on the table and Ryuuken has a son to look after, what Ryuuken said can indeed be viewed as the truth. Souken indicates that Ryuuken's actually lying through his teeth and when he realizes Uryuu can't see that, goes on to tell Uryuu that one day he will understand Ryuuken's secret.
    • The reason Byakuya gives for joining Muramasa in the Zanpakutou Tales Arc is that he's "protecting his pride". Turns out that, by "protecting his pride", he means "finding out where Muramasa's master is and killing him in the name of the Kuchiki Clan". If only Muramasa had asked him to explain before letting him tag along to the Real World...
    • Kisuke Urahara likes resorting to this because he's surprisingly horrible at lying. For example, when Ichigo was a powerless spirit who could barely breathe, Kisuke claimed that some gadget he called the "Headband of Justice" would help him. It did... in that its sheer pointlessness distracted Ichigo long enough for his survival instinct to up his energy enough to not have trouble breathing anymore.
    • As he parts ways with Ichigo following the first Wandenreich invasion, Yhwach addresses him as "his son born in the darkness". It takes Isshin coming clean about his own past before Ichigo understands the meaning of Yhwach's words: as the progenitor of all Quincies, Yhwach's blood flows through all of his descendants, including Ichigo himself. In this manner, all Quincies can be considered his children. As for the "darkness" part, it's a not-so-subtle nod to Ichigo not knowing about his mother's Quincy heritage.
  • Call of the Night: After Lira starts dating Yamori, she becomes suspicious of Yamori's overly friendly relationship with Nazuna. He eases her worries by telling her Nazuna is his ex, conveniently leaving out the fact that earlier that week Nazuna asked him out, then broke up with him on the spot, so that he would no longer be "a boy who has never dated anyone before".
  • Schneizel of Code Geass uses this to such great effect, it's scary.
  • In Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School, during the Future arc, Tengan exclaims to Munakata that the traitor within the group (who kills someone after every time limit) is everyone, because despite their attempts to hold onto hope, they're still capable of falling into despair. With his death trigger being telling a lie, it later turns out the victims were brainwashed into committing suicide unwillingly.
  • Everything Ryuk says in Death Note is true. The problem is that he never gives you the entire context. Like him telling Light that humans who use the Death Note cannot go to either Heaven or Hell actually means there's no afterlife for anyone. Though Light already figured that to be the case on his own.
    • Subverted in two alternate endings. In one Light ends up a Shinigami. In the other, he's sent to a place WORSE than Hell. The Shinigami realm, where he has to relive every death he caused, THEN cease to exist. He takes it in stride. It gives him enough time to kill the Shinigami King.
  • In Death Parade, Arbiters judge human souls and tell them they will either go “Heaven or Hell”…but they only say this because it’s easier for most people to understand. In truth, there is only Reincarnation or The Void.
    • Nona gets away with a lot of these. Notably, her entire plot of giving Decim human emotions is technically true, but while everyone interprets this as her programming him to have them, it turns out she’s just going about it by having him work alongside a human.
  • In Dragon Ball, Commander Red leads an entire private military force on operations around the globe to recover the Dragon Balls and achieve world domination. What he meant by this however is that he wanted to wish to be taller, as he felt his men didn't give him enough respect with his short stature, and so he's unable to achieve it until he's taller. Right-hand man Staff Officer Black shoots him in disgust to take over the army himself rather than explain that Red already had his men's respect.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • When Mystogan is accosted by Council agents, Yajima explains that Mystogan resembles Jellal because he is the Edolas version of Jellal. While this is true, at the time "Mystogan" is actually Jellal in disguise.
    • In the Key of the Starry Skies Arc, Michelle Lobster refers to Lucy as her "big sister", stating that they would always play together when they were just kids. Lucy however has trouble recalling any of this, and when "Michelle" is revealed to actually be a minion of the Neo Oracion Seis named Imitatia, it seems like it was all a big deception. However, Imitatia still refers to Lucy as her "big sis" even after revealing her true identity, and it's eventually revealed that she's a doll Midnight brought to life which Lucy used to play with and imagined as her "little sister" in her childhood fantasies before her grief at her mother's death led to her leaving the doll behind.
  • In Hidamari Sketch, Sae wasn't entirely lying about having experience riding doubles on a bike with someone close while in junior high. It's just the other person is her little sister.
  • In The Irregular at Magic High School, someone asks Tatsuya if he's part of the Ten Master Clans. Tatsuya replies that he's not, which is 'true' because the Clans are both a political group and a biological one, and Tatsuya was essentially abandoned by his Clan a long time ago. So Tatsuya is, biologically, descended from the Clans (and he does mercenary work for them sometimes) but politically he has no part in their hierarchy.
  • During the mixer chapters in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Hayasaka claimed that her little sister forced her to attend (despite being an only child) when Shirogane asks why she came despite how uncomfortable she is. She's actually referring to Kaguya, who she views as a little sister despite having no biological or legal familial relationship (barring the fact that her dad is Kaguya's godfather).
  • In the first scene of Lucky Star, episode 12, Konata asks Miyuki if she wants to go to a certain festival with her. Kagami steps in and explains that the "festival" is actually Comiket, a Fan Convention. Not only is the episode itself titled "Let's Go to the Festival" (although it also refers to another festival), but Konata responds with this line:
    "I wasn't lying, though, I mean a festival's a festival, right? Besides going alone's no fun. It's a lot of work."
  • At the beginning of Magic Knight Rayearth, Clef tells the girls that they are there to save Cephiro and fulfill Princess Emeraude's wish. This is very true. It just leaves out the significant fact that she wishes for them to kill her so that her emotional turmoil won't destroy the land.
  • Medaka Box: The Big Bad Ajimu tells Zenkichi that he's actually more heroic than Medaka because in the past, she killed her father. Medaka later clarifies that she was the reward for something called the Jet Black Wedding Feast, which her father figure won, causing him to get killed.
  • In Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Quattro Bajeena/Char Aznable infamously says "I've never betrayed anyone in my entire life", a statement that seemingly belies all credibility since Char is infamous for betraying anyone on a whim. The nuance here is that Char considers himself on no side but his own most of the time, and as such from his perspective it was not a betrayal since he was never really was on their side. Another (out-of-series) interpretation comes from Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin when one considers that it was not Char Aznable but rather Casval Rem Deikun who betrayed all those people, as the real Char Aznable died years ago having been doublecrossed by Casval into doing a fatal Twin Switch that saw Casval take up his identity while the shuttle he was taking was blown up by the Zabi family.
  • One Piece: In a flashback in the Fish-Man Island Arc, Arlong claims to the Marines that Fisher Tiger died because humans refused to give him a blood transfusion that would have saved his life. This isn't really true, Fisher Tiger himself refused a transfusion of human blood because the hatred for humans in his heart ran so deep that he forbade his crew-mates from putting human blood in his veins, even when he logically knew it didn't actually matter. Jimbei and Aladine say that Arlong's report might as well be true, because humans enslaving Fisher Tiger in his past is what solidified the hate in his heart (and the fact Arlong did not want to sully his former captain's honour by admitting he was once a slave).
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, what Kyubey tells Kyoko when asked if Sayaka could be turned back into a human after having turned into a witch is technically not meant to say that it is possible... But the way he phrases it doesn't make it look impossible either. This gives Kyoko enough hope to try, and ultimately results in Kyoko having to sacrifice herself to put Witch!Sayaka out of her misery when it doesn't work. Later on, Kyubey acknowledges that he phrased his statement that way because he wanted Kyoko to die so that Homura was left with no companions to fend off the ultimate witch, Walpurgis Night, when it appears, unless Madoka accepts a Puella Magi contract. In general, Kyubey is made of this; he never actually lies, he just withholds any relevant information unless specifically asked about it, and even then he's...careful with his phrasing.
  • Rebuild World:
    • Yanigisawa was involved in an Inside Job to arrange a terrorist attack on the city he helps govern, with the full agreement of the management of said city because they want to temper complaints and keep the defense budget high. He mentions it was in fact a terrorist who led the monsters into attacking the city (as the Propaganda Machine will say), which is technically true… after that terrorist was told to by Yanigisawa.
    • Akira's Eccentric Mentor Kibayashi proves himself a savage Mad Bomber persuading people as a combined city and Hunter's Office official using this, after a Wham Episode twist. When Akira has a bounty put on his head from the city due to pressure from a foreign MegaCorp, Kibayashi manages to convince the management that it will be in the best interests of public safety if he provides supplies to Akira in order to stop him from raiding the city to steal those supplies. It just so happens Kibayashi also plans for Akira to blow a hole in the defensive wall of the city using illegal Antimatter rounds he provided, and go on a rampage, with terrorists jumping in on Akira's side all for Kibayashi's Thrill Seeker enjoyment. So much for public safety. Learning of this after the plan didn't pan out, Akira gives him a What the Hell, Hero?.
  • A bit into Re:CREATORS, Alisteria confronts Magane when she finds the latter with a dying Mamika. Magane does pass on everything Mamika begged her to say to Alice as she died... she just presented it out of order and didn't dissuade Alisteria when she came to the conclusion that Meteora did it, resulting in her going out for vengeance.
  • In Saiyuki, Sanzo tells Gojyo (apparently just to be difficult) that the murderer Cho Gonou is dead. What he means by this is That Man Is Dead; Cho Gonou has had a Meaningful Rename into his new identity of Cho Hakkai.
  • Most things said by Xelloss in Slayers is technically true in the manner in which he phrased it, though not always in the manner in which the listener chooses to hear it. For example, he introduces himself as "Xelloss, the mysterious priest!" After that statement, the "mysterious" part is in no way questioned. As to "priest", in the mazoku hierarchy Xelloss' rank is actually "priest". Mazoku Lords are typically served by a priest and a general. Xelloss claims the former title although he is the sole representative of his Lord. He is using Exact Words to tell people that he is one of the top ten mazoku in the entire world in terms of power. Played for laughs when it turns out Gourry actually got this, and thought it was so obvious he assumed that everyone did.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Honda/Tristan enlists the help of Yugi and Jonouchi/Joey to confess his feelings to a classmate. Yugi helps to write a love letter on a puzzle and Jonouchi slips it into her desk. A Sadist Teacher discovers the love letter and gleefully humiliates the girl by reading the love letter out loud. When she tells the sender she will let them off easy if he shows himself, both Yugi and Jonouchi stand up, admitting to writing the letter and putting it in the desk respectively. Honda also stands up and says that his feelings were written in that letter. The teacher points out that only one of them could have done it and Jonouchi replies that none of them are lying.

    Comic Books 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift, Toph runs into her father for the first time since she ran away from home two years ago, and while she addresses him as "Father", he tells his workers — who were under the impression he had no family — that she is not his daughter. When Toph confronts him for "lying" later, he notes that his daughter was a quiet, obedient girl, and not the ungrateful brat he feels she has become. His claim to have no family also fits when we find out he and Toph's mother separated due to the stress of her disappearance. Thankfully, their issues are resolved by the end of the story.
  • The Daredevil story "Fall from Grace" was about the death of Matt Murdock. A doppelganger assumed the identity of Matt Murdock and died. So from a certain point of view, Matt Murdock died. You see?
  • Young Loki from Journey into Mystery (Gillen), as part of his reform, tries to get through his schemes without lying. He mostly succeeds, through the use of this trope. ("I said I'd let you destroy Asgard. I didn't say which Asgard.")
  • The Star Wars: Kanan comics feature the eponymous Jedi returning to the planet where he, as Padawan Caleb Dume, barely escaped Order 66. His companion Hera sees that he's acting weird about this mission and asks if he's ever been there before. Kanan truthfully answers no; after all, it was Caleb who was there, not Kanan.
  • When Wolverine and his X-Force team visit the Age of Apocalypse, the AOA version of Jean Grey tells him her husband, Weapon X (the AOA Wolverine) has been dead for over 10 years. As it turns out the monster the X-Men have been fighting is in fact a corrupted, twisted version of Weapon X.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The trope image shows the aftermath of yet another story arc involving Calvin's not-so superhero alter ego Stupendous Man that got him into big trouble again. Hobbes asks Calvin if Stupendous Man has ever had even a single victory, and Calvin, never willing to admit to failure, says that he always wins morally.
  • One recurring gag in Frank and Ernest is how Ernie explains that the ridiculous descriptions in his classified ads are correct: for example, he calls a boat with an engine that always overheats "the hottest thing on the lake".

    Fan Works 
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero: Achakura invokes this in order to get Nonoko to bring Kyon his gear after he left it behind at home.
    Nonoko: And it's going to turn me into a magical girl?
    Achakura: For values of "turning you into a magical girl" equal to "you having a costume that protects you and operates on principles most people won't understand, and wielding equipment that few on Earth have ever seen, let alone held," yes, this will turn you into a magical girl!
  • The protagonist of Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns somehow merges this with Honesty Is the Best Policy and Brutal Honesty seasonings, at times, even as he pulls off one plan after another. Other times, he just refuses to answer questions, like whether or not he killed Trian. He didn't, and neither did anyone else because that's what the second son wanted, and so it was.
  • Death Note fanfictions:
  • Harry Potter fanfictions:
    • In Bad Love Harry puts on his invisibility cloak when he sees Hermione approaching the Hogwarts Express. When she enters his compartment and asks Luna if she's seen Harry, Luna replies that he vanished after she sat down and she hasn't seen him since.
    • In A Conversation with Raptors Tom Riddle states to Minister Fudge that "the insanity which was Voldemort" died during the resurrection ritual.
    • In From the Flame to the Spark Ginny, while making plans to apparate to Hogwarts and recover the diadem, tells Sirius that if Fred and George catch her she'll remind them how she keeps sneaking their brooms out at night and how much she's wanted to go to Hogwarts and let their imaginations do the rest.
      Sirius: You are entirely too good at that lying-with-truths thing, you know.
    • In Hunter after Snape finds out about Harry living with the Dursleys he as good as accuses Dumbledore of this.
      Snape: Dumbledore said he was well cared for and treated like family. Although now that I think about it [Petunia Dursley] did treat Lily horribly, so what he said was true from a certain point of view.
    • In Heirs of the Founders after Draco Malfoy insults Hermione and Ron on the Hogwarts Express their first year, Harry irately says that he could buy three generations of Draco's family with vault interest, then clarifies his remark after Draco leaves in a huff.
      Harry: I didn't say how many years of interest, now did I, eh?
    • In Black Sky, Dumbledore uses Veritaserum to make Sirius confess where Rose Potter is, only for Sirius to answer that Rose Potter doesn't exist. Sure, "Rose Potter" was the name Lily's daughter would have kept if the Potters had lived, but since they're dead, there is no Rose Potter, only Dorea Black who is Sirius's daughter.
    • In The Lady of Slytherin - Dark Beginnings Lilly introduces herself to Hermione as Lilith Black during their first meeting.
      Ron: Have any of you seen Lilly Potter?
      Hermione: I'm sorry I have not been introduced to anyone by that name.
    • In Evacuation of the Flumpawumps, Seamus and Parvati accidentally walk in on Luna and Harry during an intimate moment. Parvati laments that she could've been in Luna's place until Seamus remarks that he taught Harry everything he knows, causing her to drag him off somewhere private. Really, all Seamus did was share a tip he read in a dirty magazine, having never done it himself.
    • Harry himself quotes Star Wars, and accepts that Draco is entirely right to be furious with him, during the Roles chapters of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. This is a running theme within the fanfic, wherein Harry actually takes a page from Dumbledore, Voldemort, and Robert A. Heinlein in always telling the truth, but not the full truth.
    • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Harry does tell a lot of Blatant Lies to her friends and family, but she prefers this trope whenever possible. Such as telling Draco that, "I have a physiological condition that makes it difficult for me to let others touch me," (namely, she's a girl in disguise and is concerned that her developing anatomy will get her caught out if she gets in the habit of hugging people).
    • Nick Cleveland and the Pig in a Wig:
      Nick: Er, excuse me, sir, but I never skived out of school. I have Professor Flitwick's permission to leave campus for the weekend. Right here, sir.
      Snape: So—-you lied to Professor Flitwick, I see. This gives you permission to leave Hogwarts in order to deal with a family emergency. You're a long way from Whitehaven, Mr. Cleveland, and I happen to know you don't have any other kin in the UK!
      Nick: Hey—-look at what it says. I never lied! I said I had to 'leave Hogwarts, to deal with a family emergency.' Well, the Dursleys are a family, and wouldn't you say having your son get the living daylights beaten out of him constitutes an emergency?" He shrugged. "I never specified which family, nor did I ever say what constitutes 'dealing with a family emergency!' It could just as well mean causing it, now couldn't it, sir?
    • In the final book of Dangerverse, as part of his scheme to infiltrate the Death Eaters Draco Black formally renounces that name and takes the name of "Reynard Beuvoi". This apparently allows him to claim that Draco Black is dead and have it detect as the truth to magical analysis.
  • Mercury from the A Dance of Shadow and Light series of Inheritance Cycle fanfictions is definitely this trope to a T. Examples include turning an unbreakable oath of fealty and protection of Galbatorix into a (in his mind) oath to kill the king at the earliest possible convenience. By the second story, he is so infamous for doing this that Loivissa's father (Eragon) warns her that no matter what Mercury says, she is to take it with a grain of salt.
  • Maledict pulls this on Tsali in the climax of Sonic X: Dark Chaos. He manipulated both Tsali and the Metarex to fight each other — but they were the ones who destroyed the galaxy and did all the killing, not him.
  • From a11p1 of Ask King Sombra:
    Sombra: Wanna explain why you LIED TO ME?
    Thranduelk: I never lied. I simply omitted some of the facts.
  • In the Supernatural fic Down to Agincourt, Castiel never actually lies, applying instead a judicious mixture of misdirection, Exact Words, Loophole Abuse, and blatant disregard for the Conversational Maxims to get the job done.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fic Obsession, Marinette talks to her classmates about her developing secret relationship with Chat Noir by claiming that she's been looking after a stray cat that's been hanging around her roof and occasionally comes inside for pats. Adrien (Chat Noir himself) is listening in on the conversation, and both he and Marinette have rather hilarious reactions to Juleka suggesting that she get him neutered.
  • In Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion, Lelouch (as Zero) claims on live TV that he killed Prince Clovis when it was actually C.C. However, it was only thanks to him that she was able to get her revenge, so he considers it to be at least partially true.
  • In Sean Bean Saves Westeros, everyone who spots that Ned Stark isn't quite what he was before he "died", assumes that his replacement is a highly skilled lookalike actor. Considering that his replacement is Sean Bean, they aren't so much wrong as right in the completely wrong way.
  • Death is forced to take a vacation: Fall Harvest tells Apple Bloom that he works in an office and his job involves analysis of the lifespans of certain species. This is accurate; he just doesn't tell her he's talking about the lifespans of sapient beings and not plants as it would seem from his previous comments.
  • When Elsa questions her friend Kyra in the Frozen fic The Alphabet Story on whether she's in love or not, Kyra says that there's no man. While that is true, it doesn't mean she isn't in love with anyone. Elsa asks her if Kyra'd tell her if she was in love with someone, to which Kyra replies that Elsa would be the first if she decided to reveal her feelings for someone. This is also half-true as is Elsa the object of her affections.
  • Kimberly T's Gargoyles series;
    • Played with when Brooklyn is first telling the gargoyles’ story to the People for Interspecies Tolerance, a group of college students interested in learning more about gargoyles. To protect knowledge of Alexander Xanatos’s magical potential, Brooklyn is asked not to reveal the extent of the clan’s past vendetta with Xanatos as it is otherwise hard to justify how they became allies after Alexander’s birth. With that in mind, Brooklyn tells the truth about the circumstances of the clan being cursed but claims that Xanatos purchased Wyvern and broke the curse basically as the result of a drunken bet rather than part of a deliberate plan to trick the clan, with Xanatos’s security staff making a bad impression when the gargoyles unexpectedly woke up on that first night. Brooklyn also claims that Demona was frozen with the rest of the clan to explain how she exists in the present rather than revealing her immortality to explain how she took The Slow Path.
    • Also plays a part when the Xanatoses explain their history to Anne; while they admit to Anne that they were the reason for the Lost Nights and the Big Sleep, the events of the Lost Nights are presented in a manner that conceals Xanatos’s more selfish intentions when he helped Demona cast the claimed longevity spell.
    • Demona basically relies on this when she meets representatives of the Japanese clan, allowing them to believe that the massacre of her original clan occurred relatively recently and she was just one of the survivors rather than explain her full role in events.
  • In If I Only Had A Heart, Izuku tries to ease his mom's worries about his new spinal implants by telling half-truths and leaving out certain details. He also outright lies about how painful it was. It wasn't painless, it was excruciating.
    • When his mother finally confronts him about his self-experimentation, he agrees to talk to her about it before doing any more to reassure her, conveniently leaving out the fact that he's already installed everything he's wanted to.
  • In Cuckoo Bird, Izuku has to do this by necessity, as the fae are physically unable to lie without getting a slashing and burning feeling in their throats.
  • In The Final Battle, N isn't technically lying when he tells Delia he hasn't seen Ash face-to-face since saving him in Sinnoh two years ago. Ash is standing next to him but has a specially made-hood that hides his face.
  • In Hero Class Civil Warfare Izuku tells his classmates that Shinsou helped him stay in character as a villain through Mind Control. Izuku leaves out that he asked Shinsou to do so and had acted as a villain of his own free will.
  • In Crimson and Emerald Hawks hides that Iida deliberately sought out Stain despite revealing most of the truth to the public.
  • In My Huntsman Academia, Katsuki presses Izuku on his new Aura after spending his entire life Broken. Izuku meekly replies that he just needed help, leaving out Toshinori's and One For All's role in his sudden empowerment.
  • Just like in Canon Kyubey employs this in The Unlikely Ally. More specifically, before the girls besides Homura become aware of the truth, he talks about how Key is mentally ill and how much he wants to help him. He’s not lying since, from his perspective, Key is mentally ill and needs correction. Key disagrees... vehemently.
  • In the Supergirl (2015) AU fic "All will be well, as long as you stay by my side", Kara tells Alex basically everything about her relationship with her new lover, Lena, including that she lives in the palace of the kingdom of Theonia and is an excellent chef. The only thing Kara doesn’t tell Alex until she’s ready is that Lena is actually the Queen of Theonia, prompting Alex to be torn between being hurt that Kara didn’t mention something that big or impressed that her sister managed to attract a Queen.
  • The Spider-Man fic "Dinner for Three" features Black Cat becoming part of Peter and Mary Jane's relationship. In order to deter the idea that Black Cat is still involved with Spider-Man, during a later raid on an arms deal between Hammerhead and the Owl Felicia tells Hammerhead to pass on the message that she's now involved with two people she met through Spider-Man and others should be aware that her lovers are off-limits because Felicia will come after anyone who threatens them. This serves to create a division between Black Cat's occasional team-up with Spider-Man and Felicia's relationship with the Parkers, even as Felicia avoids saying anything to reveal that Peter and Spider-Man are the same person.
  • In The Confectionary Chronicles, when Hermione becomes the priestess of Loki in her childhood, she is given the ability to understand animals, but just claims that she's good at reading animals' intentions once at Hogwarts, because it's easier than explaining "my god wanted me to be able to talk to his children, one of which is a snake bigger than a whale, three like to turn into wolves and one prefers to go around as an eight-legged horse".
  • When Harry asks Sam what he does for a living in Cross Cases, Sam says he's a librarian. It's an adequate description of his position as a Man of Letters, but it omits his other gig as a hunter of the supernatural, and ultimately gets Harry more suspicious of him.
    Harry, narrating: "I didn’t buy the librarian thing for a second- what librarian is built like a brick wall, moves like a hunting cat, and carries a knife and a gun?"
  • In chapter 38 of The Somewhat Cracked Mind Of Uchiha Itachi, Itachi and his students go on a mission that he himself came up with, which is to "Catch a Dangerous Snake for Antidote". It wouldn't be until they return with Orochimaru that Sarutobi would realize that the only thing that was technically incorrect about the mission was that it was listed as a B-Rank when it should have been higher. Explanation
  • After the League of Villains assaults the USJ in Erased Potential, the official line Nedzu goes with is that the attack was thwarted once All Might and several other teachers arrived on the scene. What this doesn't mention is how long it took for said backup to arrive, or that half of Class 1-A required medical attention afterwards.
  • The mysterious stranger in Affably Evil wearing a Sith uniform tells Alek that he doesn't have a job because he doesn't have a salary, boss, or anyone he's held accountable to. He's wearing the uniform because he makes him look fabulous, it's both his uniform and not his uniform, and that he won't get into trouble wearing it because he can do anything he wants as long as he sets his mind to it. He's Darth Revan, Dark Lord of the Sith, and so has no superiors to report to. It's his uniform because he designed it and it belongs to him, but it's not his uniform because he doesn't have the job that requires the uniform. And he won't get into trouble with the Sith for wearing the uniform because he's the boss. Also, the Force contrives to help him a lot anyway.
  • Izuku Midoriya the Rabbit]]: Izuku claims to have sent Bakugo a text explaining Spinner's presence in the dorms after his Heel–Face Turn; said text merely said "Hi Kachan! I made a new friend! He’s a gecko I met in the forest. I kept him a secret because I didn’t want you to yell at him." The text message was, in its own way, correct: Spinner is a gecko with a human quirk and he did meet Izuku in the forest; the forest where the League of Villains attacked them to try and kidnap Bakugo to be exact. Given Izuku's animal morality and behavior making it difficult for him to understand complex human concepts, it's more than likely Izuku wasn't intentionally lying or omitting the truth.
  • Shadows: The Horror Movie Heroes: Izuku comes to conclude All Might's statement he couldn't become a Hero was this, reasoning that whilst he couldn't become a Hero like him, he could still become a Terror Hero.
  • When Mirabel doesn't get her gift in How Far Do These Roots Go Down?, Alma asks Isabela to use her gift to find out how this relates to the Miracle. When she has a vision of Mirabel and Casita's collapse, she hides it and instead gives her various visions of innocuous moments she's involved in.
  • In lies of attrition, both Ladybug and Chrysalis' accounts of what happened with Monarque and Gabriel Agreste are this; Ladybug says that Gabriel sacrificed himself to defeat Monarque, Chrysalis says that Monarque sacrificed Gabriel to perform the Wish. The truth, of course, being that Gabriel was Monarque, and came to his senses, before sacrificing himself to save Nathalie and fix at least one of his mistakes.
  • In Torque (Jak and Daxter), when Keria needs to come up with a story to get Farley to take her on as a mechanic, she tells her that she lost her family. Which. while technically true, leaves out the part where she traveled through a portal and got separated from them in an explosion.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug story Unmasker Unleashed, Luka telling Adrien that Ladybug has to stay hidden. Being that Marinette is Ladybug and is currently Unmasker, she can’t be revealed in order to keep her identity a secret from Adrien and Monarch. All the while, Scarabella is in the shadows pretending to be Ladybug.
  • Hours 'Verse: During Shido's trial, Akira testifies that they fought the Black Mask in Shido's Palace, he was caught in an explosion while trying to escape, and they Never Found the Body. All technically true, but omitting the key fact that Akechi survived and ultimately escaped to reality.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney's Aladdin used this in the direct-to-video conclusion of the series, Aladdin and the King of Thieves. An oracle tells Aladdin that his father, Cassim, is trapped within the world of the Forty Thieves. Well, he is. It's just that Cassim is not only there voluntarily, he's their leader, and that he's trapped by his own greed.
  • In yet another Disney example, The Jungle Book sees Kaa telling Mowgli that he can help him: "I can see to it that you never have to leave this jungle." Considering that Kaa's "help" would be eating Mowgli, the snake technically isn't lying — once the boy is devoured, he can't leave the jungle. Or do anything else, for that matter.
  • Before actually meeting Po, Tai Lung from Kung Fu Panda describes him as "a warrior...unlike anything the world has ever seen". This is technically true, just not in the way Tai Lung thought. He assumed Po was something akin to the World's Strongest Man, when in truth, Po is the exact opposite (before he Took a Level in Badass, of course).
  • In The Princess and the Frog, Dr. Facilier tells Naveen that he sees the "green" in his future to enable him to "hop from place to place." While the good doctor had strongly implied he foresaw the money Naveen wanted in order to do as he pleases, he actually intended to pull the Jackass Genie card and turn him into a frog (and does). Disney sure does use a lot of these!
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish takes a moment to make sure the audience knows that the Wolf hunting Puss claiming to be Death himself is a HARD aversion.
    Wolf: And I don't mean it metaphorically or rhetorically or poetically or theoretically or any other fancy way. I'M DEATH. STRAIGHT UP!
  • In Rango, the leader of the mariachi band says that Rango will die. The movie's plot progresses and he's still alive and well to see the end credits. When one of the band members questions the narrator on this, he says that Rango will still die — someday, because everyone does. Looking at it metaphorically, it's even more applicable. When he's shamed and had his lies exposed the Rango persona dies as a character; when he comes back to fight, the nameless lizard he was dies and is subsumed by Rango.
  • In Tangled, Flynn Rider's opening narration includes the phrase "This is the story of how I died. But don't worry, this is actually a fun story and the truth is it isn't even mine," thus leading you to understand that he was pulling your leg. Except he wasn't. He does die, in point of fact. He just doesn't stay dead. It could be taken metaphorically. Flynn Rider dies. But Eugene lives on.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In John 4:15-18 (King James Version), when the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well in Sychar asks Jesus for the living water which He offers:
    "The woman saith unto him, 'Sir, give me this water that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.' Jesus saith unto her, 'Go call thy husband, and come hither.' The woman answered and said, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said unto her, 'Thou hast well said, "I have no husband" '. For thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thine husband; in that saidst thou truly.' "
  • Defied in The Talmud, which states that deceiving someone by using this is as bad as flat-out lying.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Most undefeated streaks in pro wrestling are eventually handled this way. This is due to several bits of logic. For one, long undefeated streaks don't just happen in a vacuum: they're either created with the intent to build a wrestler up as a juggernaut of some sort or they're eventually noticed by the bookers and used in such a way. The idea is that fans, for one reason or another, should be wondering when and by whom he/she will finally get beaten, as well as come to accept him/her as a championship threat whether the plan is to ever put a title on the wrestler or not. However, in kayfabe, any wrestler that goes undefeated for a long period of time would have to be put in championship title picture situations; there's no logical justification for an authority figure not to do this. In fact, by logical extreme, if someone does nothing but wrestle and win on a regular basis for a long period of time, there's no way they shouldn't hold at least one championship in hand.

    So wrestling companies have created an alternate logic, where if you lose a match that involves retrieving an object, or you lose a tag team match or a match with three or more participants and you're not the one to eat the pin or get forced to submit, or even if you get yourself disqualified in a match (especially if you're a heel), you're still technically undefeated. This allows a wrestler to avoid swallowing up everyone else's momentum, to lose title matches, or even to win and lose championships outright, without losing the allure of the question as to who will finally take them down.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted:
    • Meta example: it's not uncommon for new books to retcon or reinterpret statements made earlier in the series; for instance, "Fair Folk don't have Charms" became "Fair Folk don't have Charms as such, but they do have special powers that we're just going to call Charms." Freelancer Michael Goodwin explicitly said that "There are levels of Obi-Wan truth operating here." In fairness, nearly everything about the Fair Folk is a lie on some level, up to and including their physical appearance.
    • In another rather similar case — "Infernals don't have Charms." What was really meant was, "Their patrons, the Yozi, have Charms, which the Infernals use by extension to exert their malefic will upon Creation." Not true anymore, either. Now Infernals can make their own personal Charms... by turning themselves into Neo-Yozi. So they still don't have Solar-style Charms, so to speak.
  • This is one of the ways that Games Workshop explain differences in the millennia-old backstories that occur in Warhammer 40,000 materials over multiple editions. It usually boils down to "The old stories were mistranslated, corrupted by years of oral tradition, or outright lies planted by seditious agents of Chaos." Which sounds suspiciously like the way "out of character" explanations of Imperial dogma and propaganda sound, and most of the fluff is written from the viewpoint of Imperial scholars.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, devils, being lawful evil, see it as a point of pride to corrupt souls and spread wickedness without, technically, lying.
  • In a line in Infernum, a succubus says, "I don't lie. I don't have to, you do it to yourselves."

  • Macbeth:
    • The apparition of the bloody child's prophecy when Macbeth visits the three witches:
      Second Apparition: Be bloody, bold and resolute. Laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born shall ever harm Macbeth.
    • Later in Act V, Scene 8 when Macduff confronts Macbeth:
      Macbeth: Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests. I bear a charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born.
      Macduff: Despair thy charm, and let the angel whom thou still hast served to tell thee: Macduff was from his mother's womb untimely ripped.
      Macbeth: Accursed be the tongue that tells me so, for it hath cowed my better part of man! And be these juggling fiends no more believed, That palter with us in a double sense, that keep the word of promise to our ear, and break it to our hope.
  • Othello: Instead of telling a flat-out lie, Iago often simply plays up everyone else's insecurities, creatively spotlights and phrases certain information, and lets them draw their own conclusions.
  • There's a double example in Richard III. Richard is secretly behind the imprisonment of his brother George. Firstly because he has played up a wizardly prophecy that King Edward's sons would be disinherited by "G" (apparently George, Duke of Clarence; but really Richard, Duke of Gloucester). And secondly in his promise of comfort to George: "I will deliver you, or else lie for you." The obvious meaning is that he will lie in prison in George's place; but the true meaning is that he will lie in wait for George's life.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street:
    Mrs. Lovett: No, I never lied. Said (Sweeney Todd's wife) took a poison — she did. Never said that she died.
    • At least she admits that it was a lie, eventually.
    Lovett: Yes, I lied, 'cause I love you!
  • H.M.S. Pinafore: In "Carefully On Tip-Toe Stealing", the strange noise was the cat. More specifically, the cat-o'-nine-tails the Captain can't stop himself from waving, in spite of knowing he has to stay hidden.
  • The Mikado: The officials of the town assure the Mikado that a man has been executed, which is somewhat more than the truth. (Fortunately, for all concerned.) As one later explains:
    Ko-Ko: It's like this: When your Majesty says, "Let a thing be done," it's as good as done — practically, it is done — because your Majesty's will is the law. Your Majesty says, "Kill a gentleman," and a gentleman is told off to be killed. Consequently, that gentleman is as good as dead — practically, he is dead — and if he is dead, why not say so?

    Theme Parks 
  • Unintentional example: the slogans for the infamous Action Park can be seen as this.
    "There's nothing in the world like Action Park!" (Nothing so poorly designed and regulated, that is.)

    "The action never stops... at Action Park!" (If you consider "serious, perhaps lethal injury" to be "action", then yeah.)

    • In the first series, BIONICLE Chronicles, each book opens with a backstory discussing the mythological lore of the series: the Great Spirit Mata Nui, essentially the god of the Matoran, created the Matoran on the island named in his honor and was then placed into eternal slumber by his vengeful brother Makuta. The series gives us no reason to assume the story is less than literally true...until the prequel series BIONICLE Adventures, in which it's revealed that the myth was, at least in part, a lie created by the Turaga to protect the Matoran from the painful truth about their lost homeland of Metru Nui. Later series go even further with this, revealing that even the Turaga didn't know the full story: while Mata Nui was put to sleep by Makuta, the myths neglected to mention that Mata Nui was actually the AI of a Humongous Mecha whose colossal body formed the entire Matoran universe, and that "Makuta" (actually a single member of a greater organization) put him to sleep not by sorcery, but by introducing a virus into his operating system.
    • The Ignika, Mask of Life, the Macguffin of the BIONICLE Legends saga, is a legendary mask that had the power to bring even Mata Nui back to life. What it neglects to mention is that, unlike other masks, it is one of the few masks that require a sacrifice; it siphons life from one being into another and while it can mutate and change beings, it cannot actually create life. Worse still, it has a built-in failsafe that if the quality of life within the universe drops below a certain threshold, to prevent further suffering the Ignika will start a countdown to unleash a wave of death, killing everything within the Matoran Universe to spare them from more suffering. This was so bad that the aforementioned Makuta had to eject the Ignika from the Matoran Universe after his takeover because his rule would indeed trigger that failsafe. It's even lampshaded in-universe; The Mask only has the title of "life" because it holds dominion over life and death, and given its actual powers, it could easily be called the Mask of Death instead.

    Visual Novels 
  • Monokuma from the Danganronpa series uses these types of comments along with using Exact Words. Some notable examples include:
    • In the first game, him stating that the sixteen students were the only people to be inside Hope's Peak Academy since the start of the killing game and nobody else ended up entering it. However, one of those said students was hiding throughout the killing game and the surviving students only met her by the end of the killing game.
    • He ended up stating that the Funhouse from Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair ended up having the memories of the students inside there. However, it was actually inside a room there in which in order to get inside it, one must go through the Final Dead Room.
    • Another one concerning the Funhouse - Monokuma lured the students inside by promising to provide ship parts that might allow the students to escape the island. The parts in question are for a toy ship... despite the deception, Gundam is thrilled. Everyone else, not so much.
    • From both of the first two games, he went on to state that there is a Mole in the group. However, the first Mole was blackmailed into being The Mole, and the second Mole was actually a spy for the good guys and working on the same side as the students.
    • From Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: In order to try and goad the participants into killing each other, Monokuma sets a time limit, at the end of which "every student forced to participate in this killing game will die" if no murders occur before then. Ultimate Detective Shuichi Saihara caught on to a possible hidden meaning behind Monokuma's wording - if every student "forced to participate" will die, then any who volunteered to participate will be spared. As for how right Shuichi is, well... everyone volunteered to participate, with the possible exception of Rantaro, so perhaps the time limit was a bluff all along.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, Phoenix is told by Matt Engarde that "I never killed anyone" without triggering Phoenix's Magatama. It later turns out that Matt hired hitman Shelly DeKiller to do the deed instead, making this a Suspiciously Specific Denial as well. If Phoenix had asked if Matt is responsible for the victim's death then most likely it would've triggered the Magatama.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, the Red Truth can be twisted in this manner. Like how in EP 2 Kanon was confirmed to have died in a locked room, despite his body not being there. The truth is that Kanon as a real person never existed and was instead just a character and role that Yasu played. Kanon could, therefore, be "killed" without leaving a body just like an author killing off one of his characters. In other words, since Yasu was still alive no body was left behind in the room while his/her role Kanon was "killed" and therefore allowing the that red truth to be used.
  • Might as well be named "Kirei Truth" after the I-tell-no-direct-lies priest from Fate/stay night. Spending 3 routes while only telling one direct lie (which is a joke, and he's instantly called out on it) while still manipulating the protagonist and turning out to be the Big Bad in two routes and The Dragon in a third? Yeah, he's very good at this.
    • A particularly remarkable example happens late into the Fate route. Shirou discovers the existence of an eighth Servant participating in the war and reports this to Kirei. Kirei is surprised to learn this and promises that he'll do something about it. He's genuinely surprised, but it's because the Servant is his and he wasn't supposed to show up yet, and the thing he did about it was sent that Servant to kill Shirou and Saber before they learn too much.
  • Yandere Chan has the main character (slowly dying from poison; all his friends have already succumbed to its effects) try to make Mia give away her motivation with the condition that if he can prove she lied, she'll tell all. She reveals that she never lied. All of her lines had been half-truths which led him to make conclusions, so technically, she was entirely truthful.
  • The major theme of Prison of Lies turns out to be this. Four prisoners are outfitted with lie detectors and have an hour to decide which one of them will be executed. One of the prisoners, after screwing up and getting executed by overthinking her answers, learns in the next playthrough that she can outwit the lie detectors by half-truths that are deliberately worded to mislead the listeners: for example, she can say "I cared for someone disabled" and not set off her lie detector even though the "someone" she referred to was a cat who was "disabled" by declawing. In fact, all the prisoners constantly tell half-truths throughout the game: the prisoner who's actually an undercover cop manages to make it sound like she committed robbery and attempted murder (when she was only at the robbery as part of the police force and the person she tried to shoot was the robber) and the one prisoner who's actually guilty of her crime makes it sound like she's innocent (when she's only "innocent" in the sense that she was cleared of charges for that crime).
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, Sasuke and the female main character have to keep their identities as people who got sent back in time together from modern-day Japan to the Sengoku period a secret, so Sasuke tells anyone who asks him how they know each other that they come from the same "hometown". He also tells someone who doesn't like Nobunaga Oda in one route that the MC is working for a warrior family after going on a pilgrimage to Kyoto, which the MC notes is technically true in that the "warrior family" is Nobunaga Oda's forces and her "pilgrimage" was a time-travel trip.
  • In Tyrion Cuthbert Attorneyofthe Arcane, this is how the final showdowns with Eris end up working out. As a demon, Eris cannot lie, but she sure as hell can make the truth sound misleading-she presents hypotheticals in the form of 'could have happened' or 'certainly possible' and lets other people run with them, she states things that are technically truth but entirely misleading, she only gives parts of the truth and uses ambiguous wording to obscure things.

    Web Animation 
  • In an episode of GEOWeasel, Weas says that burying dead bodies in a landfill is helping out the environment, immediately adding " a way."
  • Red vs. Blue: The Chorus Trilogy: This trope is Felix's primary trait, having only admitted to lying once in the seriesnote . It just goes to show how dark a villain who never lies can be. For instance, upon being picked up in a supposedly derelict dropship, he tells the crew that they won't find anyone else aboard. Of course, it doesn't mean they aren't there… He won't kill you. His partner will. And for those who don't wish to join his cause, he'll let them off the ship. Straight out the airlock into the cold, dark, unforgiving vacuum of space.
  • RWBY:
    • In the World of Remnant mini-episode "Schnee Dust Company", Qrow Branwen notes that, from a certain point of view, Jacques Schnee's assertion that he was the best man to take over the SDC was truthful; under his leadership, the company has expanded into a global megacorporation with a near-total monopoly on Dust mining, processing and sales. However, he has sacrificed the company's soul by using unethical means such as slave labor and dangerous working conditions to reach the top, leaving the Schnees' good name in rather murky waters.
    • In Volume 7, James Ironwood asks Ruby Rose what Ozpin told them about the Relic of Knowledge. She states that Ozpin said the Relic can answer three questions every one hundred years, but they're all used up. Ironwood accepts that answer, not realising that Ruby used the exact wording of his question to lie with the truth. Although Ozpin did say that, their later discovery that he lied about two remaining questions causes them to use one to find out what he's hiding. Ironwood really wants the current situation, but his wording is about what Ozpin told them; Ruby exploits that to hide the remaining question and the truth about Ozpin and Salem.

    Web Original 
  • This is typically how Simon Lane attempts to cover up being a traitor in Trouble in Terrorist Town. It rarely works due to Implausible Deniability.
  • An urban legend has a politician's (which politician, exactly, changes with the retelling) horse-thief ancestor being described with this sort of language on Snopes' "family" section.
  • SF Debris: In The Hero's Journey and The Shadow's Journey (the documentaries about the making of George Lucas' Star Wars films) Chuck Sonnenberg makes the argument that some of Lucas' less-than-factual claims about the planning of the Original Trilogy aren't complete lies; they're just true "from a certain point of view." To wit:
    • At various points since the '90s, George Lucas has claimed that "Darth Vader was always supposed to be Luke Skywalker's father"—but from looking at early drafts of the screenplays, it's clear that Darth Vader and "Luke's father" were separate characters until several revisions into The Empire Strikes Back. What is true is the plot for Empire had grown overly complicated, with separate subplots for Luke's relationship with his father and his enmity with Vader—and combining those two subplots by revealing that Vader was Luke's father proved to be a very elegant solution. So elegant, that perhaps you could say that the story itself wanted Vader to be Luke's father, and it just took Lucas a few years to realize it.
    • George Lucas has also claimed that "Luke and Leia were always meant to be twins." From various behind-the-scenes sources, it's known that "Luke's twin sister" was originally planned to be a separate character—the revelation that she was actually Leia was a last-minute retcon stemming from Lucas deciding to end the series at three movies, rather than his earlier plan of nine. However, when Lucas used The Hero's Journey as a guideline for the plot of the films, rather than having Luke go through all the stages himself, about half were fulfilled by Leia instead. Luke and Leia were two halves of a single Campbellian Hero, so they were metaphorically twins from the very beginning—even though the decision to make them literally twins didn't come until much later.

Alternative Title(s): Jedi Truth, Technical Truth, Half Truth, From A Certain Point Of View, A Certain Point Of View, Metaphorical Truth


The Last Roundup

"Pinkie, I did NOT break my promise!"

How well does it match the trope?

3.8 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / LoopholeAbuse

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