A character has some specific tell, often a particular tic which gives them away when they lie. Of course, another character is bound to pick up on this.
The first step to becoming a Consummate Liar is to make sure you don't have any of these. These are impossible to hide from a Living Lie Detector. This is how You Can Always Tell a Liar. If the signal is really obvious, the character effectively (though not technically) Cannot Tell a Lie.
See also The Tell for characters with a tell that points to their emotional state rather than their honesty.
- In Pinocchio (1992), there is a Played for Laughs evocation. When Geppetto asks his puppet if he would be a good boy, it seems to move his head to say yes, and then his nose grows. A played straight example happens later when Pinocchio lies to the Fairy about the coins. Time later, when Pinocchio is asked to help, his nose grows proving that he didn't have the intention to do so, but later he genuinely changes his mind.
- Oh and the other Boov from Home change colors when they feel different emotions, including turning green when they try to lie, something Tip is quick to catch onto.
- The creators of Aladdin have confirmed that whenever Aladdin tells a lie, the feather on his Prince Ali hat falls in his face.
- Not to mention Genie's literal Pinocchio Nose - and head - when Aladdin first tells him he'll wish for Genie's freedom.
- Ffledleur Fflam's harp from The Black Cauldron, which always falls apart whenever he tells a lie.
- In the Shrek franchise:
- Played for laughs in Shrek 2 where Pinocchio actually appears. Shrek tells him to lie on purpose so they can use his nose like a hook to reach a key, but he can't think of one at the moment. Donkey tells him to say he's wearing women's underwear, but that doesn't work (because he is) Fortunately when he denies that he is, that's a lie, so he's able to hook the key.
- This bites Pinocchio in the ass in Shrek the Third when he comes under interrogation from a villain and obviously can't successfully lie to him because his nose will give him away. Pinocchio gets around this by making a statement so completely confusing that even he doesn't know what he's saying.
- In Chrono Crusade, Chrono realizes something's wrong when Rosette is blackmailed by the villain to go off by herself and follows her. When she asks how he knew something was wrong, he responds "When you lie, you start babbling. I've seen you do it for four years. I know at least that much about you."
- Interestingly enough, this trope comes into play subtly again towards the end of the manga. When Chrono is trying to hide an ally's death that he can sense in another room, he closes his eyes and forces himself to smile, while babbling to Rosette about how they can celebrate their victory every year together (while she questions him about what's wrong). Eight chapters later, he once again closes his eyes and has a strained smile on his face when he tricks Rosette into taking his hand so he can temporarily "stop" her time and rush off to fight Aion alone.
- In an episode of Digimon Adventure 02, TK's brother Matt is making excuses for the current Digidestined one of their sisters, and she promptly calls bullshit, claiming people blink a lot when they lie. "Uhhhhh....*blinkblinkblinkblink*" She promises to take his excuse...for a date, much to his defeat.
- Pinochimon (Puppetmon) in Digimon Xros Wars has the same quirk as the character he's named for.
- Every time Monmon from Zatch Bell! lies, his face will grow longer.
- One episode of Hello Kitty Fairy Tale Fantasynote retells the Pinocchio story, with the same results when Pinocchio lies. There's an additional twist, however—when the fairy says she's helped Pinocchio too many times, and she's not going to bail him out anymore, her nose grows.
- A similar thing happens to Catnip's character in the same episode, except it's her tail instead of her nose.
- In Code Geass, Lelouch and Suzaku can tell when the other is lying if they are looking away. Suzaku figures out that Lelouch is lying in his confession of deliberately geassing Euphie to kill the Japanese at the SAZ.
- In AR∀GO: City of London Police's Special Crimes Investigator, the titular character has a habit of tugging at his ear whenever he's lying.
- In One Piece, Usopp lies many times throughout the series. Also, throughout the series, his nose gradually grows longer, but its normally ignored in the show.
- In Blood Ties Sirius comments to Snape that Remus tends to turn his body away from someone when he's deliberately lying to them.
- In The Reality of Love Harry tells Snape that his wand arm always becomes stiffer when he tells a direct lie.
- In What a Summer This Will Be Snape ponders his knowledge of Harry's habits, such as the fact that he always looks to the right when he's lying and to the left when he's lost for words.
- Harry Potter and the Gift of Memories:
Whenever Seamus lied, he tended to make grand gestures with his hands as if he were conducting an orchestra.
- In Red as Fire Luna notices that when Harry lies the left side of his mouth twitches and his voice gets a little louder.
- In The Wedding Date Draco Malfoy notices that when Harry lies he gives an innocent smile.
- In Betweens: Book 5 What-Ifs, during a conversation between Ron and Hermione:
Ron: Oh, come on. You've been my best friend for almost five years. I know when you're lying. When you were talking with Sirius you looked down at your hands during the last part and then when you finally looked up, you had that same look on your face that you had in first year, when you told McGonagall that you had gone looking for that mountain troll.
- In Harry, Hermione and Lily the sign that Ron's lying is the tops of his ears turning red.
- The Best Revenge:
Snape did not inform Dumbledore that he had long ago twigged to the fact that "dear boy," was Dumbledore's "tell:" the proof positive that he was evading or obfuscating or outright lying. It was too useful to give away.
Marvolo knew he was lying due to Dumbledore immediately going for a lemon drop. It was one of the old man's tells.
- The Stark Truth:
The one thing [Tony] did learn about Harry in the past week, was that he could not tell a lie. When Harry lied, he didn't make eye contact and he started to nervously fiddle with something.
- In The Betrothal Ginny leaves the group, claiming she wants to buy her father a Christmas gift at the office-supply store.
Sarai: What's your real reason?
Ginny: What do you mean?
Sarai: Your nose twitches when you lie, and your nose definitely just twitched when you said you were going to the supply store.
- An Unhealthy Escape:
It was very obvious that Harry was lying. He always looked down and fidgeted with his shirt when he lied, just like James always did.
- The Negotiator has a character use the same logic as the CSI example below.
- In V for Vendetta, Evey can tell that a newsreader is giving a false report if she blinks a lot.
- Airplane! has the doctor telling the passengers that nothing is wrong, everything is fine, and they will be landing shortly. His nose gets longer with every lie he tells.
- Jack Byrnes, the father in Meet the Parents can tell Greg Focker is lying by feeling Greg's pulse.
- James Bond thinks he's figured out Le Chiffre's tell (playing with his poker chips) in Casino Royale (2006), but turns out that the one round where he acted on it was a Batman Gambit, and Bond proceeds to lose everything until Felix Leiter bails him out.
- Parodied in the sixth Police Academy movie, where a Spot the Imposter situation is solved by "the Pinocchio test": Pulling on the noses of both characters, which ends up pulling a Latex Perfection mask off.
- In Ballerina, Victor knows when Félicie is lying because when she does, her nose quivers.
- In What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Kevin Caffery cannot lie without blinking uncontrollably.
- Exploited in a NSFW joke, it probably suffices to tell the punchline: "LIE TO ME! LIE TO ME!"
- Pinocchio's nose was both a tell that he was lying (an incredibly obvious tell, in fact), but it was also a way of punishing him for it.
- Mentioned and described in David Mamet's House of Games.
- Harry Potter: Ron Weasley's ears go red when he's angry or lying.
- Cathy's mother in V. C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic plays with her pearl necklace — or mimics playing with one if she doesn't have one on — whenever she's nervous or lying.
- In one of the Princess Diaries books, Mia's grandmother points out that Mia's nostrils flare when she lies.
- In Robert Sawyer's Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy, the titular tyrannosaurian race literally turned blue in the face if they tried to tell a lie. Most of them, anyway.
- In Terry Pratchett's novel, Sourcery:
Carding: My dear Spelter, you blush when you inadvertently tell the truth.Spelter: I didn't blush!Carding: Precisely my point.
- Sam Vimes actually has one in the form of another character. Captain Carrot flinches whenever he hears a direct lie, so when Vimes tries to lie to Vetinari with Carrot in the room, Vetinari just watches Carrot's face.
- In Howl's Moving Castle, Martha Hatter has a habit of holding her hands together and spinning her thumbs when speaking. Except, that is, when she lies.
- Ned from Pushing Daisies is a terrible liar in any case (Ned: "The plane was hijacked!" Coroner: "How'd you know that?" Ned: "DNA... ish."), but also gives himself away with his Twitchy Eye and unrelated babbling. Olive's tell is that she answers questions with questions when she's hiding something or trying to lie.
- Lost, "There's No Place Like Home, Part 1": Jack explains that the fact that his stitches are bleeding means his appendectomy is healing. Kate says, "You know how when most people are lying, they can't look you in the eye? You do the exact opposite."
- There was an episode of Hannah Montana all about this; whenever anyone would mention their own lying tics then she would end up doing it. Giggling and sweating were two of them, but there were more.
- CSI example: Catherine was able to penetrate one witness' story by recalling her eye movement: "People tend to look left when remembering, right when creating." It's handy to know, but not infallibly reliable.
- There was a whole Coupling ramble on this — The Prickles, where you freeze and can feel said prickles all over your face ready to burst into rampant blushing; the Blurts, where you try to cover your prickles by blurting out denials; and the Head laugh, where you realize you were speaking too quickly and need to make everything seem alright and overcompensate with the Head Laugh.
- In MacGyver (1985), Jack Dalton's left eye twitches whenever he lies. It's mentioned in his first scene with Mac.
- Including in his faked funeral.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "The Inquisitor", Lister points out that Kryten's leg jiggles when he lies.
- A couple of episodes actually have him say "Lie Mode" before saying something untrue. It's not clear whether or not he realizes he's doing it.
- The whole point to the show Lie to Me is that the main cast has been trained to search for these when suspects in crimes are being interrogated. More specifically, Lightman actually claims in one episode that his tell is that he rubs his forehead while lying. (This was a setup for him to point out another character's, which was twisting her hands.) It's unclear whether he was actually telling the truth about that.
- Used in an episode of The Lone Ranger, where the ranger used a villain's pulse as a lie detector.
- Brick in The Middle has a very obvious tell: he simply whispers to himself "I'm lying."
- In Titus, Christopher can tell when his fiance Erin is lying to him, because words not flow from her mouth good.
- Once Upon a Time August isn't quite the convincing liar he would like to be. Then again, he is Pinocchio after all.
- In Game of Thrones, Catelyn makes Bran promise he won't go climbing again, and he agrees. After a moment, she says, "You know something? You always look at your feet before you lie."
- Star Trek: Voyager:
- In the series finale "Endgame", Reginald Barclay has managed to overcome his stuttering by the early 25th century, but when he gets pressed for information of Admiral Janeway's whereabouts by the Doctor, Barclay begins to stammer, which is an indicator that he is hiding something.
- In another episode, Chakotay tells Janeway that he can always tell when she's lying because she touches her commbadge when she does. Of course, she's touching it at that moment. (However, if it's a habit of hers, it's one we never see on the TV screen either before or after this incident.)
- Pinocchio himself appears in a Sesame Street skit where Kermit - in his reporter outfit - asks him to demonstrate his "talent". Unfortunately for Kermit, Pinocchio gets carried away, and tells lots and lots of absurd lies, snagging Kermit with his nose, pushing him through the wall and about a mile over the forest outside.
- An episode of F/X: The Series has a cold opening in a courtroom, with a character having issues with his nose, which soon starts growing as he speaks. After the shot is over, it's revealed to be an inflatable prop nose.
- In Full House, after D.J. is punished when she appears to be drinking at the school dance, Stephanie ends up being the only one who believes her when she says she's innocent. She says it's because D.J. looked her in the eyes when she said she wasn't drinking, where as when she lies, she looks at the top of her head.
- In Frasier, Frasier and Niles each have some negative physical consequences when they lie or otherwise violate their code of ethics: Frasier suffers stomach pains and Niles gets nose bleeds.
- On The Jeffersons, Louise notes to a friend that she can tell when George is lying because he always scratches his ear when he does. Later in the episode, she catches him in a hotel room with another woman. Despite how bad it looks, she instantly believes him when he tells her that there's nothing going on between them because he doesn't display the tic in question.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Alluded by Cyrano at Act II Scene III, after he has fought one hundred men, Cyrano has a slight cut on his hand and is talking casually to his friends Ragueneau and Lise:
Ragueneau: Have you been in some danger?Cyrano: None in the world.Lise (shaking her finger at him): Methinks you speak not the truth in saying that!
- In Tales of Symphonia, Colette always giggles when she lies. Lloyd notices this when she lies that she still eats, sleeps, and feels a sensation when she is, in fact, turning into an angel. Lloyd even says "You always do that fake giggle when you lie!"
- In Kingdom Hearts, it's been noted that whenever Axel lies or is unsure of what he's saying he breaks eye-contact.
- Mario once did the "nose growing upon a lie" schtick as part of a Take That! towards Sony. It's the first imitation he does in this video.
- Pointing these out is a vital gameplay element in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Particularly notable is the instance in which the killer tenses his hand in such a way that his scar looks like a skull. Yikes.
- Deconstructed (yet the deconstruction is Played for Laughs) in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip 3730 with Pinocchio. (Actually, it's more of a deconstruction of Cannot Tell a Lie, but doesn't technically fit there.) Since his nose would grow if he were to tell a direct lie, he figures out every way to get around saying things that actually mean anything, and ceases to interact with the truth in any way. This leads to his becoming a celebrated politician, but it also makes him unable to tell the truth to himself. On his deathbed, he says "None of it ever meant anything to me" — and observes that his nose doesn't grow.
- In the SuperMarioLogan episode, "Cody's Report Card!", Cody reveals to Junior that he has a medical condition, wherein he farts every time he lies. The medical condition comes into play when Cody says that he's straight, and later when he tries to lie to his parents that he didn't get a B+ in Spelling.
- On Family Guy, Peter says he knows Ted Turner isn't telling the truth when he blinks twice. He first noticed it after watching a Barbara Walters interview, when Ted said he'd be with Jane Fonda forever.
- In one episode, Brian's nose begins growing longer and longer as he talks about how Loretta, Cleveland's ex-wife, is attractive.
- Stewie frequently squints his eyes and grins while he clinches his teeth whenever he lies.
- On Ben 10: Alien Force, Kevin claims that Ben's left eyelid twitches whenever he lies. Fortunately, this also applies to an Evil Twin.
- On Arthur, when the title character begins fidgeting with his glasses, it's almost certain that he's lying.
- The Phineas and Ferb episode "The Beak" shows Phineas scratches his left ear whenever he lies.
- An interesting variant in The Smurfs: in "Tattle-Tail Smurfs", Brainy puts a spell on the Smurflings that causes their tails to grow whenever they tattle-tale.
- In the cartoon "Iggy Arbuckle" the title character's snout twitches when he lies.
- When the titular character of The Amazing World of Gumball is lying, he sounds like a nervous wreck, stutters and also has a Motor Mouth. He couldn't even trick his mother.
- In The Simpsons episode "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife", Homer's eye shifts back and forth whenever he lies. Later, Bart does the same thing.
- In Here Comes Peter Cottontail, the titular rabbit's left ear droops whenever he tells a fib.
- Goldie & Bear: The episode "Pinocchio-itis" has Goldie's nose growing thanks to the titular ailment. The cure is to be truthful for 24 hours, but things get complicated when she has to tell lies to keep Jack's surprise party a surprise.
- In the The Loud House episode, "Pasture Bedtime", Clyde is revealed to get stomach cramps whenever he lies.
- Researchers at the University of Granada in Spain discovered a lie tic in the nose.