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White Lies

A conventional lie, such as telling a caller that Mrs. A. or Mrs. B. is not at home, meaning not “at home” to that particular caller.

It is said that Dean Swift called on a “friend,” and was told by Jeames that “master is not at home.” After a time this very “friend” called on the dean, and Swift, opening the window, shouted, “Not at home.” When the friend expostulated, Swift said, “I believed your footman when he said his master was not at home: surely you can believe the master himself when he tells you he is not at home.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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