Here's the basic situation: two fairly young children, boy and girl, caught by an adult after doing something really wrong (i.e., for example, breaking some sort of precious vase or something like that). What would be the least awkward way to run the classic dialogue, i.e. something like that:

  1. Adult: Who did that?
  2. Kid A: He did that (pointing at B)
  3. Kid B: No, she did that (pointing at A)
  4. Kid A: Don't believe him, he's lying
  5. Kid B: Nah, don't believe him, she's lying

I.e. children try to relay the blame onto each other, trying to persuade the adult by their statements.

I bet in reality there would be much shorter phrases. I believe that (2) would just "him", and (3) would be just "her", but I'm not really sure how to shorten (4) and (5).

So, basically, my question is how to say miror-phrases (4) and (5) in shorter way.

In fact, I'll feel great if someone could come up with some classic English book that features a scene like that where I can borrow some lexicon and statements?

Semi-related: Word for someone quick to blame others - although note that I'm not looking for a word how to call these children, but rather a figure of speech for (4) and (5) itself.

  • 3
    I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you actually want to know here. Are you asking how to rewrite that dialogue in fewer words? That kind of writing advice is generally off topic here. Mar 8 '14 at 19:50
  • In fact, I'm asking for one specific phrase with double occurence, i.e. (4) and (5) - what would be the least awkward way to say it in normal speech by a native English speaker. It's not like I'm not looking for any writing / style advices.
    – GreyCat
    Mar 9 '14 at 21:47
  • If you're looking for a specific word/phrase, you should tag your question “single-word-request” or “phrase-request” and be as clear as possible that you want to replace your dialog, not describe it (as the answers so far have done). Mar 9 '14 at 21:55
  • And please note that we don't do writing advice at all here, not even seemingly simple rewriting like “rephrase this sentence,” because it's too subjective for StackExchange. If there is a stock phrase to cover this situation, it might be an on-topic phrase request. But then a stock phrase might not be great for creative writing. Mar 9 '14 at 21:58
  • (I added the phrase-requests tag for you.) Mar 9 '14 at 22:03

Children usually keep it simple:

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But there are many ways they do it: enter image description here

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  • Awesome! That's exactly what I was looking for!
    – GreyCat
    Mar 10 '14 at 5:21

We call this behavior shifting blame. This is the act of trying to deflect the blame onto others.

Alternatively, (especially when romantic couples do this) it's called he said/she said. As you can see from the name, it represents that each side believes the other to be at fault for an argument/fight/etc so their stories are told from their own point of view.

And, another term that comes up is his word against theirs. Indicating that both parties are telling a different story with their own interest put forward.

All of these terms indicate an attempt to mitigate culpability and move it to someone else.

  • These words are not used to describe little kids. Mar 8 '14 at 20:37
  • @ryebread I have little kids and I say it all the time.
    – David M
    Mar 8 '14 at 20:56
  • So you tell your kids to quit shift blaming? This seems like a very sophisticated upbringing these kids are getting. I call my kids little narks or tattletales. Mar 8 '14 at 21:50
  • @Ryebread I do tell them that it's his word against hers and I don't believe anyone.
    – David M
    Mar 8 '14 at 23:12
  • Thanks, @DavidM - I've clarified my question, I'm not looking for a word to call these kids, but rather a quick part of dialogue, how would they do that in English.
    – GreyCat
    Mar 9 '14 at 21:51

I think the word in AE that is most used for this kind of behavior is tattletale. This works in your situation too because really no parent trusts other kids let alone their own when they are telling on someone else.

A person, especially a child, who reveals secrets or informs on others; a telltale.

  • I do like this word, but it doesn't quite tell the tale of both sides blaming each other. +1 because it is a correct word for the act, just not the reciprocal nature.
    – David M
    Mar 8 '14 at 23:13
  • @DavidM - well if you have kids it is implied that if one tattles on another that other will tattle back. Implied psychology of words. Mar 8 '14 at 23:15
  • Actually with my kids, one tattles and the other hides or stonewall denies.
    – David M
    Mar 8 '14 at 23:33
  • Thanks, @RyeBread - I've clarified my question, I'm not looking for a word to call these kids, but rather a quick part of dialogue, how would they do that in English.
    – GreyCat
    Mar 9 '14 at 21:51

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