Is there a word that describes the phenomenon of compromise where side A is telling the truth, side B is outright lying, but because both sides don't want the arbiter to pick dead in the middle, rather closer to their side, they exaggerate their case so that the concluded middle ground is actually favorable to them?

It comes up in politics, arguments, design, budget, etc. Would be great if there were a word to describe it.

It's a gaming of the arbiter's strategy "the truth is in the middle"

I wasn't successful in looking it up through any reverse dictionaries since it requires a situation and perspective of a situation to understand, and I don't have the English skill to explain it without an example. But I hope there's a word for it! (I would think there's definitely a word for it in Chinese. Chinese seems to always have very terse words for complex situational phenomenons. But I don't know the word in Chinese either.)

  • When does side A stop telling the truth and start exaggerating? Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 19:45

3 Answers 3


Tough bargaining, for one. Overstating your case in order to settle favorably is covered by many sayings and figures of speech, but hardly a single precise word.


Perhaps the word skullduggery describes the phenomenon you speak of.

Let us say in a divorce settlement, the estranged wife demands 75 percent of the husband's assets. With the help of her lawyer, she stands firmly entrenched in her outrageous demand.

The husband, on the other hand, says to the arbiter, "If my wife expects me to accede to her demand for 75 percent of my assets, then I refuse to pay for our children's college education."

The husband knows, however, that he has already committed to paying for his kids' education, and unbeknownst to his wife he has established a trust for each of the children which they can access when they graduate from high school and are accepted for admission into the college or university of their choice.

In other words, the husband is lying about needing more money in the settlement because he wants his wife (and the arbiter) to think that he deserves to keep, say, 60 percent of the assets because of the high cost of education. In a sense, knowing that he has already funded his kids' education makes the arbiter (and maybe even his wife) think that he really deserves the 60-percent-settlement he is asking for.

Now that's skullduggery, which is more than simple deceit, because skullduggery is the process by which the husband is scheming to get a bigger share of the assets by lying to the arbiter and his wife.

I suppose the word plotting is pretty close in meaning to skullduggery, but I prefer the latter. Other possible words to describe the scenario might include the noun dodge, jiggery-pokery, trickery, subterfuge, among others.


Distortion fits with the OP's "overbending the truth" and comes close to, or crosses over into, outright lying.


the action of giving a misleading account or impression. "we're tired of the media's continuing distortion of our issues" Oxford

Distortion is the changing of something into something that is not true or not acceptable. Collins

distort — to misrepresent; misstate; pervert Webster's New World

Whether the figures presented to management represent the truth, or include a minor or a gross distortion of the truth, is now an urgent question for many organisations. ref.

First, an argument can be based on a distorted version of the facts surrounding the topic at issue. Though factual distortion can be inadvertent, it is ... ref.

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