Fabulist

Fabulist traditionally refers to someone who invents or tells fables. Aesop, for instance, is perhaps history’s most famous fabulist. In recent popular usage, however, the word has gained at least two new senses, both especially common in the U.S. First, the word tends to refer to bold mythologizers—people who unapologetically bend the truth to advance themselves and to influence the world around them. Second, the word is used in reference to habitual liars. In this sense, the word has become very negative. It invariably comes up whenever there is a high-profile scandal involving journalistic fabrication.

Examples

Historical

He is sometimes, however, deficient in [poetical spirit], and in the harmony of his numbers; but he is, upon the whole, the most agreeable metrical fabulist in our language. [The Works of The British Poets, Robert Anderson (1794)]

Of Aesop, the great fabulist, little more is authentically known than the account Herodotus gives of him. [Fraser’s Magazine (1850)]

In England there was the Scotsman, Henryson, who did for Scotland what Fontaine did for France, and who was a  genuine poet as well as an excellent fabulist. [The Churchman (1897)]

If some fabulist ventured to put a description of their keeper into the sheep’s mouth, it would surely not depict him as a ministering angel, but as a driver, a gaoler, a shearer, and a butcher. [Dominations and Powers, George Santayana (1950)]

Recent

Mr. Gupta’s lawyers argued that Mr. Rajaratnam’s statement is the unreliable hearsay testimony “of a known fabulist.” [New York Times Dealbook]

The “he” Greenblatt is talking about is Donald Trump — pompous buffoon, national punchline and incessant self-promoting fabulist. [Huffington Post]

In retrospect, I believe the woman was a fabulist, a spinner of fables. [Obama’s America, Dinesh D’Souza]

Wright paints a vivid portrait of Hubbard as a kind of swashbuckling fabulist, projecting the irresistible élan and brazen self-mythologizing of a Wes Anderson character. [Austin Chronicle]

Last fall, senior Globe columnist Margaret Wente was exposed as a serial plagiarist and a fabulist. [Boing Boing]

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