Where there’s smoke …

Among the many inane things we say when we don’t have something witty of our own to offer (hey, don’t knock it … someone else’s bon mot beats out “duh” every time), there are a few genuinely despicable ones.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

It’s a justification for accusing someone based on rumor, hearsay or malice. I won’t bother to address the physics except to point our there can be smoke without fire, and fire without smoke. No multiple interpretation for these words. This means only one thing.


“I haven’t a shred of evidence, but I’ve heard stuff about you-know-who. He/she/they must be guilty of something, right? Because where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

No one with good intentions uses this line. Never. It’s mean-spirited and downright un-American in a nation founded on the principle of never convicting anyone without due process. Being unpopular is not proof of wrong-doing. Neither is attending a different church, or no church all. Or dressing funny, having a bad attitude, failing to mow the lawn, keeping to yourself, being anti-social or even rude. It’s legal to be different.

And hey, how about gossip, eh? People say all kinds of shit. It can ruin reputations and careers, destroy families. All because a guy said something to another guy about someone else. Then a couple of other guys in a bar repeated what they thought they’d heard, plus a few embellishments. Their girlfriends passed it to their BFFs who published it on Facebook. Voila.

That’s the smoke. Fire is inferred, after which you’ve got all you need to get a quick conviction without benefit of judge, jury or trial. The next thing you know, a lynch mob is forming.

If ever you hear yourself saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” or words to that effect, stop. Ask yourself what gives you the right to judge. Because you too can be judged and I bet you won’t much like it.

Categories: Ethics and Philosophy, Law, Media, Personal, Sayings and Platitudes, social media, Words

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7 replies

  1. I’ve saw smoke & I was on fire. True story…(spring 2003)


    • That’s what happened to my friend. She was cooking and wearing long flowing sleeves. She caught on fire. Lit right up. Everyone stood there, apparently frozen in place. I put out the fire. Roast Sandy wasn’t on my menu for the day 🙂


  2. Yes, can be life altering to the person talked about. That person lives in a constant up hill momentum to just regain the ground lost to the rumor. I don’t believe a person can run from a problem but often it’s the only way out when fighting rumors.


    • Especially when the internet is involved. You can take a baseless rumor and send it around the world. Lots of room for malicious people to do a lot of damage without any basis in truth. Not that they much care about truth.


  3. They’re still using this line on the Sports talk stations regards the the steroids thing. A few sports “analysts” are actually inferring this about baseball players who are enjoying their first excellent season. These are players who seem to be doing it by honing their skills and NOT with HGH help.


    • I really hate that expression for all the reasons stated. It’s an end run around having to actually have proof before your accuse someone.

      On Sat, Jul 13, 2013 at 12:21 PM, SERENDIPITY



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