He had been trained since earliest childhood, since his earliest learning of language, never to lie. It was an integral part of the learning of precise speech. Once, when he had been a Four, he had said, just prior to the midday meal at school, "I'm starving."
Immediately he had been taken aside for a brief private lesson in language precision. He was not starving, it was pointed out. He was hungry. No one in the community was starving, had ever been starving, would ever be starving. To say starving was to speak a lie. An unintentioned lie, of course. But the reason for precision of language was to ensure that unintentional lies were never uttered. Did he understand that? they asked him. And he had. (9.42-43)
Now Jonas had a thought that he had never had before. This new thought was frightening. What if others – adults – had, upon becoming Twelves, received in their instructions the same terrifying sentence?
What if they had all been instructed: You may lie?
His mind reeled. Now, empowered to ask questions of utmost rudeness – and promised answers – he could, conceivably (though it was almost unimaginable), ask someone, some adult, his father perhaps: "Do you lie?" (9.45-47)
"I apologize for hurting you, Lily." Jonas mumbled, and took his hand away.
"'Cept your apology," Lily responded indifferently, stroking the lifeless elephant. (13.39-40)