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“Harsh but true” vs “harsh but fair”

Discussion on appropriate use of these two phrases came up on another forum. I believe it depends on context. Would be interested in hearing other views.

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The judge's sentence was harsh but fair, given the ferocity of the crime.
What she said about how drink was destroying his life was harsh but undoubtedly true.

Warsaw Will April 2, 2013, 5:23am

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Very close to the examples I quoted.

Hairy Scot April 2, 2013, 8:52am

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@HS - they seem pretty evenly matched in Google search, Ngram and Newspaper websites etc. Having thought about it a bit, I think you can almost always substitute "fair" for "true", but not the other way round. In my examples, you could say that what she said was fair but not that the judge's sentence was true.

Warsaw Will April 2, 2013, 9:37pm

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I'd like to have a chat with you outside PITE.
I have subscribed to Random Idea English via as Hairy Scot but I have as yet not discovered how to exchange PMs.
Perhaps you could contact me?

Hairy Scot April 8, 2013, 12:24pm

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I've left a contact address by your comment. (What are PMs? :) )

Warsaw Will April 9, 2013, 7:18am

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Private Messages

Hairy Scot April 9, 2013, 9:51am

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Yes     No