Don't Lie, Don't Steal, Don't Waste Your Time

February 21, 1994

This quechuan sentiment was the formula greeting among pre-Columbian Inca peoples. There's no reason to suppose that they thought about what they were saying, or that they lied, stole or wasted time any less than anyone else. Phrases often-repeated lose their meaning, so much so that we do not reflect on what we are actually saying. Just a friendly string of sounds. What do you mean when you see an acquaintance on the street and, with outstretched hand say, "howdy?" Or when you get to home base in hide-and-go-seek and exult, "Ollie, ollie, oxenfree?" Though somewhat garbled, these phrases have intelligible meanings. Look up "porcelain" in a good dictionary sometime. It has a most interesting origin. Not what you'd think, either. Language is the endless accretion of meanings on meanings and sentiment laid on idle phrase and hidden thought. It's impossible to say what you mean, or to mean what you say.


Left graphic Small button graphic

Don't Lie, Don't Steal, Don't Waste Your Time

  Small button graphic Right Graphic
Previous Article This Article    Next Article

Return to  C -D Index