Very concise and pithy. A Spartan was called a Lacon from
Laconia, the land inwhich he dwelt. The Spartans were noted for their
brusque and sententious speech. When Philip of Macedon wrote to the
Spartan magistrates, “If I enter Laconia, I will level Lacedæmon to the
ground,” the ephors wrote word back the single word, “If.” (See
above Lacedæmonian Letter.)
In 1490 O'Neil wrote to O'Donnel: “Send me the tribute, or else.” To which O'Donnel replied: “I owe none, or else.”
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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