If you want to learn how to tweet, learn from the Spartans

March 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

Spartans prided themselves in never using more than six words when one would do. This is why they would have been brilliant on Twitter. Each tweet has a maximum of 140 characters. This explains why Moammar Gadaffi is not on Twitter. You have to use as few words as possible when expressing, explaining and replying. You’d probably be killed for making a speech. It is the one place where less is truly more. Except of course those, according to Mail&Guardian columnist Chris Roper, who insist on doing this at the end of their sentences!!!!!!!!!

In the movie 300, the Spartans are completely misrepresented as a people who talk a whole lot more than they did. The monologues, the long inspirational speeches by Spartan King Leonidas before launching his pre-emptive defence against the Persian “god-king” Xerxes were counter-revolutionary. Had the Spartans been alive today in their true and original form, their movie critics would have assaulted it with verbal minimalism.

The people of Sparta were from a region called Laconia; as a result Athenians started calling anyone who spoke concisely as laconic. That is how we got the word laconic in the English language today. Although I shouldn’t really say “we” as English is my 5th language (I’m cheating because Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele and Swati are cousins, but don’t tell anyone).

The year was 4BC. In case you don’t know what BC stands for, it doesn’t stand for Before Coke, it’s Before Christ. Anyway, after the warring Spartans won the battle of Thebes, the victorious general sent a message to his boss, we don’t know who the boss was, maybe their version of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we will never know. As I was saying, the general sent a message, “Thebes is taken”. That seems concise to you right? Wrong! This is why you wouldn’t have survived there. The general receives a terse five-word lecture, “Taken would have been sufficient”. Ouch.

Sparta was always at war, later that very same century they were at war with Macedonia. This story happens to be my favourite one. The Macedonian army gathered outside the city state of Sparta, the leader of the Macedonian army, Philip II, father of Alexander the Great (you may never have heard of his lesser known brother, Alexander the Insignificant) sent a message to the city’s leaders: “You are advised to submit immediately. If I enter Laconia, I shall raze it to the ground.” What did the Spartans say? What would you have said? Cursing is not allowed, too easy. They sent the greatest one-word comeback of all time, ALL TIME! To add sulphur to injury, it was a two-letter-word reply: “If.”

(I sent a message a few moments ago on twitter asking people on Twitter to give me a shorter headline for my blog and Mel Bala, one of my favourites on Twitter said, “oh, please be sure to mention “Helen of Troy!” Ok, Mel. Mentioned.)

Another man known for his few words was American president Calvin Coolidge, he was even known as “Silent Cal”. I don’t know how he could have won an election in this day and age in which many words matter. Maybe if he ran against Obama today his taciturn style against the president’s wordy one he would have stood his own. A female guest at the White House whispered on Coolidge’s ear and said, “You must talk to me Mr President. I made a bet that I could get more than two words out of you”. The president replied, “You lose”.

So good people on Twitter, can we express ourselves more concisely than the people of the region of Laconia? Obviously, this blog is far too long considering the subject matter. Should have been a paragraph.

Follow me on Twitter but I won’t lead you anywhere

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