On the phrase "Molon Labe"


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cnorman18
September 8, 2007, 12:50 AM
I got curious about this phrase and looked it up. Here's the Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molon_labe

On examination, it might not be the best phrase for pro-gun Americans to use.

From the referenced article:

"The difference in meaning [between English and Greek] is subtle but significant: the English speaker is inviting his enemy to begin a process with two distinct acts or parts—coming and taking; the Greek speaker is telling his enemy that only after the act of coming is completed will he be able to take."

Here's the important part:

"In addition there is a subtle implication: in English "come and take it" implies that the enemy might not win the struggle—the outcome is uncertain; in Greek, the implication is that the outcome is certain—"after you have come here and defeated me, then it will be yours to take." For comparison, these elements happen to be present in the previously-noted English phrase, "over my dead body"."

As someone here observes in his signature, another often-used phrase has two things wrong with it: "I end up dead and they get my gun." The same appears to be the case here.

King Leonidas and the 300 were among history's greatest heroes; of that there is no doubt. But with these words, in his own language he was acknowledging that he and his men would eventually be defeated and killed. Noble and heroic, and their sacrifice saved Greek democracy and was therefore one of the turning points in Western history; still, it occurs to me that maybe we ought to consider using a phrase that doesn't contain the implicit admission that the other side is going to win.

(wait a minute--this Nomex flamesuit is hard to put on--There. Ready.)

So what do you think?

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Tommygunn
September 8, 2007, 12:54 AM
You're over-analyzing. Leonidas and his 300 died, yes ... but the Greeks ultimatly turned back the invaders since Leonidas had bought time to rally an army.
"Molon Labe" means come and take mine; maybe you'll get me but others will triumph over you in the end.

Gator
September 8, 2007, 01:04 AM
???

I don't think Wikipedia, which can be authored by anybody, is a good place for "looking up" anything. But, in any case, I fail to see the difference. It is still a powerful expression of defiance.

MWLWN LABE

General Geoff
September 8, 2007, 01:06 AM
At the cost of a possible thread derailment, I'm going to defend wikipedia here.

The reason Wikipedia is so vast and informative is because it can be edited by anyone. For the most part, vandalism is rare and where it does occur, it's almost always swiftly corrected. Small price to pay for the world's most comprehensive, up-to-date encyclopedia.

DoubleTapDrew
September 8, 2007, 01:17 AM
Leonidas and his 300 died, yes ... but the Greeks ultimatly turned back the invaders since Leonidas had bought time to rally an army.
"Molon Labe" means come and take mine; maybe you'll get me but others will triumph over you in the end.

+1. The phrase implies that we will not give up without a fight. The anti's frequently bring up the "you can't possibly expect to win a fight with the US military" if the purpose of the 2nd amendment comes up. By implying that the American people can and will fight with everything we have and in doing so, inflict heavy casualties on the enemy (in this sense, a gov't hellbent on disarming the population and thus, making them totally dependent on the gov't).
The 300 spartains did fall, but they took so many of the enemy in the process the army wasn't strong enough to continue it's rampage for long. The phrase Molon Labe is to remind the government that we won't give up without a fight and although we acknowledge many will fall, they'll be fighting the whole country. That's a helluva thing for a politician to consider or initiate if the subject of a citizen disarmament were proposed by them.
I'd like to think that since the military swore to defend the constitution, and not the flavor of the week in DC, they'd tell the politicians to shove it if this ever came up, but who knows. Being prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for freedom is part of being an American. That's how we became a country in the first place.

Sharps-shooter
September 8, 2007, 01:22 AM
I'll not speak too much for general quality, but in this analysis I think the wikipedia article is pretty much right. I translate molon labe as "Having come, do take". I was puzzled by what people meant by this, until I asked on here and found out that it was supposed to be from the battle of Thermopylae.

cnorman18
September 8, 2007, 01:36 AM
Good points, all. I hadn't really formed an opinion on this yet--I was just "thinking out loud', so to speak.

On balance, I like it. Defiant, direct and to the point. In any case, we speak English, not Greek.

One of the flags associated with the Texas Revolution featured a drawing of a cannon with the phrase, "Come And Take It.'

Rather than admitting defeat, the phrase in English has the implication, "Try it and see what happens." I like that better. I suspect most of you do, too.

Just so we're all on the same page.

I don't expect defeat; I think we're winning. 20 years ago there was barely such a thing as CCW. Now it's in 40 states. If that's not progress, what would progress look like?

W.E.G.
September 8, 2007, 01:41 AM
the movie http://www.youtube.com/v/pCT4nDE1obM

http://i227.photobucket.com/albums/dd7/rkba2da/molonlabe.jpg

Euclidean
September 8, 2007, 01:43 AM
Regardless of its literal translation or ancient meaning, Molon Labe now expresses a sentiment and belief that a handful of us have chosen to embrace.

Words and phrases are often not applied literally in the use of language, and meaning depends on context. We cannot ignore such a wide consensus when discussing what Molon Labe means in the modern era.

Also, Leonidas and his Spartans were doomed to fail, that is true, but their stand is what rallied the Greeks to stand for what they knew to be right. I've no desire to be a martyr, but the harsh truth is that the inevitable is coming somewhere, at some point in time, due to creeping incrementalism.

Lest I be accused of tinfoil hattery, there are already places where the RKBA does not exist, places where no one bothered to defy it. I won't stand for the loss of the most basic of human dignities should it ever come to pass.

cnorman18
September 8, 2007, 02:23 AM
Again: On reflection, did Leonidas and the 300 really "fail"?

They were killed, yes; but that is not the same thing. Because of their sacrifice, Greek liberty survived its infancy to influence the development of all of Western history; I'd call that a success, not a failure.

It reminds me of a story I heard about a minister greeting a young man on the church steps after a service; the man had one sleeve pinned up, and the minister asked, "Did you lose your arm in the war?"

He replied, "No, Reverend, I did not. I GAVE it. For the United States of America."

Most of all: We still remember Thermopylae and what those men did there, and we still tell their story to our sons. Even after 2,500 years, they remain the preeminent example of courage, honor, and loyalty, and the very definition of "a glorious death."

I think that the King and his men would be pleased by that. I doubt that they would call it "defeat".

I retract my earlier comments. It makes a man feel braver and more determined just to remember that time and place, doesn't it?

(For the record: I haven't seen the movie. I remember the old one, with Richard Egan as Leonidas--"The 300 Spartans", 1962.)

ArfinGreebly
September 8, 2007, 02:57 AM
Not exactly gun-related, but given the civility with which this is being conducted, I'll leave it for now.

On a related note, for those of you who don't mind a little digging, there's a fellow I know who remarked that there were those who believed they would take his guns, but "they are wrong; I'll have guns all my life."

Subtle.

Ford Prefect
September 8, 2007, 06:41 AM
Actually I had always understood it meant to be defeated. The better analogy would be "take them, from my cold-dead hands". You will have to kill me, then you can have them, but not before.

It's not JUST an ackknowlegement that defeat is likely, but that the agressor will be required to defeat and kill, it will not be surrendered without a fight.

Just as in Thermopylae. The Spartans would not allow them to pass, until the 300 had been killed.

MaterDei
September 8, 2007, 06:57 AM
This IS absolutely gun related.

Whatever happened to that Molon Labe hat I bought on THR? I need another. Are they still available?

taliv
September 8, 2007, 09:46 AM
the nuance described in wikipedia is not only correct grammatically, but it's more appropriate

hso
September 8, 2007, 10:15 AM
I shall not surrender my arms to you. You must come and defeat me. To defeat me you must kill all of us before you can take them. This is the depth of my resolve. Consider this before you act.

lacoochee
September 8, 2007, 11:51 AM
One of the flags associated with the Texas Revolution featured a drawing of a cannon with the phrase, "Come And Take It.'

I was wondering about that flag it was on a wall in Glenn Becks TV studio during his show Thursday night. A white flag with a star above a cannon above the "Come and Take it"

cnorman18
September 8, 2007, 02:18 PM
The "Come And Take It" flag was flown over the DeWitt Colony at Gonzales, Texas, during the Battle of Gonzales of early October of 1835, the first battle of the Texas revolution. It is also the first Texas flag to display the Lone Star.

It referred to an actual cannon, which the Mexican army had demanded that the Texans turn over to them. The complete story is here:

http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/batgon.htm

Here's an updated version of the flag that some of you might like:

http://images-partners-tbn.google.com/images?q=tbn:6GdbXG203q0DIM:www.comeandtakeit.com%2Fdoofis.gif

LaEscopeta
September 8, 2007, 02:54 PM
Not to be a spoil sport, but a few points that you all can verify with a quick history search:

1. The first historian who claims the phrase “molon labe” was uttered just before the battle of Thermopylae lived several hundred years after the battle. No previous commentaries mention the phrase.

2. It was not 300 Spartans against the invading Persians. There were several thousands Greeks at the battle, from about a dozen different city-states.

3. The Greeks were fighting to win; they did not think they were doomed in a lost cause. (OK the Spartans were figuring they would die in the battle, but I guessing they believed the rest of the Spartan army back home would win in the end.)

4. Sparta, and most other Greeks states, were not democracies and they were not fighting for democracy.

5. Most of the thousands of Persian causalities were on the first 3 days of the battle.

6. After the Persians found the high pass around the Thermopylae pass, and the Greeks knew they had to retreat or be surrounded, King Leonidas dissmissed the army except for his 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and maybe 900 Theban & Laconian Helots serf soilders. Leonidas led them in a rear guard action to delay the Persians to allow the rest of the Greek time to escape and prepare for another defense further south.

7. Although this was the militarily correct course of action, it did not work. The Persians slaughtered the Greeks (except for some serfs who immediately surrendered) very quickly on the morning of the fourth day.

8. What did slow down the Persians enough to allow the rest of the Greek army to escape was the Persian Emperor’s order to bury all his dead, to avoid demoralizing the rest of the army with the sight of their dead as they marched through the opened pass.

9. The cannon on the Texas “Come and Take it” flag was lent to some Americans living in Mexico by the commander of a near by Mexican Army fort. When he asked for it back the Americans (but soon-to-be Texans) refused.

Not exactly gun-related, but given the civility with which this is being conducted, I'll leave it for now.I better stop at 9, before someone thinks I’m being uncivil.

Thumper
September 8, 2007, 03:11 PM
LaEscopeta, none of those are exactly a news flash to anyone here. I wasn't aware of number nine, but that one sounds about right; Us Texans have a habit of making our enemies look like dolts.

Nolo
September 8, 2007, 03:19 PM
For pronunciation, it is Mo-LONE LA-bay, right?
Omegas are pronounced as a long "O", but I was wondering about the end.
I don't think Greek has silent "E"s, but I don't speak Greek, either.
Also, is it an "E" or an Epsilon as the end of the phrase?

Joe Demko
September 8, 2007, 03:21 PM
I avoid use of the phrase. The whole Spartan way of life was the very antithesis what we as Americans would consider free; I find them repugnant. If in fact their king did say it, parroting it now strikes me as rather like using a catchy soundbite from a Nazi general or Soviet commissar who did something militarily heroic for the regime he served.

Nolo
September 8, 2007, 03:31 PM
The whole Spartan way of life was the very antithesis what we as Americans would consider free; I find them repugnant.
I don't care who it is, anybody who would stand 2,000 men against (possibly) 2 and a half million deserves my respect. Quite frankly, you could say the same about the Marines. Should we abolish the Marines? Heck no! Anyway, "Molon Labe", as it is uttered now is an embodiment of the power and tenacity that those warriors showed in that battle. I find it a worthy statement to make, and I write it on my history teacher's board every day (along with "IRA", the original Irish Republican Army mind you, not the terrorist organization). :evil:

cnorman18
September 8, 2007, 03:36 PM
A detailed history of the Gonzales cannon is in the link that I posted, including the fact (which IS a fact) that you mentioned. As in most matters of history, there is much more to the story.

The Greek city-states may not have been democracies in the modern sense, but they DID rule themselves, as opposed to bring ruled by a distant "High King". Self-government of any variety was rare in the ancient world, and it remains true that the Spartans (and the others you noted) were fighting for what we can still call "liberty".

The Greeks kept slaves, too; but that was universally accepted as a natural and proper fact of life in the ancient world. In either case, it's hardly fair to judge events in the 5th century B.C.E. by 20th or 21st century standards.

Joe Demko
September 8, 2007, 03:40 PM
I don't care who it is, anybody who would stand 2,000 men against (possibly) 2 and a half million deserves my respect. Quite frankly, you could say the same about the Marines.

How they performed in that battle may deserve some respect. I, however, choose not to consider that in isolation. The society for which they were fighting is not one I admire nor would I care to live in one that emulates it. If you know anything about it, I suspect you would not either.
...and HELL NO you could not say the same thing about the US Marines and I think you should apologize and retract what you just said about them. Do you honestly believe that the US Marines fight for a brutal, repressive, slave-holding, anti-family, anti-freedom, anti-capitalistic society?

JKimball
September 8, 2007, 03:50 PM
As someone here observes in his signature, another often-used phrase has two things wrong with it: "I end up dead and they get my gun." The same appears to be the case here.

I'm that someone.

Just to clarify, the point of my signature line is not to denigrate the Molon Labe sentiment. The point is simply to say let's not sit by and let it come to that. Let's do something today so that it doesn't come to that tomorrow. Instead of loading up on guns and ammo and waiting for the government to come knocking, we should load up on guns and ammo and then do everything we can to strengthen and preserve our second amendment rights so the government won't come knocking. Because in reality, if the government does come knocking, I might put up a good fight, but chances are really good that they will get my guns and I will end up dead. And that is an unacceptable goal for me.

CWL
September 8, 2007, 03:57 PM
The term "Molon Labe" means more today than it did in the past. As a rallying cry, it is a reminder to tyrants that the cost of disarming the people may be far more than the expected gain. Look up "Phyrrhic victory".

Regardless of the numbers, the Greeks at Thermoplyae gave far better than they took, no matter what the actual numbers were (I doubt there were 1 million Persians). They faced the best Persia had: the Immortals, and threw them back. It is very important in war to put fear into the hearts of those who may have to face you.

As for Wiki, useful for quick data download, but stick to books for concise facts. Because the contributors are 'nameless', you do not know the agenda of the posters.

Gator
September 8, 2007, 04:08 PM
1. The first historian who claims the phrase “molon labe” was uttered just before the battle of Thermopylae was a Roman who lived several hundred years after the battle. No previous commentaries mention the phrase.

Um, Plutarch was Greek.

MechAg94
September 8, 2007, 04:14 PM
Please remember that the Persians were not defeated at Thermopylae. Did they suffer loss of moral and a lot of troops, probably so. The Greeks delayed the Persian army allowing more time to prepare and showed that their heavy infantry hoplites were superior to the light infantry of the Persians. It also provided a heroic example for future generations which is also very important to martial traditions.

It was the victory of the Greek navy that wrecked the Persian fleet and kept the Persians from supplying their army that defeated the Persians. After that, the Persians had to send most of their army back home. It was also partly due to the Persians burning everything in sight rather than saving grain stores and food supplies. They probably could have stayed for a while after seizing Athens had they not burned up everything. At least that is my view of things. I am sure there are other details to consider. Sort of like bad gun handling in a movie.

Oh, I almost forgot. I finally saw 300 this week on video. That was a well made, but horrible movie. The first battle was the only one I liked. Everything else made them look like a bunch of undisciplined barbarians. Also, didn't hoplites use an overhand stroke with their spears above the shield? A lot of little things just destroyed that movie for me.

buck460XVR
September 8, 2007, 04:40 PM
seems the meaning of the phrase to most, comes down to interpretation more so than absolute definition. Kinda like debating religion and politics.....

I sure whatever it truly meant to those 300 Spartans was a way of life and not just a bumper sticker on a Escalade or a t-shirt worn by some Mall Ninja. It's use has changed from a rally/battle cry and a commitment of ones existence, to a attempt to impress or fit in. Talk is cheap.....and actions always speak louder than words. Leonidas and his men's actions were an embodiment of the phrase. I doubt most that use it today can say the same.

I'm not trying to trash or put anyone down here, it's just I don't see the realistic similarities between the battle of King Leonidas' Greek Army against the Persians and some modern day gun collector claiming he's ready to die for his safe queens. Yeah, I know it's still a fight against oppression, in support of all our rights(not just the 2nd amendment) but how many of those folk are willing to go to the same extremes........and how many, if any, are physically/mentally capable of doing it.......realistically, not just idle chat on a internet forum. Are any of us truly worthy of using this statement to describe ourselves? Oh, I'm sure there's a coupla folk out there........:rolleyes:


cnorman18.......can I borrow the Nomex flamesuit? I gotta feelin' I'm gonna need it.

LaEscopeta
September 8, 2007, 04:47 PM
Um, Plutarch was Greek.Oops. Original post edited to correct this.

strambo
September 8, 2007, 07:51 PM
What that sentiment means and what a person is truly prepared to do are up to them to carefully consider and only they will know. On a large scale, it really doesn't matter..."molon labe" is hardly gonna show up on every mall ninja's car bumper. It may be a well known sentiment on THR...but the averager gun owner has never heard of it.

I simply see it as a more educated version of; "from my cold, dead fingers" with a bit more optimism built in. ;)

jefnvk
September 8, 2007, 08:54 PM
Do you honestly believe that the US Marines fight for a brutal, repressive, slave-holding, anti-family, anti-freedom, anti-capitalistic society?

I could dig up a good chunk of the world that thinks so.

Exact translations do not interest me. If someone wants to debate a phrase based on what it translates exactly to, instead of the general meaning behind it, it tells me they don't have a great argument against it.

Kentak
September 8, 2007, 10:43 PM
ooops

adobewalls
September 8, 2007, 11:00 PM
I am with cnorman18 on this one,

One of the flags associated with the Texas Revolution featured a drawing of a cannon with the phrase, "Come And Take It.'

Rather than admitting defeat, the phrase in English has the implication, "Try it and see what happens." I like that better. I suspect most of you do, too.

Many of our early settlers were familiar with classical literature, so I would not doubt they may have been influenced by the writings of Herodotus.

ArfinGreebly
September 9, 2007, 12:44 AM
I believe hso has correctly captured the theme and spirit of the phrase:
I shall not surrender my arms to you. You must come and defeat me. To defeat me you must kill all of us before you can take them. This is the depth of my resolve. Consider this before you act.
I find I really cannot improve on this.

It is a succinct, unambiguous, quiet-yet-passionate expression of conviction.

Rare stuff.

Tim Burke
September 9, 2007, 10:24 AM
The Spartans were not eloquent speakers. In fact, the term "laconic" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/laconic) is derived from Laconian, another name for the Spartans.
I'm not sure if the ancient Greek syntax suggests any outcome, but I have no probably with "You've come, now take." as a translation.
Sparta, and many of the other Greek city-states were democracies, in that they were ruled, at least indirectly, by the people. However, suffrage was very limited, and the cultural values of the day were much different from ours.

Kevin108
September 9, 2007, 02:03 PM
Since we will all eventually die - maybe not at the hands of our enemies - but somehow, eventually. So if you look at the big picture, doesn't "come and take them" fully encompass the meaning of "over my dead body"?

Nolo
September 9, 2007, 04:45 PM
I don't care who it is, anybody who would stand 2,000 men against (possibly) 2 and a half million deserves my respect. Quite frankly, you could say the same about the Marines.

How they performed in that battle may deserve some respect. I, however, choose not to consider that in isolation. The society for which they were fighting is not one I admire nor would I care to live in one that emulates it. If you know anything about it, I suspect you would not either.
...and HELL NO you could not say the same thing about the US Marines and I think you should apologize and retract what you just said about them. Do you honestly believe that the US Marines fight for a brutal, repressive, slave-holding, anti-family, anti-freedom, anti-capitalistic society?
Yes I could. The Marines do not fight for "brutal, repressive, slave-holding, anti-family, anti-freedom, anti-capitalistic society", they practically are one. I love the Marines, don't get me wrong, and that kind of discipline is not only admirable in war, it is necessary. But they are repressive. They are authoritarian. They are anti-freedom (in their own ranks). Deal with it. It's the way things need to be done sometimes. Isn't that what the Second Amendment boils down to in the end? The world not being puppies and daisies?

Joe Demko
September 9, 2007, 05:08 PM
Last I checked, however the USMC may handle discipline within their ranks, they do not fight for themselves. They fight in the defense and interests of the USA.
I confess I don't understand what you mean by this bit at all:
But they are repressive. They are authoritarian. They are anti-freedom (in their own ranks). Deal with it. It's the way things need to be done sometimes. Isn't that what the Second Amendment boils down to in the end?

Nolo
September 9, 2007, 05:33 PM
Ah, I mean that the Second Amendment is all about things being different than the way we want them to be. We can't always be safe, so we have guns to protect us. We can't always trust our government, so we have weapons to make them think twice. The Second Amendment is a wonderful example of people dealing with things being imperfect. Ugh. I'm not articulating this well. Discipline like that that the Spartans had is necessary just like the right to bear arms. Do you think the Spartans were not fighting for hearth and home? I think they were fighting for their people just as much as the Marines do today (if not more, seeing as how their homes were directly threatened). Some of the ways things were back then may leave a bad taste in our mouths today, but that does not mean that we shouldn't honor their bravery, sacrifice and courage.

Officers'Wife
September 9, 2007, 06:26 PM
Molan labe...

It can also mean I am willing to die for what I believe, are you?

Selena

Stretchman
September 9, 2007, 08:27 PM
The Greek, and previous to that, the Achean, were constantly placed into "situations" ( for lack of a better word. The gods toyed with the people incessantly ) where they were faced with Irony, or an impossibility of victory.
The perennial "no win" situation, as it were.

Leonidas was one of 2 kings of Sparta. He inherited the throne due to death in the famuily. He was traditionally a Military man. In order for him to save Sparta from the Persian Army, he basically had to break the law and violate the Carnia. The oracle had prophesied that either the King would die, or that Sparta would burn. But they did not share this information with Leonidas. He knew nothing of the propechy. He was simply told that the Army of Sparta was to remain in Sparta, and that ther would be no war during the Carnia.

Sparta was a city without walls, unlike places like Troy, which could withstand attack for many years. Sparta relied on it's own army for defense.

Knowing that, the King theorized that if the Spartan Army had to stand against the Persian forces at the present troop strength, that they were doomed. So, he chose to take 300 of his best, and try to head them off at the pass, so to speak. Although they were nowhere near Sparta, they probably would have eventually made it there, had Leonidas not done what he did. He bloodied them badly, and along with the Naval Victory of Salamis, and Xerxes departure with half of his forces prior to the the battle of Plateaa,
that the Spartans would have met the Persians in Sparta, and probably faced devastation.

The pouint being, that in order to be a true Spartan warrior, he had to disobey the oracle and make a stand. His actions and the actions of some of the other forces there are what saved Sparta, becuase, not only did it demoralize the Persians, and give the Greeks time to organize, but it sent a message to Xerxes, that basically, the Spartans were able to kick his lame butt all over Greece, regardless of what the Medes did.

The statement he made at the opening of the battle is clear. Molon, meaning "come" and Labe, meaning "get". "Come get some!" "Bring it on!"
Any number of phrases that have been uttered by people who are ready to kick butt and take names. That's the meaning of it. Come get what you deserve. No matter how you look at it, his actions, and the actions of his fellow Spartan and Thespian brothers is what saved Greece. Most of our modern medicine, philosophy, and beasic democratic ideas came from Greece. Greece that could just as easily have been Mede. Greece, that could have been the doorway to Europe. These guy helped change history, and made history in the process. Most of us can only pray that we are so lucky.

TallPine
September 9, 2007, 08:59 PM
Since non-english slogans are so popular, I concocted my own below ... ;)

Nolo
September 9, 2007, 09:58 PM
What's it mean? I'm guessing either gibberish or it's some kind of Gaelic.

strat81
September 9, 2007, 11:19 PM
I shall not surrender my arms to you. You must come and defeat me. To defeat me you must kill all of us before you can take them. This is the depth of my resolve. Consider this before you act.

hso said it well. However, his version does fit handily on a shirt or hat. Both I & the missus have Molon Labe shirts (from FBMG, no less). I wear mine to work a lot and get the occasional question about it. One of the women I explained it to, a soccer mom by every definition of the word, said to me, "The way I feel about guns is that if they make them illegal, only bad guys will have them." I smiled and told her if she ever wanted to go to the range with me, she's welcome.

single action
September 10, 2007, 12:16 AM
dang, knew I would regret that tattoo eventually

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