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Shed Light

By Grey Eagle

Recently, while I was at work, my wife picked up my son and I knew they were almost home when I got the following text from her:

Shed light on...

I waited for more to come, thinking "what did I do, or forget to do, or what did my son do, or say" etc., and will I know enough about it to shed light on whatever it was?

When there was no further text, I sent back


I got no response. So I mulled it over the rest of my work shift and the drive home, thinking that she must have gotten the answer she was looking for, but I still wondered what it had been about.

When I pulled into the driveway that night, I noticed that the light was on in my shed. Then it hit me - the text had said "Shed light on..."

She had simply let me know that fact, and they had gone to bed right after getting home so she didn't see my question until morning.

Our ancestors were often puzzled and frustrated by the fact that the same words in English could have several meanings. The phrase "shed light on" usually means to "explain" or "make clear". But it can also refer to the burning lightbulb in a shed.

In my Cherokee Language lessons I have learned how highly specific Cherokee actually is. You can't say "look at the dog". You have to say "you look at the dog", "both of you look at the dog", or "all of you look at the dog".

In English, you can deliberately mislead someone by saying something in an ambiguous manner, knowing that someone will think you are saying one thing while you actually mean something else. You can claim you didn't lie because you "meant" it the way that is favorable to you. You can essentially lie without lying.

Our ancestors were used to directness of speech, and directness of thought. In Cherokee, if you are going to lie, you have to be more brazen and just lie. There are too many things you have to specify in a sentence to leave it open for interpretation.

Even without the knowing Cherokee Language, we can follow the example our ancestors gave us in our speech. We should make sure that we accurately say just what we mean. (The Bible says "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no".) People should know that they can rely on what we say. Practicing accurate speech may mean we will have to take more time choosing our words, but hasty speech is not a virtue anyway.