Friday, July 04, 2014

yeast, lies, and falsehoods

As Dr. Vallicella likes to point out, a person can utter a falsehood without uttering a lie. A lie involves the conscious intent to deceive, whereas a falsehood can be uttered sincerely.

Today, at a large chain store called Home Plus, I asked a staffer whether the store had any yeast in stock (I need yeast for my fruit-fly traps). The staffer, trying to be helpful, called over to a second staffer, who shook his head no. The first staffer shrugged and said, "No, I guess we don't have any yeast." I thanked him, then went looking for yeast on my own. Sure enough, I found it in the baking section: Home Plus has a more comprehensive, and more recognizably Western, baking section than do Costco and E-Mart. Two kinds of active-dry yeast were available, so I chose the cheaper one.

As I made my way to the cashier, I saw the first staffer again, held up the yeast, and said, "Found the yeast!" He looked theatrically surprised and said, "Oh, is that what that is?"

A bit of trivia: in Korean, as I learned from a coworker, yeast is called "east." English words beginning with a "yee" sound are reduced to "ee" sounds, because the "yee" phoneme doesn't exist in Korean, making it hard for Koreans to distinguish "years" from "ears." The actual Korean word for yeast, as I found out on my own, is nuruk, which sounds vaguely Klingon.

So I don't think the staffer at Home Plus was a liar. He was merely mistaken, and in being mistaken, he uttered a falsehood. His intent wasn't to deceive, but his manner didn't inspire trust, so in a sense, I suppose I treated him as if he were a liar, anyway. Interesting, when you think through the tangled ethics of that situation. It's enough to make one wonder whether one should even bother to ask anyone for any sort of assistance, since the quickest way to arrive at the truth, in Korea, is often to suss it out for oneself.


1 comment:

King Baeksu said...

"No, I guess we don't have any yeast."

Translation: "I'm too lazy and unprofessional to actually take the time to find out, and 'I guess we don't have any yeast' sounds better than 'I don't know and can't be arsed to help you out, especially considering the crap wages they pay us here.'"

A rough translation at best, but certainly more reliable than Google's.