Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Episode 65: Thick As Thieves Transcript

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If you have any issues with the transcript, let Dan know at bunny trails pod at gmail dot com.

Dan:                                       00:00                     Welcome to bunny trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. I'm Dan Pugh
Shauna:                                00:04                     and I'm Shauna Harrison. Each week we delve into the origin and history of an idiom or other turn of phrase and discuss how it's been used over time. This week I'm using the way back machine to remember my own history. Not really, but it would be cool if like, you know, part of my history had been captured on the internet, but I don't, I'm not important enough for them.
Dan:                                       00:24                     I know I can tell you right now that I'm 100% glad that I was born and raised in the era before the internet, so that or before social media, more importantly, I mean there was the internet of course when I was a kid. Uh, but I was an adult before I ever got on the internet, mostly owing growing up in a very small, uh, farm town in rural Texas. But, uh, otherwise I am so glad that I did not have social media until I was an adult because Holy crap, the kind of trouble that we got into just on, on like chat rooms, you know that are in the late nineties was plenty enough for me to be thankful that I don't, if my every move was documented and every picture I've taken and everything I've eaten and Oh my goodness. So anyway, you go back and be wax poetically nostalgic about your, uh, you know, childhood. But I'm just going to sit here and think of my lucky stars that I was not around as a child, as a child during the social intranet.
Shauna:                                01:24                     Yeah. Fair enough. All right. So when I was a teenager, I had a best friend and I spent all of my time with her. Um, we even talked about going to the same college, you know, like super close. We lived in a small town. It was like one of those one streetlight kind of towns, you know,
Dan:                                       01:42                     Wait, that's not true. I've seen that town. No.
Shauna:                                01:46                     Yeah. When I, when I moved there, there was one traffic light. Sorry, what did I say?
Dan:                                       01:51                     You said street light.
Shauna:                                01:52                     Oh no, sorry. Traffic light.
Dan:                                       01:54                     I thought you meant lamp like a street light or something. And I'm like no, stop it right there. The whole, there's like there's a Kansas highway that runs through that town you grew up in and it's, you know, there lights along the whole thing.
Shauna:                                02:04                     But yeah, I'm going to traffic light. Oh. So I'll still like it.
Dan:                                       02:08                     It's still the one traffic light town actually, unless they've put one in since last time I was there.
Shauna:                                02:10                     They added another. So there, there's more than one. I think there are three actually. And they have like some.
Dan:                                       02:15                     wild progress.
Shauna:                                02:16                     Yeah. There's a crosswalk to buy the miniature Dillons type store that, that's their Kroger type, whatever.
Dan:                                       02:24                     All right, so one traffic light town.
Shauna:                                02:25                     Yeah. Um, and it wasn't like the three lights either. It was a flashing red light.
Dan:                                       02:29                     A glorified stop sign.
Shauna:                                02:32                     Yeah. Uh, it was, uh, it was awesome. Anyways, so, um, there was this one afternoon we were hanging out at her house and we were supposed to stay in the neighborhood. And so you can probably tell where this going. Yeah, we didn't stay in the neighborhood. We decided to walk to the dairy King. Ah, yes. I said King, uh, and get ice cream and Charlies.
Dan:                                       02:53                     I believe that dairy queen would not have sued them for trademark infringement or something.
Shauna:                                02:57                     I don't know if they have sense, but that has been around for decades.
Dan:                                       03:00                     Yeah. It's still there now, although they call themselves DK now, so maybe they did get in trouble. I don't know.
Shauna:                                03:07                     I dunno man. Okay. So Charlie is a French fries covered in cheese and chili, like chili and nacho cheese sauce,
Dan:                                       03:15                     right? Yeah. Also one of our, uh, actually our very first patron Charlie Moore. I don't know if there's any relation to that. You think was the Charlie named after Charlie Moore.
New Speaker:                    03:24                     Charlie Moore hit us up, let us know, man. That's crazy. Probably. Almost, certainly not. Probably not.
New Speaker:                    03:31                     Charlie's still a Patron to this day, so thank you, Charlie.
Shauna:                                03:33                     Yes. And uh, yeah, so a Charlie, not, not Charlie the patron. She's awesome. But uh, Charlie, the food is both disgusting and delicious. Nice. Yeah.
Dan:                                       03:44                     I like it.
Shauna:                                03:44                     right. So by the time we got back to her house, her mom was waiting on the front porch, you know, the little Tappy foot going in and just staring us down with the phone in her hand. Oh my. Yeah. So Ms. Jenkins had called her and said, Mrs. Jones, those two girls, your red head in that blonde girl always together thick as thieves. Well, I saw them walking down the street not 10 minutes ago. They are just the prettiest girls. I'd hate for them to get in any trouble. Which is, you know,
Dan:                                       04:10                     you grew up in like Mayberry USA. Oh yeah. But with phones. Well ma'am, I just saw them girls walking down the street. I wanted to make sure you knew they were out there. I don't want them getting any trouble. You never know what those two girls, they're good looking girls. I don't want them getting any kind of trouble.
Shauna:                                04:27                     Exactly what it was.
Dan:                                       04:28                     So. Alright. Alright, I'll, I'll see you at church on Wednesday. Thanks. Bye.
Shauna:                                04:33                     Pretty much. I think we tried that one other time and then that was it. We were like, Nope, not happening. Every time got caught. Yeah. Nice.
Dan:                                       04:42                     Nice. So, uh, I did hear an idiom in there thick as thieves. Shall I assume that that's what we're going for.
Shauna:                                04:51                     This one thick as thieves is generally used to say that to people or very close to one another usually isn't used in a romantic way and it's, it oftentimes indicates that the relationship is somewhat isolated or independent from other relationships, friendships, things like that. Okay, interesting. Merriam Webster provides the definition very close and secretive. And with the example, they were thick as thieves for weeks, which made us wonder what they were doing.
Dan:                                       05:20                     Ah, okay. I, uh, I would imagine that the ocean's 11 crowd was like that thick as thieves and everybody was wondering what they were except in that one. They're literal thieves.
Shauna:                                05:29                     Yeah. Yeah. Actual thieves. A popular story for thick as thieves is that the idiom originated in the 18 hundreds at that time, thieves often worked together in gangs and were extremely close and telling each other everything and completely relying on one another and nobody outside of their group. Um, so this is like sounds fun and clever.
Dan:                                       05:53                     I found, I found that origin stories, uh, that I on the internet are never wrong. Never. Right. Never ever. Right.
Shauna:                                06:01                     And like the truth of history is that we don't usually have such a clear picture of what actually happened.
Dan:                                       06:07                     So it's a good point. I, yeah. The truth. Resist simplicity.
Shauna:                                06:10                     Yes. So let's look back a little bit and find out where this all really started.
Dan:                                       06:16                     So was it at least the 18 hundreds?
Shauna:                                06:19                     No. Okay. Get there.
Dan:                                       06:21                     Okay.
Shauna:                                06:22                     So first things first, the phrase, got it start well before that. All right. Yeah. Well before the 18 hundreds, however, it was in a slightly different form. So 18 hundreds is where some of this kind of picked up, but what kind of walk through it here? Um, one might think that the key word in the phrase is thieves, but one would be wrong. And I was one after some searching online through dictionaries and histories for thick as thieves or phrases containing thieves. Uh, yeah, I, I finally found out, uh, that I was looking in the wrong direction, so I was barking up the wrong tree. So as it turns out, the linchpin of the phrase is actually the word thick. Um, thick has had multiple meanings, both literal and figurative over the years. In fact, I still hear it used to describe an individual as um, possessing less than average intelligence.
Dan:                                       07:21                     And then we do it. We do a word podcast.
Shauna:                                07:29                     words are hard (finally back on track). Possessing less than average intelligence. Gotcha.
Dan:                                       07:36                     Okay. Oh, so like thick. Like that guy still, yeah,
Shauna:                                07:38                     thick in the head kind of thing. Yeah. Okay. The Oxford English dictionary provides multiple definitions for thick as well. Number 10 of those is the figurative form of the sense of the individual things collectively existing or occurring in large numbers in a relatively small space or at short intervals, densely arranged, crowded hints, numerous abundant, plentiful. An example of this, the enemy army bore down upon them two massive columns thick with soldiers.
Dan:                                       08:12                     I could see where Thick in this case would also be thin. Ah Bah, thick in this case would also not be thin. That's literally the opposite. Thick in this case would also be dense and dense is also another word for someone with less than stellar intelligence. Yeah, sure is. We have a lot of words that are bullying people. What is going on with our language?
Shauna:                                08:34                     Hm. I w- I think originally were those, you think used to be nice about it
Dan:                                       08:40                     instead of just going, Oh man, you are stupid. They're just like, Oh, you're dense or listen, no, listen,
Shauna:                                08:47                     we figured this out.
Dan:                                       08:48                     We figured this out in the South a long time ago. Bless your heart.
Shauna:                                08:53                     Yes, a Southern folk.
Shauna:                                08:56                     So that's thick, used in, in this way, it's considered to be an literal sense of thick because it's that densely packed. So they're saying that's, that's literal. And then the figurative form of that refers to close in confidence and association. Intimate or familiar. And this is often in similes with allusion to other senses. For example, as thick as glue, as thick as incl weavers, as thick as peas in a shell, or as two thieves, as thick as three in a bed and so on.
Dan:                                       09:28                     Is that because beds were small or is this some sort of a Manasseh trois thing that I'm not aware of?
Shauna:                                09:34                     No, I got really excited about that one.
Dan:                                       09:35                     Ew
Shauna:                                09:36                     But the truth of the matter is just if you imagine three people in a small bed, that's just really all, all about what it is.
Shauna:                                09:48                     Yeah. Um, so here are some examples of thick used in this figurative sense around 1756, John Nichols in literary anecdotes of the 18th century. Yes. Said he, we begin now though contrary to my expectations and without my seeking to be pretty thick. And I thank God who reconciles me to my adversaries. And then later in 1781, this is in selected papers from the Twining family. He and I were quite thick. We wrote together frequently.
Dan:                                       10:21                     Um, this one they use thick in quotations, meaning they want you to know that they don't mean it in the way you might think.
Shauna:                                10:27                     Yes, exactly. And so there's that one too. It indicates that this was because he wrote together with someone, so he was with them a lot. Not in physical proximity are tightly packed, but the time spent together also starts to pull into this as far as that definition in 1802, Charles Lamb and Mary Anne lamb. And these are the letters of Charles and Mary Anne lamb.
Dan:                                       10:53                     That is a great title. There's quick and to the point
Shauna:                                10:56                     it is sure is. Uh, and the quote is "Are you & the first Consul thick?"
Dan:                                       11:01                     Oh. Meaning like, Hey you two, a close in association,
Shauna:                                11:06                     but not romantic here.
Dan:                                       11:08                     This would be more romantic. What were you thinking? Your mind out of the gutter.
Dan:                                       11:14                     That's actually another really good idiom, mind, mind, out of the gutter.
Shauna:                                11:17                     That one's going to have to be on, that'll have to be some with you actually.
Dan:                                       11:20                     That one may need to be a bonus episode. Bonus episode
Shauna:                                11:24                     in 1820, Walter Scott wrote the monastery a romance. That's right, twa will be as thick as three in a bed an' ance ye forgather. So that one might be a little bit more. On the.
Dan:                                       11:41                     That one might be a little bit more on than on the nose of a really, really fun side of that. if that's your thing. Yeah,
Shauna:                                11:50                     but it's definitely a using it. So this one, a different form of that, that three in a bed, which is kind of fun. And that's actually the only one that I, that I found with that specific usage. And there were others that were close, but I wasn't able to pull the context of those. So it's just, you know, not quite enough to,
Dan:                                       12:07                     yeah, it's really interesting to me that, cause I would've thought thieves was the, I mean, I know you've said this, but I would've thought thieves would have been the, the root there, but you know, I get it now, the thick meaning there. And I've never heard thick as three in a bed before. But that's a, I mean, I, I mean it's, it's apt. I obviously we don't use it today often, but it's very, that's a very interesting concept there. The other one that you mentioned, uh, and I'm very glad, I'm hoping you're going to say something about it later. Incl weavers, cause I don't have any idea what that is, but man, I was just, I was like, please do all that is good in the world. Please tell me. inkle weavers. Okay, well if we'll get to it, I will wait patiently.
Shauna:                                12:46                     All right. So in 1836, Harriet Grandville, um, her letters were published. These were letters from 1810 to 1845 and one of them had the sentence, he is thick with all the new ministers. Oh, okay. So somebody has got it has got the in crowd. Yeah. In 1869 in Routledge's every boy's annual, we soon grew as thick as inkle weavers.
Dan:                                       13:13                     There's that phrase again. One art. Okay, now I don't know where you were going to do it, but now you're doing it now what are inkle weavers.
Dan:                                       13:20                     Yeah, that was exactly where I went with this. I was like, okay, I have one question after all this research. Yeah. Right. So, but I do like that this establishes that thieves is not that representation of the closeness, but instead of the thick as. Yeah. Uh, so where do you go to find out what inkle weavers are?
Dan:                                       13:41                     I mean, I would go to the Oxford English dictionary cause I'm a reputable human. What did you do?
Dan:                                       13:46                     I went to urban dictionary. Okay. Here's my reason. Right. I went there first because I was a little bit concerned that I might have gotten this into some sort of predicament by having an episode about a word that totally inappropriate. Yeah. Yeah. So I was like, I better check this out. Uh, however
Shauna:                                14:06                     incl means to have an inkling to think vaguely. He always inkles that something forboding is approaching him or to crash a party. Her, what did you do last night? Him? Well, I was driving along with John and we decided to inkle at Jennifer's, her, you -bad word-.
Shauna:                                14:28                     So I, um, there could be something there, but it's more like crash a party. Like we're going to go.
Dan:                                       14:34                     Yeah. I mean like, I know I've heard inkling before is inkling tied to inkle?
Shauna:                                14:41                     No not at all.
Dan:                                       14:41                     Oh, okay. So in this case, urban dictionary was literally no help.
Shauna:                                14:45                     Right. But, uh, we did establish that we're not in trouble.
Dan:                                       14:50                     Right. What at least didn't, at least
Dan:                                       14:52                     we weren't saying anything. That's gonna earn us an explicit tag for intellectuals.
Shauna:                                14:56                     Yes. All right. So of course, then I went to Oxford English dictionary where I found the Inkle Weaver noun, a Weaver of inkle, or linen tape.
Dan:                                       15:06                     Unhelpful. What's the phrase?
Shauna:                                15:09                     As great or thick as inkle weavers. Extremely intimate. And I was like, wait, what?
Dan:                                       15:15                     He's still very unhelpful. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in my dictionaries is when they use the word they're defining in the definition. And I'm just like, you can't do that.
Shauna:                                15:26                     That like a, I mean you like, maybe you start there, but then you need to tell us what inkle is please. All right. Yeah, that doesn't tell us what inkle is at all. But this is one of those times that the visual medium is really helpful. Alas, I cannot share that with you here, but we can post a picture or a thing on our Patrion so that you can see an image of this. But okay. So many people have seen items that are created using inkle weaving, and there's still currently a process that's used today. I think it's even a machine process now, uh, to do the same thing. Uh, but these include belts and camera straps, bracelets, ribbon trim, um, and all kinds of other things like that. So an.
Dan:                                       16:09                     So inkles are kind of loom?
Shauna:                                16:10                     Yes. It's um, it's multiple things. Uh, an inkle loom consists of a wooden frame with a series of dowels extending horizontally. And then there's some yarn that is across all of those horizontal, uh, bars and then other yarn or string stuff that is woven back and forth to create a pattern in different colors or um, materials types.
Dan:                                       16:36                     Shauna really good at radio because she's gesticulating very hard for you to be able to see what she's doing with her hands. But news flash, for those of you at home, I am sitting right next to her and still can't figure out what she's trying to say.
Shauna:                                16:48                     Oh goodness. Uh, so many people, if you've seen a friendship bracelet, that's one of those flat wide ones and it kind of has a pattern to it. Inkle weaving looks similar to that when it's completed, but it's not made of knots. It's composed of woven back and forth threads. Inkle can also be the yarn that's used and it's traditionally made of linen. Um, so and then a wide variety of patterns in different things can be made with this type of weaving. Uh, but when people were weaving like this, you've got a somewhat small loom. They came, you know, varied in size and everything. But if you think of textile mills and those types of things in the 17 hundreds, uh, those people were very, very close quarters, um, even closer than they would be today. And how their work in their work environment
Dan:                                       17:38                     would people that will there the thick word as well. But the inkle weavers are so close together.
Shauna:                                17:43                     Yes. And they spend so much time together working in those close quarters. They get to know each other really well, which is just what happens. And so that is where that, that concept comes in.
Dan:                                       17:53                     Awesome. You should just go a Google inkle loom or inkle weavers or whatever. You'll see pictures of it. It'll make more sense to you at that point. In fact, if you've already done that, kudos to you. And if you didn't, I'll give you permission to stop now and figure it out. Otherwise, you can go to our Patreon and we'll have a link on our Twitter or you could just go to our Patreon shameless plug.
Shauna:                                18:16                     In 1738, Jonathan Swift wrote a complete collection of genteel and ingenious conversation according to the most polite mode and method now used at court, and in the best companies of England I've referenced this book before and every time I'm like, I don't know what part of this to leave out, but that's a ridicoulous title.
Dan:                                       18:34                     I'm gonna read the entire title.
Shauna:                                18:37                     Oh, it says she and you were as great as to inkle weavers. All right, so this is 1738, so definitely before, um, the 18 hundreds, but the, so it's not the same phrase that thick as thieves, but it is how that phrase came to be. So that's kind of where it started. Somewhere around that timeframe or even in the late 16 hundreds, most of the usage of thick as something actually occurred in the United States and that did transition into that thick as thieves and that's where, how it was mostly used and particularly more recently. So in 1948 in the evening star out of Washington DC, uh, there was an article called down on the farm and it says, isn't science wonderful? Now don't get me wrong, we farmers go in for science right here on the old farm. Scientists are thick as thieves. Agriculturists, botanist, (struggling)Agro-agro-nomics I don't know, agronomists, engineers, all kinds. One of our props down here, we called the sun doctor.
Dan:                                       19:42                     That was nice. Like he just, he leads speeded professors right there,I love it, props one of our props down here.
Shauna:                                19:49                     He measures the sunshine, catches the rain drops. He keeps facts and figures on the wind. He is always taking the temperature like a mother fussing over her first born.
Dan:                                       20:01                     So they have a meteorologist. Yeah, well that's great. Good, good for them.
Shauna:                                20:06                     I did love this one. Yeah, there's those, they're very funny. How many people are, are back and forth on the science thing, but uh, even farmers who are kind of scientists.
Dan:                                       20:16                     Right? Yeah, I found that fascinating. I mean not just kinda like farm is one of the most farming today at least. And obviously even in the 1940s this is, which I didn't realize it was so scientific back then, but yeah, I mean it is, it is a major science. It's pretty impressive. That's why you have a, you know, agriculture school is like a Texas a A M or a Kansas state. You know, those are a couple of schools that are big ag schools and that is a large portion of their programs are basically the science of farming and the science of getting food and agriculture food to people. Cause if a, we didn't have farmers, we would not exist.
Shauna:                                20:56                     Farmers, you're cool.
Dan:                                       20:58                     Well, today's show is sponsored by our patrons. According to the Oxford English dictionary since the 13 hundreds the word patron has meant a person's deigning in a role of oversight, protection or sponsorship to another. Patron comes from the Latin word for father pater. Then becoming Patronus, meaning champion or protector than to patron, meaning one who sponsors something like a patron of the arts. Leonardo DaVinci was able to make his art thanks to patrons like Medici and Ceasier Borgian. Bunny trails is able to continue things to our awesome patrons, including Pat Rowe and Mary Lopez. If you want to become a patron of bunny trails and get cool perks like early access to episodes behind the scenes content, monthly mini episodes and more, you can visit us at Or find links at
Shauna:                                21:49                     thick as thieves has been used as the title for many, uh, current or recent, uh, things like movies, books and so on. Uh, most of those movies were actually based on books. So I went ahead and referenced, uh, one of the books here. Uh, but there were, there are multiple movies. Morgan Freeman starring in one, and, uh, just anyway, a large group of them and most of them with a, uh, ocean's 11 esque style storyline. And
Dan:                                       22:19                     I think, you know what, actually, honestly, that's why, probably why I think or why I thought that thieves was the route here. I couldn't quite put my finger on it until just now. But most of the books or movies or anything that I've seen were thick as thieves has come up, has focused more on the thief aspect, you know, uh, not, not the thick aspect. So that's very, I mean, the thick is there and it's almost implied, but it's the thieves that they really focus on. But maybe they're just being, maybe they're being fun, but I think it's kind of shifted the way that phrase is used over time now, because in, in, at least in my consciousness, thieves was the, the predominant, you know? Yeah.
Shauna:                                22:57                     Yes. And I think that's the case for a lot of people. They just kind of connect with that thieves part. They understand that, what that means. And, um, but you know, that's kind of the way some of these, these phrases work. So in a more recent book, 2007 is when this was released, thick as thieves, a brother, a sister, a true story of two turbulent lives. This is a memoir about two siblings who loved each other. Sometimes the thrill of the shoplift, the power of the written word, the agony of addiction, and the joy of someone who understands you and still stays true. Uh, so this is actually, so these are memoirs. The author Steve Geng, uh, wrote these memoirs about himself and his sister. So kind of interesting. It sounded like a fascinating story
Shauna:                                23:46                     in March, 2014 this is from the, about the history of emotions blog and the article is titled thick as thieves. Dr. Helen Rogers is reader in 19th century studies at Liverpool, John Moores university and the author of the blog conviction stories from a 19th century prison. She is also one of the editors of the journal of Victorian culture in this post for the history of emotions blog, she writes about her research into juvenile criminals, including their friendships and tattoos. Subjects she also speaks about in episode six of 500 years of friendship, she begins the post, we'll never know who coined the phrase as thick as thieves to describe clothes and furtive acquaintances. But the phrase had currency by the late 1830s when it began to appear in fiction and newspapers. The timing is striking for, it coincides with growing cultural anxieties about the rise of a criminal class inhabiting a clandestine world of hardened offenders, bound by evil associations and bad connections.
Dan:                                       24:48                     That's interesting because the etymology doesn't quite, doesn't quite line up with the origins of, for her assertion there, but it could definitely account for the rise in its popularity in the 18 hundreds though.
Shauna:                                25:00                     Absolutely. And this is one of those too where you, there you see a lot of um, usage for phrases like this that's outside of the, you know, kind of normal, um, literature and things like that. But you may be used in multiple ways at the same time and bring in those other words into it. Thieves and inkle weavers and everything else. Uh, you know, kind of has a, has a play on that company that is up and running today is called thick as thieves. And this is a Melbourne based touring an events company at thick as thieves. We scour the globe for the most exciting underground artists to bring you the freshest tour and roster in Australia.
Shauna:                                25:44                     That's truly started to say apparently we're dedicated to raising the vibration and everything we do thick as thieves is also a pop hip hop band based out of Los Angeles. And um, they have opened four national favorites such as imagine dragons and 21 pilots and Sean Kingston, some many others. And uh, they've also played in venues like the house of blues and whiskey, a Gogo and the Roxy. So they're, sounds like they're doing really well. Nice. Yeah. As thick as thieves is a hard rock band. And this is Arizona's premiere rock and rugged five piece.
Dan:                                       26:24                     Interesting.
Shauna:                                26:24                     . Yes, they were formed in 2012 and a, they've performed at a lot of festivals, showcases and rock shows.
Shauna:                                26:34                     I like how this phrase has kind of a journey through the centuries. Um, and it's really fun to me, but a lot of quirky words in there and versions, you know, going back through time, I love feeling like I can be a part of a timeframe and get like a really kind of understand a time period or the experiences that some people may have had in that time. And uh, I dunno, there's so many things about our lives that haven't changed that much. So I really like thick as thieves. Uh, I think that it's moved to a mostly positive connotation. Um, so while it means that two people or maybe more are intimate in a slightly secretive way, it isn't a bad thing and it just, um, like a really great friendship or closeness that's something we should be celebrating, I think. So I'm gonna keep using it, uh, very happily the way that I have been. That about wraps this up for today. Thank you so much for joining us. We want to thank everyone who talked about the show last week using the bunny trails. Hashtag word of mouth and personal experiences are the best way to grow a podcast and your help is greatly appreciated.
Dan:                                       27:43                     If you want to chat more about the show or phrases in their stories in general, you can join the community on Patrion. You'll find the link to that and everything else we Thanks again for joining us. We'll talk to you again next week. Until then,
Both:                                     27:56                     remember words belong to their users.

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