Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Fri Aug 25 19:13:02 UTC 2000

Thomas Paikeday wrote:
> In many cultures, asking the price of something not offered for sale is
> taboo. It's a foreboding of bad luck.

The anthropologist in me can't resist what Lewis Carroll would have
called a contrariwise:

My wife and I have spent enough time in Mexico that we're no longer put
out of joint when we run across deeply-rooted cultural contrasts.  We
usually just shift gears and follow local custom.

Interacting with reasonably well-to-do people in such places as Mexico
City, we still get shocked by very open exchanges about prices.  In
those circles, the taboo seems to be NOT asking the price of something
(whether offered for sale or not).  Not asking "how much did that cost?"
comes close to implying "You are insignificant, and nobody cares about
the things you possess or what they mean to you."

It took a very long time for us to accept questions expressed in terms
we simply can't imagine happening in similar circles in the U.S.  A
typical example of a statement that would be taken as appropriately
gracious would be something like:

"Thank you very much for this beautiful gift.  It's exactly what I
wanted.  How much did it cost you?"

-- mike salovesh   <salovesh at>         PEACE !!!

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