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Never let your left hand know...

Posted by ESC on March 07, 2003

In Reply to: Right Hand/Left Hand posted by Harikrishnan Menon on March 07, 2003

: : Without benefit of having seen the movie, I venture a guess that the writer had in mind the common expression "The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing," meaning that a person's or organization's behavior is contradictory or inconsistent.

: The original quote from the Bible reads: "When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret..." Here, it clearly means "don't do something good with publicity in mind".
: However, it doesn't make much sense in the film's context, unless Lancaster meant to say he's been exceptionally selfless and charitable for thirty years. This seems most unlikely, considering that Lancaster's character (newsman JJ Hunsecker) is based on notorious gossip columnist Walter Winchell (1897-1972) who was not by any account America's Sweetheart.

NEVER LET YOUR LEFT HAND KNOW WHAT YOUR RIGHT HAND IS DOING - "Keep things secret. Tell no one. Of Biblical origin. The proverb was first cited in the United States in 'Extracts from the Itineraries of Ezra Stiles . 'Let not your left hand know what your right hand does' is an older variant. A more recent sense is that communication is poor between two parties who should be acting in concert.'But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.' Matthew, 6:3 (King James Version)'." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

I think that in the business world it means keeping your various interests separate, especially if there's wrongdoing involved. Biblically, at least in my religion (Bible-thumping Baptist) the verse means to keep your good deeds secret. If you get praise here on Earth, you won't get a star in your crown in heaven. No double-dipping.