E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Very concise and pithy. A Spartan was called a Lacon from Laconia, the land in which he dwelt. The Spartans were noted for their brusque and sententious speech. When Philip of Macedon wrote to the Spartan magistrates, If I enter Laconia, I will level Lacedæmon to the ground, the ephors wrote word back the single word, If. (See above LACEDÆMONIAN LETTER.)
In 1490 ONeil wrote to ODonnel: Send me the tribute, or else. To which ODonnel replied: I owe none, or else.