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It’s funny how something will come into your head all of a sudden without provocation, and you wonder why it happened. Even funnier when what stops you cold is either insignificant or totally off the wall.

For example, swear words. How did they originate? And who was it that determined that one four-letter word is okay and can be uttered in mixed company, like “shoe” or “food,” while another beginning with the letter S or F is wildly inappropriate. I’m just wondering if a long time ago there might have been a caveman named Thag who was happily chopping away with his hand ax or flat stone when he accidentally stubbed his thumb. “Lorg!” he screamed in pain. “Son of a Woolly Mammoth!”

“Do you have to swear like that around the cave?” his wife, Plorga, asked in disgust.

Actually, research shows that the origin of many of our swear words came from Germanic roots, while words you can say in public without reprisal, like “fornicate” and “defecate” come from the Latin. Good old classical Latin, it was always so refined.

Hopefully, you’re not reading this column over your Easter frittata, but I’m also wondering who it was that assigned “numbers” to our bodily functions? I help out our neighbors by walking a wonderful brown dog several times a week. He’s a very affable fellow, gives me no trouble whatsoever, and other than being food-obsessed (aren’t they all?), is a pleasure to accommodate. When we return to his home after our walk, I always leave the owners a daily report, which consists of telling them what he ate and also if he had “done” #1 or #2 that day. If he does both, I simply add them together and announce, he did #3. Wonder if I’m on to something new?

I grew up under the tutelage of a loving mother who was obsessed with always doing the right thing. She was forever quoting, “They’re not wearing plaid this year,” or “They say almonds are good for you,” or “They say we’re going to get at least six inches of snow tomorrow,” or “You know what they say about...”.

Well, I never knew what “they” said about anything, and always wondered who “they” were anyway. As a kid I fashioned a whole fantasy of what the crowd of “they” looked like. “They” were men, “they” were women, never kids, because they weren’t part of “they.” Some were quite stylish, some not so much, they were tall and short, fat and thin, and I imagined “they” represented every color and religion. They were like imaginary friends with strong opinions, but “they” never spoke directly to me. Apparently they only passed on their pronouncements to adults, who then would bring the message down to our level.

Now that I am an adult, “they” are still around. They went all through school with me, have sat on my shoulder at every job I ever held, and are actually peeking over my left one right now to see if I’m saying the “right” thing. My friends know “they” as well, and often relate, “They predict it’s going to be a great movie.” “They say we are going to get car tolls in Rhode Island.” “They just aren’t wearing that to the beach this year.” It’s so very prevalent, but at the same time equally very frustrating, being on the outside looking in and wondering where “they” get their information from.

Other things I wonder about: Why does the executioner putting a guilty party to death by lethal injection first wipe the arm with alcohol so the accused will avoid possible risk of infection?

Why do we take a pen out of the drawer, find it’s dried up and not working, and then put it right back?

Why do we turn down the radio when we’re in the car looking for directions or a street name?

But perhaps the one that really gets me going and has puzzled me for much of my life: Where do the people in Hell tell each other to go?

Like I said, “They” are sayin,’ I’m just wonderin.’

• • •

To all readers who are celebrating, may you enjoy a very Happy Easter, or a joyous Passover, and for those who do not have a formal religious affiliation, may you celebrate the wonder of spring!

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at or 401-539-7762.

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