Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Ashes, ashes we all fall down
"Ring around a rosie, a pocket full of posies. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down."
This nursery rhyme began about 1347 and derives from the not-so-delightful Black Plague, which killed over twenty-five million people in the fourteenth century. The "ring around a rosie" refers to the round, red rash that is the first symptom of the disease. The practice of carrying flowers and placing them around the infected person for protection is described in the phrase, "a pocket full of posies." "Ashes" is a corruption or imitation of the sneezing sounds made by the infected person. Finally, "we all fall down" describes the many dead resulting from the disease.
And also, long long ago (before I had this plague of Catholics in my life.) I saw a guy out on the street on Ash Wednesday. He had a mark on his forehad. I had totally forgot it was Ash Wednesday. I almost walked up to him and said, "Excuse me sir, you have a schmutz on your forehead." Luckily, the Catholics I know and love will hear me say that today. "So when are you getting that schmutz on your forehead?" It's also best to say it in a thick Yiddish accent. Why not?