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Three Wise Guys: A Food-Hoarding Fellow, Wedding-Ring Fingers


(By Danny Hellman)

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By Joe Heim, Justin Rude and Dan Zak
Sunday, March 2, 2008

Dear Wise Guys:

Could you explain the bizarre behavior of a well-paid lawyer? I point out his profession for obvious reasons: He has a six-plus-figure income, so he's not strapped for cash. Whenever there are leftovers from a meeting or firm social event, he hovers around and (A) is the first of the folks lined up for leftovers and (B) proceeds to stuff food in his pockets. I don't mean a couple of crackers wrapped in a napkin, but stuff that you just wouldn't put in your pocket and then eat (doughnuts, half a sandwich, cheese -- you get the idea). It's so gross, and he believes he is being sly about it. Trust me, he's not, and there are a lot of "ewwws" going on behind his back. What is up with this?!

Crass in Pocket

Dan: I'm not sure why you think this is a problem. This guy sounds like a food-gathering genius.

Justin: And it's very possible that his suit pockets are lined with plastic and refrigerated.

Joe: Is he a former journalist? If so, that might explain it. He sounds like just about every reporter and editor in our newsroom.

Dear Wise Guys:

Why is it that here in the United States we wear wedding rings on our left ring fingers, but many Europeans, Russians and others use their right ring fingers?

Jen

Joe: Are you sure the ones you've met weren't just slimy Europeans pretending they weren't married? We put your question to Vicki Howard, a professor of history at Hartwick College and the author of "Brides Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition."

She e-mailed us that "it seems to be a matter of different religious custom or religious influence." In her book she writes: "In the medieval Sarum, the ring was placed on the bride's right hand. This became the left hand in Thomas Cranmer's Anglican marriage service. In paintings in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, however, Catholic and Jewish brides stood with either the right or left hand outstretched."

When we asked how this explained the difference between Europe and the United States, Howard responded that "American wedding ring customs have followed English bridal practices, which came out of the Anglican ceremony. Perhaps Europeans today continue to reflect the medieval practice, changed during the Reformation, of receiving the bridal ring on the right hand."

She had no explanation, however, for why European men still insist on wearing Speedo bathing suits when they go to the beach.

Have a question only the Three Wise Guys can answer? Send it to wiseguys@washpost.com and await their words of wise-dom.


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