Occasionally, we read that “Nine out of 10 doctors recommend…” or maybe “Nine of 10 dentists…”
A press release will always identify the individual or organization presenting the groundbreaking revelation. However, more often than not, the source of most definitive information is the unseen, yet omniscient body of experts grouped in a single (yet plural) pronoun: “they.”
It seems since the dawn of communication, “they say” has been the absolutely irrefutable declaration of fact.
But, WHO are “they”? They are not necessarily doctors or dentists – it’s not always about medical issues. They certainly are not AP, UPI, Reuters, or Business Wire. Believe it or not, “they” are not even Google or Wikipedia. “They” have been “saying” long before any wire service or the Internet.
Who are these all-knowing beings driving the essence of universal understanding?
I realize I’m not the first to ask. Probably most of the observational comedians, such as Cosby, Carlin, and Seinfeld have posed the question.
I just don’t think it has yet been answered, and is worth revisiting.
We know for sure “they” are old – really old. Because, they have been saying for hundreds of years. I don’t think they are necessarily credentialed or certified. And I could be wrong… But, I suspect “they” might be women. I base this hypothesis on just one thing. The only viable contradiction to, “You know what ‘they’ say…” Is always: “Oh – that’s just an old wives’ tale!”
Once a “You know what they say” has been countered with dismissal of being an “old wives’ tale,” a stalemate occurs. The argument is officially over. There’s no way to prove or disprove it, because neither source can be contacted. No one knows who “they” are, and nobody will ever admit to knowing or BEING an old wife.
At least, that’s what they say.