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18 March 2009

Over-Thinking Sneeze Blessings

It's possible that I think too much. It's all part of the goal of being genuine, meaning what I say, etc. And most of you will probably think I'm mental.

A while back I stopped saying, "Bless you," after hearing someone sneeze. I did this because it originated as a pretty stupid idea. I don't think I've ever said, "Ghesundheit!" in that context because it doesn't sound very English and I had no idea what it meant. has this note on the origin of "Bless you" (which is what I'd known about the origin, though it seems it verifiably originated during the days of the Black Plague): "According to Man, Myth, and Magic: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion and the Unknown, many cultures, even some in Europe, believe that sneezing expels the soul--the 'breath of life'--from the body."

It's the one I'm most familiar with, and that's why I decided to stop after years and years of dishing out token blessings. It's just dumb.

But I think I may be considered rude when I'm silent post-sneeze, so I've been trying to figure out what to do.

One action would be to go ahead and say "Ghesundheit," but until this morning I'd never bothered to learn what it meant. Random House's Word of the Day site explains it: "'Gesundheit' literally means 'health'. It comes from German--no, not Yiddish--and is formed from gesund 'healthy'."

I think that I may just go with modern English and start saying, "Health!" after someone sneezes so that I can be edgy and relevant. I'm not sure, though. Any suggestions that will help me remain civil and say something encouraging while remaining true to my deep convictions in this area?


Leroy said...

"Any suggestions that will help me remain civil and say something encouraging while remaining true to my deep convictions in this area?"

How about "feel better?" Because you usually feel better after you sneeze and you would be showing concern.

Dean, you're mental. :)

Christy said...

You think too much and you're mental.

Lisa said...

How about, "Need a tissue?" Be careful not to say, "Need a Kleenex?" because Kleenex is a name brand and though commonly used interchangeably with tissue, is not an accurate representation of said nose wiper. This can also apply to "band-aide" vs. "bandage" and so on. See, two can play this game : )

Dean Lusk said...

Wow, that is awesome, Lisa! I like to see Christians thinking like this!


Okay, so it looks like all three votes are for "mental case." I wonder if saying that is offensive to other mental cases...?

Christy said...

I said it, and took no offense.

Ninfa said...

How about "Wow, thanks for the shower!" I'm kidding of course! :o)

You could go with "feel Better?" or "Need a tissue?" as has already been stated. You could also go with "You okay?" or "Can I get you something?" But any of these are going to seem strange without the common "Bless you" stated. So...

I think you should say "amen" Here is why:

The word means "may it be so" and when someone sneezes they are doing so because they need to rid their body of something that is irritating it. So if they sneeze and you say "Amen" then you are wishing supporting them in their efforts to cleanse their body.

How's that?

By the way... your mental!

Leroy said...

Time for a vote...

1) Mental;
2) Amen.

Christy, you cracked me up!

Tony M said...

Only related by the act that incites the potential "blessing," I wrote a piece about sneezes a while back. Feel free to delete this comment if you feel it's not in fitting with your discussion. :)

Personally, I like to say, "Bless me" when someone sneezes, asking for them to pray for blessing that I'll not become infected by the large number of germs the sneezer has just injected into the nearby environment in which I find myself helplessly breathing without adequate ventilatory protection.

But maybe I'm just mental...

Tony M said...

PS, Leroy: I'm not voting till Dean adds an official poll on this topic to his blog.

Tony M said...

PS: I finally read the link from Straight Dope you posted (after reading a similar thing elsewhere in a totally unrelated chain of events). Looks like the modern "Bless you" was from the time of the black plague in Europe, and was intended as a blessing to the person sneezing (and possibly a "final blessing"), as sneezing was a potential sign of infection from the plague. In that context, is asking (praying) a blessing over someone in response to a sneeze (which could indicate allergies or other illness) really all that bad?

Dean Lusk said...

I don't think it's bad at all. Just not applicable these days. Isn't it amazing that a colloquialism could survive that long, though??

Mindy said...

I always understood the reason people say "God Bless You" was because when you sneeze your heart skips a beat and God blessed you by starting it again. Who knows maybe I'm the mental one for actually believing this all my 25 years. I would say "Goodness" myself but I don't think that is a very "manly" thing to say, so I guess its back to square one. When you do decide what to say, please let us all know for we are anxious with anticipation!

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