Like most people, sometimes I sneeze. Recently, after sneezing, an eminent atheist mate of mine said “Bless You” and then apologised and exclaimed “I don’t know why I said that!”. We had a brief discussion about the reflexive nature of the phrase “Bless You” and he said he would look into it for a potential blog post. I seem to have beaten him to it so I’d be interested in his verdict when I’m done.
First things first: Where does it come from?
Snopes offers several explanations, although this is the one I’m most familiar with:
“Others claim an association of the practice with particular dire diseases (most often the bubonic plague, or “Black Death”, as it is sometimes known). They say a infected person’s sneeze was a sure sign he’d soon be pushing up daisies, thus the “Bless you!” was intended as a benediction to the nearly-departed, a way of commending his soul to the care of God now that he was beyond the help of anything in the mortal world.”
What are some of the alternatives?
- Salud! (Spanish, “Your health!”)
- Santé (French, “health”)
- Gesundheit (note)
- Good health!
- Good health to you, too.
- Thank you – be happy and healthy!
- May Lady Luck bless you and keep you. (John)
- To your health! Peace! (Ed)
- May fortune favor you. (Brian)
- Thank you very much. May you live a blessed life also. (Joseph)
- And you are in my thoughts. (Johnnie)
(Copied and pasted from the Brights)
The first four seem fairly simple in terms of switching reflex-sentiments easily. The others seem a bit long winded. “Bless You” sort of rolls off the tongue quite neatly, it can be said in roughly half a second, and when someone doesn’t say it, people notice, so I’d be happier with a replacement with as few syllables as possible.
Take a ganders at the wonderment of the MetaFilter. There are just too many good suggestions.
Why would I want to respond to someone else sneezing?
Here’s a very extreme example of what can go wrong when you sneeze. Think about that, atheist punk.
Those clever folks over at Drowned in Sound have already created a page about it here:
“people who say “bless you” deserve to have their testicles repeatedly twanged with a pencil”
Social Anxiety Support (yikes) has this to add to the debate.
OK Carmen, you’re gagging for it, I can tell. Give us your suggestions:
Oh, if you insist
- “You exploded!” – Possible variations include “You asploded” and “Explosivo”
- “Einstein!” or indeed “Einstein’s Brain!”
- “Blap!” or “Brap!”
- “Call of Cthulu!” or “Cthulu is coming in your nose” or just “Cthulu!”
- “Bisto!” (added beneift is it could be mistaken for “Bless You” if you say it quickly enough)