Monday, January 26, 2009

Nothing to sneeze at

If you Google "sneeze" you'll find many websites explaining why people say "bless you" or "God bless you" when someone sends projectiles of microscopic mucus and spit into the air the rest of us breathe. Seems some people always sneeze twice and then we have to repeat the blessing. Or do we? Should we say something when someone stifles a sneeze? 
Why don't we say a blessing when a person coughs, hiccups, or sniffles? We often hear something "witty" when a guy lets out a hearty burp - bring it up again and we'll vote on it. And depending on the company, folks might ignore a loud fart. Why don't all the other normal bodily functions and noises elicit a response.
Back to sneezes. "God bless you" is supposed to have originated with Pope Gregory the Great during an 6th century outbreak of the bubonic plague. So, are all you Protestants really saying a Catholic prayer? I find some offense to "God bless you." I'm not qualified to bless anyone and likewise don't think most of my friends or family have any special prayer powers either. So, I sometimes say (after waiting to see if there will be a secondary explosion of snot) "gesundheidt." I always assumed it was simply a blessing in German, but it actually means "good health." More acceptable for me to say - I can wish anyone good health in better conscience than I can utter a rote prayer. On the other hand, everyone thinks I'm just disguising my "bless you." And, we live in America where few speak German. I'd be better off to learn what is said in Spanish! Back in the days of the Roman Empire, they said (in Latin of course) "long may you live." Not bad. Maybe I can go with that one. Or not.
Maybe we should say a prayer not for the sneezer, but for everyone nearby. After all, an uncovered sneeze sends up to 5,000 bacteria infected droplets into the room! Sneeze in a tissue or your sleeve but don't pollute my indoor air. Oh, don't pinch your nose to stifle it - that can raise blood pressure and lead to a stroke. Maybe the same rule applies to all bodily expulsions - wonder if my family will buy that excuse?
But, I'm really back to my original dilemma - say nothing or say something, and if so, what? What do you want to hear when you sneeze? I'll leave you with this moment of humor:

1 comment:

Keith said...

See the new alternative to "Bless you" or "Gesundheit" in animation at