S is for Sneezes
A recent 100 Hour Board post on what to say when someone sneezes reminded me of a funny story.
When I was in grad school, I worked with a guy who was Thai, who said that when he first came to the US, he couldn't figure out why everyone was making fun of his sneezes. Every time he sneezed, someone — often a total stranger! — would pretend to sneeze back! Were they making fun of him for being a foreigner? Were all Americans just terribly rude?
Finally, he complained to an American friend about this recurring experience, but she couldn't figure out what he was talking about.
"Whenever I sneeze, someone says 'achoo'!"
Then it clicked.
"Are they saying 'bless you'?"
"Yes! They say 'blessyu' to make fun of my sneeze!"
She laughed and explained that Americans say "bless you" when someone sneezes, based on an old superstition about sneezing indicating bad health or an evil spirit, and that they definitely weren't making fun of his sneeze.
(Now I'm wondering if anyone ever said "Gesundheit," and what he made of that.)
(Oh, and I guess I should wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Have you ever noticed that most of my posts aren't really tied to any point in time in terms of dates or seasons?)