s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: S is for Sneezes

Thursday, December 25, 2008

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?)


At December 26, 2008 11:20 AM, Blogger Sonya said...

I'm in the habit of saying Gesundheit, although I can't decide if it's good because it's less religious, or bad because it's more Third Reichy.

At December 26, 2008 12:57 PM, Blogger Katya said...

My guess is that "Gesundheit" predates the Third Reich, which would make it more generally Teutonic than specifically Nazi. Or you could always adopt the Spanish "salud!" which means the same thing but doesn't have Germanic overtones . . .

At December 27, 2008 7:57 PM, Blogger Th. said...


I say gesundheit because it seems to demand less of the sneezer who, let's face it, just sneezed.

At December 28, 2008 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just like to say Gesundheit because it's fun to say.

At January 05, 2009 6:16 PM, Blogger Queen Zippergut said...

Your posts don't have to be tied to anything else. They're all just brilliant. You Katya, you.


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