What do you say when someone sneezes?
It depends on who sneezes and where we are. Usually I say nothing. If the need for politeness is high, gesundheit is the secular acknowledgement of a sneeze. (It means 'good health' as Amanda pointed out.) If the sneezer, caught off guard, pitches over and grabs his face, I say 'nice catch'.
Does it bother you that "Bless you" is short for "God bless you"?
It bothers me to sneeze, open my eyes and find a stranger praying over me. Worse is when several people bless me for the same sneeze. Now it's a prayer meeting.
Some issue one blessing for each sneeze. Achoo. God bless you. Achoo. God bless you. Achoo. God bless you. What am I, the wailing wall?
But it gets worse still. Others must deliver the blessing at a volume to surpass the sneeze. ACHOO! GOD BLESS YOU!! With multiple sneezes and blessers it's a Klingon death ritual.
Then suddenly I'm on the spot. Say thank you. If not, I'm being rude. Gosh all you weirdo strangers on the train. Thanks so much.
Does it even matter?
It matters when someone who knows I'm an atheist blesses me. Likewise, when someone says 'I'll pray for you'. They know I don't believe. It's intended as a reminder of what they believe, issued for their own benefit, not mine. It's self-serving to the point of rudeness.
For the theist who disagrees: imagine an atheist says "religion is bullshit" every time you sneeze. Imagine a Christian tells a Jew "Jesus is the Messiah" whenever he sneezes.
I personally prefer "Salud," which is Spanish for "health."
There are myriad explanations, but nobody knows exactly why the sneeze warrants a blessing. We do know the practice dates back to at least 77 AD. It's only clear that it was meant as a magical inoculation against an oncoming malady of the body or soul.
I'd like to see this ridiculous superstitious practice done away with in every language and culture. But 2000 year-old habits die hard.
Well put Gallup. Some of your statements I found very funny. I stopped that nonesensical superstition while I was still a xian, I rather be rude that follow the useless superstition
I usually say "Use a tissue, NOT the back of my neck you peasant !"
You guys are very funny! Thanks Judith!
Ugh. Last week this kid was coughing, sneezing, and sniffing all around me. I wanted to conk him over the head. Alas, I was on the clock.
If I said "bless you" (which is kind of weird and I don't seem to say anyway) then I'd just mean a bunch of letters meant to put the sneeze aside. Same as if I stub my toe and say "Jesus!" I'm not invoking the Christian martyr, or when I say "shit!" am not specifically referring to a turd.
"Oh God!" is just an expletive too, and technically, if you want to get all biblical on me, is blasphemy, which is fine by me - or more accurately, irrelevant to me.
Good point--I use "God" and "Jesus" as swear words all the time (although I try to avoid it in public for politeness' sake) and don't think about it. I'm guessing "Bless you" has also become equally meaningless for a lot of people.
If I said "bless you" (which is kind of weird and I don't seem to say anyway) then I'd just mean a bunch of letters meant to put the sneeze aside. Same as if I stub my toe and say "Jesus!" I'm not invoking the Christian martyr, or when I say "shit!" am not specifically referring to a turd. "Oh God!" is just an expletive too, and technically, if you want to get all biblical on me, is blasphemy, which is fine by me - or more accurately, irrelevant to me.
The 'you' makes a difference. God bless you. Bless you. This is the vital difference between damn and damn you, shit and shit you, fuck and fuck you! One is a sentiment directed at another.
I find that a seething, muttered Jesus Christ! is a satisfying oath. For some reason, giving Jesus a middle initial-- Jesus H. Christ!-- deepens the satisfaction. This goes even though I don't believe in the damnation of blasphemy or the magic of blessings.
God bless you from a stranger bothers me, but only a little. Mostly because it's an unpleasant reminder that most of the people who say it believe in the blessing. The devout ones really emphasize the God in it.
In contrast, I appreciate that non-believers generally have thought things through (as these excellent folk so often do) and either use a secular sneeze acknowledgement or stay silent.
The other day as I was leaving a patient's house for the last time, she said, " God bless you." Before I could get my wits about me, I said, " Thanks. You too."
I felt rather silly. Oh well.
I think it is strange that somebody can hack and hack for 5 minutes and bring up something that may have new forms of life on it, and be out of breath in the process, and we say nothing. Somebody sneezes and there is an imperative to make sure he or she has diving intervention.
I usually say nothing, but sometimes that silence is awkward. When people say, "Bless you" to me I just thank them and move on.
That's happened to me before. I felt so goofy. I was like, 'wait that's not what I meant to...awe, who cares?'
I would look at it as merely affirming a general positive sentiment, not "I, too, believe in God." I think it's a little obsessive to feel guilty about such things.
When I was young, the way everybody around me said it made it sound like "bleshoo," which is what I used to say all the time. I thought it was so strange that it was really made up of words in the English language. I prefer a strange word to the nonsense of bless you. :D