Friday, May 02, 2008


While in Boston, we were walking around the market and I heard someone sneeze and then someone not too far away turn around and yell, "bless you!"

"Bless you" sometimes perplexes me. Why do we say it? Tradition? Ok, it doesn't really matter. Just something you say. But I might think it's kind of really weird. I mean, is anyone really offended if no one says "bless you" after you sneeze? "Helloooo.. i just sneezed. Anyone?" And is it not weird that ANYONE can say it? not just people who actually know you? I'm standing by a group of total strangers and it would be totally bizarre/socially odd to suddenly blurt out a word to them out of the blue. Except, when they sneeze, somehow I'm suddenly concerned for them and want them to know they'll be blessed for it? WEIRD. And sometimes it's done in a friendly way but oftentimes people just say it just to say it, as if I'm interrupting their moment and despite how annoying my sneeze is, somewhere in their life, they signed a contractual agreement saying that they'll say "bless you" when someone sneezes--no matter who it is or where you are or what you're doing. You're contractually obligated. And while I'm at it, I'm not really ok with going out of one's way to tell someone "bless you" after they've sneezed. If you're standing a sitting a foot away, then ok, I guess. whatever. But when you hear someone sneeze across the room and shout "bless you!!!" at them, isn't that a little weird/rude? Like, why are you shouting at me, stranger?

Anyway, I shared my views with Brooke as we were walking, right after witnessing this event and I said, "I mean, it's like suddenly shouting, 'ALOHA!!!' to someone I don't even know..." And then--the best thing ever--when I shouted 'aloha,' the woman in front of us jumped, turned her head slightly, and then totally scampered away quickly as if i was telling her to scram. OH MAN. So funny. I felt a little bad but thank you, lady, for proving my point. You felt invaded, right? yelled at. So anyway. Those are my thoughts, now you tell me yours.


Anonymous said...

I heard that in some old culture they thought that every time you sneeze some of your soul escapes-thus, the "bless you."

btw, LOVED the mad libs.

)en said...

Ha. Thanks Britta! for commenting. I'm needy that way.

That's an interesting tidbit. And i'm very very glad you liked the madlibs.

Alanna said...

Hi-- my name is Alanna, and my little sister, Natalie Richards, recommended your blog as some fun reading and I am totally enjoying it! So I hope you don't mind some random person reading your stuff...

As far as the whole sneezing thing goes, I've actually heard two theories, and being so well informed, I just have to pass the information along! One is pretty much what Britta just said (and it's the one I believe)-- in the mediavel times, people thought your soul left your body when you sneezed, and if no one "blessed" you then the devil could posses you. So in that case, I think it really is good if even complete strangers take the time to shout out a good "Bless you!"

The other theory is that it started because your heart actually stops when you sneeze. That may be true, but I doubt that any medieval people had figured it out!

I'm a fan of the whole "bless you" thing since it's just nice to have an excuse to say something like that. I was once travelling with a couple guys from Europe, and someone sneezed and I said, "Gesundheit," not really thinking much, and the German in the group got so excited to hear a little bit of German! He had no idea that Americans use that phrase. Poor lonely guy!

Okay-- I've said WAY too much on this topic. Thanks for having a fun blog!