Blessing the 60 Blog

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May your troubles be less, may your blessings be more, and may nothing but happiness come through your door. 

When someone nearby to you sneezes, do you say “Bless You” or “Gesundheit”?  Saying “bless you” after a sneeze is more a common courtesy than a social requirement.  According to Real Simple magazine, courtesy requires that you balance reality against adherence to tradition.  In other words, if every time someone sneezes, you say “Bless you” across the office, and she then yells “thank you,” and then you say “you’re welcome,” then the pendulum may be tipping away from graciousness and toward irritating interruption.

A sneeze is a semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth, usually caused by foreign particles irritating the nasal membranes.  A sneeze expels air forcibly from the mouth and nose in an explosive, spasmodic involuntary action resulting chiefly from irritation of the nasal mucous membrane.  Sneezing may also be linked to a sudden exposure to bright light, a sudden drop in temperature, a breeze of cold air, a particularly full stomach, or viral infection.  We all know a sneeze can lead to the spread of disease.

The function of sneezing is to expel mucus containing foreign particles or irritants and cleanse the nasal cavity. During a sneeze, the soft palate and palatine uvula depress while the back of the tongue elevates to partially close the passage to the mouth so that air ejected from the lungs may be expelled through the nose. Because the closing of the mouth is partial, a considerable amount of this air is usually also expelled from the mouth. The force and extent of the expulsion of the air through the nose varies.

Sneezing cannot occur during sleep due to a bodily state wherein motor neurons are not stimulated and reflex signals are not relayed to the brain. Sufficient external stimulants, however, may cause a person to wake from their sleep for the purpose of sneezing, although any sneezing occurring afterwards would take place with a partially awake status at minimum.

In English-speaking countries, the common verbal response to another person’s sneeze is, “[May God] bless you.”  There are several proposed origins for the use “bless you” or “God bless you” in the context of sneezing:

  • Some say it came into use during the plague pandemics of the 14th century. Blessing the individual after showing such a symptom was thought to prevent possible impending death due to the lethal disease.
  • In Renaissance times, a superstition was formed claiming one’s heart stopped for a very brief moment during the sneeze, saying bless you was a sign of prayer that the heart wouldn’t fail.
  • It has also been stated that one says “(God) bless you” so that one does not catch the flu, cold, or any other forms of sickness.

I like to say “bless you” when people sneeze, and I like people to say it back to me.  I’ll take any show of kindness I can get.




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