Religious beliefs aside, when someone sneezes while in your vicinity, do you say “bless you” or some other platitude?
As the story goes, in the 14th century, Pope Gregory VII asked that God Bless You become “a short prayer to be said after every sneeze to protect against the plague.” From then on, the tradition stuck. “Bless you” isn’t the only common response to body’s reflexive behavior, of course.
Everyone sneezes — the average healthy person does so up to four times per day, in fact. Sneezing can be caused by a lot of things besides allergies and illness; being too full, seeing a bright light, or even orgasm can all trigger an “achoo!” In most cases, an ear-nose-and-throat doctor states a sneeze is “designed to expel foreign particles and irritants from your airway, particularly your nasal cavity, and is a protective reflex.”
Given how common sneezing is, scientists actually know very little about the phenomenon. What we do know is that nearly every sneeze in the U.S. is answered with a “bless you.” The Greeks and Romans saw sneezing as a sign of wellness and expressed their good wishes to the person who sneezed using the phrase “Live long,” or “May Jupiter bless you.”
Often, “Gesundheit” is used instead of “Bless you.” It’s a German word meaning “good health to you.” Other countries and cultures around the world have even more and diverse responses to a sneeze. People in other countries reference health and longevity, with only a handful referring to God.
If someone offers you a disposable tissue during a sneeze, don’t hand it back to them. They don’t need or want your germs. Besides, it would be gross! Say “Excuse me” after you finish sneezing and, if someone says, “God bless you” or “Gesundheit,” thank the person.
But what about when you say “thank you” to someone and they reply with “no problem”? Shouldn’t their response be “you’re welcome”?
There is a growing trend in which people substitute “no problem” for “you’re welcome” as a response to “thank you.” In particular, it seems to be an increasingly common response from servers and store clerks.
“No problem” isn’t appropriate for all situations as a response to “thank you,” such as when we express thanks for receiving a cup of coffee at the favorite coffee hang-out. Responding “no problem” possibly implies there might have been a problem, which was somehow narrowlyaverted.
Is “no problem” ever an appropriate response to “thank you”? Thanks are about gratitude, not creativity. And I think “no worries” or “no problem” means “it’s okay, I wasn’t inconvenienced” rather than suggesting that the recipient might be worried. Think about it. Why react to pleasantries with accusations of impertinence? Accept sentiments as they’re offered.
One online comment made sense: “I generally use ‘no problem’ when I’m being thanked for a small courtesy, such as holding a door, for precisely this reason: it was no problem for me to do it. If I’m being thanked for a gift or a larger favor (willingly given), I say ‘You’re welcome.’”
What do you think?