In India, when someone sneezes, people say, “Krishna!”
In Arabic lands, it’s “Yarahmakullah!”
In Spanish-speaking countries, “Salud!”
Many in North America say “Bless you!”
I wonder, do North American Satanists say to sneezers, “Curse you!”?
Should atheists say, “Nothing for you!”?
A common response to sneezing is the German word “Gesundheit!” — which roughly translates to, “Don’t spray any more snot on me!”
Nobody likes getting struck by the liquid debris (up to 40,000 separate droplets) from someone else’s facial explosion. Traditionally, people tried to prevent that by sneezing into their hands. However, that can spread germs through hand-contact, so doctors today advise people to sneeze into their inner elbow. It’s unlikely that germs there will spread, unless you are dating or married to an elbow fetishist. (Nothing wrong with that!) In such a case, to avoid spreading illness, you should sneeze into the back of your knee.
There are many myths about sneezing. One is that it is impossible to sneeze with your eyes open. That’s false. The sneeze reflex does involve the eyelid muscles, but this can be counteracted by placing a toothpick between your eyelids, propping them open. Then, you can sneeze without blinking — to win a staring contest, perhaps, or if you are so into a book that you don’t want to stop reading even for a millisecond.
It is a myth that sneezing means that someone somewhere is thinking about you or talking about you. That is a paranoid old folk-legend. People are thinking about you and talking about you, all the time, but the sinister, secret conspiracy to destroy your life does not reveal itself when you sneeze. Sneezing also has little to do with the vampires who walk in daylight and plan to sacrifice you to break an ancient curse. So, relax.
It is a myth that sneezing in a dream causes one to sneeze while sleeping. It is impossible to sneeze while sleeping. If, for some reason, you decided that it was important for you to sneeze in the middle of the night, you’d have to set your alarm clock; when it beeps, you would have to hit the snooze button, then sneeze, then sleep until the alarm clock goes off again and you hit snooze, sneeze, etc.
The ancient Greeks thought that sneezes were communications from the Gods. In 401 BC, a general of Athens, Xenophon, made a speech of war against the invading Spartans; as soon as Xenophon stopped talking, a nearby soldier of Athens sneezed. A wise soothsayer announced that the soldier’s well-timed sneeze proved that the Gods were on the side of Athens and victory was assured. Xenophon led his inspired troops into battle. Within minutes, the Athenian army was destroyed, including Xenophon. Only the soothsayer survived — he’d been secretly working for the Spartans, who made him Mayor of Athens.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, it was thought that sneezing was highly dangerous. Not due to the spread of disease, but due to the belief that you could sneeze out so much air that you suffocated. Some people also worried that the soul briefly left the body during a sneeze, at which time it was vulnerable to being snatched by Satan, the anti-Christ, Beelzebub, Demons, Ryan Seacrest or other evil spirits.
Disloyal doctors to the medieval English king Charles II allegedly gave him sneeze-inducing chemicals (cowslip flowers and ammonia), apparently causing Charles II to sneeze to death.
In modern times, sneezes are not considered dangerous, but many people still take steps to prevent them — e.g. by reducing indoor dust and pet fur, by replacing furnace filters, by sleeping a lot, by saying, “No,” when a waiter offers “fresh-ground black pepper?” etc.
My wife and I disagree strongly on the issue of sneezing. I do not sneeze very often and, when one does occur, I generally enjoy the experience. I sometimes call sneezes “nosegasms,” because of the pleasure and release they provide. I wouldn’t go so far as to snort black pepper to induce a sneezing binge, but I’m definitely a pro-sneeze voter and citizen. I say, “Sneeze, please!”
My wife, however, is annoyed by her unusual sneezing pattern. Instead of doing one or two big sneezes, like me and 99% of the population, she’ll make a fast series of small, staccato blasts, up to 10 or 15 in a row. She sounds like a cute machinegun. She doesn’t like this. She finds it embarrassing, because after her first sneeze, someone will start to say “Bless you!” or “Gesundheit!” but they’ll be interrupted by sneeze #2. After sneeze #2, they may think it’s all over and try saying something again, only to be interrupted by #3. She doesn’t like it when people count her sneezes out loud, or place bets on how many she’ll be able to pull off, or shout, “Are you okay?” She tries to believe me when I say that her sneezing style is one of many things I love about her.
When people I love sneeze, I often say, “I love you.”
Try it — you might make someone very happy.
It’s a lot better than, “Gross! Get a Kleenex!”