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Bless you

Posted by ESC on January 11, 2003

In Reply to: Bless you posted by Bookworm on January 10, 2003

: : : Wondering where this phrase came from -- any ideas

: : This sounds like a wild tale. But I found the same origin in a couple of sources so I am pretty sure it's a fact.

: : NOT TO BE SNEEZED AT - ".People in older times imagined that a sneeze cleared the mind. It certainly gave them a feeling of exhilaration. Suddenly, 17th century Europe caught a craze for sneezing. It was considered the right thing to do in good society. Indeed, the more you sneezed, the more you proved yourself a member of the privileged class. To build up this new status symbol, all kinds of devices were used. It was soon realized that snuff caused sneezing. Therefore everyone who was someone carried with him a little box, containing a mixture of sneeze-producing herbs or tobacco. By drawing an ample pinch of it into the nostrils, a hearty sneeze resulted in no time. Of course only the rich and idle had time to sneeze or could afford snuff. Hence the self-induced sneeze became synonymous with aristocratic living. If you were able to sneeze 'on call,' you showed audibly your status in society. But one matter had still to be decided. Just to sneeze haphazardly was not good enough. There had to be a special occasion. Soon sneezing became part of men's conversation. You indulged in it whenever you wanted to show your disapproval of anything said or, even more so, your lack of interest in the matter discussed. A sneeze was an unmistakable way of saying politely 'you bore me.' Consequently and logically, anything 'not to be sneezed at' was something really worthwhile." From "How Did It Begin?" by R. Brasch (Pocket Books, New York, 1969).

: Why do we bless people after they sneeze? And, why is it so important to do it? Is it just a matter of good manners?

To access a previous discussion, type in "sneeze."

GOD BLESS YOU -- "I wish you well. Samuel Johnson's (1709-84) last words on his deathbed in 1784 were 'God bless you, my dear!' The phrase is also used when someone sneezes, since in many cultures it is believed that the soul leaves the body during a sneeze, and God is called on to protect the sneezer from evil spirits at such a vulnerable time. The word 'God' is often omitted." From "The Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).