By, Pam Teel
You sneeze in public and total strangers will respond by saying, “Bless you” or “God bless you.” We do it so often and from such a young age, it has almost become an involuntary response. Did you know that the origin of the response most likely came about thousands of years ago and is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great who uttered it in the 6th century during a bubonic plague epidemic? Sneezing and coughing were obvious symptoms of one of the forms of the plague. The Pope suggested saying, “God Bless You” after a person sneezed in hopes that the prayer would protect them from an oth- erwise certain death. He mandated that everyone should beg for the Lords mercy when someone sneezed around them. Blessing people after they have sneezed has been engraved in our culture from one century to the next.
Superstitions also abounded in ancient times. It was also believed that the soul resided in the head in the form of air and that when someone sneezed, they would accidently expel the soul from their body. People thought that if they asked for God’s blessings when someone sneezed, the blessing would prevent the soul from escaping.
While the sound of a sneeze is universal, the responses can be vastly different from one language to another. Avoid being impolite while traveling abroad — learn the appropriate response when someone nearby lets out an “achoo!” It’s useful to know how to respond when you’re traveling.
German- Gesundheit, It simply means “health,” which is used in a number of languages when someone sneezes.
Spanish- there are different responses for your first three sneezes, and they vary by region. The most well-known version tends to be used more in Latin America: salud (“health”) after
the first sneeze, dinero (“money”) after the second, and amor (“love”) after the third. In
Spain, the responses are Jesús, María, José (for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph).
Italian- salute or they say, “felicita” (happiness) after someone sneezes.
French-When someone sneezes, the French often say à tes/vos souhaits “to your wishes” after the first sneeze, “à tes amours” (to your loves) after the second sneeze, and “qu’elles durent toujours” (may they (loves) last forever) after the third.
Dutch- As in many other languages, the first time you sneeze the Dutch wish you “health” (gezondheid). After the third time you sneeze they say- morgen mooi weer, which translates to “good weather to- morrow.”
Turkish- After the first sneeze, Turkish say çok yaşa (“live long”) After the second, sağlıklı yaşa (“live healthy”). The best part in Turkish, though, is the response to the response. When you sneeze, someone says “live long,” and you reply, “And I hopeyou will be there to see it.”
Russian-A simple будьте здоровы (“be healthy”) will suffice. But things get a bit more interesting if you sneeze while someone else is talking. If that hap- pens, the interrupted speaker will often say, “правду говорю” or “I’m telling the truth.”
In some Asian cultures such as Korean and Japanese cultures, the practice of responding to another person’s sneeze does not exist.