Saying “bless you!” or not?

By Daniel DeMarco |Copy Editor|


Photo by Getty Images

Saying “bless you,” “gesundheit,” or any other response when someone sneezes is completely trivial and frivolous.

It is embarrassing that such dull behavior is not only considered commonplace in present-society, but even polite.

I think it is safe to say that most people respond to another person’s sneeze because they think it is common courtesy or thoughtful; most probably haven’t given it much thought other than that.

People, as well as I, had/have gotten this idea because we are taught that it is just the thing to do, and that it is indeed polite or well-mannered to do so.

This is an illusion.

Saying “bless you” has nothing to do with being polite or showing common courtesy; it is nonsense.

The origin of this behavior is covered in superstition and ancient customs that have somehow made it into modern culture.

People of old saw sneezing as a symptom of sickness or plague and therefore would “bless” others to wish them well.

This custom is mostly forgivable given that modern medicine is fairly new in the span of human history.

Some people today still consider blessings and other superstitions to be effective means of recovery, but the majority wisely set aside their superstitions and confide in man-made modern medicine.

It was also thought that the “soul” could escape the body as a result of sneezing or it would allow “evil spirits” to enter one’s body. Therefore, people would bless others who sneezed to thwart such occurrences.

A third silly belief is that the heart skips a beat when one sneezes; this one unfortunately persists to this very day. In this case the “bless you” is aimed at essentially congratulating one for continuing to live after their heart stopped.

What these three explanations have in common is that they’re completely outdated and absolute drivel.

If we can determine that conclusion, why do we persist on saying “bless you”? It is clearly empty of any meaning and therefore has nothing to do with being courteous or polite.

A main source of motivation to write this was the strong reaction I received amongst colleagues when I proclaimed my thoughts on this subject; they insisted that it was all about being polite and thoughtful of others, yet could not give a single good reason as to how.

It was inherently polite and well-mannered, according to them. Considering that it has origins with intended meanings that have since been proven to be comical, I insist they are flat-out wrong to maintain such a stance.

To help someone lift a heavy object is courteous. To open the door for someone, whose hands are full, is polite. To not sneeze on other people is to have good manners.

In these instances you are actually doing a service to someone; you are actually acting in a way that will affect them in a positive fashion.

To exclaim “bless you” has no effect, literally. Any comfort that one experiences as a result of being told “bless you” is merely a reflection of how deep their illusion of the whole concept resides.

To take issue with the customs associated with sneezing may seem insignificant, but it is indicative to a wider problem in society: people do not question things enough.

People are content to do things simply because it is common or because “you’re supposed to.” There is an overwhelming sense of incuriosity that allows nonsense to persist generation after generation like excess baggage.

Stop carrying it.



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