12/15/2021 Gesundheit ??   Leave a comment

I’ve never been a person plagued with any major allergies except for ragweed in the summer. Prior to puberty I was haunted by any number of allergies, but they went away at about age 14. Jump forward a few decades and all of a sudden, my allergies have returned with a bang. It appears that I’ve been around just long enough to go back through puberty in the opposite direction. That being said it’s a given that I’m sneezing a lot more than I’ve ever sneezed in my life. There are many reasons for sneezing and I’m not about to try and list them all. Let’s just agree, sneezing is sneezing, everybody does it, and that’s that. Since I come from a German background all I’ve ever heard when there was a sneeze going on was the German word gesundheit. It’s an automatic response meaning “good health”. I honestly never had any idea what it meant and only found out just recently.

I decided to check out a few other cultures to see if there was anything unusual about their responses to sneezing.

  • In many Muslim countries it translates out to “May Allah have mercy on you.”. Pretty cool but way too long.
  • In Serbia, they use the term pis maco, with children, which means “Go away, kitten”. Cute, I guess.
  • In Vietnam, cơm muối, is offered and means “rice with salt.” Thats a real puzzler.
  • Latin America’s is a little more interesting. The first sneeze earns a response of “health,” the second “money,” and the third “love.”  I like this one the best.
  • A common story holds that around the year 750, Pope Gregory believed that a sneeze was an early sign of the contraction of the bubonic plague. Saying “God bless you” was a sort of deathbed prayer: ‘May God see your worth and help you, because you’re definitely about to die.” Isn’t that just heartwarming?
  • And “God bless you” seems to be very popular response with many cultures but of course not for those pesky atheists. They’re a little touchy about the “GOD” word.

So much for my sneezing trivia. Now that I’ll be housebound for the next four winter months breathing all of this unhealthy stale air, I suppose I’ll be hearing “Gesundheit” way too many times for the foreseeable future.


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