Finance & Enjoyment Blog

Theory Behind the Sneeze

The receptionist in our office has a nose disease that causes her to sneeze all of the time.  I mean, all of the time.  The poor thing will have sneezing attacks that last for minutes.  She told me about this right after she started since I sit next to hear and she didn't want me to worry about always having to say "Bless you".  But there was no way that I was not going to say "Bless you" every time.  I have to.  Now let me explain why.

My dad was always very strict about my sister and I having good manners.  We were to always say "Good morning", "Excuse me", "Please", and "Thank you".  We were especially always to say "Bless you" when someone sneezed.  I can't recall if I asked my dad why we were to say this or if he just told me, but I do recall what he said.  He told me that a persons' heart stops every time that they sneeze, so you are blessing them because (basically) the person just died for a second and you are welcoming them back to life.  Of course I believed him.  And since then I have always said bless you.  I remember a day in college when someone sneezed on the opposite side of the street from me and I shouted bless you to him.  My friends made fun of me for days about it but I just thought I was being polite.

When I started working with our receptionist and I was saying bless you more than I ever had in my life, I caught myself trying not to say it.  But the minute after I realized I didn't say bless you to her, I would feel this overwhelming guilt and either say it to her late or so quite that she never even heard.  Why was I feeling so guilty?  Because I thought if I didn't say bless you, she might die.  Ridiculous, I know, but it has been stuck in my head for about 30 years and I just can't let it go.

I was curious to know if there was any truth to what my dad had told me all those years ago.  Through my research I discovered even more theories on why we say "Bless you".  One belief was that when you sneeze a human soul might escape and saying "God bless you" wards off Satan.  Another belief was, yes, others believed it, that your heart stops when you sneeze.  I have to admit I was excited to see that my dad didn't just make that up to scare me.  A third theory was that saying "Bless you" originated in the Middle Ages during the bubonic plague.  A sneeze during that time indicated that you were ill and quite possibly dying of the plague.  My favorite theory, though, was that the pressure of a violent sneeze could induce a stroke or for the eyes to be blown out of their sockets!  (Kind of makes my theory of your heart stopping not sound so bad).

I think the common theme among all these theories is that you are wishing someone well, and wishing someone well is always a polite and kind thing to do.  Maybe my reason behind saying "Bless you" was false, but it was genuine, and my dad would be proud of my manners.  And maybe, just maybe, I have convinced one of you to say "Bless you", too.

FYI: The receptionist recently went to the doctor and was given a nose spray that has made a dramatic difference in her nose disease.  I have not heard a sneeze in two weeks!  To be honest, I kind of miss it.

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