The "Prayer" discussion started by Vitomama made me think of this. What do you say when someone sneezes?

I have always said, "bless you" because it is polite, but I feel slightly odd saying it. Recently I started saying, "gesundheit" which is really just wishing someone good health, but I feel odd saying this, too as I am not German. I believe both became a custom during the 14th century because one of the symptoms of the bubonic plague was sneezing, so they are probably a little out of date, but I feel it is rude if I don't say anything.

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I feel the same way. I say bless you out of habit. My kiddos say it too and it actually bothers me a bit. I've tried substituting gesundheit, but bless you is just too ingrained in me.

I would love to say nothing. It does seem to be the most appropriate response. I know it's not rude but I can't shake the feeling that I'm being rude if I don't say something. Funny.
I don't say anything. Never got in the habit. Not sure why, except other people's bodily functions just don't seem to be my business. I know it bothers me sometimes when people say bless you to me. When I sneeze it's not so important, because normally I am taken up by the experience of sneezing. When the "bless you" thing really bothers me is when I have given money to a homeless person and they say "bless you." Depending on how sane they seem I have been known to say "Don't bless me. If there was a god you wouldn't have to beg to eat." One time the woman I had just given money to raged at me that "there too was a god." Another time the man stopped and actually looked at me in the eyes and said "Probably true." That was cool.
I don't say anything anymore. I used to say "Gesundheit".

When someone says "bless you" to me, I sometimes reply "Viruses are atheists and so am I".
Isn't it such a cultural peculiarity that so many feel compelled to take notice of sneezes by tossing out a German word like "Gesundheit." Why don't we feel it necessary to recognize other bodily expulsions in a similar manner, for example, burping (belch. . ."Achtung!") or passing gas (phffffttt. . . "Seig heil!).
That's beautiful, Ken! We say "Gesundheit" for sneezes and "Barking spider?" for passing gas (that one's just for our own circle). But you're so right - rather peculiar, the German thing - recognizing someone else's sneeze at all. We use it because it's a term referring to health (as I've always understood it).
Barking spider?????
I always thought it was supposed to be 'Who stepped on a duck?'.
In our family it's "gesundheit" for sneezes, and "Ohhhh, chaaaarming!" for farting.
This is really cool. Reading this I realize how much my origins tell. A big part of my family is Native American and thinking about it, I was trained not to bring attention to anyone's bodily workings, especially not to anyone not within the immediate family circle, and even then only in certain circumstances and with certain people. In cultures that bring such moments into public awareness, I wonder how that functions? I mean not bringing attention to such moments gives privacy in a culture where the people are almost never alone. So does bringing such things to light create a sense of intimacy? Interesting to think about.
If some one says "Bless you", I react according to the situation. If it is someone that I know, I chide them about blessing an atheist. If someone that I don't know, it depends on how they say it. If it is said in reflexive way, I may ignore it or say that it is probably an allergy. I am slightly allergic to chocolate and will sneeze when eating it occassionally. If the person, seems to get great pleasure in giving me information about their god, then I may say something like, don't bother, I'm an atheist and then wait for them to offend me. Then the fun starts.
The Chinese say "yi bai sui" (100 years). Pronounced something like "ee buy souie". Basically meaning, "may you live 100 years"
Recently I was listening to an audio version of "The Life of Pi". The main character is a follower of Islam, Catholicism, and Hindu religions. When he swears, he says something to the effect of "Jesus, Mary, Mohammed, and Vishnu!". It would be an interesting thing to say after sneezing as well.... Or maybe we could just say "Evolve!"

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