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I was telling Shannon last night about an experience I had on the bus a few weeks ago. An experience with sneezing. Yeah, my life is just that exciting.

Now, different people have different habitual things that they say when someone sneezes. Shannon tends to use the old Roman response of "Congratulations!", though he doesn't say it in the original Latin. My mom, the eternal irreverent smart-ass, tends to make the sign of the cross and say, "Bless you, my child!" Personally, I tend to say, "Gesundheit" -- when it comes to sneezing (as with most things), I prefer not to bring God into it.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was sitting next to a young black woman on the bus. She sneezed. I smiled and said, "Gesundheit," as is my wont. She looked at me oddly, then looked away. A minute later, she looked back at me again and asked, "What does that mean?"

I was stumped for a moment. I mean, I know basically what "Gesundheit" means in modern usage ... but I'd never said it to someone who'd never heard it before.

I blinked. I blinked again.

I explained that "Gesundheit" meant basically the same thing as saying, "Bless you," but that it was German for something like "Good health."

This young woman looked at me like I was insane. Why in the world would I say something to her in German on a bus in the middle of Oakland, and just assume that she would know what it meant? I'd never really thought about it before. I guess it is a little strange.

Ah well. She probably would have thought I was even more odd if I'd said, "Congratulations!" or something in Latin.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 22nd, 2003 04:03 pm (UTC)
Hee hee.

You make me laugh.

Is it bad that I never say anything when someone sneezes?

So strange that someone wouldn't know Gesundheit. I thought it was common knowledge. Goes to show that the simplest things are not always cross-cultural.
Oct. 22nd, 2003 04:30 pm (UTC)
Re: sneezes
I say Gesundheit or laa-bree-oot (badly butchered hebrew for gesundheit)

I think I need to learn what congratulations in latin is.

Amusing bit about Japanese culture. Evidently there is no word for saying when someone sneezes. It seems that one should not draw attention to social blunders such as a sneeze.
Oct. 22nd, 2003 05:12 pm (UTC)
Although I'm surprised someone doesn't know "Gesundheit", at least she asked.
Oct. 22nd, 2003 05:33 pm (UTC)
You're not the only one. My friend Judy was working out at the YMCA near work, and another woman sneezed. When Judy said "Gezundheit," the woman was startled and turned, saying, "Did you just speak German to me?!?" Judy, also rather startled, explained.

(I also say Gezhundheit when people burp -- that, or I say "Pig!" ((My friend Susan started it in college. Long story.)
Oct. 23rd, 2003 12:31 am (UTC)
When I moved to Germany, everyone was astounded that, of all words for me to know, I knew gesundheit.

And hey, this woman just had her horizons expanded and learned something new, she should be glad ;)
Oct. 23rd, 2003 02:11 am (UTC)
My Grandmother says "Scat" when one of us sneezes. I think it's an old southern thing. She's telling the bad spirits that came out of your nose to get away. (of course she also calls under-ware "step-ins".

Imagine if you would have said "scat" to the woman on the bus.
Hee...that would've been fun.
Oct. 23rd, 2003 09:14 am (UTC)
I _think_ that "Atishoo" Actually comes from French - A Tese Vous (he says, remembering something he half heard 20 years ago).
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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