16 March 2011

Fab Confab: 'Bless You'

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

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Welcome to another Wednesday conversation at my little Fab Confab. I absolutely cannot believe another week has gone by! Thank you for coming : ) 

When I sneeze, I like to hear a simple 'bless you'. After all, I could use as many blessings as I can get. In the US, 99% of the time a stranger will 'bless' me when I sneeze in public. I see it as kind and thoughtful.

Yet in London, I said 'bless you' to a man in a store, and he responded with a very dirty look. In fact, I have never ever heard anyone 'blessed' in public after a sneeze in England.

I asked three different people why this is. I got three different answers:

1. Historically, it was a bad omen if someone said 'Bless You' in the days of The Plague.

2. A 'Bless You' may be seen as proselytizing your religion.

3. An acknowledgement of an involuntary bodily function could be embarrassing.

I find this fascinating. I'd love you to share your thoughts and insights.

25 comments:

Laura said...

Good morning lovely Laura!I can say that here in Italy we use to say "Salute!!",after someone's sneezing! That is bless you,as well! And you know, I guess that bon ton-rules don't permit it to be said..but I like it!! And, this is a strange fact, in Japan sneezing in public is absolutely forbidden! Uhm...
Ps:I'm thinking about writing my posts both in italian and english..aargh!
Have a great time!
Laura@RicevereconStile

Beth said...

I will aways say "bless you" if anyone sneezes near me, whether I know them or not. I wonder if it's different in Wales, or even within parts of the UK? I love the way your posts get me thinking!
x

elisa rathje said...

wow, i've never heard so many bless you's as i have since moving to england! also the english side of my family likes to say it. my side is more of a 'gesundheit' family, and i shall have to ask my mother what the finn's say!

at any rate, bless you!

x

Rachel said...

Well, I'm English and, although I probably wouldn't say it to a complete stranger, I do say bless you whenever someone sneezes.

Sarah @ Modern Country Style said...

I say Bless You if I hear someone sneeze. In fact I have a slight OCD about doing it to the point of having to mutter it under my breath if I think the person looks a bit scary!!!

But perhaps they need the blessing more than others. Haha!!!

Sarahx

Daydream Living said...

Goodmorning sunshine!
Well, in Holland we say "gezondheid", wishing someone good health, so also in the same family as bless you, right? Just keep on blessing people, good food for thoughts like this, good topic! Good luck with the "1000" followers, and I will join saturday! (what to write? what to wear? do we need to bring drinks?)
Maureen xx

Jane said...

Goodness, Laura, that takes me by surprise. I've always done that in public with strangers and never had an odd response. It was a tradition the British brought over with them when they set up the colonies here. And so it remains, to my knowledge. J x

GLENDA CHILDERS said...

Very interesting. And bless you, Laura.

Fondly,
Glenda

Laura said...

Reading through the comments I can see that everyone was brought up diligently by the parents and say 'Bless You'. I wasn't. My mum would say 'Bless You', but then there wasn't the whole back and forth of 'thank you'... 'You're welcome'... to the point where a simple sneeze has started a practical conversation... Out and about 'Bless you' was confined to friends and family. Perhaps we were impolite Northerners?? Anyhoo, I then met the hubby, who retrained me and now I throw 'Bless You around' to all and sundry... The girls too... Still feel silly doing it to strangers and dread the whole back and forth. Here in America I have definitely had to brush up on the old manners... the whole 'You're welcome' was a new one... The girls have A1 manners now and my mum loves it... the rest of my family probably just think we're weird Americans. Lx

Danielle said...

I can't remember, in all honesty. I do know if I don't say it now, my Husband says a sarcastic THANKS! So I guess there are lapses in my manners and caring for his soul being spit from his body LOL
Sometimes I sneeze so much though, up to 30 times in a few minutes, he just says "Bless you for the rest of the sneeze fit".

As for Please TY and YW... Back home, I'd say "pleasure" rather than You're welcome' and that seemed to go down like a lead balloon in US. Weird. And then, it's not something I'd always say... a nod is as good, or even nothing. I was the giver, the receiver thanked me, all's good. :)

Expat mum said...

I'd say it's definitely something Americans do more. If you sneeze in a shop, most people (strangers) around you will say bless you. In fact, rather like "You're Welcome", if you don't say anything, it appears rude. In England it's more of an old-lady thing to say - and I mean that in the nicest way!

Kerry said...

Such a small thing but definitely interesting. Here in Canada we say it all the time! I find myself saying it numerous times a day to the ladies I work with... Something to think about!

Michelle @Shellsshabbyshack said...

Very interesting, Laura! I will file this away in the memory bank. I will know better if we ever get to visit lovely ole' England.

My Catholic grandmother taught me to say, "bless you" because when one sneezes their entire body shuts down for a second. It was proper to bless a persons soul. Not sure if that makes sense but that's how I remember it.

That would be a hard habit for me to break. Good luck :) ~M

Anne Kostalas said...

I'd like to add a no.4 to your list of reasons for the dirty look.
Brits are miserable. I say this as a miserable Brit but even I, an atheist, could not take offence at someone blessing a sneeze. A friend once sat by a Canadian lake when there seemed to be no-one around for miles. She sneezed and somewhere from across the lake came the words "Bless you."

Iota said...

A lot of people do say "bless you" in Britain when someone sneezes, but I've also often heard people say "oh, don't say that - it's bad luck". So I guess you have to decide which camp you're in! It seems it's either a blessing or a curse.

blondjustice said...

Here in Mexico, you say "Salud!" ("good health", I guess) when anyone sneezes. I say it to anyone and am always thanked. Of course, people in Mexico are the most friendly I have ever encountered. Since moving here in mid-January, I have only had one person frown at me. This is a happy place.

lisaroyhandbags said...

I don't hear anyone in Ireland saying it either. I like to follow Seinfeld's lead and say "you're SO good-looking!". Of course we only do that at home - I'd get a few really strange looks if I said it to a stranger! (although they may love the compliment!)

Hines-Sight said...

That is interesting. We say some unusual things in the South. Love that door on your post.

white cat vintage said...

How interesting, we use bless you In Australia too with no issue. Megan xx

Emily said...

This was the first pleasantry my youngest chose to learn, and it remains one of her favorites. In general, the kids compete over who can say "Bless you" first. Wish they did the same with "Thank you"! . . . guess it's not as challenging as the off-guarded sneeze.

Privet and Holly said...

Sending you 'lots
of extra bless-yous
to tide you over!!!
Who knew??
xx Suzanne

MNUKGIRL said...

I think the guy was just an ASS! There pretty much everywhere these days....unhappy, miserable people who love to TRY bringing down those of us who are happy and polite, to their miserable level! :) Just shoot people like that a BIG 'OL GRIN and walk away! :) That's my opinion!

Boho Farm and Home said...

Really interesting post and comments...I just found you and am your newest follower! Bless you xo Caroline

Sara Louise said...

I always say bless you to everyone after they sneeze. It's a habit. And I made sure how to say it in French right after I moved here. i think it's polite :-)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Hi, Laura. I came over from Dori's yellow house blog. I have never been one to say "Bless you" when someone sneezes, but I am not offended when others do. Just the other day I was in the waiting room at the doctor's office when an elderly man sneezed and the receptionist said "Bless you." He sneered and said "Don't bless me. I'm an atheist." I've never noticed whether the custom is American or what, so your post was very interesting.