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Thursday, March 16, 2006

God Bless You

When strung together, three of the most inane words in the English language: God bless you. A woman sat next to me on the train today and at some point sneezed. I offered her a token, "bless you," the god part being left out because I am a heathen godless bastard. Still, I offered the subdued and nominal greeting for her sneeze and she offered a subdued nominal reply of thanks in return. Why do I do this?

This is something ingrained in our society. If you sneeze, people bless you. We're no longer in a culture where we seek blessings from some deity to assure that one person's sneeze is not another's untimely demise. At least those of us in the blue states aren't. Yet we continue this absurd greeting in a society where eye contact with strangers is considered patently rude.

It's stupid, but I can't stop it. When someone sneezes I feel compelled to say something regardless. Does anything come of it? No. Do I feel better about myself? No. Does the person think better of me for saying something? Doubtful. This is one of those useless societal norms which I can't manage to get myself out of. Hey, with friends it's one thing. But total strangers? What's the point. I have no idea.


  • At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I believe the custom comes from the idea that when you sneeze, evil spirits can enter your system. So unless you want the person next to you to start vomiting copious amounts, cursing like a dockyard worker, and spinning their head around, bless them like you mean it.

  • At 11:34 AM, Blogger budda43 said…

    I think it's just a friendly gesture.

    Being a societal norm does not necessarily represent a bad thing and, while at one point in history saying "bless you" meant something different, saying it now just means you're trying to be nice.

    And nice is something this world could use more of.


  • At 3:29 PM, Blogger Norm said…

    As long as they don't vomit on me...

    The societal norm has it that the person saying "thank you" is really saying, "why are you bothering me?" At least on the train.


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