Earlier, after I happened to sneeze, a Chinese man I was talking to told me, “God bless you.” Curiously I asked him if there is any such response in his native language to this physical reaction and indeed there are a few. Of course the German “Gesundheit” is a well known response that means “health,” and I know the Italian equivalent is “Salute.” Well, I just got to wondering what it is about sneezing that engenders any response at all, and from people all over the world (apparently). Why isn’t there a similar response to someone who coughs or yawns?

Superstition was that your soul could escape during a sneeze. A sneeze is pretty much involuntary but you are supposed to be able to control a cough (unless your really sick) or a yawn especially since a yawn can be a sign of bordom. So it is the cougher or the yawner who should ask for pardon, not a blessing by the…Yani or the coffee.

Well, there are other bodily sounds you we inquire as to the proper response to, but I guess we’ll pass them (so to speak).

Ray (blowin’ in the wind)

I heard it that when you sneezed you were expelling evil spirits and the “bless you” was to prevent them from regaining entrance to your bod.