Nothing to Sneeze At

How Many TImes

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about how many times you’re supposed to say “God bless you” after someone sneezes. I think we all say that after one sneeze, but what happens after two? Do we say “God bless you again” or “One more time”? What if someone has a sneezing fit? Do we give them three blessings and then they’re out? Does this trouble anyone else? It certainly does me.

So, I did what I do when I’m troubled about something: I try to find all I can about it, and what I found about this is there is no definite answer to this difficult philosophical and social dilemma. So, what do we do?

We could be like the French who, I am told, say, “A tes souhaits,” or, “As you wish,” after the first sneeze (I know, I don’t understand that either).

The second time, they say “A tes amours,” which means “To your loves,” a kind of offering of a sneeze to your significant other, I suppose. (As Alice said, “Curiouser and curiouser.”)

The third time, in France, IF the people involved know each other well enough and IF they can joke about it, they say “Va crever,” or, “Why don’t you just drop dead?” (Yep, the French are known for their sensitivity and compassion, especially toward relatives. But they did give us a lot of cool cheeses and the croissant, so I won’t say too much.)

On the other hand, some English speakers suggest saying, “God bless you,” the first time, “God save you,” the second and “God stop you from sneezing!” the third. An alternative is to say, “Bless you,” the first time, “Bless you again,” the second, and after the third sneeze, “Are you okay?” The person who recommended this approach commented, “That seems to do the trick.”

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering exactly what all this business about what to say after the first sneeze has to do with anything. It seems to me that, in this world we live in, we all need all the blessings we can get, even those that ostensibly come as a matter of politeness. Still, God hears even the prayers of unbelievers (and there’s your oxymoron for the day), and we could do a great deal worse than blessing each other, regardless of the reason. And what you say after the first sneeze is entirely up to you. As the kids say, it’s all good.

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