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  1. #1

    Default "bless you" and sneezing

    Just curious, if you are agnostic or an atheist do you still say "bless you" when someone sneezes? In spite of its demon preventive origins, I consider this phrase (today) as part of polite conversation and mostly secular. I don't believe even my most pagan friends still associate any religious connection with that phrase when said after some one sneezes.

    If you don't say it, do you say anything in its place?

    This has come up in my family as we teach manners (please, thank you, etc) to our child.

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  3. #2


    A lot of people here at least say “God Bless You”. So no, we dont say bless you. “Gezhunteit” (however its spelled) is our phrase here. Even though they dont mean anything evangelical by it, I dont particularly like it. Your allerjesus might not be so sensitive. I also get “god blessed” at when I give a little money or food to beggars, and honestly Im a bit annoyed. Id rather have a thanks - Its me helping them because its what I want to do.

    "Gesundheit" was borrowed from German, where it literally means "health"; it was formed by a combination of "gesund" ("healthy") and "-heit" ("-hood"). Wishing a person good health when they sneezed was traditionally believed to forestall the illness that a sneeze often portends.
    Totally secular, and is the same polite response to a sneeze.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  4. #3


    We say "excuse you".

    I also can't stand bless you in any way, shape, form, or use.
    New Zealand-based freelance science copyeditor. Homeschooling DD 11 (year 7) and DD 6 (year 2).

  5. #4


    I like to say "GODBLESSYOU" in a crazy voice with a wild face. So, totally not right for your manners class
    DS 5 "Gnarly", DD 2 "Sticky"

  6. #5


    I know a lot of people say it because it has become tradition and have no religious connotation attached to the phrase whatsoever. Kind of the same way that the vast majority of people in first world countries celebrate Christmas without religion despite its religious orgins.

    Do I say it? No. But I don't take offense at others saying it either. We don't celebrate Christmas either but if others want to give the kids Christmas presents as part of their Christmas traditions, that's fine. I start to take offense we people tell me I'm hurting my children by not having a Christmas tree or not promoting the idea that it's ok for a strange man to break into the house to leave them presents.

    Sorry about the tangent there... I generally don't say anything when people sneeze. I might offer a tissue or ask if they are ok if they sneeze repeatly.

  7. #6
    Senior Member Arrived RTB's Avatar
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    Feb 2012


    We say salud (health in Spanish) or bless you (no religious connotation implied).

    There is a really long one in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) . . . Bivas, kreskas, engrandeskas, komo un peshiko en aguas freskas! It means - live, thrive, grow, like a little fish in fresh water! Now, that one would definitely get you some crazy looks!
    Last edited by RTB; 08-15-2018 at 09:36 AM. Reason: info
    DS 14, DD 12
    Year 8

  8. #7


    We usually say either bless you or gesundheit but there is no religious connotation to the bless you. On the same note, I have been trying to think of a phrase like when people say "I feel blessed", but I don't like that phrase because of the religious connotation. I don't feel like "I feel lucky" is the same thing but would love a similar non-religious phrase.
    DS16 with ASD, DD12 and DS10

  9. #8


    What does “bless you” mean if it doesnt mean a directive from your deity to favor the person? How is there a secular version of that?
    Im just saying if you think about what youre saying, it isnt secular.
    If its a form of rote blank politeness, like when a person says “hi, how are you?” but doesnt pay attention to the response..... then why not say something else?

    Politely accepting other people’s ignorance when they “godblessyou” or “merrychristmas” at you is one thing - but if there is a more accurate way to convey your well wishes, do it! Dont just shrug and say “well I dont really mean what Im saying, they should know that Im not implying their belief in Christianity by the blessing or well wishes for the holiday season”.

    @HG “We are so fortunate” doesnt have the connotations of random chance or favor bestowed by a higher power...
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  10. #9


    For what it is worth, Alexsmom, I agree with you to an extent. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Life would be so much easier if everyone did that.

    But not everyone does that. Not because they are ignorant or impetuous, but because some things have crossed over from religious orgin and just become so common place in polite society that most people do not give it a second thought. Does that make it right? Well, IMO, it doesn't make it wrong but that doesn't mean that I have to partake.

    The word bless can have a non-religious meaning according to Definition #5 reads "to confer prosperity or happiness upon" with no mention of a deity doing the conferring and definition #7 reads "endow,favor" again with no mention of a deity having to do these acts. Of course, most people do infer a deity and religious meaning to the word bless but in my experience, especially in the southern US, the word bless is just as likely to be used by a religious person as it is by a non-Christian or non-religious person. It infers a certain feeling, not quite prosperity, not quite fortunate, not quite divine, that one feels when life is good and they are content with where they are and what they have.
    Last edited by MapleHillAcademy; 08-15-2018 at 12:24 PM. Reason: I can spell...really

  11. #10


    Im not really as adamently opposed to religious originated speech, especially routine polite phrases, as came across in my earlier posts.

    Lol and “bless his heart, he tries to be a good president” has a bit of sarcasm, and Ive seen “bless” used that way a lot in the South - meaning the opposite of anything positive. If youre not religious, you really shouldnt use it, and if you are, its a pretty un-christian thing to say / feel / intend.

    Even if you say its secularized by not saying “God Bless You”, is it you who is doing the blessing? “Be thou blessèd, for thou hast sneezed. I shall anoint thee as a sign of my favors...” (Really its the sneezer doing the anointing.)

    Why not just say “Salud” or the long german word for it.... or some other equivalent to acknowledge and send well-wishes?
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

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