I gets mail

Hey, just a reminder to everyone out there, if you feel like asking questions, don’t hesitate to email me! I’ve set up a new convenient and easy to remember email for everyone who wants to get in touch, so if you’ve got something on your mind you’d like to share, or if you have a question or comment you think is funny, don’t just keep it to yourself, dammit! Today’s hilarious mail comes from Mike:

I’m a long time atheist and I’m always uncomfortable after somebody sneezes.  Typically, I just say “bless you,” but I feel kind of disingenuous.  I’m currently moving to saying Gesundheit! (to wish them good health) — I’m writing to find out what do YOU say to somebody after they sneeze, if anything?

Well, most of the time I just say “put your fucking hand in front of your mouth you disease bag” (it might be my recent paranoia of getting the Swine Flu before I can get the vaccine), but I agree it would be fun to try a new one. Maybe the next time someone sneezes you can just tell them “pax in terra”, which is Latin for “peace on earth”. Any thoughts guys?

NOTE: Mike’s been busy, and asked a bunch of far more qualified atheists what they thought:

PZ Myers – “If necessary, I ask them to please cover their mouths. Otherwise, nothing.”

Phil Plait – “I don’t say anything. :)”

Don Baker (Atheist Experience) – “I usually say Gesundheit.  It’s hard to de-program yourself from all the kneejerk phrases that our culture has programmed us to say.  I still say ‘God damn it’ sometimes when I’m angry.  Silly, huh?”

Matt Dillahunty – “I usually don’t say anything…though I’ve said ‘Gesundheit’ in the past. The idea that we should say anything is a little absurd (what do we say when someone farts or hiccups?), but it’s not a big deal. The response is almost as involuntary as the sneeze. I’m not the slightest bit bothered by ‘bless you’ or even ‘God bless you’ and I’ve known plenty of atheists who have said both.”

Comments (34)

  • avatar

    Craig

    I usually say nothing at all – if I do say something, it’s “Gesundheit”. I’ve always thought it was weird to comment on someone else’s sneezing/coughing. I find it easiest to just ignore it.

  • avatar

    Razzle

    Eh, Pax in Terra is a little tooty-fruity. I say bless you sometimes – fuck it – who cares? It’s a nice thing to say. I know the implications, but do people really take it as invoking God?

  • avatar

    Razzle

    If so i’ll totally not say it

  • avatar

    Richard

    Ya, I don’t usually say anything, sometimes I say “Bless you.” But I never say or ever will say Gesundheit, it just sounds stupid for some reason. I really don’t see a reason to say anything, whats so special about someone sneezing? And good luck trying to start a movement, call me a pessimist, but theres no way your going to make up a new word and have it stick. But thats just be being the buzz-kill.

    A side note though, why not try saying “GOD Bless you,” really emphasizing the “God.” Like in a really condescending way. Then again that kinda makes one into quite the douchebag.

  • avatar

    athena

    i feel super awkward (brought up ultra-christian) so i usually say something like “aww.. not feeling well” or “oh darn allergies huh?” .. depends on the person/situation. if it’s my husband i say “shut up!” hah.

  • avatar

    Duane

    Jake – “put your fucking hand in front of your mouth you disease bag”

    You should say, “put your fucking elbow in front of your mouth you disease bag” since they will most likely just spread the germs on their hands everywhere.

    One of my favorite Conan O’brien skits of all-time was a mock Public Service Announcement that Max Weinberg did years ago.

    Max – “Whenever I sneeze someone says, ‘God bless you.’ Well what if I don’t believe in God you inconsiderate douchebag!”

  • avatar

    Kerrie

    I do any of several things, depending on my mood:

    - ignore it if it’s one sneeze, if they’re having a fit I remark on it

    - Gesundheit

    - Salud (since I’m in New Mexico

    If I’m sneezing, I try to beat anyone to the punch and say “Excuse me” and that usually doesn’t bring on the bless you comment which drives me crazy.

    I’ve often wondered – why is the word that is said in every other language means “health” but English is the one with the religious connotations?

  • avatar

    Isaac

    I always hesitante to email you, big blog authours never seem that grateful of mail. I feel like I’m emailing a guy in an ivory tower.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Big blogger? Man, I’m a fucking nobody in the atheist scene, brother!

  • avatar

    Mark

    Oh geez don’t tell them to put their HAND in front of their mouth!! That’s about the dumbest thing they can do. I will leave it to you to figure out why.

  • avatar

    Zac

    If they don’t cover their mouth, then usually I jerk backward instinctively and say, “Cover your fucking mouth!”

    If it’s someone I don’t know, but they cover their mouth, then I don’t say anything.

    If it’s someone I do know, but they cover their mouth, then I will usually say, “Excuse you.”

  • avatar

    Poyndexter

    # Mark Says:
    November 16th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Oh geez don’t tell them to put their HAND in front of their mouth!! That’s about the dumbest thing they can do. I will leave it to you to figure out why.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Hi there, how are you doing?

  • avatar

    Poyndexter

    /shakes hand/gets swine flu

  • avatar

    Mike

    If anybody cares, here are the responses I received….

    PZ Myers – “If necessary, I ask them to please cover their mouths. Otherwise, nothing.”

    Phil Plait – “I don’t say anything. :)”

    Don Baker (Atheist Experience) – “I usually say Gesundheit. It’s hard to de-program yourself from all the kneejerk phrases that our culture has programmed us to say. I still say “God damn it” sometimes when I’m angry. Silly, huh?

    Matt Dillahunty – “I usually don’t say anything…though I’ve said gesundheit in the past. The idea that we should say anything is a little absurd (what do we say when someone farts or hiccups?), but it’s not a big deal. The response is almost as involuntary as the sneeze. I’m not the slightest bit bothered by “bless you” or even “God bless you” and I’ve known plenty of atheists who have said both.

    “It’s as useless and harmless as telling someone to cross their fingers or knock on wood.”

  • avatar

    Isaac

    ZOMG I love Matt Dillahunty!

  • avatar

    Doug

    I find it even more uncomfortable when someone says ‘bless you’ when I sneeze. Mostly I try to ignore it rather than comment and seem snide.

    But I’ve gotten used to saying ‘Gesundheit’ because of my German buddies. As well, I’ve been accustomed to saying ‘salud’ from my time in Colombia. After the first sneeze you say ‘salud’ for health, then the second sneeze you say ‘dinero’ for money, and the third sneeze you say ‘amor’ for love. Very superstitious, but this is coming from a country with a Catholic population of 96%.

  • avatar

    Isaac

    @Doug

    That doesn’t sound superstitious to me, it sounds like sneezing is becoming a game! :)

  • avatar

    Isaac

    I can’t believe no-one has suggested “Flying Spaghetti Monster blesses you with his noodly appendage” yet(!)

  • avatar

    Zac

    lol I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that’s just a touch long, Isaac.

  • avatar

    Suzy

    I get bad hayfever so I take some pleasure that after the fifth or sixth sneeze even the most persistant ‘blesser’ usually gives up.

    I don’t usually say anything when someone sneezes, but I always carry plenty tissues which I can wordlessly hand to the afflicted.

    @Doug – When we were at school we used to have a superstitious rhyme to count the number of times a person sneezed to see what they would ‘get’.
    1 is a wish
    2 is a kiss
    3 is a letter
    4 something better
    5 early to bed
    6 a cold in the head.

  • avatar

    RetSam

    Gesundheit. coz i’m german. ;)

    But, why ist this brotherig? This is just a figure of speach. Nothing more, even for religious people.

    It’s like wanting to tear down all art or old Cathetrals, just because they were releated to religion. Doesn’t make any sense. This is our past, this is history. Why schould we destroy Stonehenge?

    Does really anyone think this is more than “good moring” or “Mahlzeit” ?

  • avatar

    TheLoneIguana

    Fnord!

  • avatar

    chocobar

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Bless You started because people thought your soul was trying to escape when you sneezed.

    I would hope that even the most ignorant Christian doesn’t believe this to be true anymore.

    When someone says to me Gesundheit, my first response is usually “Comes out Loose”

  • avatar

    Wendy

    I’ve been trying to say “Oh, that sucks that you sneezed.” It doesn’t go over very well.
    I have a coworker that does the Seinfeld thing… “You are sooooo good-looking!”

  • avatar

    Razzle

    I don’t even know what email address to reach you at, or I woulda emailed already.

  • avatar

    Spector567

    lol for years I never knew I was suppose to say Bless-you.

    I always thought it was bleSH not bless.

    To me It was never about blessing someone or any other superstition, just being polite by saying a phrase.

  • avatar

    Mike

    Since this thread got started, I thought I might as well include the latest response I received from The Skeptics Guide to the Universe..

    Bob Novella – “When I do respond I say gesundheit. It makes a lot more sense to wish a sneezing person good health than to bless them in case a demon enters them while they sneezed (at least that’s my understanding of the origin of saying “bless you”).”

    I’d also like to publicly thank all these great atheists who took the time to reply to my inquiry.

  • avatar

    Hankyone

    A tes souhaits :-)

  • avatar

    Liudvikas

    How about saying nothing.
    I find this stupid tradition to be pointless and waste of my breath.

  • avatar

    Kevin

    I usually just say ‘bless you.’ Regardless of intent or meaning behind the statement, it’s really just a courtesy that you pay to someone. Force of habit.

    I don’t get offended if someone says it, or doesn’t say it to me, either. Just a couple words.

  • avatar

    Ace.

    I tend to pass over a tissue, or if they look over me i normally give a slight smile and a nod as basic acknowledgment (i usually have headphones in …)

  • avatar

    slugboi

    I say, “Good job!”

  • avatar

    Guinevere

    Stand up comedian Dane Cook, who is Catholic, wondered what to say to an atheist after they sneezed, so he came up with “Nothing happens when you die.” I thought that was hilarious!!!!

  • avatar

    R. Lee Ermey

    I gingerly offer them a box of Kleenex and proceed to throw it at their head as they reach for it. I then call them a booger-nosed namby pamby.

    HOO-RAH!

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