Why “Bless you” and what are sneezes?


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Henry Nickless

Why do we say “bless you”?

The phrase “bless you” is used nearly everyday. But why do we say it?

What is a sneeze? What happens when we sneeze? These are all questions that when answered, will help us have a clearer view on this topic of discussion. When a sneeze happens, a tickling feeling appears on nerve ends that tells the brain to sneeze. The body takes control and then attempts to expel whatever could be bothering the nerves. Small things like, closing your eyes, pushing your tongue to the roof of your mouth and air pressure in the lungs increasing, are all effects of a sneeze. This helps to direct the power toward the irritation so that the nerves will be better. If you sneeze multiple times, it means that the first was not enough to clear the passage. 

Before we can uncover the mystery of sneezing, we need to talk about an old myth. It was said that when you sneeze your heart stops. This was believed for years, but never proven correct. Throughout centuries of time, the thought of someone’s heart stopping helped to develop the saying of “bless you”. Another possibility of how the phrase “bless you” was created was back in the time of the black plague. One of the side effects of the black plague was sneezing and coughing. When someone did this in the presence of the pope, the pope would respond with “god bless you”, in hopes of saving the person’s life from the plague. This evolved into the short “bless you” phrase that was said by many for years to come. This is just one of the theories that helps to date back to who said “bless you” first and why.