|Ah-Choo! (CDC Photo)|
Even within a room full of strangers, an audible sneeze often elicits an equally-audible "God bless you."
Ever wonder why?
So have others. The Straight Dope Advisory Board therefore tackled this question back in 2001. Dismissing some commonly-held beliefs (such as
sneezing causes the heart to stop and/or the eyes to pop out), the team instead adopted an historical perspective.
The Straight Dopers explained that it was Pope Gregory the Great who began this tradition. Because the dates of his papacy overlapped with those of the
deadly "black" plague, Gregory had called for unceasing prayer as a remedy. Therefore, whenever somebody sneezed, he or she was immediately blessed. The intention was that this would ward off the full-blown disease.
Some cultures have also believed that "sneezing expels the soul… from the body." Straight Dope pointed out that what is actually expelled ("at up to 100 miles per hour") are "hundreds upon thousands of microscopic germs."
That, in and of itself, may be enough to warrant a blessing or two. Tissues would also come in real handy...
Copyright January 14, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved