Why do we say “God bless you” when you sneeze, but not when you cough?

Post #150 from Dr. Crankenfuss, The World’s Awesomest Raving and Rapping blogger–

The other day I sneezed.

No, that’s not all that happened. Then my mom said, “Bless you.”

(Oh, keep reading. It’s gets better than this. Not by that much, I admit, but I think it will all end up pretty interesting.)

So I asked, “Why did you bless me just because I sneezed?” And she said, “Because, I don’t know, it’s a custom and anyway it’s a nice thing to say to show the other person you care, you know. Also, I didn’t bless you. That’s short for ‘God bless you.'”

“But you don’t ask God to bless me when I cough, do you?” I said.  “And that could be worse than a sneeze, say like I was starting to choke to death, right?”

“That’s true,” she said, “and I’m about to choke you right now if you don’t keep asking questions. You know what to do when you don’t know something, don’t you?” And she gave me one of her Don’t keep pushing me, Bub looks.

“Yes,” I answered meekly. She meant I was supposed to find out the answer myself. Which is harder than just having it told to you, but not that bad. So I went to my computer and typed “bless you sneeze” in the search bar and guess what came right up as the top two results. That’s right — Wikipedia — with the title “God bless you.” (It’s almost always Wikipedia, isn’t it?)

So Wikipedia says it started way back near Bible times, but in 590 Pope Gregory I commanded everyone to say “God bless you” after someone sneezed because there was a plague going around and sneezing was one of the first symptoms of the plague. So it made sense that a blessing from God might help you. And Wikipedia added that later on, people used to think when you sneezed, your soul would shoot out of your body and the devil could get a hold of it so “God bless you” was supposed to protect your soul.

Then I went to another favorite site of mine– Snopes.com — and looked up “God bless you” and there was a cool article with all the different theories about where people thought the expression started. The new thing I learned was that some people used to think your heart stopped when you sneezed — which isn’t really true — so the blessing was to help you recover. But then it also said in some societies, a sneeze was considered good luck so “Bless you” was kind of like “Thank you.”


So let me get this straight. Someone sneezes on you and that’s good luck? And none of the other reasons for the blessing really make sense nowadays, do they, except for my mom’s original idea. It’s to bless you because you’re a little bit “sick.” But actually you could just have a piece of dust up your nose and I don’t know if you need a blessing for that. I mean it wouldn’t hurt, but we don’t get blessed for coughing, throwing up, running into a doorframe — hey, some of us aren’t that coordinated — or doing an arm fart, do we? And a good argument could be made in all those cases that you could use a little divine help, couldn’t it?

Isn’t it interesting how a custom that started hundreds of years ago for a good reason back then keeps on going and going even though we don’t really believe in the reasons for it now?

Well, I think it’s interesting! And in my next post, I might even write a poem about it.

So you keep on saying, “Bless you” when someone sneezes, but at least know why you’re doing it, okay?

From Dr. Crankenfuss,
Who had to look all this up.
So a little “thank you” might be in order, don’t you think?
You don’t?
Awww… please!

News is awful./ The world seems bleeped./ I’m usually cocky,/ But I’m feeling freaked.

Post #149 from Dr. Crankenfuss, The World’s Awesomest Raving and Rapping blogger–

This is going to be one of those poetic posts, you know, where I express myself in verse. Kind of like Shakespeare but without the fame, fortune, or ability. But that never stopped me before. And the subject is like a Shakespeare tragedy. At least a lot of people are getting killed. Hamlet, put down that skull and listen to the doctor.

by Dr. Crankenfuss

I try to know what’s going on
And so I watch the news,
But what is happening lately
Gives me the deep dark blues.

I see Australian people held hostage,
Then a hundred kids in Pakistan are dead.
Our old pal Bill Cosby’s accused of rape.
The whole world’s been knocked on its head!

Lone wolves are stalking American streets,
Killers are escaping from jail,
I need to put on some body armor
Just to get our mail.

Seems no place is safe anymore,
But we’re supposed to forge ahead.
Not me. I’m playing it safe for now
Underneath my very own bed.

From your dude who’s trying to avoid disaster
By running into some nut carrying a Bushmaster,
Dr. Crankenfuss

How my Rainbow Head Kept Me from Being Dead/ P.S. VOICES’ Reviews Are Great News


Post #148 from Dr. Crankenfuss, The World’s Awesomest Raving and Rapping blogger —

You like how I look today? I thought so. But there’s a reason for it, and it probably saved my life. See, it was school spirit day and I bought this rainbow head wig online — my mom was so happy — to show my school spirit. It has red in it, so I figured it would be perfect since our school colors are red and white. To get the white, I wore a white shirt and hey, my skin’s sort of pasty and white, so there you go. Mr. School Spirit!

So I’m walking down the hall between classes, all full of myself, and this tall — and I do mean TALL, he must have been on the basketball team (for college!) — guy cuts in front of me and I trip over my own shoes and almost fall. “Nice move, cigarette head!” I said, referring to his l-o-n-n-g-g lanky head. Under my breath, I thought.

WRONG! He heard me and picked me up off the ground by my shoulders and put me against the wall. “You say something, punk?” he asked (and not sweetly either).

“No, no,” I protested. “I was praising you. I said, ‘Nice move to to get ahead.’ He thought for a second and let me down. “Okay,” he said, “but don’t try any funny stuff with me, okay?”

I had no trouble agreeing with him.

Now how this rainbow wig will save me is this. As soon as this was over, I ducked into the bathroom and took it off. He probably won’t recognize me without it. And he probably didn’t see my shirt (with my super-cool slogan on it) because he was looking me straight in the face. Believe me, I know, because our eyes never went away from each other.

See, school is full of education AND adventure. My education for the day was to promise myself to keep the insults that come from my mouth away from the ears of dangerous guys. Best lesson I had all day, maybe all month.

Glad to be alive,
Your Dude with the more careful ‘Tude,
Dr. Crankenfuss


VOICES: AN OWNER’S GUIDE TO THE ADOLESCENT MIND keeps getting amazing reviews at Amazon! (If you had books like this assigned to you at school, you’d be enjoying school a lot more, I promise you that.) Every poem rhymes, every poem makes sense without the teacher having to explain it to you, every poem relates to YOU — what makes you happy, what scares you, what makes you feel most any way you do. And every poem is meant for you to perform, you know you’re a real actor! Check it out. You’ll see! 

VOICES: Poems for Performance

That’s it
My message is done
Now I’ll go back
And eat that onion.

Dr. C