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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Bless you"

You know, like when someone sneezes and you say "Bless you" as a virtually automatic response, because your mom drilled into you when you were knee-high to a grasshopper that that was the correct thing to say.

It's something that's bothered me of late.

I've always taken it to be short for "God bless you". Since I've recently taken to a more naturalistic and secular world-view that excludes the existence of a personal god, continuing to say that to people has seemed hypocritical. Why would I wish upon anyone the blessings of a creature I don't believe to exist?

I've considered alternatives. The Americans use the German "gezundheit"... an alternative that was also suggested by the Brights website. But after trying it a few times it didn't sit right. Perhaps the extra syllable made it seem cumbersome. Plus, the fact that it came from the Brights made it feel uncomfortable, since I can't seem to get past the perception of arrogance they engender.

I even tried the Klingon "DapIv" (be healthy), but for some reason I just couldn't get into the knee-jerk reflex of saying that instead of "Bless you".

But then it dawned on me... perhaps it doesn't have to be short for "God bless you" at all. Indeed, a quick glance at www.dictionary.com confirmed that it can be used "To confer well-being or prosperity". No imaginary sky-buddies need be invoked at all!

Perfect! Crisis averted. Once again I can, in good conscience, continue to wish people well when they sneeze.