Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Salud, Dinero, Amor
It's allergy season! What joy there is in once again living in a state with all my good old familiar pollens. Please note the sarcasm. For 5 years now, I have escaped the scourge of full-blown allergies by living far enough away from all my allergens that they couldn't touch me, but also carefully not living in those faraway places for long enough to acclimate to the allergens there. There are few enough trees in Iowa, and I don't appear to be allergic to corn, so I was fine in college. Sendai certainly had some similar plants to NC, such as kudzu, but they don't seem to have been the plants that hate me. Florida, I know, is a state I should only visit for extended periods if I have a deathwish. (I guess that would make it not a very extended period, after all, if my asthma killed me.) Anyway, I have rediscovered, here in Michigan, the lovely, ever-so-alert feeling brought on by antihistamines. Mark finds me to be absolutely scintillating company.

Given that my frequent activity lately has been sneezing, I thought I'd muse on the different cultural approaches to sneezing etiquette. In Japan, no one says anything to the sneezer; instead, the sneezer is expected to excuse themselves. In Spanish-speaking countries, people say "salud," which means "health." "Gesundheit" means the same thing in German. In Chile, I was told that for the first sneeze, you say "salud," the second time, you say "dinero," or "money," and the third time, you say "amor," or "love."

In English, though, we traditionally say "bless you," and there is actually a reason. It was believed that when you sneezed, your soul became vulnerable to the devil, and thus, someone had to bless you so the devil could not gain power over your soul. I suppose this means that for allergy sufferers, allergy season could quite literally have been hell.

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