Thursday, November 11, 2010


The Sneeze
    ~ Anon

I sneezed a sneeze into the air
It fell to the earth I know not where
But hard and froze were the looks of those
In whose vicinity I snoze.

Boy sneezes disperse across a larger surface area than those emitted by the girls in our household, we have discovered.  But they are not as noisy as you might expect given their velocity.  Poor Ro-Ro has chronic sniffles and emits double-bunger sneezes, usually at meal time.  They stop us all in our tracks.   Heaven help his long-suffering teacher who during the course of the day must surely witness his, and others, repeated, long nasal draw-backs interspersed with sudden explosive sneezes.  I hope he doesn't use his sleeve or the hem of his shirt!   

There are apparently linguistic differences associated with sneezing.  For example: 

In English we usually say "Atishoo or A-ch-oo"
In French the sound is "Atchoum."
"Hapsu" in Italian.
"Hakushon" in Japanese.
"Atjo" in Swedish.

Of course we also bring our individual style to a sneeze. Some have asked whether sneezing represents the "tip of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, whereby language controls or influences what you think? [That is], do people from different cultures and languages make a vocalisation that matches their lexical item for the action performed, as it is being performed?

Some observations which tickled my snoz are:

" I sneeze "Atchoo!", as do my English and Commonwealth friends. My wife and my boss (both Chinese - and meant here to signify different people) sneeze "Ha Chi!" Now it's hardly a coincidence that "da ha chi" is the Cantonese phrase for 'sneeze', nor that English nursery ryhmes feature such words as 'a-tisshoo'.

"My sneezes are just unintelligible garble: GAHZHXBBBRRRTTHEHAH!!! Always followed by a "whoa" as my synapses reassemble. None of those wimpy articulated sneezes for me."

"When I was a kid I decided I wanted to be a jungle commando, so I practiced learning to sneeze almost silently by making a sneeze silencer out of my fist. I subsequently thought better of my vocational choice, but still sneeze quietly."

Source: The Straight Dope
Image: Norman Rockwell


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