Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 16:07:12 -0700


Subject: Re: sociolinguistic competence

On Thu, 23 Oct 1997, Beverly Flanigan wrote:

On "Bless you" specifically: It is of course intended as a "tail wag"

(referred to generally as phatic communication). But the presumed

sharing of a religious/theological frame of reference is what I react

to when I remain silent--not angrily but as a kind of quiet protest.

Even though I happen to be a Humanist, I don't feel any more need to be

silent in protest when someone says "Bless you" (How dare that stranger

not know my religious beliefs!) than I do when someone says "Good-bye,"

that heavily theological expression that "really means" "God be with

you." (Then of course there's "Hell-o," but that's another story.) I

don't for a moment consider that either expression has anything to do with

prayer except in etymological terms.

Whether the stranger "blessing" me is religious or not, he or she means

well by the greeting, and I say "thank you" (for directing a well-meaning

expression my way, whatever your particular frame of reference may be).

The German "Gesundheit" is more acceptable to me, since it only means

"Good health," but of course few know it or use it anymore.

Huh? I say it--and hear it--all the time!

Peter McGraw