Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 12:35:38 -0400

From: Ron Butters RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM

Subject: Re: hello/good-bye

Julia Cochran writes:

["Bless you!" has] no function other

than to provide an excuse to make

contact with a fellow human. Those

who say "bless you" when you sneeze

likely have some interest in

making contact with you, or with

other people in general. Those who do

not, likely have no such interest.

I don't agree. "Bless you!" as conversational opener is pretty rare--the

idea of waiting around for strangers to sneeze before talking to them is

pretty ludicrous. Often "Bless you!" is uttered in the middle of

conversations that have been temporarily halted by a sneeze (come to think of

it, arguably it has some small function here that signals 'your sneeze did

not disrupt our conversation'). Often it is uttered by people who are not in

converstion but who know each other well (e.g., two people working in the

same office). When a total stranger utters it to another, I don't think it is

generally taken as a signal that a conversation should start--that may

happen, as with a dropped package--but conversation-initiation is incidental,

not functional.