Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 14:08:08 -0500
From: Brian James Callarman bjc0007[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]JOVE.ACS.UNT.EDU
Subject: The whole "bless you-thing"
I have watched this whole deal that was started by the someone (I don't
remember who) writing, for no apparent reason that I'm aware of, that
they dislike being told "Bless you." This was then followed by several
other similar comments and then erupted into a heated debate on
politeness, Sociolinguistic ethics and other things. What interests me
most of all is the emotional stir that such a simple little phrase like
"Bless you" can produce (I say this because I thought I might have
sensed tempers trying to flare a time or two). Whether or not we can
say that this is the result of people just not being polite anymore is
completely a different subject and is relative to the individual's ideas
about what politeness is. However, I do think that we can say this,
to a degree of certanty, without having empirical data: American
culture is generally tending to move toward a more secular flavor and
it is reasonable to assume that the language will and is following (I'm
obviously not a fan of Whorf).
Now, with that out of the way, I want to throw in my two cents.
Setting all religious and cultural beliefs aside, why should anyone
take offense at being told "bless you" when they sneeze or at any other
time unless it was obviously said with the intent of provoking that
person in a malicious way. The vast majority of times when "Bless you"
is said, regardless of whether it is a mindless tradition or not, the
speaker means absolutely no harm in it. Just don't worry about it.
There's no need to make a big deal out of anything that simply is just
not a big deal.