Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 12:35:38 -0400 From: Ron Butters 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.