Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 14:08:08 -0500 From: Brian James Callarman 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. Brian Callarman