Gesundheit: the Etiquette of Death

In discussion heading back from the Alps the other day with Matthias and Carolyne,  I was informed that German society is heading away from saying the world-famous expression ‘gesundheit’, due to the fact that this draws attention to the person sneezing. (Apparently in France, ‘Bon Appetit’ should not be said).

Upon reflection, you realise that the other human noises, such as burps and farts are excused by the person doing the action, with ‘Pardon me’, or ‘Excuse me’. For coughing, there is no expression, strangely enough.

The English equivalent of ‘Gesundheit’ is, of course, ‘Bless you’, or, more fully, ‘God Bless You.’ This leads me to think / agree that the term originated during some great epidemic, such as the Black Plague, or the ‘Flu. In that case, ‘God Bless You’ is a way of saying ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Good Luck with that terminal illness’. It is the etiquette of death.


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