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6 Responses to Sneezes From Around the World

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Throughout human history, sneezing has been considered an act worthy of comment. In ancient times, some cultures believed that sneezing was a sign of a devil exiting the body. When Odysseus’ wife hears her son sneeze in The Odyssey, she interprets it as a sign that her husband will come home safely. In Japan, a sneeze indicates that someone is speaking well of you somewhere. 

The verbal blessings bestowed upon sneezers are often attributed to the 6th century pope Gregory the Great, who invoked “God bless you” as protection against the bubonic plague that was raging through Europe at the time. However, while an American sneeze is likely to garner a blessing, other cultures respond to a snot rocket differently. Here are six international alternatives to “bless you.”

1. “Health!”

The common German-language response to sneezing—Gesundheit!simply means "health." “Gesundheit” came into American vernacular by way of German-speaking immigrants. Other languages have equivalent exhortations, like the Spanish “Salud!” or the Maltese “Evviva!” The Russian version, “Будьте здоровы” is a more forceful “be healthy.”

2. “Live long and prosper.”

The full Turkish response to a sneeze is straight out of Star Trek: çok yaşa, rahat yaşa” means “live long and prosper,” though it’s often shortened just to “live long.” The response, “sen de gör,” literally translates to “you see it, too.”

3. “God smother you!” 

A common Portuguese response to sneezing is “Santinho!” or “Little saint!” However, you may also hear “Deus te abafe,” a phrase that roughly means “God smother you!” (It’s translated by some as “May god put a blanket over you,” which is a far better thing to imagine.)

4. “To your wishes!”

In French, it’s polite to express a hope that all your sneezy companion’s wishes come true. The French version of bless you, à tes souhaits,” means “to your wishes.” A second sneeze is greeted with “à tes amours,” or “to your loves.” 

5. “The weather will be nice tomorrow!”

After the first two sneezes, the Dutch welcome a third sneeze with the phrase, “Morgen mooi weer!” or “The weather will be nice tomorrow!”

6. “Grow!” 

In his 1976 ethnography of Zulu culture, author Axel-Ivar Berglund reports that “of a man who sneezes, it is said ‘Thuthuka.’” Or, in other words, “grow!

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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language
Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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