16 Feb: Pope Gregory’s Sneeze

Why do we say ‘God Bless You’ when we sneeze? Some historians trace it back to 16th February, 600 – and a decree supposedly issued by the pun-loving, God-fearing Pope Gregory to ward off the effects of the plague that had killed his predecessor.

(Sadly, Gregory’s other idea to fight off the disease wasn’t quite so successful – he organized a parade through Rome, and 80 people in the crowd spread the symptoms to each other, subsequently dying.)

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover how locals respond to sneezes in Serbia, China, Russia and Tanzania; consider whether commenting on someone else’s bodily functions is unwelcome, or a ‘micro-affection’; and imagine a world with a more upbeat style of Gregorian chanting…

Further Reading:

• ‘This is the REAL reason we say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes… and it’s not because of the Plague’ – (The Sun, 2016): https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1158748/this-is-the-real-reason-we-say-bless-you-when-someone-sneezes-and-its-not-because-of-the-plague-2/

• ‘Why do we say ‘bless you’ or ‘gesundheit’ when people sneeze?’ (HowStuffWorks, 2021): https://people.howstuffworks.com/sneezing.htm

• ‘Should People Say ‘Bless You’?’ (The Real Daytime, 2018):

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