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10.10.2002: Etiquette Schmetiquette
common-sense manners
for real-world living
1 2 3
ah-choo! ...
Q: Hey! So I was wondering if it is "proper" to say "bless you" or "god bless you" when somebody sneezes. I know that people say it because they used to think that your soul would escape or something when someone sneezes. Since most people donít believe that anymore, is it still necessary to say that? Thanx! Tif

A: Call me old fashioned, but I still think itís nice when someone sends a sympathetic "bless you" or "gesundheit" in my direction upon hearing me sneeze. Necessary? Of course not. Iím not terribly worried about my soul Ė as I was once told, given my status as a blaspheming agnostic bordering on outright heretical atheist, my soul is pretty much doomed to eternal hell as it is, and Iíve certainly made no efforts to rectify that fate even since hearing that bit of news. No, itís really as simple as the fact that, as a long-time hay fever sufferer, I have a lot of experience with how miserable it feels to have the uncontrollable sneezies. Sneezing feels terrible Ė your nose is all itchy, maybe a little runny even, your throat might be tickling a little, and if youíve been a considerate, thoughtful sneezer, youíre probably left with an oh-so-lovely residue of spit and germs all over your hand afterwards. Nobody enjoys sneezing, or does it if they donít really, truly have to. A kind "bless you" or the like from a friend or stranger is merely a reassurance that someone out there cares that I feel terrible, and hopes that Iíll feel better soon. Like I said, itís just nice, even if I wonít lose my soul in the absence of any such blessing.

Q: Are gifts to be given at an engagement party?

A:  While the whole gift-giving situation does tend to get a little insane with the wedding processó what with all the parties and showers and of course, the big event itselfó the engagement party is one wedding-related fete that does not, traditionally, necessitate gifts. 
The purpose of the engagement party is simply to formally announce the engaged status of a couple to their friends and families ó no hidden gift-grubbing agendas implied. Naturally, if youíre feeling particularly overwhelmed with a need to bestow a gift of congratulations upon the newly betrothed couple, you should feel free to do so, but by no means is a gift generally expected at these sorts of functions.

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