27 June 2009


I really like sneezing.

When I was little, I was cute and I imitated people's sneezes. My daddy roared, "wooshaaa!" My mom has a funny little "tissue! tissue!" and my grandpa's wife (she's from Venezuela) has a dainty "a-chii!"

We wonder what sneezes sound like around the world?  Wiki beat me to it and compiled a list:

Some common English onomatopoeias for the sneeze sound are achoo, atchoo, achew, and atishoo, with the first syllable corresponding to the sudden intake of air, and the second to the sound of the sneeze.
  • in French, the sound "Atchoum!" is used
  • in Finnish "Atsiuh!"
  • in Icelandic "Atsjú!"
  • in Norwegian "Atsjo!"
  • in Swedish "Atjo"
  • in Danish "Atju!"
  • in Dutch "Hatsjoe!" or "Hatsjie!"
  • in Hebrew and Lithuanian "Apchi!"
  • in German "Hatschie!"
  • in Estonian "Atsihh!" and "Aptsihh!"
  • in Hungarian "Hapci!" and "Hapcik!"
  • in Polish, "Apsik!"
  • in Russian , "Apchkhi!"
  • in Turkish, "Hapşu!"
  • in Italian, "Etciù!"
  • in Spanish "¡Achís!"
  • in Portuguese, "Atchim!"
  • in Romanian "Hapciu!"
  • in Malayalam "Thummal"
  • in Filipino "Hatsing!"
  • in Japanese, "Hakushon!"
  • in Tamil, "Thummal"
  • in Telugu, "Akshi"
  • in Korean, "Achee!"
  • in Vietnamese, "Hát-xì!!"
  • In Cypriot Greek, the word is "Apshoo!", incidentally also the name of a village, which is the cause of much mirth locally.
  • In Howards End, by E.M. Forster, a sneeze in polite society is "A-tissue" - a literary allusion to its respective remedy.
So I guess all but my dad's sneezes are pretty common, somewhere. I think my dad really liked to sneeze, too.


Of course we can always talk about different countries' responses to sneezes. In most cases, it's that languages translation of "health!," but somehow the German "Gesundheit!" has permeated a lot of languages as well.

  • The French "À tes souhaits", which you correctly translate as "To your wishes" or "May your wishes/dreams come true", can sometimes be replaced by a more intimate version: "À tes amours", if you know the person well. (= to your loves...)
  • In Japan, it seems standard that the first sneeze means that something favorable is being rumored about you, the second sneeze indicates that a bad rumor is going around, the fourth sneeze means that you're catching a cold, but there seems to be regional discrepancies concerning the third sneeze, from "disparagement" to "being admired" to "you're being laughed at" to "being scolded."
  • In Korea, you respond with the sound of a sneeze ("eichi") if you are close with the person who sneezed. Otherwise, you don't say anything at all.
  • A lot of times in Spanish, after the first one you say "health!" After the second sneeze you wish them "health and money!" and after the third "health, money and love!"
  • In Brazil, you sneeze, they say "health!" or "God help you" and then you, the sneezer, respond "Amen."
  • In Holland--typical, you sneeze, they wish you health, you thank them--but if you sneeze three times in a row, it means that tomorrow will be a sunny day!
  • In India, sneezing is considered bad luck.
  • In Iran--same deal, they wish you health, you thank God for the health--but then you don't continue going about your work! It's also bad luck, so you shouldn't go back to your work for a few minutes. Or if you were trying to decide whether or not to do something and you sneeze, that means you shouldn't do it. HOWEVER, if you sneeze again, that cancels out the first sneeze. Jaja! (Some sources say this is true in parts of India, too.)
  • In the Ancient Greece, sneezes were believed to be prophetic signs from the gods.
And of course, Wiki talks about this, too.


Andw said...

So good! I love your parents' sneezes. I also enjoy sneezing. Robi's sneeze is a mighty explosion with no observable inhalation beforehand, so it always takes you by surprise. To which Murk once screamed, "Goddamnit, Robi! Every time you sneeze, an angel's head explodes."

I also like the random Malayalam and Tamil sneeze words. If the stress is on the second syllable, I sort of get it, otherwise not at all. Also great: the Korean tradition of repeating the sneezing sound to indicate solidarity.

This comment's word is "boostma," the sound of sneezing in Finland.

Chela said...


In Spain, usually after sneeze you say: ¡Jesús! But now, if you sneeze people just run: "¡¡Horror, tienes la gripe porcina!!".
Like very much your blog.
Besos desde Zaragoza. Luis