À vos souhaits ! À tes souhaits !
ah vo SWAY! ah tay SWAY! click below to hear this pronounced…
Bless you! Gesundheit!
Achoum ! Achoo! What do you say when someone sneezes?
I haven’t done any scientific surveys here, but I’d guess that a vast majority of Americans say Bless you! or God bless you! But why do we need blessing when we sneeze?
Medieval Western Europeans believed that when you sneeze, your soul may fly right out of your mouth. That’s one theory. There have been others, generally involving potential harm that can come from a sneeze (ranging from evil spirits to the plague to a broken rib…depending on your belief system). In more modern times, it has been suggested that your heart stops for a fraction of a second, or skips a beat, when you sneeze.
I can’t vouch for any of this “science”, but so it is that in many countries, what you say when someone sneezes revolves around health. German speakers, and many Americans of German extraction, say Gesundheit. Spanish speakers generally say ¡Salud! Italians say Salute! And Brazilians say Saúde!…all of which mean Health! (There are other exclamations too, but these are all common.)
And in France? Well, you can say Que Dieu vous bénisse! but it sounds very formal. I was taught that it is polite to ignore the first sneeze—you just don’t say anything. After someone sneezes for the second time, you can say À vos souhaits ! (or, in the familiar form, À tes souhaits !) Nothing to do with health here at all…it means To your wishes! And after the third sneeze—but only if you are good friends with the sneezer—you can say À tes amours! (ah tay zah-MOOR, To your loves!