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Gesundheit! Why Do People Say “God Bless You” When You Sneeze?
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In ancient times, it was believed that one’s soul resided inside their head in the form of air. Therefore, when someone sneezed, they could accidentally risk expelling their souls from their body. That’s the reason people around that person asked for God’s blessing. However, this is not the only reason, as there are many more accounts of the origin of the “Bless you” response to a loud sneeze.

We humans may boast of being the most intelligent species on the planet, but we do have some trulystrange customs and superstitions thatdon’t seem to have any scientific explanation. Although the list of such customs is practically endless, in this article, we’ll discuss only one – the custom of saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes.

The custom of saying “Gesundheit” or “God Bless”

People often say “God bless you!” or “Gesundheit” – a German word which basically means “health” – when someone in their vicinity goes Aaachoo!

While there is no particular, universally accepted reason why people ask for God’s blessing when someone sneezes, one of the most common reasons that people think this custom exists is because plenty of folks believe that one’s heart stops momentarily when they sneeze.

However, that notion is scientifically incorrect.

You can read all about it here: Does Your Heart Stop When You Sneeze?

The phrase “God bless you!” is found in the Old Testament’s Book of Numbers (Number 6:24) and was used in Christian prayers.

The custom of people saying “God bless you!” when someone sneezed began back in 590 AD, during a plague outbreak in Rome. Pope Pelagius had died during the plague, and therefore, his successor, Pope Gregory I (also known as Pope Gregory the Great) mandated that everyone should beg for the Lord’s mercy when someone sneezed around them, as a sneeze/cough might indicate the initial stages of imminent illness in the individual.

Pope Gregory I

Pope Gregory the Great mandated that all faithful Christians should dutifully beg for God’s blessing when someone in their vicinity sneezed. (Photo Credit: JarektUploadBot / Wikimedia Commons)

As years passed and decades rolled into centuries, the custom of saying “God bless you” following a sneeze became ingrained in people’s cultural lives. In fact, during the 13th and 14th centuries, popes even proclaimed that this custom was “an authentic prayer against the effects” of a plague ( Source ).

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Submission to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Dear Commissioner King:

Human Rights Watch has examined human rights violations in Eritrea since independence in 1991, but especially the steady deterioration of human rights since 2001. In that year, the government closed all independent newspapers, arrested their journalists, and arrested government officials and others critical of President Isaias Afwerki. Since then, the rule of law has been notably absent. Instead, President Isaias exercises totalitarian, often brutal, control.

Eritrea remains closed to human rights organizations, including every United Nations Special Rapporteur who has applied for a visa. Because of Eritrea’s exclusionary policy, our information about human rights violations comes primarily from the very large number of Eritreans who have fled the country because of government oppression. Although their individual accounts differ in details, their overall descriptions of the government’s sweeping restrictions on basic rights are remarkably consistent.

The information that Human Rights Watch has obtained describes autocratic governance that violates essential safeguards in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We discuss our findings in greater detail in an annex to this letter.

Eritrea denies rights based on political opinion and religion. (Art.1). It subjects its citizens to exploitation and degradation through “national service” that traps conscripts for well over a decade and in some cases, forever. (Art. 5). Conscripts as well as civilians are frequently subject to inhuman and degrading punishment, including torture, without recourse. (Art. 5).

Arrests are arbitrary and not subject to judicial review or appeal; until recently, close family members were fined or imprisoned when another member fled the country. (Arts. 6,7). The then-15-year-old daughter of a former minister who fled the country has been jailed incommunicado for over five years, since 2012, as was the minister’s then-84-year-old father; neither has been given a hearing before an impartial tribunal. Journalists and government officials arrested in 2001 have never been brought to trial and remain in incommunicado detention despite two African Commission resolutions urging their release or at least a fair trial. MUK LUKS® Hayden Boots R2wb8N
Unconfirmed reports from a former prison guard state that over half of the 21 officials and journalists included in the Commission resolutions have died during their nearly 17-year captivity.

Citizens have been imprisoned without trial and abused for practicing religion not sanctioned by the government. (Art. 8). No independent media or nongovernmental organizations have been allowed to exist. (Arts. 9, 10). Unsanctioned departure from the country is punishable, so thousands flee surreptitiously each month. (Art. 12). For several years, Eritrea had a “shoot-to-kill” policy for citizens trying to flee; the policy appears to have been implemented less consistently in recent years, but has not been altogether abandoned, according to interviewees.

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» Currency outlook: Global trends continue to pressure US dollar

Posted by Ray Uy, Head of Macro Research and Currency Portfolio Management on Mar 7, 2018, in Fixed Income

Time to read: 3 min

US dollar :

We expect the US dollar to continue to depreciate due to ongoing global economic growth and converging central bank policies. We have revised our 2018 US Federal Reserve rate hike call from two to three, in line with US bond pricing. While recent inflation strength has raised the possibility of four rate hikes, we believe that is unlikely without significant wage pressures. Globally, the growth trend is expected to be stronger relative to the US, meaning non-US central banks should shift away from their accommodative stances, especially the Bank of Japan (BOJ) and the European Central Bank. There may be a demand shift away from US investments as growth outperforms elsewhere. Such a development could also weigh on the US dollar.

Euro :

The euro is likely to continue appreciating, in our view. We believe we are in the nascent stages of a global inflation regime shift, transitioning from a world of disinflationary risk to one that is more balanced. We believe the resulting policy changes will support a weaker US dollar and continue to view pullbacks in the euro as consolidation within a longer-term trend higher.

Renminbi :

The USD/RMB exchange rate has appreciated since the beginning of 2018 as a result of a weaker US dollar, the conversion of US dollars into local currency by Chinese companies and macro fund trading activities. The move has been consistent with other currencies against the US dollar. Following the renewal of the $50,000 foreign exchange conversion quota in January, the continued strength of the renminbi suggests that companies and households had over-accumulated US dollars in recent years. China’s policy makers have already started to loosen regulations to allow more capital outflows, and if the renminbi strengthens further, we expect more outflow channels to be opened.

Japanese yen:

The yen started out strong in 2018 due to increased expectations of tighter BOJ monetary policy, repatriation flows and general US dollar weakness. A strong yen should have a dampening effect on Japanese inflation, which will likely not be welcomed by policy officials and could make achieving the BOJ’s 2% inflation target more difficult. We have already seen government officials verbally intervene to dampen further yen appreciation, and we expect those efforts to intensify. However, we remain positive on the yen over the longer term given our bearish view on the US dollar.

British pound sterling :

We continue to look for opportunities to move overweight sterling. The currency is likely to be volatile in the coming months as talks get underway concerning the future of trade and a transition deal with the European Union (EU). We believe the UK will either agree on a soft Brexit or decide to remain in the EU. With the economy unlikely to collapse regardless of the outcome, we continue to look for attractive entry points for sterling. We expect these to come about if Brexit discussions become contentious.

Canadian dollar:

We are currently neutral on the Canadian dollar. After rallying sharply at the beginning of the year, it has since lost all of its gains and then some. Economic data at the end of January disappointed as the Canada Consumer Price Index remained low. That, combined with the increase in Canada’s trade deficit, probably weakened the currency. In addition, oil prices have fallen from the highs in January.

Australian dollar :

With the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) holding rates steady as expected at its February meeting, we remain neutral on the Australian dollar. The RBA continues to forecast a gradual improvement in the economy, with inflation reaching its target range of 2% to 3% sometime in 2019. However, the RBA remains concerned about the lack of wage inflation and weak consumer spending and reiterated its commitment to remain patient with interest rates.

Indian rupee :

We are neutral on the Indian rupee. Going forward, we see downside risks to the currency from higher-than-expected inflation, higher oil prices and an increasing current account deficit. On the other hand, strong foreign direct investment inflows, sizable foreign exchange reserves and an improving growth outlook will likely continue to support the rupee at current levels.

1 Source: Bloomberg L.P., data from Jan. 1, 2018 through Feb. 28, 2018

2 Source: Bank of Japan, Feb. 21, 2017

3 Source: Reserve Bank of Australia, Feb. 21, 2017

Blog header image: Peter Cho/

The dollar value of foreign investments will be affected by changes in the exchange rates between the dollar and the currencies in which those investments are traded.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures change in consumer prices. In Canada, this is calculated by Statistics Canada.

A trade deficit is an economic measure of international trade in which a country’s imports exceed its exports. Therefore, a trade deficit represents an outflow of domestic currency to foreign markets.

Tags: currency outlook

Ray Uy, CFA

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