Ahh sneezing. There are only a few things in life more gratifying than a good, old fashioned sneeze.
This may just be an American (or English-speaking) thing, but why do people say "achoo" when they sneeze? Sometimes I do it, kind of as a gag, but otherwise I don't actually say "achoo" when I sneeze. I know "achoo" is described as the sound of a human sneeze, but why does one feel the need to actually say it during a sneeze-in-progress?
A guy at my office sneezes frequently. He's an "achoo-er" who usually sneezes, or achoo's, repeatedly each time, rather than a single sneeze. In terms of the art of saying "achoo" while actually sneezing, he's really very good. His sneeze-induced pronunciation of the word "achoo" is very precise. I can't help but wonder if he is consciously aware of the fact that he says "achoo" so articulately while sneezing. Perhaps he thinks his sneeze sounds completely natural.
Ever heard a baby sneeze? They don't say "achoo" when they sneeze. Their sneeze is more of a quiet inhalation of air followed by a furious expelling of it. I don't hear an "achoo" when a baby sneezes, do you? If you just answered yes, think again - is it really an "achoo" sound? I'd say it is more of an unspellable noise caused by the intense force of air exiting the mouth and nose simultaneously, often causing the lips to smack together while expelling a spray of saliva and snot. No, I'm sorry - babies do not say or make a noise that is even close to "achoo" when they sneeze.
At some point in life, people learn to say "achoo" when they sneeze. So why not say "cough" when we cough or "burp" when we burp? Now that would just be silly, wouldn't it? It's not considered silly to say "achoo" while sneezing though... except maybe to me.
People don't even do it consistently. There seems to be debate as to proper "achoo" protocol in terms of the "ah" portion of "achoo". There are those who believe that the "ah" sound should be observed during the inhalation of air, just before expelling it and making the "choo" sound. Cartoon characters tend to sneeze in this manner. They "ah" a few times, inhaling air each time, before "chooing" (exhaling) all over something, providing a comedic moment.
The "achoo" sound made (spoken) completely during the exhale portion of the sneeze seems to be the popular way to sneeze these days. It is the sneeze-model that most people follow.
There are many variations on how people make their "achoo" noises while letting out their gratifying sneeze. My father tends to bypass the "ah" portion completely, substituting it with a noise similar to a short, quick nose-blowing. At the "choo" part of the sneeze is a well defined "choooooooo" that sounds a little like someone letting out a relief sound of "wheeeeeew" after some catastrophe has been averted. His sneeze bothers me a little because there seems to be a lot of pressure build-up during the process - as if his body is trying to expel the air much faster than his nose and mouth will allow. It seems painful. His face usually turns read as a result.
Some people work very hard to say "achoo" during a sneeze. When confronted about that, they usually just say that's how they sneeze and don't have any control over it. I beg to differ though. "Achoo" is a learned word or sound, not an automatic, uncontrollable vocalization that just happens involuntarily in the moment. Some people seem to really force the word "achoo" when they sneeze. It's annoying and stupid - kind of like the local used car advertisements on TV. I don't mind the occasional forced "achoo" while sneezing for comedic purposes though. I'm sure we enjoy doing that sometimes.
Another guy at my office does not say "achoo" at all. Instead he replaces it with a "yip-CHAHH" sound that can be heard throughout the entire office. I think I like the "yip-chaah" approach to sneezing. Although it is not necessary to make any vocalizations during a sneeze, the "yip-chaah" sneeze has a creative, unique quality to it.
I keep meaning to try the "yip-chaah" myself, but always forget until after sneezing. It's hard to remember because one doesn't usually have much warning when a sneeze approaches. After I get the feeling of a sneeze coming on, I only have a moment or two before execution. That's not a lot of time to plan.
Sometimes when I feel a sneeze coming on, it goes away before I actually sneeze. Ever loose a sneeze before? I really hate when that happens. Once the sneeze-feeling has gone away, it's damn near impossible to get it back.
My wife likes to say "bless you" before I can sneeze sometimes - to make it go away. I can't explain why it chases away my sneeze, but it usually does. That's ok though, I just wait until she's in the middle of a great, big yawn and then press my finger to her tongue while her mouth is wide open. That always makes her laugh, thus forcing her to exit the yawn prematurely. I usually get smacked for doing that, but it's worth it. Besides - she hits like a girl.
This brings me to another interesting point. Not the fact that my wife hits like a girl, but yawning. Ever notice how yawning is contagious? When you see someone in the middle of a great, big yawn, you can't help but feel the need to yawn yourself. If someone else sees you yawning, they get the urge to yawn as well. Before you know it, the yawn passes through everyone in the entire room - like people doing the wave at sporting events, only a lot slower. There are probably a few people who felt the urge to yawn just reading this paragraph. If they were in mid-yawn while reading that last sentence, they might have started to laugh, effectively interrupting their yawn.
The point I wanted to bring up is wouldn't it be weird if sneezing worked more like yawning? What if just hearing someone sneeze caused the urge for others to sneeze? Can you imagine the amount of saliva spray that would be created in a room full of people once a contagious sneezing session commenced? I wonder what it would sound like? I'm sure there would be several variations of the word "achoo" being heard, but what about "yip-chaah"? Is the guy at work the only yip-chaaher? He's the only one I've heard yip-chaah before. I guess it's a good thing that sneezing isn't contagious like yawning.
About the animated GIF above:
I wanted a sneeze related image to accompany my not-so-deep thoughts about the subject. The image of neon sneeze animation bearing my own likeness popped in my head. It seemed pretty original and random. Initially intended to be set in a classic arcade setting, I went for the Vegas-style bar decoration instead.