Blog: It sure beats the alternative

Even though I’ve had 75 years to practice, I am still having trouble figuring out what to say and when to say it. For instance, when somebody sneezes near me, I am the first person to belt out, “God bless you” or “Gesundheit.” Since I don’t know which is more appropriate, I tend to alternate. If the person sneezes twice, I hit them first with one and then the other. I remain silent when the person sneezes three times or more. I don’t know what the proper etiquette is for multiple sneezes, but as far as I am concerned, two is my limit. 

I don’t understand why a person who sneezes gets blessed, but a cougher gets no such acknowledgment. Is there something about a sneeze that trumps a cough? Coughing is far more serious than sneezing. I have seen a number of operas where the lead soprano croaks after some serious coughing, but I have never seen an opera end with a fit of sneezing. These are, unfortunately, the kinds of thoughts that swirl through my mind and keep me up at night.

If a woman gives birth and suffers depression, we tend to call it postpartum depression, but if a woman gives birth while having a cold and then suffers depression, we don’t call it post-nasal depression. Why? Oh how I wish I could get these thoughts out of my mind!

When I board an airplane the person taking my ticket almost invariably wishes me a safe trip, and I almost always respond, “Same to you.” That makes absolutely no sense. By the time I arrive wherever I am going, that airline representative will be exactly where I left him. He will be there taking tickets from other passengers going other places. He will still be exactly where he was as if stuck in glue. And yet he wished me a safe trip, so the least I could do was to wish him likewise. One should be polite or, at least, that’s what I think.

And finally, when somebody asks me how I’m doing, I often reply, “Hanging in there.” The response to me is frequently the same, “Sure beats the alternative.” Does that make any sense at all? I don’t know anybody who has experienced the alternative and has returned to tell me about it. Houdini for years tried to talk with the departed and finally gave up. After he succumbed to a punch in the stomach, nobody to my knowledge has heard one word from him.

This English language with its idioms and expressions is driving me crazy, but other languages are no better. I gave up on French when the word for brassiere was preceded by “le” the masculine not “la” the feminine. The French apparently have gender identification problems. I guess I’ll stay with English–it sure beats the alternative.

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