You know how sometimes in anime characters will be talking about someone behind their back and it cuts to that person sneezing. I think it might have been a bit more popular a while back but it’s still used regularly enough. Well, that’s what I want to talk about.

I’m not sure if I somehow managed to instill false memories in myself but I think that I’ve always known about the old superstition that if you sneeze out of the blue it means that someone is talking about you. Or just thinking about you. That’s the version I remember actually.

However, when I started to research this trope a bit for this silly little post, I found out that it was specifically an Eastern belief so I have no clue where I would have picked it up from.

I should update my confused girl library

In any case, as someone who is pretty much always sneezing, I always liked the idea. Either someone is deeply obsessed with me or there is always a new person thinking of me. The second choice being my favourite. Either way, if my non-stop sneezing is to be believed, I am one popular girl regardless of how long it’s been since anyone invited me to do something… I mean there is a pandemic and all.

As such, I wanted to know a bit more about where this strange notion came from. Like in a lot of old wives’ tales, there’s really no precise origin or anything. At least none that I could find. I wouldn’t call my research exhaustive though. In fact, I mostly read through good old Wikipedia and CEENTA (Charlotte Eye, Ear Nose and Throat Associates) and all the other sites I found just repeated the same things.

From what I read, the idea that a sneeze is a sign someone is talking about you has been around for a long time. Over a 1000 years in fact. It’s mentioned in the Book of Songs (a collection of Chinese poems) which collects writings from the 7th to 11th centuries. So maybe there is some truth to it.

There is a bit more to it than the simple sneeze=talk bit though. I found several sneezing codes available. One states that one sneeze means something good has been said, two is something bad, three means that someone is in love with you while four is a sign that tragedy will befall your family. Thankfully my standard sneeze rotation is 3! YAY. Although when it’s not three it’s two, which is still better than 4.

Another variation of that one keeps some of the outcomes the same, the sneezer can tell if something good is being said (one sneeze), someone is thinking about you (two sneezes in a row), even if someone is in love with you (three sneezes in a row) or if this is a sign that they are about to catch a cold (multiple sneezes). I have to say that the last one is rather universal although I would twerk it to it’s a sign you’ve already caught a cold. I do like that the three sneeze meaning remains the same. That means it’s probably 100% true!

It does say that in many places around the world sneezing for no reason is believed to be a sign that you are remembered by someone. So maybe that’s where my “someone is thinking about you” belief comes from.

But there are other odd cultural superstitions associated with sneezing. One of my favourite variations is the Polish myth that if you sneeze without reason it’s not simply a sign that someone is talking about you but that specifically, your mother-in-law is talking smack about you! Don’t have one? Don’t worry, you will and she will not like you! Sheesh!

In parts of India and Iran, sneezing right before starting work is suppose to be a sign that you’re going to get interrupted the whole time and probably will get nothing done. There’s even a custom to take a little break if it happens and like have a drink or something to reset the interruption curse. There might be some truth to that. I sneeze all the time and I’m interrupted nonstop!

Of course, there are tons of regional beliefs that if you sneeze at specific times of the day or mostly night it’s a sign of either good luck or bad luck. Then again, what isn’t a sign of either good luck or bad luck? Just for once, I would love to get a sign of neutral luck.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an anime use the trope in any other way than the single sneeze when someone is talking about you but it might be fun to see some of the variations. The mother-in-law one could be used to foreshadow a new romance or something! Sweet.

Here’s one last random sneezing fact for you. Because why else would you be reading an anime blog? But bear with me, it could have some relevance. Sneezing is linked in many ways with sexuality. And anime is often super sexy. See it all connects!

We’ve probably all heard that a sneeze is like an orgasm. Although that’s a fairly debatable point there are some biological similarities. They do both produce endorphins for one. There are also quite a few people that sneeze when they get aroused. It’s still not entirely clear why but it’s common enough for there to be several theories floating about.

I’m pretty sure this is information no one will ever use but hey, this entire post was sort of random. Although it did teach me that clearly there are a lot of people deeply in love with me and that makes me a little happy!

30 thoughts

  1. There is a Hungarian folk belief that if you are telling a tale, and someone in the audience sneezes, that means the tale is true. The operetta Háry János by Zoltán Kodály famously starts with a sneeze.

  2. I recall first encountering this when I was watching Rurouni Kenshin. Kenshin and his friends were talking, in a not entirely flattering way, about Saito. Cut to him sneezing three times, and he says, “What’s that old saying? Ah, well, if sneezing three times means someone doesn’t like me, I think I’ll survive.” They used it another couple of times, like when Saito was talking about Sano and Sano sneezed.

  3. I’m always learning from you Irina! About the only sneezing thing I know is they come in threes, at least for me and my hubby. We are so in lubs. (ack – LOL) Oh, and dogs sneeze when they are happy and excited, and sometimes to show they are playful. My Sheltie was a number one sneezer. He’d sneeze to say hi, or ask you to play, and it got where I’d play sneeze back, and he’d sneeze back, and I’d sneeze back…LOL. People probably thought we had a hella hay fever attack or something!

    1. See I thought everyone had them in 3s but apparently no!!! I learned from the comments as well

  4. “In any case, as someone who is pretty much always sneezing, I always liked the idea. Either someone is deeply obsessed with me or there is always a new person thinking of me.”

    Well, indeed, how could anyone NOT be obsessed and/or in love with you! 😛

          1. I think the people who program spellcheck purposefully made it to auto-correct ridiculous stuff to troll us

  5. I’ve always believed this superstition, too! 🤣
    Thank you for all the new informations. And, I hardly ever sneeze. People just like to interrupt. I’m sure.🙄
    Take care💞

  6. These days I am so terrified of sneezing, that I almost wished people would not think about me, which would kind of go directly against my mission to be remembered as me I guess. I am also a bad luck sneezer by these standards as I mostly sneeze twice! Sometimes even four times. Oh no! I my fear of sneezing got even bigger now!

      1. That must be it! And the 2’s are just happening to be two peope thinking about me postively at the same time! Must be! Thanks by refueling my disillusions! The world looks brighter now!

  7. My dad and brother somehow always sneeze in threes no matter what. It’s very strange. Meanwhile, I only sneeze once, but it has the force of three. I wonder what that means?

    1. I always pretty much sneeze in threes and I actually thought that’s how everyone was

  8. My Mom was a fount of little superstitions when I was growing up, but I don’t remember her ever telling us this one, so even though I was aware of it I’m not sure where I picked it up. The one nose-related superstition I do remember her repeating to us all the time was, “If your nose itches you’re going to get some news.” Usually followed up with, “If your palm itches, you’re going to get some money.” Unfortunately between the two, it’s my nose that always itches far more often!

  9. This is fascinating. 😂

    I’ve never heard about any of this to be honest. I grew up with the superstition that if your right ear is ringing someone is saying something good about you. But if your left ear is ringing – sheesh – someone is just dunking on you lmao. OR you’re just developing Tinnitus because you listen to your headphones too loud (neutral luck!)

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