James Chapman drew this cartoon in response to a fascinating article from the BBC which claims that the sounds that we make when we sneeze are entirely culturally-driven. There’s no biological imperative to express a sneeze a particular way:
Inserting words into sneezes – and our responses such as “bless you” – are cultural habits we pick up along the way. So it’s not surprising that British deaf people, particularly users of sign language, don’t think to add the English word “achoo” to this most natural of actions.
For deaf people, “a sneeze is what it should be… something that just happens”, says Swinbourne in his article.
He even attempts to describe what an achoo-free deaf sneeze sounds like: “[There is] a heavy breath as the deep pre-sneeze breath is taken, then a sharper, faster sound of air being released.”