Culture

Please Stop Screaming When You Sneeze

I would like to propose all loud sneezers wear badges on their shirts, or even brightly-coloured hats, as a signal of their complete lack of control.

sneezing and shouting

Welcome to Junkee’s most pure column: Heartfelt Rants About Extremely Petty Gripes, where very funny people get mildly peeved about something stupid, such as scream-sneezing.


Let the record state that I am a very tolerant person. The evidence for this is overwhelming* (* primarily me wanting to believe that I am a very tolerant person, and also I once let a colleague call me Diana for a year because I was too uncomfortable to correct them).

Like most people, I like to think I rarely let little things irritate me and rather embrace all of society’s wild and wacky differences. And yet.

There is one element of human behaviour that I not only cannot tolerate, but I believe should not be tolerated: the act of screaming when you sneeze.

We’ve all encountered the Scream Sneezers of the world; maybe you even are one (you foul beast). They cleverly hide in plain sight as normal people, lure you into a false sense of security and then BAM.

The Scream.

Now, these individuals are not always loud noise-makers in other aspects of their life — they do not turn on the kettle and bellow, or wave their arms and shriek when laughing. This peculiar quirk seems to only emit during a sneeze.

Cartoons traditionally depict the noise of a sneeze to be ‘achoo’ but what is actually far more common is an earth-shattering ‘AAAAHHHHHHHH!!!’.

Such extreme sounds should surely be reserved for experiences such as: spider leaping onto your face, falling down a mineshaft, being attacked by a cursed doll.

This Behaviour Is Not Okay. I Am Not Okay.

Firstly and most importantly: this is terrifying to passers-by.

Many horror movies utilise the element of surprise to shock audiences, and there is nothing more alarming than turning a corner and encountering a huge, ear-splitting sneeze blown directly into my face. Because sneezes can occur at any time and with no warning, every moment I’m forced to be outside is a horror film.

When will the next one strike? I can’t even tell who it will come from, because these people walk among us, like regular people. It is truly eerie.

Secondly, not only is it assumed that I accept this this atrocity as a totally standard human function, but I am expected to acknowledge this with a polite statement of ‘bless you’. It’s been said this phrase harks back to a time when sneezing was a symptom of serious ill health (for example, the Plague), and so people around you would say God Bless You.

But if we know anything from clickbait headlines — it’s 2019, people!

The time for Bless You has long gone, and I simply refuse to offer any good tidings onto people who insist on bellowing into the sky each time their nose tickles. These people deserve no blessings, and with every shriek I feel more passionately that a Plague 2.0 may not be such a bad thing.

Screaming Is A Choice

Now, look — I can already hear the defence of “but they can’t help it!” WELL GUESS WHAT?

I consulted with numerous medical experts (meaning I googled ‘what happens when we sneeze?’ and clicked the first link). It turns out that during this process, the throat actually seals shut. SHUT. Air is then released from the nose and mouth. AIR. There is absolutely no reason for the vocal cords to chime in.

Even the nerds at Live Science state there is a element of personal control when it comes to noisy snifflers.

So for heaven’s sake, take a long hard look at yourself and work on your willpower. To avoid the shock I would like to propose all loud sneezers wear badges on their shirts, or even brightly-coloured hats, as a signal of their complete lack of control and general personal failings.

If you cannot be master of your own nose and throat passages then at least give me some warning of who you are so that I may cross the street and not live my life in constant fear.

Something I have noticed, though, is that there is a curious correlation with age with this phenomenon. In my experience, the younger a person is, the more like they are to emit the gentle ‘achoo’ and the older one is, the more likely they are to be shouting for several seconds, blowing their sneeze like a mini-tornado.

Is this behaviour then inevitable? Will this happen to me? Or does the ageing process simply mean you are alive to witness more atrocities and therefore have a lot of pent-up emotion inside?

After all this considered analysis, maybe we can conclude that it is simply a good excuse to let out a good scream. And you know what… I actually kind of admire that.

Deirdre Fidge is a Melbourne-based writer. You can follow her inane thoughts on Twitter at @figgled