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Something that's just been nagging at the back of my head for the last decade. In high school, I knew someone who spent a year abroad in Austria, and they taught me that if someone sneezes multiple times, you first say "Gesundheit", then "Weisheit", then "Langes Leben", before no longer responding. (Though, for humor, they would respond to all further sneezes with "Geld".) For years I've just taken that at face value, but on a few occasions I've attempted to Google it and found nothing to support it. Is this an actual colloquialism in Austria, or is this more likely just something she picked up from a small group of people who came up with it themselves?

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    It does depend a bit on your peer group - when I was in school (last century), there was a short trend amongst teens of saying “Gips”, as a summary of “Gesundheit, Intelligenz, Potenz, Schönheit“.
    – Stephie
    Aug 8, 2021 at 11:47

6 Answers 6

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As a native German, I can confirm that a variant of this habit is known in the Ruhr area. It might be declining in usage, but I might get that impression because I'm getting older while the youth still may be doing it. I certainly have the impression that everyone who went to school here does at least know this, even if they don't use it.

The variant I know starts with:

  • Gesundheit (health)
  • Schönheit (beauty)
  • Intelligenz (intelligence)

... and mostly stops there, because usually, one does not witness more than three sneezes in a row. But I remember that sometimes, people ponder aloud what comes next. "Reichtum" (richness) and "Sex" (copulation) are only two candidates that I remember.

I always got the impression that those wishes do purport an implied jab of "because you need it", which might be why I've heard it more often in juvenile contexts or among good friends.

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As a native speaking Austrian, I can confirm that this can happen (I have done it myself too). Although it is not that common and happens only in a environment where everyone is close to each other (friends or family).

I like it to do, if I tell something to a close group and someone interrupts me (multiple) times during the talk. At that point you can wish the interrupting person pretty much everything nice. Like "Gesundheit", "Schönheit", "Weisheit", "Geld", "viele Kinder" and so on.

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    Aus aktuellem Anlass kann man "Impftermin" ergänzen. Aug 5, 2021 at 14:40
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I was born and raised in Austria and I have only ever heard "Gesundheit", "Zum Wohl" "Helf Gott" and more locally "Wahr ist's".

I was able to find a different discussion on a german website here that corroborates the story though (altough in that forum it's "Schönheit", "Gesundheit", "ein langes Leben"). It seemed like the sotries where mostly around Bavaria (Munich), I definitely wouldn't describe it as "common" since nowadays saying anything past the first sneeze is very rare in my experience.

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I like the "Wahr ist's" one ;) My family and friends start with "Gesundheit", "Schönheit (Beauty)", "Weisheit (Wisdom)", "Reichtum (Wealth)", and then whatever one wishes from there. So I guess there's variants, but it's generally known.

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  • Welcome to German.SE. It is common that an answer either references to other answers to say "part x is answered there, I answer part y" or only to the question. So I prefer to delete the first sentence and the smiley. SE is more "trocken". Aug 6, 2021 at 13:54
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This is just a supplement to orithena's answer. I think it is widely practised in Germany to replace "Gesundheit" by other words like "Schönheit", "Weisheit" or anything else (in fact, there are no limits to your imagination) if someone sneezes more than once.

BUT: Only say this to close acquaintances (relatives, friends, sport comrades etc). It would be a faux pas to say it to strangers or in official meetings.

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In my personal experience – mainly Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate – there is near-universal agreement that the first sneeze (typically) gets Gesundheit as a response and the second sneeze gets Schönheit. It would not be entirely uncommon to continue from there (my mother, for example, would continue with and a rich pharmacist towards friends or other family members, referring jokingly to the guy she married), but unlike the first two I am not aware of any ʻsetʼ order.

In Bavaria, these first two are the basis of a number of joking responses after the first sneeze such as:

Schönheit, gesund wirst du von alleine

Schönheit, gesund bist du schon

and probably more.

Note: All responses except for Gesundheit are informal and should be used with appropriate caution.

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