24

“What's that?” said Ron, pointing at a large dish of some sort of shellfish stew that stood beside a large steak-and-kidney pudding.

“Bouillabaisse,” said Hermione.

Bless you,” said Ron.

“It's French,” said Hermione, “I had it on holiday summer before last. It's very nice.”

One of the dictionaries I've consulted says "Bless you" can be used to express "thanks", which I think it could be the author intended to mean for this context. But I don't have confidence. What does it truly mean?

  • 1
    A similar response from another generation might be for Ron to say "sorry I don't follow Pokemon" but that wouldn't suit the Potter universe. – Criggie Dec 15 '18 at 21:32
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    Nice find! I've now edited one dictionary to include this sense: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bless_you. – ruakh Dec 17 '18 at 0:52
28

Sydney's answer is right in that "bless you" is what you say in English after someone sneezes, but I don't think it addresses why it was said in this context.

In American English at least, it's a pretty common joke to say "bless you" after someone says a weird word, like bouillabaisse. The word doesn't have to sound anything like a sneeze, it just needs to be uncommon or have a weird pronunciation.

Think of the motivation for it like, "What you just said sounds like gibberish," as if the person sneezed.

I personally haven't heard it used too much outside of books and film and other media, but that doesn't mean you can't use it in conversation.

  • 3
    @insidesin it's no problem at all. It's a very valid reason to include "American" to his answer because he simply doesn't know if it's the same in British English or any other English because there could be differences. And yes, an Indian English speaker might very well mention that he is Indian – Ivo Beckers Dec 17 '18 at 8:10
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    @insidesin - Much of English is regional, so there is nothing wrong with qualifying an answer with something like, "In American English..." or "In Indian English..." or even "In some parts of New South Wales..." It's often helpful information. – J.R. Dec 17 '18 at 15:08
34

Many people say 'bless you' after someone else sneezes. Ron thinks (or pretends to think) that 'bouillabaisse' sounds like a sneeze. Maybe the joke would work better if Hermione had said 'schnitzel'.

(Many languages have a word or phrase like this, many of which are based on wishing health or God's blessing (of health): see Wikipedia.)

  • 15
    It's a pretty common joke to say "bless you" when someone says a word that sounds weird. – TheWanderer Dec 15 '18 at 12:00
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    @dan really anything. I don't think I've heard it used that much outside of books or film, though. – TheWanderer Dec 15 '18 at 12:07
  • 1
    I like to do this with the name Saskatchewan. But it can be done with any strange word. – Kef Schecter Dec 15 '18 at 12:12
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    @ColinFine I guess it depends where in the UK you come from. I've known it for half a century, and I have no idea where I learned it - but almost certainly not from American media. – alephzero Dec 15 '18 at 16:46
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    Here is another example of the same joke (using "gesundheit", which is the German/Yiddish equivalent to "Bless You") from Tangled, when Rapunzel introduces herself. – Arcanist Lupus Dec 15 '18 at 21:42

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