“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
    Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 21:32
  • 2
    Nice find! I've now edited one dictionary to include this sense: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bless_you.
    – ruakh
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 0:52

2 Answers 2


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
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 8:10
  • 3
    @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.
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 15:08

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. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 12:00
  • 5
    @dan really anything. I don't think I've heard it used that much outside of books or film, though. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 12:07
  • 3
    @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
    Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 16:46
  • 2
    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. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 21:42
  • 2
    I remember 'gesundheit' from the punchline of a schoolyard joke (Australia, mid-1970s), in which Hitler is reviewing troops and someone sneezes. When no-one admits who it was, he orders increasing portions of the troops shot. Finally a soldier in the remaining portion admits it was him, and Hitler says ... I can't remember if I figured out the meaning from context, or whether I asked, or whether I just laughed because everyone else did.
    – Sydney
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 21:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .