Nothing to Sneeze At
Specific Purpose: To inform my audience about the most interesting issues
Central Idea: Sneezing has long been the subject of superstition, has a number of different causes, and can be done safely and politely.
Pattern of Organization: Topical
Introduction [with labels]:
(Attention & relating to audience w/ "you") You feel it welling up inside you, this delicate tingling, as if your every nerve were firing at once. You want to grope for the newspaper, your homework--anything--but you no longer control your body. These seconds of helpless anticipation seem like an eternity, but then the spell is broken. You crash forward, your muscles contracting like a fist, and you can't even see that people are running away from you because something has forced your eyes shut. And then it's over. You relax. Your head is clear, your body under control.
(Reveal Topic) I'm talking, of course, about sneezing. (Credibility/goodwill) I come from a long line of sneezers. My father sneezed, and his father and his father's father before him were all men for whom a blast from the nose was every bit as bracing as a plunge into the snow following a sauna.
This involuntary reflex known as the sneeze is not one of the burning mysteries of our time, but (Preview) I'd like to tell you about some superstitions that have sprung up around sneezing and also let you know what's actually happening when you sneeze. Finally, in the interest of social harmony, I'll tell you how to sneeze safely and politely.
I. Sneezing can be understood in terms of the superstitions surrounding it throughout history.
A. Ancient sources refer to the sneeze.(Transition: Sneezing is seldom this dramatic, but many cultures echo the Greeks in their praise of the nose's most conspicuous function.)1. Aristotle believed the sneeze to be a favorable omen.
2. The tale of Xenophon from The Concise Dictionary of Ancient History underscores the important role a sneeze played in Greek history.
B. According to the Encyclopedia of Occult Sciences, Superstitions, and Folklore, many cultures echo the Greek praise of the sneeze.(Transition: However differently a sneeze is reacted to throughout the world, its cause is generally the same: nasal irritation.)1. Among the Zulu a person who has just sneezed proclaims "I am now blessed; the ancestral spirit is with me. It has come to me. Let me salute it, for it is he who causes me to sneeze."C. In western cultures the sneeze is often viewed with suspicion.
2. In India the sneeze is very important.a. After you sneeze the people around you will say "Live," and you must respond, "Live with you!."
b. Indians consider the sneeze to be a sign of health.
c. According to Science magazine the inability to sneeze is considered a disease and scientists are looking for ways to induce the healthy sneeze.1. We say bless you not because the heart skips a beat or because your soul has exited your body (as some south Pacific Natives believe).
2. We say "bless you" because of the Black Death of 590 A.D.a. The bubonic plague killed off half of Europe.
b. The plague was recognized by rashes, swelling, and fits of sneezing.
c. Since death often followed sneezing, people began to say "bless you" as a final blessing.
II. Sneezing can be understood as the body's complex reaction to physical or psychological stimuli as the body seeks to banish intruders or re-establish nasal equilibrium.
A. Some sneezes result from physical stimuli.(Signpost: Pollen is not the only culprit though.)1. Pollen from grass, trees, house dust and other sources can irritate your nose.a. Your nose considers such substances as invaders and ejects them with a sneeze.
b. Their expulsion can be at speeds of up to 104 miles per hour.
(Transition: In addition to its physical causes, the New York Times reports a sneeze can also be brought on by psychological and emotional factors. )2. Strong odors, sudden chills and even bright lights can also be mistaken as parasites and the nose will defend itself with a sneeze.
B. Some sneezes result from psychological stimuli.(Transition: Sneezing will probably never give you the trouble it gave June Clark, but the odds are that sooner or later you'll have to sneeze in a social setting.)1. A variety of emotions can cause you to sneeze.a. Fear such as what you might experience if someone mugged you can make you sneeze.2. The sneezing response to psychological stimuli results from the nose's effort to reestablish equilibrium.
b. Anguish at losing your valuables to a mugger can make you sneeze.
c. Excitement experienced as you chase the mugger can make you sneeze as well.a. Strong emotions can make you nasal membranes shrink or expand and a sneeze returns you to normal.
b. Some people have overly active equilibriating responses.i. June Clark had a sneezing fit in 1966 that lasted for 174 days.
ii. Doctors tried tranquilizers, narcotics, e-rays, muscle relaxants, shock treatment and even hypnosis to try to cure her.
III. Sneezing can be understood as something
that should be done safely and politely.
A. In order to be safe, be sure that you never stifle a sneeze.Conclusion:1. Remember you don't want to stop a force going over 100 miles per hour.B. In order to be polite follow expert advice.
2. People who have stifled sneezes have given themselves nosebleeds, popped blood vessels, and even gone blind.1. Jane Brody writes in the New York Times that "An unimpeded sneeze sends two to five thousand bacteria-filled droplets into the air."
2. Etiquette books from Lord Chesterfield and Amy Vanderbilt to Eleanor Roosevelt and Miss Manners all advocate quick use of a handkerchief.
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