“If you are about to sneeze, say Orange”

Informant Data: The informant is in her late 40’s, Caucasian and self-identifies strongly with Judaism. She is married with two daughters, and has a career as a Family Mental Health Therapist.

Item: The folk-belief that if you are about to sneeze, say “Orange” and it will stop you from sneezing. The following quotations are direct transcriptions of my dialogue with the informant, while the additional information provided is paraphrased.

Contextual Data: My informant first heard this phrase sometime in her mid-20’s. “I was about to sneeze, and a friend of mine at the time shouted “say “Orange”!” and after I lost the need to sneeze. Since then, I’ve used it in situations where I’d rather not sneeze and it seems to work for me.” Referring to it as a “not infallible technique,” the informant says she “partially” believes it works, and therefore “why not use it?” When asked about the relevance of the word “Orange”, the informant replied “well it could be completely arbitrary, or perhaps there’s something going on with the pronunciation that affects your nose, maybe in the “n” sound.” Or maybe, the word itself is inconsequential, but the act of saying (or repeating) a word distracts your system from its sneeze. Or perhaps, when you are focusing so hard on not sneezing, you suppress the sneeze by simply “willing yourself not to sneeze.” The informant says she has shared this belief with her family, and thinks they occasionally employ its use, but that she doesn’t take it seriously enough to tell others outside the home. This folk-belief can be placed into the category of protection or protective superstitions, if one views a sneeze as an unpleasant occurrence. The custom of employing this miraculously endowed term “Orange” will inexplicable ward off the disagreeable and normally compulsory act. It could also fall under the category of folk-medicine, if one regards a sneeze as a medical condition or function, with “Orange” being the proposed remedy.