The crazy things we do

by Ruth Griffiths

While not exactly the great mysteries of the ages, there are some puzzling things that Canadians do. I hope you find the answers to these mysteries entertaining:

  1. Why do we open our mouth to put on eye makeup?

Some say opening your mouth while applying mascara prevents your eyes from blinking, thus making it easier to apply the makeup. Others say opening the mouth stretches the skin around the eye, making it less likely to smear the mascara.

But most find that “mascara mouth” is an unconscious act, not something we learn.

 ”Two different nerves control the muscles that open and close your mouth and upper eyelids, and those nerves are located close together on your body,” says Blanca Cobb, a body language expert. “The leading theory for why your mouth opens while you apply mascara is because those nerves are cross-firing.”

You might also have “mascara mouth” when applying eyeliner or inserting contact lenses.

  • Why throw salt over your shoulder?

Spilling salt has been considered unlucky for thousands of years. Five centuries ago, ancient Sumerians avoided the bad luck of spilled salt by throwing a pinch of it over their left shoulder. This ritual spread to the Egyptians, the Assyrians and later, the Greeks.

  • Why do we knock on wood (or touch wood)?When you speak of your own good fortune, you follow up with a quick knock on a piece of wood to keep your luck from going bad. Ancient pagan cultures, such as the Celts, believed that spirits resided in trees. Touching the tree or knocking on it, communicated with the spirit of the tree.
  • Why do people say, “God bless you,” when someone sneezes?

People used to believe a sneeze caused someone to expel their soul out of their body, and so “God bless you” or “Bless you” was used as a protection against the devil snatching your soul.

Another explanation has a pandemic connection. One of the symptoms of the bubonic plague was coughing and sneezing, and it is believed that Pope Gregory I  suggested saying “God bless you” after a person sneezed in hopes that this prayer would protect them from an otherwise certain death.

Today we might say “bless you” when someone sneezes, just to be polite. Or we might say “Gesundheit”, the German word for “health.”

During these Covid times you don’t even have to sneeze for someone to wish you “stay safe.”