in Wacky Word Wednesday

Those who have been in Beijing long enough know what to expect of Spring—warm weather, rain, and sandstorms. Oh, and one more thing: if you’re allergic to pollen, you’ll probably sneeze a lot, too. Today’s Wacky Word Wednesday is all about this powerful expulsion that can’t be controlled, no matter how hard you try.



quo topsternutation


The act of sneezing.

quo botsternutation

Sternutation, from Latin sternuere, which means to sputter (of a light), is the medical term for sneezing. It’s a quite a long word for something that happens in such a short time, isn’t it? The term has been used as far back as the 16th century in a medical book describing infants who were suffering from frequent “sternutation and sneesynge.” In 1850, author Grace Greenwood gave sternutation a humorous effect when talking about U.S. politicians with divergent views:

“A Whig may be seen passing his (snuff) box to a Democrat, who passes it to a Southern ultraist, who passes it to a Northern ‘incendiary.’ And all three forget their sectional differences in a delightful concert of sternutation. No business is too grave; no speaker too elegant to be sneezed at.”

No matter how annoying sternutation can be, it actually helps keep your body safe by clearing your nose of bacteria and viruses. But did you know that your sneezes can travel up to 100 miles per hour? The wet germ-ridden spray can also land as far as 30 feet away. So there’s no way of escaping those germs, unless you cover your mouth.

Here’s another fun fact about sneezing: the longest sneezing spree recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records was an exhausting 978 days, an achievement attributed to Donna Griffiths of Worcestershire, England. Griffith began sneezing on January 13, 1981 and stertunated an estimated one million times in the first 365 days. Her first sneeze-free day came 978 days later on September 16, 1983.

As usual, we’ve provided a few examples that use today’s wacky word:

  • A sudden sternutation filled the air as the gentleman deposited another sea of mucus into his pocket handkerchief. (Kuriositas)
  • During cold and flu season, a chorus of sternutation could be heard around the office as employees gave in to fits of sneezing. (

All in all, whether you’re in an important meeting or in a movie, you shouldn’t try to hold in a sneeze because it can lead to injuries. Instead, check out a few tricks that can help quiet your high volume sternutation!

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