Kusu Kwee!

My friend, Jikai Yamazato, a Ryukyuan, told me this story about "Kusu Kwee!"

"When in America when you guys sneeze you say, 'Bless you.' But in Ryukyus we say KU-SU-KWEE, or KU-SU-KAY!

Ryukyuans donít cuss, they just donít do it. But, thereís a special time when they use this expression.

Have you ever been walking down a dark alley or street and feel the hair stand-up on the back of your neck? Thereís a presence, something creeping up behind you, a ghost, a bad vibe or an evil spirit.

Well, Ryukyuans worship their ancestors and believe there are spirits watching over them at all times. Anyone who died an unnatural death or was lost at sea and never given a proper burial has a spirit floating around, just waiting to snatch the healthy spirit from your body.

When someone sneezes, their spirit temporarily leaves their body and this is the ideal time for one of the floating spirits to snatch it away.

....... So, you should look slightly above the person who just sneezed, shoo the spirit away with both hands and say 'Kusu Kwee!' just as someone walking down a dark alley would when they feel an evil presence.

Translation: Eat pig shit!"
(Jikai san, nifee deebiru dushigwa!)

Another friend, Ichiro Suzuki adds:
Sneeze is 'Kushami' in current Japanese, and this word derives from 'Kusame' and Kusame was originally 'Kusohame (eat shit)'.

In Heian and Kamakura Period, it was thought that people who sneezed so often would die young, so the sneezers themselves and others cast a spell 'Kusame' on the sneezers.

As time went by, the spell started meaning sneeze.

By the way, Japanese women, especially old women, say 'Gomen Asobase (I'm sorry/Excuse me)' just after they sneezed.

'Gomen Asobase' is a very polite way of saying 'Gomen Nasai' and it's a phrase which is used by only women. This phrase is disappearing from Japanese now.

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Stephen A. 'Mick' McClary - Great Falls, MT