STERNUTATION

You know what it is like: silence descends in a church or a hall, during a family gathering – any place where the proceedings have moved forward to pause for a solemn moment, be it to pay homage, show respect, await an announcement of some import … the hush is all encompassing – and you sneeze!

Sternutation seldom happens as a once-off interruption. It frequently causes faces to turn your way – some of those glaring looks sharply prick their way through the crowd and, in flinching from them, you sneeze again … and again!

Someone nearly always sneezes during a dramatic pause in a play, an opera, or a symphony concert. I have listened to a concert of sternutation at church services and public lectures. At some times of the year the situation is direr than at others – especially when there is a yellow haze of pollen about.

Crossword lovers would have come across this scientific term for ‘sneeze’ in cryptic clues.

I wonder what the term is for the inclination to want to giggle during solemn moments.

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