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I use the phrase "SCAT" when I sneeze, and sometimes when someone in my presence sneezes.

I have lived in different parts of the US and don't know where I picked up this expression. Has anyone heard of this practice before, or is it common anywhere?

  • 1
    I've never heard of it, but I also have weird habits when I sneeze, so I'm in no position to judge. Have you ever heard, or heard of, anyone else doing this? If not, it may just be a personal quirk. I know mine is. – Dan Bron Dec 8 '16 at 15:33
  • I am from the American south, and I can verify that my mother, also from the south, used to say this after people sneezed. – Doug Warren Dec 8 '16 at 15:35
  • This is interesting; it must be an Americanism as I have never heard of anything like this. Whether it is used or not is really more of a question for Google, however, it's etymology is a potentially fascinating question; perhaps you should expand to ask that. – BladorthinTheGrey Dec 8 '16 at 17:05
  • I've never heard it in the US Midwest. – Hot Licks Jul 26 '17 at 18:51
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    Purely my guess but given that “God bless you” was said after a sneeze so that the evil demon that was just expelled could not re-enter the body, I’d guess that “scat” was intended to tell the demon to get out of here and stay out. – Jim Jul 26 '17 at 18:55
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It's short for "scat cat" (imperative Scat! = Go away! Leave me alone!). A usage particularly associated with the American South (perhaps specifically tracing back to religious/superstitious negro plantation slaves1).

As most people know, the archetypal response Bless you! when someone sneezes arises from the medieval belief that the Devil could sneak into your body when you were distracted by a sneeze. And most people also know of strong associations between the Devil and (witches') cats.

It's not "common" in Britain. I've never heard it before, but I've certainly heard Shoo that dog out! as a (facetious) attempt to blame the dog when someone breaks wind inappropriately. Probably not relevant, I know, but maybe the two usages support each other to a slight extent.


Note that this specific definition (one of 13 different entries in the full OED) has it's own separate definition and etymology...

identical with ‘ss cat!’ (i.e. a hiss followed by the word cat) used in driving away cats.


(EDIT) When I wrote this answer a year ago, I had a source saying the usage had its origins in early religious plantation slaves. But the link's now dead, and I can't find anything else now that even recognises the possibility of Scat! as an exclamatory response to a sneeze.

Obviously the usage does exist though, so it's still meaningful to query it here. After revisiting the issue I can't deny my "etymology" now looks like speculation + hearsay. I still think it's at least credible, but I admit I've nothing to back up anything related to regional prevalence and/or origin.

  • My sister says "Scat ya' old cat, your tail's afire!" whenever someone sneezes. We are Hoosiers. I'm not sure where she picked it up but she's been saying it for years. – Rob K Jul 26 '17 at 20:52
  • First link is now broken. – MetaEd Dec 15 '17 at 21:27
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I'm from the south and I remember my grandmother, who was from small town South Georgia, saying "Scat That" whenever we sneezed. No idea why though.

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I am from the American South, Middle Tennessee to be more precise. I have heard my Grandmother and my mother use this phrase when someone sneezes.

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I'm from Oklahoma, and also grew up hearing "Scat" after my sneezes. (Always feels like home when I hear it today)! More than just the word, your intonation and even facial expression are key if you want to keep this southern expression alive. It's an exclamation, for one thing, rather than a comment. "Scat!!!" ...expressed abruptly--right on the heels of a sneeze--using a higher voice tone that quickly rounds down to a lower one, always followed by a smile. Unlike some blessings after sneezes which come across neutrally or even as serious, "Scat" is expressed enthusiastically. More fun and happy, like a surprise.

...at least in Oklahoma!

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I'm from Western North Carolina and as a child often heard my grandmother say 'scat cat' after one sneezing.

protected by MetaEd Dec 15 '17 at 21:25

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