Posted by: Jack Henry | August 4, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Sneeze

Dear Editrix,

My son and I were talking and he said, “that’s nothing to sneeze at.” I’ve heard this phrase all my life but have no idea where it comes from. Any ideas?


Cover Your Mouth

Dear Cover,

So much talk about sneezing and coughing these days, but this idiom doesn’t require a face mask. Let’s see what we can find out about “nothing to sneeze at.” The Grammarist has a nice article about this exact topic:

Nothing to sneeze at describes something of consequence, something important enough to be paid attention to. Originally, the term to sneeze at was an idiom used to describe something that should be held in contempt, something unimportant. In this sense, sneeze may also be interpreted as a snort of derision. By the early 1800s, the admonishment nothing to sneeze at came about. Nothing to sneeze at is the American form.

Not to be sneezed at also describes something of consequence, something important enough to be paid attention to. Also appearing in the early 1800s, not to be sneezed at is the British form of this idiom.


Correa’s sophomore season in the majors didn’t see him make the jump to light-speed stardom, but the 20 HRs, 96 RBIs, 13 steals and .274 average he produced were nothing to sneeze at, and could easily be topped in his third year. (The Sacramento Bee)

The King William Street building was bought at a 3.65 per cent net initial yield: not astronomical, but with government bond yields coming off record lows, also not to be sneezed at. (The Financial Times)

And for your viewing pleasure, the sender of this question also sent me a great link to a community sign page where the writer of the signs is a great punster. You can see a few here and more at Indian Hills.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: