Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 01:43:36 -0400
From: "David A. Johns" djohns[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PEACHNET.CAMPUS.MCI.NET
Subject: Blessings and other southern euphemisms
All this talk about blessing has reminded me of what seems to me to
be a very strange usage in this area.
In my experience (pre-southern) expressions like "bless his heart"
were used by old ladies when talking about a child who had done
something good: "He brought me a flower from the garden, bless his
heart." There was no question that the expression was positive.
Both in Florida and here in Georgia, I began noticing the phrase used
more widely, by younger people, although still mainly female, in
somewhat more ambiguous contexts, like "He's won the doorprize for
the third year in a row, bless his heart." I took it to mean
something like "the lucky stiff" until I started noticing "bless"
being used as a euphemism for "curse": "That student really blessed
me out over the grade I gave her." This is much less common than
"bless his heart," but I've heard it from maybe half a dozen women,
but no men. Given this usage, I'm inclined to think that "bless his
heart" means something closer to "damn his bones" -- a statement of
resentment rather than pride.
Somewhat similar might be the very common use of "I love him to
death, but" (from women) and "He's a good Christian, but" (from men
or women) as a prelude to vicious criticism, behind the target's
back, of course. Note that it's not the criticism that is unusual,
but the strange apology.
And last, both in Florida and Georgia there seems to be a taboo
against the word "swear" in the sense of an oath. Using profanity is
"cussing" or (high style) "cursing," never "swearing," but I was
surprised to hear statements like "I didn't touch the pie, I
promise," instead of "I swear." To me "promise" can be used only for
Has this stuff been studied?
Waycross, GA 31501