Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 13:06:50 -0500

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: Re: Blessings and other southern euphemisms

At 09:07 AM 10/27/97 -0600, you wrote:

David A. Johns wrote:

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.

I believe the expression as used above contains a note of pathos. It's

almost always directed at either a young person, an old person (who may

have some sort of health problem), or a sick person. The intention is

positive, but with pity, and it's not the same as "isn't that sweet."

My wife's second cousin (about 60 y.o.) and aunt (about 90), both from the

lower Delmarva peninsula, used this phrase quite a bit in the mid 1990's.

The second cousin could rarely get far in a conversation with my wife

without using it. But I suspect they used it as an expression of intimacy or

familiarity or affection more than pity, given the context. (Admittedly,

though, this whole range of ideas does tend to become connected in some ways

-- cp. the connotational range of diminutive suffixes in romance langauges,

where either familiarity and/or contempt can be connoted).

(Possibly relevant to the "using it to a child" idea, I should point out

that my wife is many decades younger than her cousin and aunt were, due to

late reproduction in my wife's part of the family.)

Gregory {Greg} Downing, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]