Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 17:17:43 -0500
From: "Donald M. Lance" engdl[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU
Subject: Re: Blessings and other southern euphemisms
All my life I've heard relatives and family friends of all ages from Ark
and Tex use "Bless your heart" for a wide variety of purposes. It could
even be an equivalent to the currently "popular" "I feel your pain." When
used to or about small children, the adjective "little" often was included.
If this adjective is used in the expression addressed to an adult the
expression has varying degrees of put-downness in it. The at-the-moment
meaning of the term is conveyed more by intonation and accompanying gesture
than by words. The words constitute a set phrase, not a command or
invocation. Even atheists use it. The term almost always has positive
connotations, but can be turned negative or ironic with appropriate
intonation and context. Irony far more common than negativity.