Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 15:14:29 -0500 From: Mark Mandel Subject: "Bless you" Ron Butters writes: >>> No, "Good-bye" does not "really mean" "God be with you" (whatever its history). It "really means" 'this conversation is over' or 'I am leaving'. "Bless you," on the other hand, has no meaning at all (other than 'I am being conventionally polite by uttering this prayer formula'). The difference is that "Good-bye" serves a conversational function, while "Bless you" has no primary function whatever. <<< If by "primary function" you mean "conveying information and regulating its conveyance", I guess so. Or maybe not. Consider a (mechanical) clock, with a traditional clockwork mechanism. Describe and name all the parts and their relationships, build the clock accordingly, and it won't run. What have you left out? The oil! Not a part, it has no specific function in the machine except lubrication, reducing friction where parts move against each other. Communication does not take place in vacuo, but in a society. That society's definitions of politeness will affect communication. If different segments of society have conflicting definitions of what's polite, misunderstandings and problems will arise, but that doesn't mean that politeness interferes with or dilutes communication. By reducing friction, the oil enables the clock to work; when all parties to a communication agree on the relevant manifestations of politeness, politeness similarly facilitates communication. (And it occurs to me that "polite" < L. "poli:tus" 'polished', i.e., smoothed to reduce friction!) Beverly Flanigan writes: >>> On "Bless you" specifically: It is of course intended as a "tail wag" (referred to generally as phatic communication). <<< Since "phatic" means 'relating to speech', that expression always looked strange to me, until I discovered that its originator had not written it! (Whoever it was) wrote "phatic *communion*", which was misread and misquoted by generations of linguists more ready to see a word relating to the transmission of information (v.s.) than to the closeness of souls. Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist : mark[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA : Personal home page: