Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 01:43:36 -0400 From: "David A. Johns" 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 future events. Has this stuff been studied? -- David Johns Waycross College Waycross, GA 31501