Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 17:17:43 -0500 From: "Donald M. Lance" 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.