As a lifelong southerner, I’m ashamed to confess that I did not understand the true meaning of “Bless your heart” until later in life.
When I was growing up, Mama used the phrase quite a bit. I did not understand why she gave a blessing to someone who clearly deserved a curse or at least a sniff. (If Mama turned her head and sniffed, that was the ultimate put down.)
She had a catch phrase for any situation or question she wished to avoid.
I was a teenager before I figured this out.
When she heard that a relative ran off with the church of Christ preacher, all she said was “I’ll swan” which is the equivalent of “OMG.” It was a sister-in-law who no one liked much or wanted to go so far as to bless her heart.
“Well, I’ll declare,” was code for “No Way in Hell,” when I informed her mouton fur coats were de rigueur for stylish high school sophomore girls. She relented and bought the jacket, but it was not quite what I had in mind. This mouton was what Naugahyde is to leather. It sat in the back of my closet unworn until I graduated from high school.
My behavior would shame me to this day if it weren’t for Karma. Fast-forward twenty-five years to when my two male teenagers staged a revolt over Sears Toughskin jeans versus Levis. Toughskin jeans durability endeared them to moms. Problem was, no self-respecting teen wanted to be seen wearing them. Karma always re-visits and in multiples.
To remain employable, my business standard English did not include southern dialect. I had enough moxie not to say “liketa” when I meant “almost.” I was way too cool to utter “I’ll swan.” Four letter expletives teased my brain and struggled to remain with the confines of my mouth.
I am no longer constrained by the political correctness of the workplace.
My passive/aggressive alter ego danced to re-discover “Bless your heart.” I’ve used it on a couple of unsuspecting soles.
Now, everyone is using the phrase and you can’t insult someone without them being the wiser.
Maybe I’ll start a new trend and resurrect, “I’ll declare.”