08 April 2019

The nice way to call someone an idiot

"Bless your heart" is not really a compliment. It sounds sweet as pie, and sometimes is said affectionately about pitiable situations, but it’s often acid-tongued because you’re pitiful and did something you shouldn’t’ve but were too dumb to know better, which is why it’s a perfect saying to export from a region that has hung on for dear life to its manners...

Remember when President Trump dinged former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley by saying she was an embarrassment to the state?
 
And she said:

“Bless her heart, she has no fashion sense at all” is a good example. There are other versions of this: “God love ’em” and “I’ll pray for you,” as is “How nice for you!”...

What it means is that the speaker thinks you’ve gotten yourself into a bad situation, but part or all of the reason is something your fault — either a choice you made, or the fact that you’re dumb. The sympathy is because you probably can’t help it. Or as we say in the South, you come by it honestly. As in, your parents are dumb, too...

It’s an expression that has a couple of different implications that go with it, a couple different meanings,” Kirk Hazen, a linguistics professor at Western Virginia University and expert on American dialects, tells MEL by phone.

“And it all is related to power,” he says. “The power of who’s talking and who’s listening. I know it’s gotten really popular. In linguistics we call that ‘enregistered.’”

“On the one hand, it can be a sincere form of endearment and concern where you actually feel empathetic for the person,” he says. “But that isn’t the expression everyone likes to talk about. The one everybody likes to talk about is when the speaker in, say, some perhaps condescending or perhaps biting way, notes that the person is in a bad state. And it’s mostly used, at least historically, by women.”
More at the link.

2 comments:

  1. i believe that phrase is used quite off by sheldon's meemaw in the tv series 'young sheldon'?

    p.s. i am glad that i can identify crosswalks, bicycles, buses, traffic lights, fire hydrants, and/or cars. otherwise, i would never be able to get through the 'i am not a robot' thing.

    I-)

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  2. I'm glad that this acknowledges that "bless your heart" can also be an expression of endearment. That may not be the one everyone likes to talk about, but my paternal grandmother, who never wished harm on anyone, always used "Bless your heart" as an expression of sympathy.
    In the right hands and the right context, though, it can be devastatingly insulting. However as Nikki Haley's use shows its effectiveness is lost on someone who's not smart enough to understand it.

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