The not-so-secret code of Southern passive aggressive speech is most fully realized in the simple phrase “bless his heart.”
What’s interesting is that “bless her heart” is being replaced. In our modern, overly familiar and overly casual way of communicating, the lilting mockery of “bless his heart” is now summed up in the phrase “I’m just sayin’.”
According to the authoritative source on contemporary colloquialisms, urbandictionary.com, “I’m just sayin’” is “A phrase that is used when someone is offended by something you said. This phrase then removes all the offensiveness of the previous statement, making it all good.”
Sounds like the equivalent of “bless his heart” to me.
I don’t know why this is happening, but perhaps it’s a secularization of Southern language. It’s no secret that more folks attend church in the South, and religion has been intertwined with Southern culture since the 1700s. Words like “bless” were naturally part of the vernacular when so many shared a common religious heritage.
But as contemporary Southern culture becomes less and less religious, so does the language. Blessing people’s hearts, whether in a patronizing or sincere way, is just not done much anymore because we’re not as conversant in the language of blessing.
What are some of your favorite uses of either phrase? They can be from real life or completely made up. In fact, let’s make it a contest. Comment below with your entry, and I’ll announce the winner next week.
Here are some examples to prime the pump:
“He plays the recorder so well, bless his heart” (real).
“She DOES NOT need to be wearing that. I’m just sayin’.” (completely made up and not about my wife, ever).
“That was such a lame Facebook status update … bless his heart” (modern usage of dated phrase).