Women say it a lot, but not too many men do. It is that uniquely Southern, double-edged phrase, “Bless your heart.” It has become quite trendy — you see it on T-shirts, dinnerware and decorations.
I didn’t know until lately that it can mean two different things. I always use it as a way to express sympathy, as in “I am so sorry they are having such a difficult time, bless their hearts.” However, I was told it can be considered a catty remark to soften an insult. An example would be, “She can’t help it if she’s not that bright, bless her heart.”
That got me really upset, because I surely don’t use it in that way. I truly mean it as an admonition to God to actually bless someone if they are going through bad stuff. It is meant as a verbal hug. I guess some things go over my head.
Just call me naive, bless my heart.
We have a lot of sayings that are uniquely Southern. My mother used to say, “Well I declare.” I think this is a polite response when you really don’t know what to comment. She was absolutely a Southern lady and would never think of hurting anyone’s feelings.
Another reply of some uncertainty is to say that you will be somewhere, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” It means you will do your best to be there unless there are unforeseen circumstances. And if you want someone to slow down, you say, “Well just hold your horses.”
If a cold front is coming, we might say, “It is fixin’to blow in a blue norther.” I was watching an older man as he limped into the store the other day, and thought to myself, “He’s got a hitch in his git-a-long.”
Families have sayings that are special to each other, also. My Dad used to say, as he was leaving, “I’ll see you when the roses bloom again.” I guess that meant that he would see us soon, since roses are pretty frequent bloomers.
When we got home after being gone awhile, he would say, “Home again, home again, jiggety jog.” I thought that was unique to our family until I was with a friend who said it when we got back to her house.
Another friend of mine always has some good witticisms. One of them is to, “Live like someone left the gate open.” I think that means to kick up your heels and feel free to test new boundaries. Another is, “They want a relationship, but don’t want to do the heavy lifting.” That describes someone who wants in on all the benefits of something, but never does any of the work.
Different parts of our country have their own special ways of saying things.
In Louisiana, a sink can be called a zink, and if you are sitting beside someone and you need them to move over, you would say, “Push over so I can sit down.” If you pass a good time in Cajun country, that means you had fun. In Yankee land, we first heard soft drinks called pop, and a po’boy sandwich a grinder.
We all speak the King’s English, but have adapted it to our own unique usage. It is what gives us the fun and flavor of who we are and where we live. So go ahead and bless someone’s heart, but do it in a good way. And I will see you when the roses bloom again.
A former longtime Baytown resident, Ginger Stripling now lives in Mont Belvieu. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,
Attention: Ginger Stripling.