IJMC Why Bless Your Heart

                    IJMC - Why Bless Your Heart

Ok, ok, no insults from this peanut gallery...this time. I will let 
everyone off easy with this cute lil southern piece. Seems like there has 
been a lot about the South (Southern U.S. at least) recently. I wonder if 
it is time for the South to rise again. Well, probably not, although 
after one of our former senators, I would guess Georgia is at least well 
to do in the political-military complex. What does that mean? Dunno, but 
we spend a lot on military bases!                                   -dave


Someone once noted that a Southerner can get away with the most awful kind
of insult just as long as it's prefaced with the words "Bless her heart"
or "Bless his heart." 

As in, "Bless his heart, if they put his brain on the head of a pin, it'd
roll around like a BB on a six-lane highway."  Or, "Bless her heart, she's
so bucktoothed, she could eat an apple through a picket fence." 

There are also the sneakier ones that I remember from tongue-clucking
types of my childhood: "You know, it's amazing that even though she had
that baby seven months after they got married, bless her heart, it weighed
10 pounds!" 

As long as the heart is sufficiently blessed, the insult can't be all that
bad, at least that's what my Great-aunt Tiny (bless her heart, she was
anything but) used to say. 

I was thinking about this the other day when a friend was telling me about
her new Northern friend who was upset because her toddler is just
beginning to talk and he has a Southern accent. 

My friend, who is very kind and, bless her heart, cannot do a thing about
those thighs of hers, so don't even start, was justifiably miffed about

After all, this woman had CHOSEN to move south a couple of years ago. 
"Can you believe it?" she said to my friend.  "A child of mine is going to
be taaaallllkkin' a-liiiike thiiiissss." 

I can think of far worse fates than speaking Southern for this adorable
little boy, who, bless his heart, must surely be the East Coast king of

I wish I'd been there.  I would have said that she shouldn't fret, because
there is nothing so sweet or pleasing on the ear, as a soft Southern
drawl.  Of course, maybe we shouldn't be surprised at her "carryings on." 
After all, when you come from a part of the world where "family silver"
refers to the large medallion around Uncle Vinnie's neck, you just have
to, as aunt Tiny would say, "consider the source." 

Now don't get me wrong.  Some of my dearest friends are from the North,
bless their hearts.  I welcome their perspective, their friendships, and
their recipes for authentic Northern Italian food. 

I've even gotten past their endless complaints that you can't find good
bread down here.  The ones who really gore my ox are the native
Southerners who have begun to act almost embarrassed about their speech.
It's as if they want to bury it in the "Hee Haw" cornfield. 

We've already lost too much.  I was raised to swanee, not swear, but you
hardly ever hear anyone say that anymore, I swanee you don't. And I've
caught myself thinking twice before saying something is "right much,"
"right close" or "right good" because non-natives think this is right
funny indeed. 

I have a friend from Bawston who thinks it's hilarious when I say I've got
to "carry" my daughter to the doctor or "cut off"" the light. That's OK. 

It's when you have to explain things to people who were born here that I
get mad as a mule eating bumblebees.  Not long ago, I found myself trying
to explain to a native Southerner what I meant by being "in the short
rows."  I'm used to explaining that expression (it means you've worked a
right smart but you're almost done) to newcomers to the land of buttermilk
and cold collard sandwiches (better than you think), but to have to
explain it to a Southerner was just plain weird. 

The most grating example is found in restaurants and stores where nice,
Magnolia-mouthed clerks now say "you guys" instead of "y'all," as their
mamas raised them up to say.  I'd sooner wear white shoes in February,
drink unsweetened tea, and eat Miracle Whip instead of Duke's than utter
the words, "you guys." 

Not long ago I went to lunch with four women friends and the waiter, a
nice Southern boy, you-guys-ed all of us within an inch of our lives. 
"You guys ready to order?  What can I get for you guys?  Would you guys
like to keep you guys' forks?"  Lord, have mercy. 

It's a little comforting that, at the very same time some natives are so
eager to blend in, they've taken to making microwave grits (an
abomination), the rest of the world is catching on that it's cool to be

How else do you explain NASCAR tracks and Krispy Kreme doughnut franchises
springing up like yard onions all over the country?  To those of you
who're still a little embarrassed by your Southernness, take two tent
revivals and a dose of redeye gravy and call me in the morning. 

Bless your heart. 

IJMC November 1999 Archives