On Blessing Someone’s Heart

The thing about deep cultural knowledge is that you don’t realize you have it until a piece of your culture gets appropriated.

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An example of “bless your heart” in its weird misappropriated form.

I have never considered myself particularly Southern, at least in the way that people take ‘Southern’ to mean. I do not frequently use y’all. When I ask for a Coke I do not mean some other carbonated beverage (and I don’t drink it all that much). I’m not a Republican. Or a Christian. I do not wear pearls. I do not cheer for SEC football. I do not like bluegrass music and I play the violin, not the fiddle.

But if there is one aspect of Southern cultural heritage I claim as my birthright (besides excellent taste in bourbon and a kickass biscuit recipe), it is the way we do things with words. The way southerners speak is wonderful beyond explanation. The molasses slow pace of stories; the odd idioms that come from a much older English (“vittels” from “victuals” meaning food); the blunt imagery (like someone’s having been ‘hit by the ugly stick’) and obscure use of prepositions (‘Where you at?’); the creative use of multiple modals (“I used to could ride a bike and I might could ride again someday”). It is so thick as to add a whole ‘nother layer to the sonic sphere.

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