There are four expressions that I have found to be particularly useful to understand, for they often carry with them multi-layered intent and meaning that is belied by their ostensible simplicity. As I begin to share them with you, I feel it important also to stress the significance of Subtlety, Gentility, Forgiveness, Empathy and, yes, Intellect that these expressions may reflect and convey. I offer a single expression for the male persuasion, two for the female persuasion (given the greater number of words used by the female persuasion, subsequently resulting in a substantially larger proportion of entries in the vast world of Southern expressions), and a final one for the collective persuasion - a "universal Southernism", as it were.
So, with that contextual commentary completed, here are the four expressions that I shared this evening, and would like to share with you, in the true spirit of confederacy, and clarity:
- "He's a good ol' boy...", as in, "Well, he did serve a little time after relieving Miss Marlene of that wide-screen television of hers, but, he's a good ol' boy..." (Forgiveness and Empathy)
- "Darlin', I just love that dress on you. I never get tired of seein' it..." (Subtlety, Gentility and Intellect; perhaps a compliment, but most probably not...)
- "Well, isn't that interesting..." A particularly effective exit from a unpleasant topic of conversation, this expression is typically delivered in a very pleasant tone and with a polite smile, followed rapidly yet gracefully by a turn of the head and the body in the opposite direction, and subsequent initiation of a different conversation with someone... else. (Subtlety, Gentility and, perhaps, Intellect)
- "Bless (his, her, their, your) heart..." One of the greatest examples of universal Southern empathy, this versatile expression can be used to neutralize a negative, or accentuate a positive. An example of the former: "Lord, that boy's dumb as a stump, bless his heart..."; an example of the latter: "My, isn't that a lovely drawing you've done for me. Why, I do believe it is a tree, isn't it? Bless your heart." Each in its own way, I believe, reflects the speaker's great empathy for the human condition. Just remember the following truism and you'll do just fine in using it: "In the South you can say anything about anyone, as long as you say bless (their) heart afterward." (Gentility, Empathy and, perhaps, if the subject is very fortunate indeed, Forgiveness)