Southern lessons

Last week we went to Tupelo’s with some friends. Tupelo’s, as the geographically astute among us might have figured out, specializes in Southern cuisine and it is indeed all that. (And reasonably priced, Boston locals take note.) However authentic the food and drink may be, however, the wait staff is distinctly New England.

One of our friends, who is from the South herself, decided to give our delightful Italian waiter some lessons to expand his Southern repertoire beyond “you all.” I’m not sure if my friend has had server experience herself, but she focused her language lesson on the art of the hidden insult, the deployment of which surely everyone who works with the public would find a soothing balm to their psyche.

The phrase she taught him was “Bless his/her heart.” This, apparently, is a codicil to conversation that will alert one’s fellow Southerner that one does not, in fact, approve of the individual whose heart has just been blessed. As in, “My sister in law certainly does love her Yankee Swap,* bless her heart,” or a simple, “Ahmedinejad, bless his heart.” Our waiter seemed to like this a lot, and I wonder how many “Of course we can substitute olive oil for bacon drippings, bless your heart”s he’ll be muttering in days to come.

(*The mere existence of the Yankee Swap ought to be enough to convince anyone that the South, despite its iron-fist-in-velvet-glove reputation, has not entirely cornered the market on sweet-seeming passive aggression.)

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9 Responses to Southern lessons

  1. JoGeek says:

    Interesting how enforced holiday fun generates almost as much vitriol as kids and religion :-)

  2. Hope says:

    I love Tupelos! Their crepes are out of this world delicious.

  3. Shulamuth says:

    JoGeek, is that a Southern use of “Interesting?

  4. Carolyn says:

    Molly Ivins’s great old example: “That Dan Quayle, bless his heart….”
    The update, and how I wish Ms. Ivins were around to issue it, would be “Sarah Palin…”

  5. JoGeek says:

    Shulamuth: I hardly think southerners have cornered the market on enigmatic sarcasm :-)

  6. Shulamuth says:

    Southern “interesting” isn’t (at least intentionally) enigmatic sarcasm. It’s what you say about something you can’t think of anything nice to say about. Admittedly, this has the same end-result, but it’s meant differently.

  7. Robin says:

    How does Southern “interesting” compare to Vulcan “fascinating”?

  8. JoGeek says:

    I’d say enigmatic sarcasm is all about the intent. The southern “interesting” in the mouth of a northerner is going to be more about snark than filler.

    If sarcasm falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it offend?

  9. Robin says:

    JoGeek, I believe that situation is what is called “sarchasm”: “The giant gulf between what is said and the person who doesn’t get it.”

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