Posted By: hanema Bless him/her out - 04/28/04 11:06 PM
I heard a new phrase used in the following sentence: "He blessed him out." It's meaning is apparently to tell someone off. I found uses in a variety of literature and diaries from the Civil War on the Internet but no information on origins. Any ideas?

Posted By: Buffalo Shrdlu Re: Bless him/her out - 04/28/04 11:28 PM
welcome, hanema!

well, that's a new one on me. did you hear it in person, or in the media somewhere? the meaning seems contradictory to me, as I would usually think of blessing someone as a good thing.
looking forward to hearing what turns up.
Father Steve might have a few good words...

Posted By: hanema Re: Bless him/her out - 04/28/04 11:50 PM
Heard it in person but did some checking around the office (in Virginia) and on the web. It's a real phrase but it does seem contradictory doesn't it? Got to find the origin of this!

Posted By: Buffalo Shrdlu Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 12:11 AM
well, it hasn't shown up here yet:
so somebody's on the cutting edge of history...

edit well, I did a search there for blessed, and my what a couple of interesting definitions. neither which are the usage you cited. one, uh, should be prepared...
Posted By: hanema Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 02:00 AM
I found a quote from the late Rev. Benjamin T. Roberts, General Superintendent Of The Free Methodist Church, that expounds on Job 1:21 --"The Lord gave; and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord." Roberts added this explanation: "He blessed the Lord in his affliction, and the Lord blessed him out of his affliction. His latter state was better than his first."

Another passage in a secular work on happiness renders this usage that seems more in line with your meaning: "When I asked a distraught mother what she did when her little ragamuffin tramped through her kitchen leaving a muddy trail to mark his progress to the bathroom, she replied, "I gave him a good shaking and blessed him out!" That hardly indicates a happy state of affairs."

On yet another web site there are recorded passages from diaries and such giving accounts of Palmer's (later Havis's) Battery's participation in Gen. John Hunt Morgan's Christmas Raid into Kentucky in December 1862. Note: "After a while this boy hollered to Sgt. Duncan "Here he is behind a tree". I didn't cuss him but I blessed him out and got up and went to the officers' tent." This passage leads me to believe that "blessed him out" is perhaps an old Southern expression meaning to tell someone off without cursing at them or using unsavory language.

I also found usage of it in out takes from the Mel Gibson movie "The Patriot" along the same lines as your usage. I found "blessed him out royally," "blessed him out good and proper," "blessed him out publicly," and "blessed him out good."

Posted By: Father Steve Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 05:04 AM
Father Steve might have a few good words...

This is a totally new phrase to me. I speak some Southern American English but have never heard this phrase.

Posted By: Bingley Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 05:33 AM
Gracious, etaoin. Do you suppose this is a frequent occurrence? Given the furore over Ms. Jackson's mishap, I would've thought the constabulary would have been quick to intervene.

Posted By: dxb Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 06:12 AM
Hanema - that is an unusual name I think. I have only met with it once before in a series of moderately amusing sword and sorcery detective books about a guy called Thraxas, written by Martin Scott. Hanema is an efficient lady assassin in the series.


Posted By: AnnaStrophic Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 08:00 AM
This passage leads me to believe that "blessed him out" is perhaps an old Southern expression meaning to tell someone off without cursing at them or using unsavory language.

I think you've got it there, Hanema. I grew up in the South and the expression is quite familiar to me. Looks like "bless him out" is a euphemism for "cuss him out" which, I guess, is a euphemism its own self.

Posted By: Buffalo Shrdlu Re: forgive me, father... - 04/29/04 09:19 AM
Father Steve, I was thinking in terms of the more familiar usage of "blessing"...

and Bingley, yeah, one would think, wouldn't one? I sure haven't noticed it happening, thank goodness...

Posted By: hanema Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 09:50 AM
I think you are right except that the Civil War excerpt specifically said that he didn't "cuss him out" but he "blessed him out." This leads me to believe that this phrase involves telling someone off without the use of curses or curse words. Wish I could find some idea of the origins. The meaning comes across but can't figure out where the phrase came from. It was new to me anyway.

Posted By: jheem Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 12:00 PM
Eric Patridge, in his Dictionary of Slang and Unconvential English, has:

bless oneself. Ironical for curse: from ca. 1600; coll. After ca. 1800 S.E. 'How my Lord Treasurer did bless himself', Pepys in his diary, April 1, 1665. Also, to bless another: to reprimand, scold, curse at, swear at him: coll. > S.E.; C. 19–20.

Also, the word bless has an interesting etymology: OE blœdsian, blédsian, blétsian 'to bless, wish happiness, or consecrate'. It is cognate with the word blód 'blood' and originally meant something like 'to consecrate or sprinkle with blood'. A cognate verb does not appear in other Germanic languages.


Posted By: Alex Williams Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 10:17 PM
This is a phrase that I would not consider unusual at all. It is synonymous for telling somebody off, as in really giving it to them with both barrels. It does not mean that swear words were not used. Perhaps there is an element of irony in its origin (and they say we Southerners don't have irony), although it is not used nowadays as a means of humor.

A similar phrase comes to mind: a word of prayer, as in, "Could you come over here a second? You and I need to have a word of prayer together." If someone says this to you, you're about to get a firm scolding. The difference is that when you bless somebody out, you're losing your cool, and when you take someone aside for a "word of prayer," it's more of a dish served cold, if you know what I mean.

Posted By: belMarduk Re: Bless him/her out - 04/29/04 10:44 PM
In French Québec, the word blessed (sacré) has dual meaning. It can be the nice "holy" version or it can mean the not so nice "swearing."

Posted By: RhubarbCommando Re: Bless him/her out - 04/30/04 10:13 AM
Green, Jonathon Slang thesaurus Penguin (1999)
has "blessed" as one of the entries for "cursed" - after "blasted" and "bleeding" and before "blithering."

And this does concur with my own experience - you put something down and can't remember where, so ask the world in general, "Now where on earth has the blessed thing got to?"
It isn't so common in UK these days, when rough and rude swear words are on nearly everyones lips, but certainly when I was a youngster, it was very common for adults to use that form when children were present.

EDIT: the pronunciation was always, "blesséd

Oh yeah, if you're blessing someone out, you're blastin' 'em, all right. May or may not include actual cuss words. I wasn't able to find this phrase in a Southern-speak dictionary, but I did find this:

Jackie, that's hilarious!!

The same site also offers a dictionary: http://www.GAgirl.com/southern/jawjuh.html

and a pronunciation guide: http://www.GAgirl.com/southern/south.html

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