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Thread: bless my soul

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    bob12603 is offline Newbie
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    Default bless my soul

    I've heard this often enough, mostly from older relatives, without really knowing what it means. I associate it with surprise. E.G. "well bless my soul if it ain't cousin John Boy!" But I wonder if it has a larger meaning.

    Actually, I am trying to explain the lyrics of "All Shook Up" to my ESL students. It begins with ...

    A well ah bless my soul
    What's wrong with me?
    I'm itching like a man on a fuzzy tree
    My friends say I'm actin' wild as a bug
    I'm in love
    I'm all shook up
    Mm mm oh, oh, yeah, yeah!


    Here, I'd guess that the meaning is somewhat serious and is a request by the singer to God for help in understanding his (the singer's) situation.

    Anything else?

    Thanks, Bob

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    Default

    I am a native speaker of AmE aged 66, and the only person I have ever heard utter the phrase was Elvis. (To be fair I should add that I am a Canadian, not a southerner like Elvis.) I've always thought it was one of those 19th-early-20th- century phrases coined by pious people as a substitute for words they considered objectionable. It was a substitute for I'll be damned, goddamit or something like that.

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    Default Re: bless my soul

    It could be a meaningless expletive, but I'd assume that he's asking for his soul to blessed because he knows there's something wrong with him. He's feeling and acting strangely. One obvious explanation is that he could be possessed by demons, hence the need for a blessing. But he realizes within a few lines that he's just in love (Praise the Lord!)

    PS: I think you're going down a futile and thankless road if you're going to teach ESL through song lyrics.
    Last edited by Raymott; 15-Jul-2013 at 07:54.

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    bob12603 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: bless my soul

    Thanks for responding Raymott. Don't worry, I have no intention of teaching ESL through song lyrics. However, tonight I am going to cover a verse or two of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "All Shook Up". Hopefully it will be a refreshingly different way to get across the irregular past tense of shake/shook. Cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer I suppose, but I think that the diversion will be appreciated. It will be an experiment. I've never done anything like this before.

    Bob

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    It could be a meaningless expletive, but I'd assume that he's asking for his soul to blessed because he knows there's something wrong with him. He's feeling and acting strangely. One obvious explanation is that he could be possessed by demons, hence the need for a blessing. But he realizes within a few lines that he's just in love (Praise the Lord!)

    PS: I think you're going down a futile and thankless road if you're going to teach ESL through song lyrics.

  5. #5
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: bless my soul

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    I am a native speaker of AmE aged 66, and the only person I have ever heard utter the phrase was Elvis. (To be fair I should add that I am a Canadian, not a southerner like Elvis.) I've always thought it was one of those 19th-early-20th- century phrases coined by pious people as a substitute for words they considered objectionable. It was a substitute for I'll be damned, goddamit or something like that.
    This seems quite likely to me. 'I'll be damned' means - to a traditional christian believer - 'my soul will go to Hell when I die'. A devout rejigging of this to mean the opposite (but framed as a prayer rather than a statement) would be 'may my soul go to Heaven when I die' - therefore '[May God] bless my soul'.

    But, although it has a devotional background, it's now just a mild expression of surprise. And 'now' is putting it strongly; although a few older people (particularly in the Bible Belt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia?) still say it, or just 'Bless me', it's pretty much archaic. (My Auntie Katy used to say it, but she's long gone.)

    b

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