17

I have heard it both:

On someone's birthday -

God bless you

And also, when someone/thing is ruining up completely, we use the same greetings.

For instance, a newly appointed CEO is very badly known for his mismanagement. For a company called ABC, we then say,

God bless ABC

It clearly means that 'save ABC' from whatever is happening.

The question is how do we take god bless something if someone just utters it without any further comment/explanation. Because the greetings in many cases come as a standalone sentence.

The complexity doubles when you don't know the context. And, it can happen.

For example, if I'm getting migrated to a new country and some friend of mine living in the same country or having experience in visiting it greets - "Are you going to XYZ? Ah, 'God bless you!'"

My understanding:

When we use 'god bless' to an inanimate thing, it is generally negative and taunting. But then this is not true in case of 'God Bless America!'


The same thing is with 'All the best'. I've encountered many guys greeting 'all the best' in a sarcastic way. Say, a project in my company is completely ruined, and it is confirmed that the client has gone bananas due to several reasons. Now, if I'm replaced as the Project Manager has knows 'in and out' about the client and the project but has resigned from the company. He meets me for the final time and says, "Ah, you are on that project? All the best!' (chuckling!)

  • 1
    I think this question risks requiring too many opinion based answers that depend on culture, faith and so many aspects that relate to individuals and their relationships. For any other poster I would have flagged it. – Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩 Oct 22 '15 at 8:34
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    @BrianTompsett-汤莱恩, I disagree, I'm irreligious and attempting an answer. Remove the religious connotations and it's just a question about the use of a word in English. A word that can generally be replaced by any other: [Divine entity] [help] [noun] – James Webster Oct 22 '15 at 8:35
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    Re. your last example: "God bless my dishwasher" can be a truly positive statement when the last guest has left the dinner party and your kitchen looks a mess... I think you are on the wrong track as far as animate/inanimate objects go. – Stephie Oct 22 '15 at 8:50
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    You may say any positive statement in sarcastic way. For example, in Persian you may visit a patient in hospital and say "God cure you!", again you can say it to an ignorant and cruel man to mean you are insane and need cure. – Ahmad Oct 22 '15 at 11:10
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    I don't see the "All the best" in the final example as sarcastic. The speaker means "All the best of luck to you - you are going to need it.". So this means that you are in trouble (negative) and are being wished good luck (positive). If the speaker actually desired you to fail, then that would be sarcasm. – Keith Oct 23 '15 at 4:29
21

The phrases "God bless X" and "All the best" are nominally positive, but can be used in a sarcastic manner.

Context is everything when it comes to sarcasm, and sarcasm can be used on any nominally positive (or nominally negative) phrase. You may as well ask whether "I really love Minions" is positive or negative.

If there is no context, then there is no reason to assume that a phrase is meant sarcastically, and hence it should be taken at face value. For the examples this would mean that they are (almost certainly) being used positively.

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    +1 for the new example and the second paragraph. It is getting interesting that many such positive greetings can be used in a sarcastic way. But as I said, it gets very difficult when there's no context. I explained that in my question though. – Maulik V Oct 22 '15 at 10:13
  • @MaulikV - Good point, you did raise that in the question. I've edited my answer to reflect that. Also - any phrase can be used in a sarcastic way, whether it is nominally positive or nominally negative! – AndyT Oct 22 '15 at 10:22
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    "I really love Minions" is a negative because it's a lie: no one really loves minions... – corsiKa Oct 22 '15 at 13:50
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    @corsiKa - thousands of children might disagree with that statement. – Stephie Oct 22 '15 at 14:13
  • @corsiKa - banana! – AndyT Oct 22 '15 at 14:29
23

What is a blessing? In any way, something beneficial.

  • So in case of a celebration, a blessing adds to the positive aspects, making it a clearly positive statement.
  • In case of a dire situation, a blessing alleviates or counteracts the negativity, expressing a wish that it might be either not as bad as it appears or get better soon. So for your second example, it means company ABC is in a bad situation and needs all (divine) help it can get.

Unless you have reason to presume the speaker meant the latter, simply take it as an expression of goodwill.

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    I agree. If person A inconvenienced person B, and person B says, 'God bless you!' (even if person B sounds sarcastic), personally, I'll take it that person B is patient and merciful. This may also serve as a reminder to person A. – shin Oct 22 '15 at 11:14
8

Worth noting that I'm irreligious and I still often use the term "God" without referring to a divine entity.

God bless you for writing this question! (Positive, animate) I've just arrived back home to find that the cat has knocked over and broken my favourite wall hanging. God bless him, I'm gonna kill that cat when I find him! (Negative, animate). This god blessed keyboard is running out of batteries, so I'm off to find some new ones. (Negative, inanimate)

enter image description here (positive, inanimate)

Some of the constructions in my account are a little awkward; I might replace the negative ones particularly with "God help this cat" and replace the sarcastic "god blessed" with the more sincere "god forsaken".

Overall: context


There is also:

Sneeze
Bless you

Which I take to be entirely neutral, a response rather than a sincere blessing.


The same thing is with 'All the best'.

Same arguments, it depends on context and tone.


There are some sincere sentiments that Brits are unable to say without sounding sarcastic!

enter image description here

  • A new angle altogether! +1 – Maulik V Oct 22 '15 at 8:51
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    I live in the American Southeast, where "Bless [your|his|her] heart has similar connotations. Someone helps me with my heavy suitcase: "Oh, bless your heart! Thank you!" And then there's "Susan, bless her heart... she tries, but ..." – G. Ann - SonarSource Team Oct 22 '15 at 11:51
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    @g-ann-sonarsource-team: Bless your heart was the first thing I thought of when I saw this question, but then I'm a Southerner. – CynicallyNaive Oct 23 '15 at 1:22
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    I see god-blessed keyboard not so much as a replacement for godforsaken (one word, by the way) but as a euphemism for goddamned, god-damned, or goddamn, all inappropriate in most contexts/registers. – CynicallyNaive Oct 23 '15 at 1:25
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    I agree with @CynicallyNaive , I have never heard god-blessed X in that context, but have often heard the god-damned X variant. – March Ho Oct 23 '15 at 9:41
3

The default is for "[God] bless X" to be a positive expression.

There are particular ways to use it that are very often meant negatively. The most famous one is "Bless [his/her] heart", which sounds like it means "That was such a thoughtful and kind thing [he/she] just did," but at least nine times out of ten it really means "Holy cow, that was a dumbass move [he/she] just pulled."

And there are other uses that are just rote phrases and don't mean anything at all, such as "Bless you" after someone sneezes.

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    "Bless [their] heart" as a negative/condescending form is primarily confined to the Southeast US, as G. Ann comments. – Russell Borogove Oct 23 '15 at 17:11
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    @RussellBorogove Quibble: It's not used much outside the Southeast US, but if it is used, it's still probably gonna be negative (if only because it's probably an expat Southerner using it). – zwol Oct 23 '15 at 17:17
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    Occasionally it's an ignorant Yankee who picked it up from a Southerner without noticing the withering tone. ;) – Russell Borogove Oct 23 '15 at 17:21
  • @RussellBorogove Disagree, though obviously myself and people I hear are affected by US usage of English, the phrase 'Bless his little cotton socks' is an example of exactly the same kind of mocking condescension as bless [their] heart, and whilst perhaps not commonly heard in either form, is not at all unknown in BrE – Giu Piete Mar 16 at 21:34
2

I believe it's got a lot to do with the context in which you say it, not so much the nature of the subject being blessed.

Living person

Adam's going to that loan shark to explain why he's got no money. God bless him.

Inanimate object

We've built a new church now. God bless it.

0

Usually, as others have said, it's to be understood in a positive light. However, it can be used in moments of frustration as a minced oath. Instead of saying "God damn it", "God bless it" or "God bless America" can be used to catch oneself from using God's name in vain (for something trivial such as missing a golf shot or a throw of a piece of garbage into the trash).

0

"God bless him" can imply an innocence or naivity for which one requires the blessing or care of God in order to survive.

So He's going to ride that bike of his all the way up to Bogus Basin, God bless him!

Meaning: He's childishly optimistic, a simple fool, and it may not end well unless God looks out for him.

There is also the suggestion that the endeavour is not one which you or I would undertake, being not so confident of receiving the grace or good will of God.

There is also the suggestion that in saying "God bless him" he belongs to a class of people of whom that is normally said, e.g. child, sick, infirm, foolish.

The word silly had similar connotations in medieval times, meaning happy but referring to the carefree childlike happiness of the mentally impaired.

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