I have received a lot of questions lately. I decided to combine the most frequently asked questions and answer them in the Q-and-A format. Here we go.
Q: Why is your blog/column called “Sean of the South”?
A: When I started writing in earnest, my dear friend, Melissa Wheeler, named this column after one of my favorite songs, “Song of the South,” by the band Alabama. Which is the only song I know that contains flagrant lyrics about sweet potato pie. She is a very smart woman, and one of my dearest pals.
Q: What are some other names you tossed around?
A: Some runners-up were: “Sean of Green Gables,” “Little Orphan Seanie,” “Portrait of the Baptist as a Young Man,” and my personal favorite, “Sean With the Wind.”
Q: Do Southerners really say “bless your heart”?
A: Yes and no. For starters, everyone—and I mean every single person—in my family utters the phrase “bless your heart.” But nobody says this expression in the ridiculous way that faux-Southerners use it on Netflix.
Sadly, Hollywood script writers have butchered our cherished colloquialism, and now it’s become a painful cliché.
The modern-day Bless Your Heart joke started during the infancy of the Internet, when chain-email forwards were mankind’s only form of digital entertainment.
Back then, whenever your inbox received a chain-email, this message often came from an elderly relative who sent thousands of email forwards each day to innocent family members.
Many of these messages were political, others were urban legends, some emails encouraged readers to send their insulin money to Oral Roberts Ministries Inc.
But whenever these emails were humorous, you would stop what you were doing, gather the whole fam around the PC, and read the email aloud.
Q: Are you going somewhere with this?
A: Yes. One of the popular comical email forwards from the 1990s was the Bless Your Heart email, which suggested that “bless your heart” was actually Southern code for “you’re a dipstick.” This became such a popular notion that many of my elderly family members quit saying “bless your heart” because they didn’t want to be rude.
So, let me set the record straight, the idea that our beloved phrase is an insult is ghastly and absurd. Whenever my Aunt Eulah says “bless your heart,” trust me, she means it. The fact that Aunt Eulah only says these words to me after I have done something truly idiotic is merely consequential.
Q: I just read that you are moving from Florida to Alabama? Is this true?
Q: Why would anyone LEAVE Florida? I want to move TO Florida!
A: You and 329.5 million of your closest friends. Things are getting overcrowded here.
A: Yes. Each year, Florida has one of the highest population increases in the nation. In fact, as I write this, four perfect strangers are assaulting me with their elbows, spilling Starbucks coffee on my laptop, and fighting for usage of the same power outlet. And this is my living room.
Q: How overcrowded is Florida, can you provide me with a few tediously boring statistics?
A: Gladly. My county used to be a small fishing town with roughly 16,000 people and 19 teeth. We liked it this way. It was the kind of laid-back village where you could go out to your mailbox completely naked and none of you neighbors would mind, inasmuch as they were all buck naked, too.
Today, however, Walton County’s population is approximately 80,000. We now attract around 5 million summer visitors each year. Which means that, at any given moment, 5 million people are wandering through Publix, buying wholesale gallons of Coppertone Aloe Vera Aftersun Cooling Gel with Lidocaine.
This is population spike is why our highways have been under construction since the Punic Wars.
Q: Wait. The highways are STILL under construction?
A: Yes. The Florida Department of Transportation estimates renovations in our county will be completed in October of 2098.
A: To be fair, many people in my neighborhood still fetch their mail naked. Although we are all much older now and it will give you nightmares.
Q: I still don’t get it. Why move to Alabama, of all places?
A: NASCAR, baby.
A: Well, sort of. We have a lot of family in Alabama. Also, Walton County, Florida, is considered L.A. (Lower Alabama) since our county borders the Twenty-Second State. Meaning: West Floridians are Sunshine State residents with Nick Saban stickers on our ATV wheelers.
Q: So you’re saying most Walton County people are basically Alabamians? What about county residents who live in Rosemary Beach and Seaside?
A: New Yorkers.
Q: I once read that you like peanut butter in a big way.
A: Yes, that’s true. I consume roughly 26 ounces of peanut butter every two days.
Q: How many jars is that?
A: About a jar a day.
Q: Whoa, seriously?
A: Seriously. I like to eat Smucker’s Organic Creamy peanut butter when I check the mail.
Q: Why do you write so many angel stories? Because, frankly, I do not believe in angels.
A: The funny thing is, neither did I. But then something changed. Long ago, when I started writing a column for a tiny local newspaper, with a circulation of about 6.3 humans, a lady sent me a story about a near-death experience. The story involved an angel who saved her from a near-fatal wreck.
I wrote a 600-word column, then someone from the paper mailed my column to a famous magazine that publishes angel stories.
Q: What happened?
A: What happened was, I received an email from the editor of the magazine. The editor told me, in so many words, that I was a talentless toad-face who wrote like a fourth-grader. She hated my story, she hated my “short sentences,” and she encouraged me to pursue a career in commercial ditch excavation.
Q: What did you do?
A: I shared the story online. It was one of the biggest stories I ever published. In a few days, my inbox was overloaded with thousands of angel stories—messages ranging from readers in China, all the way to Alaska.
In fact, the stories are still coming in. On average, I receive between 3 to 10 angel/miracle stories per day. Often, I sit before my screen and weep. In fact, while writing this column, I had to pause to read an angel story, and I am still a mess.
Q: So you believe in angels?
A: Do I? Are you kidding? Did you SEE the last World Series?
Q: No, I hate baseball.
A: Well, bless your heart.
Leigh Amiot - February 11, 2022 8:30 am
“Bless your heart” was and is always said sincerely as words of compassion and comfort by my friends and family, I, too, hate that it has been corrupted as an insult. Blessings and angels are good things, and I believe in both!
Duane Shelley - February 11, 2022 12:27 pm
“Bless your heart” can be used both ways. It is all about the context.
Lander - February 11, 2022 10:24 am
You write good, Sean. Bless your heart and bless your move. We have a 1900 house that’s needing work. Might be easier to leave Texas and move to Alabama.
🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - February 11, 2022 11:13 am
Bless your heart Sean, & I mean that in the old way. I’m not the only one with a spouse with Alzheimer’s, so life is Topsy turvy most of the time as many will attest to. There is a time to weep & a time to rejoice in everyone’s life. Whether your daily blog is a weepy or a good laugh is one of the few uplifting moments in my day. Keep it up, miracles happen, angels are real & so are blessings & you are a true blessing & Angel in one.
Paul McCutchen - February 11, 2022 11:27 am
Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have “it” with regards to your talent. My day starts with your column every morning and by the way I like angels.
Virginia+Russell - February 11, 2022 11:43 am
suzi - February 11, 2022 12:06 pm
Get Jamie’s new kitchen set up and keep on writin’
Carter Anthony - February 11, 2022 12:18 pm
Another way to describe the population growth in Florida. I once heard 10,000 Medicare recipients move to Florida every month.
Donna M Woodmosie1944@gmail.com - February 11, 2022 12:28 pm
I believe in YOU, Sean.
dapeek43 - February 11, 2022 1:03 pm
I hope you are writing another book. Stars of Alabama and The Incredible Winston Browne were top books for last year! Keep writing and Bless your heart!
Lisa K Riley - February 11, 2022 1:07 pm
Bless your heart can be either…hard to tell in the written word. I have a cousin who can say it with the right intonation and you KNOW it wasn’t meant kindly. As for angels…I know. My late husband has gifted me several times since his passing.
Roxanne Watts Langley - February 11, 2022 1:28 pm
Thank you for clearing up the true meaning of “bless your heart” for those who are NOT southerners. Yes–we may say it a bit tongue in cheek from time to time to cloak a more pointed comment in the guise of something sweet (like a pill for your pup in a spoon of peanut butter), HOWEVER, I can still, 50 years on, smell Aunt Georgia Bea’s talcum powder and feel her awkward patting of my back as she “hugged my neck” on Thanksgiving day when she came to visit and said, “Well, Roxanne, bless your heart.” She was just happy to see me.
Delphia Smith - February 11, 2022 2:00 pm
Keep writing! I’m so glad you are moving to AL!
I never delete any of your Emails until they are read. I so enjoy your stories!
Jan - February 11, 2022 2:03 pm
Love this! So true it hurts. I say that as a lifelong Alabamian who visits your part of Florida every chance I get!
Charlotte Virginia McCraw - February 11, 2022 2:13 pm
Starting my day with Sean, stirring up my senses . . and you do not write like a fourth-grader but, rather, like a man in touch with all his feelings and aware of all his surroundings.
Sue Adams - February 11, 2022 2:38 pm
The punch line made me laugh out loud! Thanks 😊
Sean of the South: Raising Questions | The Trussville Tribune - February 11, 2022 2:47 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Patricia Gibson - February 11, 2022 2:54 pm
Shelton A. - February 11, 2022 3:06 pm
My grandmother and my aunt said “Bless your heart.” (usually after I had been stung by a bee while running barefoot in clover). My grandmother would make up a pan of water with baking soda added and that helped. She kept saying “Bless your heart.” because she knew the eventual outcome of running through clover with bare feet was to get stung. She was half consoling and half scolding my much younger self. Thanks for wonderful memories, Sean. Have a fun and safe move to Birmingham and I pray for traveling mercies as you prepare for and go through the move. Blessings and peace.
Helen De Prima - February 11, 2022 3:21 pm
I’ve lived in NH for more than forty years, but I’ve never left Kentucky speech patterns behind, bless your heart!
H. J. Patterson - February 11, 2022 3:44 pm
Great one Sean and I love peanut butter as well but it’s Kroger crunchy.
Kay Williams - February 11, 2022 4:03 pm
I’ve always said, “Bless your heart” in a compassionate way. I didn’t realize it had another context. I hope i was never misunderstood!
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - February 11, 2022 4:30 pm
JANIE Gentry - February 11, 2022 4:31 pm
My mother has always said, “Bless your heart ” to my children when they were sick or broken hearted. My daughter, now 42 years old, always asks for Nanny to bless her heart if she is sick. Becky says it makes her feel better.
Anita Renfroe - February 11, 2022 6:09 pm
Actually James Taylor and Ray Charles have a whole song about sweet potato pie 🙂
Linda Moon - February 11, 2022 7:01 pm
I like your Q & A accessibility, famous writer. I also like lots of peanut butter and baseball. I LOVE the South and the Sean of it, too. Welcome to your new Sweet Home — Alabama!
Kathy - February 11, 2022 7:24 pm
I’ve seen you on TV, and you don’t look like I thought you would although you describe yourself frequently. Jamie looked exactly as I expected. I really enjoy your columns. At any rate, we live down here in Brierfield, which is in Bibb County, Alabama. Consider yourselves invited to visit. I may even cook for you.
Marc Beaver - February 11, 2022 8:19 pm
Wonderful!! Thanks for the truth and laughter.
Carol Rahn - February 11, 2022 10:34 pm
I loved this column. I am a NY Yankee who roots for the Atlanta Braves after living there for 25 years. Now in San Antonio, but never a Texan. I do say “Bless her/his heart.” It just rolls off my tongue. Never made Walton Co. vacation land. We started going to St. George Island when the Olympics were in Atlanta, and have gone back every year, except when a tropical storm closed the island as we were getting drenched on 98 and had to back track to Calloway Gardens. And my son-in-law got his Ph.D. from U of A, so I don’t totally hate Alabama. I send you just plain blessings for whatever part of your body ails you at any particular time.
MAM - February 12, 2022 12:09 am
I’m with Sue Adams, I cracked up at the final sentence. And yes, “Bless your heart” can be taken all sorts of way. I’m sure it started to make kids and friends feel good, but it got changed by modern thought. Too bad. I liked it the way it was!
Gayle Wilson - February 12, 2022 12:17 am
Bless your heart for another story that makes sunshine come through the windows at 7:15 pm at night.
Gayle Dodds - February 12, 2022 10:47 pm
Oh Lordy I am still laughing. This is beyond good. We lived for 29 years in Franklin County Fla on the forgotten coast of St George Island and Eastpoint when it was forgotten not anymore but I miss the atmosphere more than I can say. Also loved the answer New Yorkers
Vince - February 14, 2022 8:28 pm
How can one not believe in angels? They must not read your column. I’m not even talking about the bright light with wings supernatural types. They are all around.. your subject in the Christmas tree story who said, “Why not?” was one of them.