Have you ever heard the term “mitigated speech”? It is the term used by linguists to describe how we downplay or sugarcoat something being said. Mitigated speech is used in situations where we are trying to be polite, embarrassed or in speaking to our boss or other authority figure. You would never tell your boss, “I need this by Monday” but you might say, “If you have time, and it isn’t too much trouble could you look this over this weekend?”
Southerners are experts at mitigation! There are 6 levels of mitigation: command, obligation statement, suggestion, query, preference and hint. They go from direct statements to very indirect statements. See if this rings a bell!
Command: Unless a person is in your family (all bets are off for family members) a true southerner would never use a command. You would never tell anyone, “Your hair looks awful.”
Obligation Statement: The request is a little less specific and a little bit softer. You still need my help and as a friend I’m obliged to tell you how bad your hair looks. The obligation statement includes the word “we.” “I think we need to do something about your hair.”
Suggestion: The suggestion implies “We’re in this together.” You might say, “Today is a really special day for both of us and we want to look our best. I think I didn’t do a very good job on the back of my hair. Would you mind fixing my hair and then I can fix yours?” Notice you’ve totally sidetracked the issue into the problem being your hair and they are going to get their hair redone as an added bonus! This is mitigation at it’s finest!
Query: This statement is even less specific and more apathetic about the situation. “How do you feel about your appearance today?”
Preference: You state your preference about what should be done but the statement is even less specific about the problem. “Today is a really special day. I think we should look our best.”
Hint: When a situation is truly hopeless, a southerner feels bad for the person and just says, “Well bless your heart!”
Sometimes I want a sandwich that gives a command statement. Eat me! I want a change from same old BLT on white bread with mayonnaise. This recipe for avocado mayonnaise compliments the flavors of thick bacon and whole grain bread.
Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich with Avocado Mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves or 1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons jarred minced garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
thick cut bacon
crisp lettuce leaves
whole grain bread, toasted
Process mayonnaise, avocado, red onion, basil, lemon juice, and garlic in a mini food processor. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Layer avocado mayonnaise, bacon, lettuce and tomato on toasted bread. Cut in half and enjoy!
Published in The News and Neighbor on March 29, 2014