"I want to God bless America"

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Donald Trump has developed the habit of ending his speeches with the formula "Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America". Thus from his 2/6/2017 speech at CENTCOM:

And from his 4/21/2017 Weekly Radio Address:

But at the end of an event yesterday, things got a bit tangled, perhaps because these were spontaneous remarks rather than a prepared speech — "President Trump Signs Financial Services Executive Orders", whitehouse.gov 4/21/2017:

In the case of the first element of the closing formula, "Thank you" and "I want to thank you" are effectively equivalent. But continuing with "I want to God bless you" is problematic — at the moment that phrase is not in Google's index of the internet — so it would make sense to drop "I want to" from the remaining two pieces of the formula: "I want to thank you, God bless you, and God bless America". Instead, Trump left out "God bless you", and continued with the blend "I want to God bless America".

Which is only found so far on the internets in reports of Trump's remarks, but still. Maybe to God Bless America will catch on as a sort of phrasal verb. After all, it's fifth on this list of 101 Great Cuss/Swear Word Alternatives:

  1. Shnookerdookies!
  2. Fudge nuggets!
  3. Cheese and rice!
  4. Sugar!
  5. God bless America!

I've often wondered why phrases are so rarely turned into verbs in modern English, given how easily we make phrases into prenominal modifiers. From Mark Liberman & Richard Sproat, "The Stress and Structure of Modified Noun Phrases in English", 1992:

… in some informal styles, various phrasal categories can be freely used as prenominal modifiers, with an appropriately generic meaning. Verb and adjective phrases are particularly common. This usage permits free inclusion of pronouns, articles and other things that are usually forbidden in modifiers. Many such phrases — top-of-the-line, hole-in-the-wall, turn-of-the-century — are fixed expressions, but nonce formations do occur. Examples are extremely common in certain journalistic styles, from which the following examples are all taken:

an old-style white-shoe do-it-on-the-golf-course banker, the usual wait-until-next-year attitude, a wait-until-after-the-elections scenario, a kind of get-to-know-what's-going-on meeting place, the like-it-or-lump-it theory of public art, state-of-the-union address, a 24-hour-a-day job, a 1-percent-of-GNP guideline, a run-of-the-mill meeting, a sweep-it-under-the-rug amendment, a middle-of-the-road format, the state-teacher-of-the-year title, a take-it-or-leave-it choice, the yet-to-be-written 1987 bill, a certain chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, make-it-from-scratch traditionalists, Speak-Mandarin-Not-Dialects Month, a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul system, the nothing-left-to-chance approach, get-out-the-vote drives, the don't-trust-anybody-over-30 crowd, national clear-your-desk day

Maybe people are a little uneasy about where to attach endings. "You know you are YOLOing when …", OK, but "You know you are you-only-live-once-ing when …"?


  1. Bloix said,

    April 22, 2017 @ 5:29 pm

    Most of these alternatives are just old-fashioned minced oaths.
    Shookerdookies and sugar are substitutes for shit.
    Cheese and rice is Jesus Christ.
    Fudge nuggets is fuck with added – well, I'm not going to go there.
    So what's God Bless America a substitute for?

  2. Gregory Kusnick said,

    April 22, 2017 @ 5:49 pm

    Bloix: Goddammit, I'm guessing.

  3. Dan Lufkin said,

    April 22, 2017 @ 10:22 pm

    I think that "Thank you and God bless you and God bless America" has become a unitary meme in DJT's Broca area. "I want to God bless America" means that I want to inject that phraselet at this point in my discourse. Such a meme gives one an easy way to check a box without actually thinking about it.

  4. cs said,

    April 24, 2017 @ 7:53 am

    "God bless" as a verb should mean the thing some do when a person sneezes.

    E.g. I feel America has a sneeze coming on, and I want to God bless America.

  5. BZ said,

    April 24, 2017 @ 8:51 am

    In fairness to Trump (I can't believe I'm saying this) I can see myself making a mistake like that easily. I'm not even sure I would notice it had I been listening to that speech.

  6. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 24, 2017 @ 7:21 pm

    A line of dialogue (from the mouth of a prison guard) in a recent short story by the Canadian writer Robert Wiersema: "They think that if they get new haircuts, and spend a couple of minutes yessirring and nosirring and wouldn'thurtaflysirring, the judge is just gonna let them out." That seems perfectly idiomatic to me, and is maybe the sort of thing you're looking for?

  7. David B Solnit said,

    April 25, 2017 @ 5:25 pm

    I remember an old Feiffer strip in which some jingoistic person was addressing an audience, and after several "God bless X!" and "God bless Y!", said something like "Let's God bless that Attorney General!"

  8. Cavalier said,

    April 25, 2017 @ 8:36 pm

    What I noticed was "blesh you".

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