When Your Banks Speaks in Christianese November 22, 2011

When Your Banks Speaks in Christianese

Reader Anju was chatting online yesterday with a customer service rep from Bank of America. This is how the conversation ended:

“Have a blessed day ahead”? That’s…. weird.

It’s not a huge deal, but since so much of that conversation is boilerplate script, I wonder if that line was approved by BoA or if it was just some personal flair…

Assuming it’s the latter, how would you have responded? I figure most of you would have just shrugged it off — she meant well and it’s nothing more than that — but would anyone take offense to that? How about when someone says that to you in a real-life conversation?

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  • Christianese gives me an uncomfortable feeling

  • Michael

    To British eyes that reads like she’s wishing you a bad day.

  • Did I sneeze?

  • InsideTheSkull

    Not sure I would take offense to it, but it is strange to say, and I’d probably ask why she said it.

  • Scout

    I’m a librarian and I get that ALL the time.  Someone will call to ask for a phone number (that’s right, I have a Master’s degree and I’m a phone operator) and I’ll find it and pass it on and they’ll thank me and bless me and I sigh and move on to the next.

  • I think I’d say right back something that sounded pagany and act like I thought they meant blessings of the Moon Goddess all along.

    There’s a chance she didn’t even specifically mean it to be religious… like how people say “I’ve been blessed with two beautiful children”… and is unaware of how religious it sounds in this context, bless her.

  • Micah23

    Some Christians are offended when they are told ‘Good luck!’ because they don’t believe in luck. I’m just all like ‘I meant well. Don’t let my personal ‘lack-of-belief-in-but-casual-use-of-the-word-luck’ dissuade you from merely accepting a token gesture of … well wishes? That doesn’t work either. Desire for your good fortune? Dang. All I meant was I didn’t want you to get hit by a bus.’

  • It’s the same as when someone says “bless you” when you sneeze.  I think they say it more for their benefit than for mine.  I don’t take offense to it.

  • Jason Vanhee

    It sounded pagan to me when I read it.

  • Adam

    It’s odd for a corporate entity to allow that sort of individualism from its representatives, but I wouldn’t feel wronged by it.  When I sneeze, someone nearby will inevitably say ‘bless you’.  I use ‘gesundheit’, myself, but other responses (or even no response) aren’t invasions or transgressions in my mind.

    Now if the person had forced me to acknowledge _and_ respond in kind, say, before rendering assistance, or if this _was_ an official policy of some kind, then that would be far more disturbing.

  • Ringo

    I only let one person get away with blessing me, he’s a customer at work with dementia who is also the only person I let still call me she. Everyone else gets “Please don’t, I’m not a christian,” whether I’ve just sneezed or they’vetold me to have a great zombie-jesus day. I try to be polite, but I find it rude to assume that i’m christian and I enjoy opening their eyes to the fact that there are other people and other opinions out there.

  • CM

    May the FSM bless you too, ramen.

  • ” I didn’t want you to get hit by a bus”

    Didn’t? You’d changed your mind by the end of that conversation then? 🙂

  • Seth

    “Have a blessed day” is usually a very deliberate signal, not like “bless you.” It really is Christianese. When someone says it to me, I usually pretend I didn’t quite understand and make them repeat it. And I’ve noticed they often rephrase as “Have a good day.” Since I didn’t immediately recognize the churchy language, they already know I’m not a member of their social in-group.

  • This could be a translation issue. Most technical support people are in places like India, and one definition for blessed is “blissfully happy or contented.” I wouldn’t take any offense. 

  • It’s because they want–and expect!–you to say “I’ll pray for you!”. Or at least that’s true in the south. I’m always the one on a facebook wall of prayers that stands out by saying “sending light and love your way” or something to that effect.

  • Most of the time I don’t take offense. I can usually tell by the context of a conversation if the theist is being preachy or just using it as a pleasantry.

  • Erin W

    I get it a lot from my clients.  I also get clients who answer the phone with “Praise the Lord” and “Allahu ekhber”.  I just give them my standard secular English greetings and move on.  I suppose I’ve got a financial motive to ignore it, though.  😉

  • Anonymous

    I used to take offense at it, but then I mellowed and accepted it as simply their good intentions.

    However, I wonder how the person saying “have a blessed day” would respond if I returned with “Allahu Akbar”, or a similar statement from another religion?

  • Andrew Morgan

    If one’s skin is so thin as to be offended by this, good luck in life.

  • It’s like a fart. Ignore it.

    If somebody saying “Have a blessed day” is enough to “offend” me, then I must be living the cushiest, easiest, most protected life possible for a carbon-based organism. Instead, I’m surrounded by plenty of truly awful things that really do offend, and should offend any decent person. 

    Don’t squander your indignation. If you take offense at every trifle, then when you really need to object to something that is seriously offensive, your objection will be taken as no big deal. 

    You’re as small as anything that can upset you. Grow bigger.

  • Matto the Hun

    “Have a blessed day” or other variations of that are common in the American South. 

    If someone wishes to express themselves that way so be it. I don’t see why we should have a reaction to it one way or another (aside from thinking “pfft, insipid Christian nonsense”.

  • Joan

    Oh man, I was in the emergency hospital one time, in horrendous agony, and the nurses hooked me up with an IV and put some combo of strong pain killer and muscle relaxer straight into my veins. I felt the relief nearly instantaneously exclaimed, “Bless you, bless you!” Didn’t even occur to me that it would be construed as Christainese. (I’m agnostic.) I was just exceedingly grateful. Guess I could have said “Thank you,” but I guess “Bless you” seemed stronger to me.

  • MelanieInMiami

    I have very mixed reactions to this type of thing. I know it is meant well, and I don’t want to sound like a humourless bitch, but I am also tired of the assumption that everyone in the world is religious or should stay in the closet. Like Erin, I tolerate it from my customers because it would not be beneficial for me to do otherwise. But in the example of a BoA rep saying, I would be the customer and I would at least think about saying something in return. If I did, it would be mild – something like “I’m not religious but I thank you for the kind thought.” Just enough to make the point that she should not make such assumptions about her company’s customers.

  • girlgenius

    Where I am (in Florida) it’s also not unheard of for people to come up to you, on the street, and ask to bless you. On the one hand, it’s nice that they ask (and take “no” for an answer), but it’s off-putting nonetheless to be so approached in the first place. 

  • Anonymous

    When people sneeze I always reply with an incorrect German word.
    “Schadenfreude” and “lederhosen” are my favorites.

  • Bluebury

    When I was in college in Indiana, I taught horseback riding lessons.  One day my student’s mother and I were talking and I said I was going to try to do something (I think planning a cross country move or something big-ish) and she said “Well, all things are possible through god” and I had a weird deer in the headlights moment and just kind of said “well, sure” and moved on.

    That was nearly 5 years ago and I still replay that conversation in my head to think of something less stupid to say would have been, but I still can’t think of anything I could have said that I would be comfortable with or that would have been appropriate for the situation.  It’s sad that that has stuck with me for so long.

  • Anonymous

    That’s what I thought.  “Blessed be” is a wiccan thing, I thought.

  • Conspirator

    This kind of thing belongs on the Consumerist.  The bank did not do this, the person working for the bank did.  Don’t blame the corporation for one person’s behavior.  For all you know at some point her chat logs will be examined and she’ll be told not to do that.  Unless you see it in their employee manual, don’t assume it’s the company’s fault.

    Also, really, get over it.  Don’t be so thin-skinned.  It’s not like she was saying that the person needed to be saved or anything really condescending like that.  

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    A customer service representative should always maintain a plain spoken conversation with a customer and any added expressions of emotion could be considered offensive.  A slight off handed remark could change the whole customer experience for the worse.

    “Blessed” and “wonderful” are emotional expressions added by the rep and those comments would be offensive to me. I would complain not because of the religious implications but because of the nonprofessional behavior.

  • Thomas Farrell

    If someone at my bank told me to “have a blessed day”, I’d tell them “I’m an atheist,” and then talk to the bank manager about it. But then, I go to my friendly neighborhood bank that specializes in gay customers, so probably a lot of their customers would be upset by it.

    If someone at some big corporation I have to deal with once in a blue moon said that to me, I’d probably say nothing, it’s not worth the aggravation of trying to get any information through the thick skull of a megacorporation because they’re all really, really uninterested if their customers feel mistreated. But if I had a choice I might stop doing business with them for a few months until the sour taste in my mouth from the experience went away.

    Anyone else saying that to me, I smile real big and tell them “I’m an atheist but you have a good day anyway!” and leave them to them wonder what just happened.

  • I disagree that it is Christianese.  A LOT of my pagan friends will wish you a blessed day.   I have, in fact, used it myself when some sort of message like that was required.  The word is based in old European paganism, so it’s not out of line.  According to the dictionary:

       [bles-id; especially for 3, 7 blest]  Show IPAadjective1.consecrated; sacred; holy; sanctified: the Blessed Sacrament.2.worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship: the BlessedTrinity.3.divinely or supremely favored; fortunate: to be blessed with astrong, healthy body; blessed with an ability to find friends.4.blissfully happy or contented.

    As you can see, being blessed is NOT a Christian thing.  😀

  • I would have to say they’d laugh.  Because in my experience, a “blessed day”  is a pagan thing.  I cannot ever remember any of my many Christian friends over five decades ever saying, but I hear it regularly from my pagan friends.  

    So the question is, is it as offensive if a pagan says it rather than a Christian?

  • ditto. Wiccan comes more to mind with that.

  • I say “bless you” when someone sneezes.  They don’t need to know that is the bearer of the sacred “Gwenny the Pooh’s Tits” that is doing the blessing. LOL They can think I invoke an imaginary friend if they like.

  • I would say after over 50 years of dealing with religious folks of all sorts, the person probably WAS pagan.  LOL  I have never heard a Christian say something like that, but my pagan friends say it all the time.

  • Thefoghorn

    I was once told maybe my daughter needed exorcising so ‘blessed day’ is relatively mild. I live in an area where people use the New Age term ‘Love and Light’, which I find equally grating. I find New Agers are the new Christians. Very annoying in a floaty and surreal way. It’s funny because they hate each other but they are so similar. It’s always the way isn’t it? I think the best thing to say in reply to something like this is, ‘Yes, have a fabtastic day!’

  • The phrase, “Have a blessed day” is used more often than not by the African-American community here in the Detroit metro area, and to a much lesser extent by white Christian fundamentalists. I’ve never had a male of either race communicate this to me, though.

  • Even though Gesundheit translates to “to your health”? Gesund means health and from what we were told in high school german class, adding heit means “to your..” (or something along those lines). 

  • Ryan Jung

    @Richard_Wade:disqus Thank you!  This is an idiom.  It’s an expression.  A figure of speech.  It’s a little antiquated, but really, we’ve got bigger things to worry about.  No reaction is the best reaction.

  • Karen Locke

    I’d just shrug it off.  But then, I still say “bless you” when someone sneezes; it just pops out without me thinking about it.  But must blessings be from someone/something, or can’t they just be?

  • Joe_No_Halo

    I might of said “Thanks, I hope so! You have a blessed day of head too!”

  • rhodent

    -heit is a suffix that turns an adjective into a noun meaning “the state of being [adjective]”…for example, German for “freedom” is “Freiheit”.  A good literal translation of “Gesundheit” would be “healthiness”.

  • Marty

    This is like when I was on phone with dell and the guy ended, god bless you… He hung up before I could say anything but I might email customer service to complain about reps using the service as a preaching tool when I get off the road on way to see family.

  • rhodent

    Getting offended by “Have a blessed day” strikes me as being the atheist equivalent of a Christian being offended by “Happy Holidays!”  Unless the person saying it knows your religious beliefs and is saying it deliberately to get under your skin, there is no valid reason to be offended.

  • William Garvey

    Where I live it seems like “have a blessed [one/day/morning/afternoon]” is slowly replacing goodbye.  I even had a Jewish friend say it to me this week.

  • EJC

    The BoA chick is probably one of those idiot white chicks that say “Namaste” in everyday conversation. Makes me want to slap puppies.

  • Guest

    well, I guess f*ck you very much for being a customer wouldn’t fly, would it?

  • I take offense to it for three reasons:

    1. It implies that I deign the same irrational superstitious belief.

    2. The audacity of it being so freely used reminds one of how it has been
    allowed to become a meme of the Christian White Privilege that so permeates our

    3. The passivity of those that recognize such, but somehow feel it is not
    worthy of a stance for their convictions.


    I always respond with:


    Don’t assume I share your delusions.


    Have a reasoned day,



    The rhetorical
    question is, why, to some, would my response come-off as sounding bombastic,
    yet somehow it is considered taboo to criticize the sender’s complimentary
    closing? The answer may be found in number two above.

  • As a customer service rep, I’m betting it’s just her colloquial language slipping into the boilerplate script.  That’s what she says on a regular basis, and she just wasn’t paying attention to her language for a moment and that slipped out.  If I’m very busy at work I sometimes find myself spewing a colloquialism; saying “just a sec” when I put someone on hold, instead of the more professional prescribed version of “please hold a moment.”  

    It’s not offensive at all.  Take the good intention for what it is and move on.  🙂   Be thankful you’re not talking to a robot!

  • BANK REP: Have a blessed day ahead!

    ME:  May Cthulhu eat you last.

    BANK REP: …?

    ME: Well it’s a very similar sentiment.

  • Nkendall

    Very well put, Richard. Stop looking for reasons to get mad and just remember that to them what they said was a positive and uplifting thing, and that is what they wanted to convey; not their religion. 

  • Gus Snarp

    The phrase “have a blessed day” is absolutely a Christian thing. Wiccans and pagans I’ve known pronounced blessed with two syllables, this is one syllable, and I have heard the phrase often and only from Christians. It is not the same as blessed be in any way. I also see it as an intentional profession of Christianity’s dominance rather than a sincere well wishing, and yes, I’m offended by it and think its inappropriate and unprofessional from a customer service representative. That said, it’s an offense that I try to ignore, though it happens quite often. Those who aren’t aware of it apparently just don’t deal much with that flavor of Christians.

  • Karischratz

    I agree, Gwenny. You saved me from looking it up. When I read it, I didn’t think Christian. After a day like the one I had, I would have loved it if someone had told me to have a blessed day…as long as they kept the ‘G’ word out of it.

  • Laura Dresow

    I always feel a slight twinge of irritation when someone says something like, “Have a blessed day,” or “God bless you,” or, “You’re one of heaven’s angels,” or, “God sent you to answer my prayers,” or some variant thereof. 

    I’ve gotten the last two when I do something that seems to me to be basic human decency — things like when the person in front of me in line is short on grocery money and I make up the balance, or when someone offers to buy a cigarette from me and I just give them two instead, or when I let someone with a kid cut in front of me to use the only bathroom stall. I don’t know any gracious way to respond that makes my discomfort clear, so I usually just smile and nod. Occasionally (usually when god gets credited for a random act of kindness) I cheerfully say, “Nope, just me!”

  • Staggerlee2

    I usually do an internal eye roll. No need to get all bent over it but i do think it is silly.

  • Drew M.


  • Drew M.

    Recreational Outrage.

  • Anonymous

    Personally I’d rather people would mind their own business if I sneeze. But if someone says “bless you” and leaves it at that, I don’t care that much. The people who piss me off are the ones who expect me to thank them from blessing me. I’ve had the following exchange more than once:

    Me: Achoo!
    Random stranger: Bless you.
    Me: (muttering to no-one in particular) Excuse me.
    RS: I said, bless you.
    Me: (ignores them)
    RS: You’re welcome.
    Me: (ignores them even more determinedly)
    RS: I said, you’re welcome.
    Me (mentally): Jesus Christ on a pennyfarthing bicycle, get a clue already and MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS!

  • Anonymous

    Tell them the phone number is 666.

  • Gus Snarp

    I mostly agree with you, except for one word in point 2: I’ve never heard a white person say “have a blessed day”.

  • Pseudonym

    That was my first thought, too.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m very curious as to where the people who think this is a pagan thing are located. I think the Christian expression is likely a Southern thing, and in my experience also a black thing. I don’t know if it comes specifically out of any black church.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, that’s wierd! Why would anyone do that? I would be creeped out.

  • TiltedHorizon

    I’m an Atheist, when someone sneezes I offer a ‘bless you’ or ‘Gesundheit’, I can assure you it is just a courteous platitude; nothing more. I am not jumping to the other side,  don’t assume I am turning Christian, German, or German Christian. Apparently Allyson wanted to offer something personal and more sincere sounding than the boilerplate “have a nice day” most people close with.

    Do we  have a shortage of religious fanatics or those whose wish to judge us with self appointed apostolic authority that we need to lump this into the same bucket?

    If I can borrow a trope from the police shows and their parodies: “Move Along, Nothing To See Here”

  • Erp

    It’s an idiom which to the speaker probably means nothing more than have a good day.  

    I would reserve getting offended for flat out attempts to convert (which happen to me once in a top university bookstore by the checkout person) or cruelty (such as telling a grieving parent that their dead kid is in heaven without first ascertaining whether such is likely to be welcome [I’m still trying to figure out the intent of the couple who sent a condolence card to my parents saying they had bought a mass for my dead brother {neither of my parents have ever been Catholic, one is an atheist the other I’m not sure but might still be vaguely Christian, my brother was an atheist}]). 

  • JimG

    I have noticed that phrase being used more and more over the last couple of years; I’m sure it was rare before, but now it seems to be the latest “in” thing to say for passive-aggressive Christianizing, rather like a year-rouund version of barking “Merry CHRISTmas!” at store clerks. I live in the South, so I hear it a lot – but, as I said, much more frequently now.

  • Summer Seale

    After everything that Bank of America has done and been blamed for, maybe it’s just their way of trying to “get good with Jayzus” to try to avoid HELLFIRE AND DAMNASHUN! =)

  • Bumblebeeyatch

    lol  my husband always says” Cuisinart”  and I respond “Hibatchi”

  • Tex

    Depends on who’s saying it and where you are.  I can tell you that when someone say it in Louisiana you can pretty much put money on it that they mean it in the churchy sense.  In fact they have probably never considered the fact that they might ever actually meet someone who wouldn’t take it in that way and appreciate it as such.  Or at the very least this is true of shreveport.  Those people generally dont even know what agnostic means, and one of my friends who works at the barns and nobles is the designated “atheist book stocker” because the other employees literally will not touch those books… (which may be why before he got hired it was so hard to find any kind of skeptical literature…)

    I get comments like that a lot in Shreveport, the Walmart check out ladies seem to be particularly bad about it.  I almost always respond with “may Odin impart you with his wisdom”, and mean it in all seriousness.  If were going to be trading blessings from mythical beings, Id rather these people get some wisdom than some theoretical generic blessing.

  • Tex

    Come to Shreveport, if you can find a white cashier in walmart you stand a guestimated 50-70% chance of hearing a white person say it. 

     (guestimate based on # of white cashiers Ive personally hear say it on a regular basis/estimated # of white cashiers at the walmarts I visit)

  • Tex

    Thats a good line, I may have to find some adaption of it to use for all the FB requests for prayers that pop up on my wall

  • Tex

    They usually do just about anything when I say things to the effect of “my Odin bestow his wisdom on you”.  Especially the ones that dont get it and ask me to explain.  Ive yet to have a chashier or other service type person get verbaly mad at me, but you can see it in some of their faces that they look forward to the day I burn lol.  And I never say it snootily, I make a point of saying it as politely and meaningfully as possible because after all everyone could be a little bit wiser.

  • Anonymous

    I grew up in Pennsylvania and only ever heard “have a nice day” until visiting my girlfriend’s grandparents in Texas and hearing “have a blessed day” at the stores there. It was weird because you get so used to hearing the expected response that I was really taken back when I heard something different.

    Also there were little crosses in the quarter toy dispensers and I got accosted by people with church fliers every time I went to a Wal-Mart down there. Yay Texas.

  • …in other words, black church ladies of a certain age.  🙂  And this is my same observation.

  • Nazani14

    Most of us don’t want to be blessed by anyone of any religion.  It’s like saying “I’m a magic person, and my deity is going to give you cookies because I asked him to.” 

    Do your pagan friends bless christians?  How’s that go over?

  • M G

    This thread makes me kind of glad that I live in a part of the country where the equivalent expression of sentiment is “Have a good one”.

  • Nazani14

    We don’t have to be offended, but we can certainly be annoyed that someone who is nice is also plagued with superstition.  When you “bless” someone, you are actually casting a spell, albeit a positive one.  Call it what you will, it’s still based on a belief that you can manipulate supernatural beings or forces by your actions.

      I’ll take “Have a good day”  instead, thanks.

  • There was a postal worker in the Washington, DC area who worked out of a post office that happened to be located in a federal building.  She always ended our transactions with a “have a blessed day.”  At this I would smile politely, suppress a smart-ass retort, and wish her a nice DAY.  It wasn’t until she started blasting gospel music from her work station and developed the nerve to ask me whether I had a church home (!!!) that I spoke up.

    On an irritation scale of one to ten; with stepping in spit being a “1”, and stepping in gum being a “5,” “have a blessed day” is a “2”.

  • Nazani14

    Oh, I’m sure they start every board meeting with a recitation of the beattitudes.

  • MP

    I think that “blessed” is just about the lightest and weakest of the Christian-coded well-wishes and I can completely live with it. Here’s one of the definitions from Merriam-Webster “bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune” – I can think of no reason to object to someone wishing me a day like that, and I’m sure that definition is consistent with the speaker’s intention. I find this no more offensive than using Miracle Whip.

  • This reminds me of when I was a Jehovah’s Witness and everyone would freak out if someone said “good luck”. Really? They’re just saying something positive. At least they’re not saying “f*ck off”. 

    I don’t mind when others say “have a blessed day” or “happy holidays” or even “may He be with you” because I think “yeah, I am blessed by my awesomeness” or “yup, my boyfriend IS with me and he rocks”. I live in the most conservative area of SoCal, and if I were to take offense to phrases like this I’d never leave the house. 

  • Liam

    Yeah, that jumps out as pagan to me.

  • His Shadow

    Bah. Could be a Wiccan. Which may be worse…

  • His Shadow

    Have a blasted day?

  • Sulris Campbell

    when somebody says “bless you” to me when i sneeze i say “thank you”
    i dont need to be blessed by God (who does not exist)
    but i apreciate being blessed by my friends and family. (who do exist)
    why does everyone think that God is the only one that can bestow blessings? or that they need to be religous in nature?  I bless all of you right now! (that was not a blessing from any god (unless you consider me to be one) it was a blessing from me, you have my perfectly secular blessing)

  • M G

    Ahh…the devil’s area code! 😉

  • Chuck

    The same thing happened to my partner and I in a fast food drive through.  I think it was Jack in the Box.  We weren’t offended, but we thought it was weird.  In fact, it happened a few years ago and we still talk about it today!  It’s just one of those weird religious things that we laugh at, nothing more.  So, not offensive, just funny.

  • Chuck

    I worship His Shadow.

  • His Shadow

    It does my evil insect heart good to know that…

  • Cascadiajefferson

    Totally agree. As a tech support rep, this rings thoroughly Indian to me. It’s the standard closing when I’m talking to bangladesh, particularly female reps. If there’s any religiosity in it, it comes from associating blessed with higher powered luck. It’s the “good luck” of goodbyes. They also like to document a test failure as “no joy.” Always makes me smile.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve lived south of the Mason-Dixon line for over half my life, and now that you mention I started noticing “have a blessed day” just in that 25 years…  It does seem to be a southern thing. 

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