What does "God Bless America" mean?

  1. When someone says, “God Bless America,” what do they mean? Are they asking God to bless America? Or do they declaring a belief that God has *already * blessed America?

  2. Is this phrase unique to the United States? Do people in Uruguay, for example, say, “God Bless Uruguay”?

I take it to be a request for God’s blessing – because we deserve it!

Don’t know about Uruguay, but the Germans in WWII had Gott mit uns on their belt buckles.

It is (or was) a plea for God to bless America, expressed in the subjunctive mood in an archaic syntax, analogous to phrases such as “Long live the Queen”. Of course, for most modern speakers, these are largely opaque, stock phrases, rather than genuine employments of the archaic syntax, so it makes sense that one would find them a little confusing to actually decompose and parse. And, indeed, in some modern uses of the phrase, one might consider it to mean something more like “Hooray for America!” or “Thank God for America”.

It’s asking for a blessing. Look at the next lines in the song:

*God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above. *

Religious acts doesn’t mean anything, as you’re asking for. It’s like, when somebody’s real sick or something, you say, “it’s gonna be alright” (whether it’s gonna be alright or not), or when somebody’s going to an important interview, you say, “good luck”, and so on. - It doesn’t mean anything beyond the act of expressing, well, assurance. “Everything’s good, God’s watching over us”, or “I’m sure everything’s good, because the Great Father is watching over us.”
People have been saying this for two hundred thousand years - it doesn’t really mean anything, it’s just, it’s just… something we do, in one way or another.
Have you ever consoled anybody?, wished anybody happiness?
You atheists should read up on psychology. God or no God, it isn’t as unwordly as it seems. It’s quite ordinary. Loosen up.

'cause ‘merica ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at!

The phrase “God bless America” surely significantly predates the song, no? At any rate, another song employing similar archaic syntax would be “America the Beautiful”, with its line “God shed his grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood…”, in which both “shed” and “crown” are being used in the same subjunctive manner as “bless” in “God bless America”.

For an interesting discussion of the confusion that can arise when a modern speaker (specifically, Ray Charles) misanalyzes the syntax of such phrases, see this Language Log post.

I saw an interesting message on a local church the other day. It’s an Assembly of God church, and the message reads: “America bless God”.

No idea what it means.

“God Bless America” is a request. If its intent was to say that America was already blessed, it would be “God Blessed America” or “God Blesses America”.

…or if it was a demand, I suppose it would be something like “God, get your furry ass down here and BLESS us!”

(I don’t see how anyone looking at the song and for who English is a native language could mis-interpret the meaning of ‘God Bless America’ to be honest. Not a bust on the OP, I just don’t get it.)


Depends if a politican or a non-politican is invoking it.

Indistinguishable clearly nailed it; my only contention would be the archaicness of the syntax. Perhaps… “current use” always precedes such phrases with “may”? For example, “May God bless America.” Still confused? Okay, “May The Force be with you.” I’d regard “The Force be with you” as acceptable syntax as well.

God’s a furry? :eek:

Is this really a misunderstood phrase?

maybe it’s missing a comma, as in

God, Bless America.

I never put more thought into it than someone is saying, I believe in God, I love America; therefore God should bless America.

But that’s misunderstanding it again by making it an imperative. You’re not gonna bully God around, after all. When you say (if you say) “God bless you,” are you indicating to the sneezer “may God bless you,” or are you really saying, “God, bless this sneezing dude for me, okay?”?

It certainly could be misinterpreted, as you’ve just illustrated with your reanalysis. You’ve cast it into the imperative mood with an initial vocative expression, which may give hints of semantic similarity to the correct parsing, but which isn’t quite right as a syntactic analysis: consider the difference between “God bless you” and “God, bless you”.

ETA: God damn you, Balthisar! So close… :slight_smile:

Further ETA: Though my point with “God bless you” as an analogue is a little different from Balthisar’s

It is a prayer, of sorts.

Perhaps you are not among those who said bedtime prayers as a child:
“God bless Daddy and Mommy and Grandma and Grandpa and Spot and Fluffy and …”

It’s my understanding that the English are wont to say “God Save the Queen.”

Interestingly, each part of this sentence is as amazingly wrong as the other. A hard standard to live up to.

Work there, Yoda does?