General Question

submariner's avatar

Southerners: is "bless your heart" always ironic?

Asked by submariner (4145 points ) February 2nd, 2013

I’m from Michigan, and I didn’t grow up hearing the expression, “bless your heart”, but I’ve picked it up somehow. I use it non-ironically when someone does something thoughtful. But I gather the expression is used ironically in the South, as in “He just can’t seem to hold onto a job, bless his heart” (in which “bless his heart” is used as a euphemism for the plainly derogative expressions that a Northerner might use in this context, such as “the loser”). I’m wondering if Southerners ever use this expression simply to express its surface meaning or if it is always used in this euphemistic/ironic way.

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10 Answers

chyna's avatar

I’m southern and it works either way.

livelaughlove21's avatar

No, but it often holds that connotation even if it isn’t meant that way.

I always think of the ugly baby example. “Oh my – he’s a blessing from God!” And as the mother walks away, “Bless his little heart!”

CWOTUS's avatar

I have an acquaintance from the Deep South (like just-off-the-coast-of-Alabama deep) who tells me that it always is meant in the ironic way. But I don’t doubt @chyna for a second. I’m sure that she’s right; my acquaintance can’t speak for everybody.

marinelife's avatar

Both ways. Told only by context and tone.

PhiNotPi's avatar

The phrase might sometimes mean what it says on the surface, but it is typically used in the ironic way. It’s not like “That person is stupid,” but it rather means “Thank god I’m not like this person.”

chyna's avatar

Example: Friend comes in and says “I scraped the snow off of your car while I did mine.” I say “Well bless your heart, thank you!” Sincere.
Co-worker shows me a picture of her 3 month old son. He has the biggest nose I have ever seen on a human. Not within her hearing range I say “Bless his heart, I hope he grows into that nose.” Less sincere.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Virginians use it sincerely just as often as they use it ironically, bless their hearts.

jonsblond's avatar

This is a southern saying? I had no idea. I’ve heard it my entire adult life here in Illinois. I’m pretty sure I even heard it when I was growing up in Las Vegas. I’ve used it both ways, as @chyna explained.

submariner's avatar

Thanks, everyone. I was afraid I might use this expression and inadvertently come across as snarky to a Southerner.

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