It is an expression. It is the functional equivalent of "Bless him".
source: House of CardsAfter 22 years in congress, I can smell which way the wind is going. Jim Matthews, his right honorably Vice President, Former Governor of Pennsylvania. He did his duty in delivering the Keystone State. Bless his heart. And now they’re about to put him out to pasture.
Is "bless his heart" equal to "bless him"? Why did he say "heart"?
It sounds as if the writer is patronising him.
There is a sense among some speakers (this is a US Southern regionalism) that the saying substitutes for one's true opinion of someone. That one says "bless his heart" instead of "what an idiot" (or somesuch).
A female journalist visited a congressman for trying to get an interview in the late night. She intentionally wore push up bra and low cut V-neck. Later the congressman walked her out to the door, when his wife returned. She told the journalist, " Drive safe, there's a lot of ice on the road".
I saw the hostility in the eyes of both women's, when they first ever met each other. I would intrepreted it was a warning from the congressman's wife- it is dangerous to be close to my husband. Haha!
I am curious whether or not most Northern Americans would well understand the substitutes if they were in such a case. Are most Northern Americans more outspoken?
Last edited by thedaffodils; 07-May-2014 at 15:52.
I just saw a tweet using "bless her heart." It was a link to a story about a TV commentator who was insisting that "Animal Farm" warns against capitalism. The implication was definitely that her opinion is idiotic.
It is entirely possible for a "bless her heart" to be sincere, mind you. But it often isn't.
Same as a warning to be careful driving. Tone and context help us understand whether the warning is sincere or not.
What about if the person said, "Bless him" instead of "Bless his heart", in the same context, i.e. same situation, same tone, etc?
Would the southern American possibly use "bless him" to mean he was an idiot? I mean whether or not "bless him" could be ironic.
I don't know about northern Americans but some 25 years ago in London it was common to hear "Oh, bless him!" said in a warm, sweet voice which actually meant "**** him." (Replace the **** with almost any word of your choice). As Dave says, the tone of voice is important, but here it is all the more effective when the tone is at odds with the message.
Bless on its ownstarted being used a few years ago in BrE and very often in a negative way, though usually said in the same warm voice.