What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “bless her heart”? If I were to place a wager, I’d bet ten to one odds that a picture of a distraught individual surrounded by compassionate-looking females comes to mind. And if it did, you’d be right. But only partly.
For you see, in the South at least, that one phrase covers just about every entry dear Mr. Roget could bind up in one volume.
How could that be, you ask? Quite simply really.
It’s all in the voice, baby. It’s all in the voice.
For example: If you say “bless her heart” while leaning over the casket of a dearly departed community member, you are probably sincerely offering your condolences over the event that caused the demise. However, if it is said while shaking your head and staring at some pretentious young junior leaguer wannabe who has just overturned the entire dessert table at the church social, then you are probably gloating over the fact she’s gotten her comeuppance.
But that’s not the only two tones used with that phrase. There’s a wide expanse of middle ground where one must first discern the nuances of speech pattern and body language before the phrase translates correctly.
For example: If the phrase sounds sincere but is quickly followed by an eye roll from the speaker, then the person who uttered the words truly felt sorry for the person about who the phrase was said. However, she quickly became irritated at herself for feeling sorry for someone who was a born-again idiot to get herself into that situation to begin with.
Then there is the usage as a tool to prod someone out of the irritating state of self-pity when there is nothing to whine about. There’s a definitely talent to sounding just mocking enough to make the whiner come to her senses without wanting to Gibbs slap you in the process.
And, of course, that is not all. However, bless my heart, this blog post is quite long enough as it is. I’ll let you learn the rest of the uses on your own.