Main Piece, transcribed from a conversation:
“Bless your heart. It means aw, you fucking idiot. We say it like an insult, like oh that poor soul. It’s a southern, midwest thing. I learned it from my mom, who is from Texas. It’s definitely not a compliment, and it’s usually said behind someone’s back when you think they are stupid. But it also applies as a synonym for thank you, like when someone does something nice to you you say ‘bless your heart’ and that is meant sincerely.”
Background: My informant is from Kansas City, Kansas with her extended family being from Texas, Kansas and some in Florida.
Context: She is a good friend of mine I made at USC. We Facetimed (quarantine prevents live conversations), and I asked her if she had any sort of folklore after explaining the concept, and she immediately thought of this. I am from LA, and I don’t know much about the midwest or south so she immediately went to those identifying factors.
Thoughts: I think this is in line with the idea of Southern hospitality existing in the same space as extreme xenophobia. I don’t know much about the South, but I found this interesting because it’s the fake nice that you would expect. I’ve heard this used in California, but only as an expression of thanks, and only ever from older white people.