Let’s hear it, southerners: Is Romney saying “bless his heart” about Obama a big deal?

posted at 9:21 pm on August 22, 2012 by Allahpundit

Via Ace and Twitchy, whose managing editors, Lori Ziganto and Jenn Taylor, are southern transplants and who seem palpably impressed that Mitt would “go there.” CBS reporter Jan Crawford calls this, half-jokingly I presume, “the ultimate dis.” Our own Mary Katharine Ham is a Durham, North Carolina native and would be able to settle this straightaway, but she’s unavailable right now; hopefully she’ll update my post or add one of her own to clarify.

Question for our southern readership, then, while we wait for the Hammer to chime in: How big an insult is this really? I’ve always understood it to be a gentle, almost pitying, but clearly condescending sort of jab, tantamount to “it’s precious how stupid you are.” But there must be more to it than that. Romney’s said flat out before that he doesn’t think Obama understands the economy, which is the gist of what he’s saying here too. The “bless his heart” thing obviously adds a bit more of a putdown oomph to it, enough so that southerners seem to think it’s an unusually potent shot, but I’m not getting it. What nuance am I missing? Should I be mentally substituting “President Doofus” for the BHH bit? Inquiring Yankee minds want to know. Frankly, Romney being Romney, he probably means “bless his heart” literally. Click the image to watch.

Update (MKH): Sorry to be chiming in late on this. My response is “meh.” “Bless his heart” is a catch-all phrase, used after a criticism, ostensibly to soften the blow rhetorically. It’s always slightly condescending, but can either denote real affection for the target (for an accident-prone child, for instance: “He’s always skinning his knees, bless his heart.) or derision, as it does in this case. This sounds like a continuation of Romney’s standard line about Obama not understanding the economy. If he’d lingered on “bless his heart” it would have come across more insulting. This just sounds like a surprisingly apt use of the phrase by a Northeasterner who’s comfortable with it. That being said, Touré will be calling it racist in 3, 2, 1.


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Yep … Real Important News …… You Guys are starting to waste my time.

ashiya on August 23, 2012 at 8:33 AM

ashiya on August 23, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Unclench.

kingsjester on August 23, 2012 at 8:36 AM

Wait a minute, he didn’t SAY it in the south…he said it in Iowa. Doesn’t he know he needs to say something like that in the south? Hasn’t he learned anything from Biden.

The tone of his remark was a bit quicker than we’d normally say it here in Texas. There would be more of a pause between what was said, and then said after the “bless his heart” comment. This was a minor slap, but fun nonetheless.

golfer1 on August 23, 2012 at 8:37 AM

ashiya on August 23, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Me thinks you TOOK the time.

Jabberwock on August 23, 2012 at 8:38 AM

Definitely nothing to howl and shake tree branches about. I can’t listen to it right now, but its delivery is important. Everyone else has pretty much covered what it means, so no use in me trying to expand on that, but if he delivered it without putting an insulting Southern twang on it (a la Hillary Clinton), then I’d say it won’t get much play. It was just a cute zing.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say it ranks at about… a hill of beans.

onetrickpony on August 23, 2012 at 8:46 AM

Meaning depends on context. It can be genuine sympathy, pity over your niavete “poor thing doesn’t know any better”, or “gee, you’re stupid”.

savage027 on August 23, 2012 at 8:48 AM

Our next President has clearly been listening to some Miranda Lambert.


If you wanna pick a fight, well, I’m gonna have to say goodnight
I don’t have to be hateful, I can just say, “Bless your heart”

dczombie on August 23, 2012 at 8:50 AM

In the South “bless his heart” or “bless her heart” is supposed to be put at the end of the most sweetly delivered negative observation about somebody to make it seem like the speaker is truly concerned about the object of their put down. Never insert it in the middle of the sentence.

Example: (smiling sweetly and said with great concern) “Why, that poor Mary has gained a ton of weight. She is getting almost as big as a house, bless her heart.”

Other things to throw in instead of “bless her heart” would be “God love her”, or “poor thing”.

Romney’s use of the phrase didn’t have the proper punch. Here is how he should have said it:

“You know, our dear president Obama has just tried and tried and tried to fix this sick economy any way he could, but it seems he just can’t figure it out, bless his heart. As much as I hate to believe it, I think he has a real problem understanding freedom, and liberty, and how America really works, poor thing.”

Note: using “God love him” to refer to Obama in ANY sense would be considered blasphemy in the South and would engender severe blowback! haha

gajaw999 on August 23, 2012 at 8:53 AM

I’ve always understood it to be a gentle, almost pitying, but clearly condescending sort of jab, tantamount to “it’s precious how stupid you are.”

Yep. Or it could mean “it’s precious how pathetic and in need of help you are.”

Think of a poor, half starved kitten showing up on your doorstep. You might say “Aw, bless his little heart. Go get him a bowl of milk and a warm bed.”

Either way, it’s a nice little putdown directed at Obama.

dczombie on August 23, 2012 at 8:54 AM

Romney used the phrase effectively and inserted it effortlessly and seamlessly, no pretense, no fake accent, just a straightforward delivery – NOT a classic Southern delivery, but he came across as authentic and unscripted. I say good job!

Pork-Chop on August 23, 2012 at 8:56 AM

I’m not sure about it being just a southern thing- my older Utah relatives said “Bless your heart” all the time, meaning they actually felt sorry for you. Maybe Romney’s use of it was not as zingery as people think?

Kristamatic on August 23, 2012 at 9:01 AM

Romney used the phrase effectively and inserted it effortlessly and seamlessly, no pretense, no fake accent, just a straightforward delivery – NOT a classic Southern delivery, but he came across as authentic and unscripted. I say good job!

Pork-Chop on August 23, 2012 at 8:56 AM

Agreed.

Romney was being kind.

The rest of us go straight to SCoaMF.

And it does convey “0bama is above his pay grade” or perhaps Peter Principled to his current position.

ProfShadow on August 23, 2012 at 9:03 AM

My daddy used to say that you can only fish for so long before you gotta’ throw a stick of dynamite in the water.

We done fishin’ yet?

Terp Mole on August 23, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Bless your heart, Allahpundit, I hear this put-down phrase used all the time up north here. Why do Southerners get to claim it? Hell, Sarah Palin uses this phrase too and the last time I checked Alaska was north of Dixie. This all sounds like a pile of cheesy grits to me.

rhombus on August 23, 2012 at 9:20 AM

It means, “the poor pathetic ba$tard”…

Pest on August 23, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Living in Raleigh now, but born in Albany, GA – and you can’t get MUCH deeper south than South Georgia.

Mitt slapped him in the mouth with a fish.

PJ Emeritus on August 23, 2012 at 9:34 AM

It’s supposed to be a nice way of insulting one, and it works, because sometimes people really just mean the blessing.

Yes, it is often a Southern way of saying “you’re a f-ing idiot” but euphemism don’t work if everyone hears the f-bomb immediately. Plus, Mitt isn’t Southern anyway.

Esthier on August 23, 2012 at 9:46 AM

Yep … Real Important News …… You Guys are starting to waste my time.

ashiya on August 23, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Yep…Real Important Comment…you’re starting to waste my time.

MadisonConservative on August 23, 2012 at 9:47 AM

I suppose he should just give the one-fingered salute like Obama did to Hillary and McCain…

crazywater on August 23, 2012 at 9:48 AM

There would have been no ambiguity had Mitt been patting Obooba on the head while he said it.

Akzed on August 23, 2012 at 9:49 AM

As used with children, either:
“its a shame that didn’t work out better”, or
“a heart of gold, but misguided”

with adults:
“trying, but just not getting there…and never will”

tomg51 on August 23, 2012 at 9:53 AM

As a Southern woman, born and raised, yes, it is a big deal.

Repubtallygirl on August 23, 2012 at 9:54 AM

OMG. Hot Air has officially gone into analysis paralysis. Of course it is a big F…n’ deal. Why are you asking?

BetseyRoss on August 23, 2012 at 9:59 AM

Romney had better be careful, since only God can bless anyone’s heart, that the ACLU (Anti-Christian Lawyer’s Union) doesn’t sue Romney for bringing religion into politics, failing to separate church from state, and offending atheists nationwide.

/ACLU off

Other than that, no biggie.

Steve Z on August 23, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Equivalent statement from Yankee dialect:

“Other people are insulting my opponent by calling him stupid, but I refuse to take part in pointing out the mental deficiencies of such an unintelligent man. We shouldn’t make fun of the mentally-challenged.”

DrUrchin on August 23, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Other than that, no biggie.

Steve Z on August 23, 2012 at 10:04 AM

I think Romney might have solidified my vote, any sly backhanded mockery of atheists earns a 3-giggle salute from this agnostic. ;)

Other than that… as you said… no biggie. ;)

WashingtonsWake on August 23, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Palin used the phrase many times before Romney, must be because she’s from southern Alaska..:)

idesign on August 23, 2012 at 10:16 AM

Sometimes, a “bless your heart” can be utterly sincere. I use it in that way all the time. I also use it in a “bless your stupid little heart” way. It’s all on the tone and inflection. And context, of course.

bamaconservative on August 23, 2012 at 10:17 AM

I learned living in NC that you can say ANYTHING about anybody as long as you predicate it with

Bless his/her heart

i.e. Bless your heart you’re a little moron aren’t you?
Bless her heart she’s big as a house…

Its’ kind of the southern equivelant of With all due respect” – nothing respectful EVER follows that phrase…

@ntif@n on August 23, 2012 at 10:28 AM

I’m so very late to this thread and only read to the middle of page 3, but I found this there:

You’re a contestant on Top Chef and Paula Deen is a guest judge. You make deconstructed chicken fried steak because Paula’s there and she says “bless your heart” darlin’. That means ya done good.

TxAnn56 on August 22, 2012 at 9:50 PM

you hit on an important point. When you tell somebody “bless your heart” is different than when you say it to a third party. If the object of the blessing is not there it is an insult.

Happy Nomad on August 22, 2012 at 10:06 PM

And I was very glad to see that explanation, because as a Texan who uses the phrase occasionally, my first instinct was to get all indignant seeing it defined as an insult, because when I use it I generally mean it in an empathetic way (Grandkid: “I have a splinter in my toe!” Me: “Oh bless your heart! No problem, your grandmother has the most gentle tweezers on the planet!”)

But it’s true that I have also used it in the Third Party sense (Neighbor: “My wife used all the hot water and the heating element is burned out!” Me: “Well, bless her heart, let me give you the name of my plumber.”)

Romney saying it to Obama? Strikes just the right chime. Sort of Reaganeque (“There you go again!”)

RushBaby on August 23, 2012 at 10:30 AM

single stack on August 22, 2012 at 10:31 PM

You wrote that wrong, it’s ‘American by birth, Southern by the grace of God’.

slickwillie2001 on August 22, 2012 at 10:57 PM

No, I didn’t. I know the full saying but I modified it for a purpose.
But, bless your heart, you seem to have missed it.

single stack on August 23, 2012 at 10:35 AM

“Bless your heart” is the perfect putdown. It’s how hot Southern women shoot down pitiful drunk guys that aren’t in their league. It’s how you refer to your stupid cousin’s latest criminal misadventure.

It’s basically a way to call people a moron to their face without eliciting a harsh response.

hawksruleva on August 23, 2012 at 10:37 AM

Commenters have pretty much covered the spectrum of potential uses of the Southern heart blessing. Southern bred and raised here, though not native to the South, and Romney’s comment struck me as balanced somewhere between a diss and a dismissal. I think he intended the latter with enough allowance for the former.

de rigueur on August 23, 2012 at 10:42 AM

An elderly Mormon friend, in response to the actions of uncivil motorists, says “bless their hearts” because his own gentle nature and cultivated spiritual discipline will allow no greater invective.

AesopFan on August 23, 2012 at 10:53 AM

No more of a big deal than Candidate Obama scratching his cheek with his middle finger while referencing McCain/Palin during a speech.

JohnTant on August 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

If the “Bless his heart” has to be explained to you then you won’t really get the flavor. But my Mama used to say when I gave it my best effort to do something for her and made matters worse “Bless your heart —-you tried”. And I understood she loved me but she loved me for my shortcomings and failures as well as my effort. What Mitt is saying is “Obama you are a total failure but we love you you’re not a bad smart guy.

Herb on August 23, 2012 at 11:00 AM

yawn.

(but bless your little heart for trying).

Tim_CA on August 23, 2012 at 11:07 AM

Let me get this straight…..Obama LIES constantly about Romney, to include the despicable ‘cancer’ and calls hima ‘Felon’…and Obama is upset that Romney says, ‘bless his heart’ about him?! ROFLOL!

Perhaps it is the deity that Romney refers to & from whom he implores the blessing that Obama is opposed to?! Just saying…

easyt65 on August 23, 2012 at 11:07 AM

In my circle of friends we use the term “He/She is a real polotician” – the same thing.

VegasRick on August 23, 2012 at 11:18 AM

Romney must get tough. He finally stopped saying that Obama is a “nice guy” but over his head. But the “bless is heart” comment was not used with the correct amount of sarcasm to be worth anything. Romney had better get mean because Obama is just getting warmed up. Of course Obama understands the economy and how it works. That’s the whole point. . . to rip it out and turn it inside out. Obama’s a marxist for pete’s sake! Why can’t we say it. We have to say it until it is common knowledge. If Pastor Warren, who is a bleeding heart, has given up on Obama, it’s time to turn up the heat and take the SOB out politically.

Ephesians 6:10-17 (ESV) The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

SpiderMike on August 23, 2012 at 11:47 AM

My daddy used to say that you can only fish for so long before you gotta’ throw a stick of dynamite in the water.

We done fishin’ yet?

Terp Mole on August 23, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Your daddy has a way with words. A wonderful way with words. I’m stealing this (my husband is a dedicated fisher-person which makes him amongst the most addicted of all sports persons—even golfers. I can think of a whole lot of situations where this will be appropriate—and ending it with, bless your heart.)

Portia46 on August 23, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Zowz, this is inane…
Bless all your hearts.

verbaluce on August 23, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Admittedly, I’m a transplant, but here’s how the Locals usually say it/mean it.

“Bless his heart, he’s dumber than a box of rocks”

Learning2Fly on August 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Admittedly, I’m a transplant, but here’s how the Locals usually say it/mean it.

“Bless his heart, he’s dumber than a box of rocks”

Learning2Fly on August 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM

lol….the very core of this colloquialism….essentially his brain is damaged so we’re asking God to “bless his heart”.

We’re reminded in Matthew:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”

Don’t think that really applies to obummer though.

Tim_CA on August 23, 2012 at 12:34 PM

As a Southern woman, born and raised, yes, it is a big deal.

Repubtallygirl on August 23, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Another Southern woman (born and raised) here, and I totally agree. I heard this clip on my way to work this morning, and I laughed for 5 minutes straight. I thought it was a completely awesome line, and his delivery of it was perfect!

Now I’m just waiting for someone to start screaming that it was “racist!!!!111!!!” because it’s a Southern saying and the Southerners owned slaves or something…

Lan Astaslem on August 23, 2012 at 12:58 PM

AKA your dumb as hell and won’t ever know it

burserker on August 23, 2012 at 3:31 PM

Obama is retarded, bless his heart.

Sherman1864 on August 23, 2012 at 5:02 PM

I seem to reccall that Allapundit’s mostest favoritest female politician uses this expression quite frequently, and she’s not from the south. She is, in fact from about as far north as you can go, bless your little heart.

Old Country Boy on August 23, 2012 at 6:37 PM

The “bless his heart” is tantamount to my former Governor Ann Richards quote: “Poor George… He can’t help it…” I didn’t agree with Richards on anything it seems, but she could deliver a line.

limecat on August 23, 2012 at 8:54 PM

Question for our southern readership, then, while we wait for the Hammer to chime in: How big an insult is this really? I’ve always understood it to be a gentle, almost pitying, but clearly condescending sort of jab, tantamount to “it’s precious how stupid you are.”

I wish I hadn’t missed the opportunity to comment on this before PAGE FIVE, yikes.

Anyway, my comments as one who grew up in the South, raised by a long lineage of Southerners since before these Colonies had that Revolution of ours:

HOW “bless your heart” or “bless his/her heart” is said contains the answer to the question being asked here (is it meant as sincere caring or is it sarcasm).

It’s being represented on twitter as meaning sarcasm but one needs to consider the source/s of that: sarcastic people view most things in a sarcastic theme.

I grew up hearing “bless your heart” or “bless his/her heart” as a statement indicative of great compassion, caring, understanding, sympathy if that was called for.

I’ve only seen the expression represented as sarcasm very lately in our times but not in the Southern cultural environment from my youth and family and communities of the past.

Romney appears to have used it with a twinge of sarcasm, which is how most WHO AREN’T SOUTHERN use it and also perceive it, as are thus are explained Ace and Twitchy.

Lourdes on August 24, 2012 at 3:38 AM

Admittedly, I’m a transplant, but here’s how the Locals usually say it/mean it.

“Bless his heart, he’s dumber than a box of rocks”

Learning2Fly on August 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM

That’s a reflection of the newer or recent times — sarcasm has seeped into our American culture and it seems everyone just has to get a dig in.

But that’s not how the phrase originated or has been used for a long time prior to the recent-sarcastic-times.

I heard the phrase for all of my youth in the South and it was never used like that, in sarcasm, but used to indicate sympathy or empathy, not sarcasm.

The sarcastic twinge or tone and use of speech to communicate a sarcastic point is a recent and unfortunate phenomena.

Lourdes on August 24, 2012 at 3:42 AM

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