OK, people, I need some help here. It has been 30 years living in the South, and I am still utterly befuddled by the use of the phrase “Well bless their little heart.” When I first arrived here and someone would use that expression, I would just smile lamely (the way you do when someone tells a joke that you don’t really get) and hope they didn’t pick up on my ignorance. In time, I asked a number of people what was meant by this saying. It ran the gamut from “Oh, how sweet” to “Oh, how sad.” Now, I was totally confused.

I would have stayed in this blissful state of bewilderment had I not received a phone call from a dear friend one day. Through her sobs, she told me her husband of 20 years had just told her he was leaving her for another woman. She immediately followed this jaw-dropping news with “Bless his little heart, he’s so sad.” The only thought running through my mind at that moment was “Did Lorena Bobbitt get exonerated or did she actually serve time?” His very little heart was clearly of no concern to me. I was now in full-blown Yankee revenge mode. While I never inflicted any actual harm, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to considering it ... often.

People, I still don’t understand this expression. I’ve heard it used in circumstances of joy and sorrow and everything in between, and it still doesn’t quite resonate. It must be a Southern thing. However, I recently saw some cocktail napkins that read “Bless her heart, she doesn’t even know she’s tacky” — now, that I get! It’s just a Northern thing!

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