I work with students who have challenges understanding non-verbal communication. Basically, it’s hard for them to decipher body language and tone of voice, sarcasm, etc. Well, I just moved to TX and now I can really empathize with them.
“Bless your heart.” Did you know this saying has different meanings based on body language and tone of voice? It totally does! So I’ve done a little research that I would like to share with other TX newcomers out there. (You’re welcome!) Here is what my anthropological observations show so far…
1. “Bless your heart,” said in molasses voice with tone going lower with each word. Paired with bending forward a bit and clasping hands together. Also usually with lowering eyes or closing them briefly.
Translation: I’m so very sorry you’re dumb as a box of rocks, but thanks for trying.
2. “Bless your heart,” said in a friendly, conversational voice. Sometimes with an exhale or “oh” as a prefix. Body language is relaxed and typical of standing and having a normal conversation with someone.
Translation: Thank you. You’re awesome. I totally appreciate what you did.
3. “Bless your heart,” said in an incredibly saccharine tone. Kind of a side head tilt with eyes squinted a bit and a big, fake grin.
Translation: Fuck you very much.
So, as you can see, newcomers to the area should never, ever use this term until positive you’re sure you have this down. It would be a shame to try to give a number two “Bless your heart” and give a number three “Bless your heart” by mistake! Not a good way to make new friends. This is an advanced TX saying. Go ahead and try some “y’alls” first. They’re pretty safe.