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Really? I've heard "Bless your heart" said by Brits with nothing but niceness intended. For example, when somone pays you a compliment and you reply "bless your heart".
- You did great, I wish I had your patience.
-Oh, bless your heart!
Language evolves. Tone and intent can make a sentence or phrase mean two completely different things depending on situation and who is speaking.I googled it, and Wiktionary says this:
bless someone's heart
- Used to express gratitude. (Compare bless you, God bless you.)
- (especially Southern US) Used to soften criticism or express pity. (Compare the British usage of bless (“expression of endearment or belittlement”).)
Another site said that the original meaning is an expression of endearment.
So southerns in the US, use it as criticism. For others, it obviously depends on what you have been taught.
Could it be a generation thing?
I think this is very typical of old-fashioned expressions/phrases, in my own language there are well-known phrases that we normally wouldn't use for the intended situation, so we use it to emphasize (or hint at) the opposite. And of course it makes sense that "pompous" suggests "not genuine" or "silly".Though now it can be used to mock or patronise someone