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Sometimes we hear the following expression in various contexts:

Diese Antwort hat aber herzlich wenig mit meiner Frage zu tun.
Erwin hat herzlich wenig zum Erfolg unseres Projekts beigetragen.
Heute Nacht habe ich herzlich wenig geschlafen.

Why do we use "herzlich" here? Is there anything known on the etymology of this combination?

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@Em1 Takkat asks about the etymology of the expression. –  splattne Jan 18 '12 at 8:23
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I always thought (and still think) that it developed from an ironic/sarcastic remark, like

Das interessiert mich herzlich wenig.

"Herzlich" is normally used for things/persons you are interested in. In the sentence above it is used in a contrary way to its original meaning and so giving the sentence a sarcastic touch.

Based on that usage people also used it to emphasize negative things ("herzlich wenig geschlafen"). If this explanation qualifies as "etymology" then here you go :)

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It is an idiom that originates from an irony joke.

The word simply acts as a filler like the English word "totally", at times.

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