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I'm trying to figure out how to translate the idiomatic expression "Bless his (little) heart" into German. The general sense is: "He meant well, but, wow, was that ever dumb!" I don't think the literal translation segne sein Herz will work here.

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    This guy thought he'd be able to translate an idiom into german....bless his heart ;)
    – emaltman
    May 1 '14 at 15:19
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    Mal nachgeschlagen? Wo? May 2 '14 at 1:40
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    dafür hat er ein großes Herz
    – choXer
    Nov 13 '20 at 9:57
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    A related idiom is Das Gegenteil von "gut" ist of "gut gemeint". Meaning that good intentions often lead to bad results.
    – hajef
    Nov 13 '20 at 11:13
  • To understand the context see melmagazine.com/en-us/story/bless-your-heart and urbandictionary.com/…
    – Paul Frost
    Nov 29 '20 at 17:55
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I would translate it as:

Er hat es ja gut gemeint.

He meant well (but).

to quote the other response:

Der Arme hatte es gut gemeint.

or passive:

Es war ja gut gemeint.

It was meant well (but).

I'd never use 'Gott' in that expression. God no. :-)

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  • A variant along the lines of "Gut gemeint ist nicht gleich gut gemacht." could be added to put slightly more emphasis on the resulting failure, if desired. Nov 13 '20 at 7:18
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Less friendly: Herr wirf Hirn vom Himmel. More friendly: Er/Sie hat noch viel Potenzial.

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It will depend; as a parenthesis of sorts "Gott segne ihn" should work. If you want a full sentence, I'd suggest "es war ja gut gemeint, aber ... " oder "er hat es ja gut gemeint".

Do you have a fuller example?

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  • For instance: "He thought he could iron his pants while wearing them, bless his heart."
    – aeismail
    Apr 30 '14 at 21:10
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    I don't think there's a good translation in this particular case. I'd go with "stell dir das vor" (go figure, imagine that) or something along these lines.
    – Ingmar
    May 1 '14 at 5:56
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How about ending it with "..., der Arme" or something along those lines?

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  • Welcome, Brian. We prefere more elaborate answers. You might want to edit what you wrote.
    – c.p.
    May 5 '14 at 19:58
  • I think this fits best the meaning of the idiom
    – RRZ Europe
    May 6 '14 at 10:10
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"Er war stets bemüht".

This is taken from how reference letters are sometimes worded (they are required to be "benevolent"). The phrase implies that, while he did indeed try to do his best, the results were bad. (if they had been good, that would have been mentioned instead).

[Source: I am a native German speaker and I use this in practice.]

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I would translate this example of @aeismail

"He thought he could iron his pants while wearing them, bless his heart."

with

Er dachte er könne seine Hosen bügeln ohne sie auszuziehen. Gott hab' ihn gnädig.

However, Gott hab' ihn/sie gnädig only fits if the person is dead or is very close to death.

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I have a large group of Germans in town and I hear them say "Armer dummer Dummkopf" but some have started with the literal "Segnen Sie Ihr Herz" . I get the feeling that Germans don't have an equivalent term. In fact I think only Southerners have this expression. I was a Yankee in Florida about 5 years before I realized they were not as nice as I thought they were. 30 years later I would rather have someone tell me "bless your heart" than spend a minute in New York.

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    Welcome to German:SE. Please integrate your 2nd answer on the same question into your first answer. SE does work that way, that you are encouraged to edit rather post a new one on the same question. (and delete the other question afterwards) Nov 13 '20 at 7:17
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For those of you who may not know, bless his heart implies that someone is really really dumb. That guy who always has an answer but rarely is it correct, "bless his heart." The neighbor who involves himself in your projects but has never finished one of his own, "bless his heart." The fancy City girl who refuses help to make a pie and makes a miserable mess, "bless her heart."

I know Germans who have been spending Winters here in Florida for decades, and they always use either, "he is dumb" or iterally "bless your heart". I've never asked but I don't think there is a common expression in Germany.

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  • Welcome. This is helpful but does not answer the question.
    – Carsten S
    Nov 13 '20 at 9:44

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