My heart bleeds for you and various versions of the sentiment such as “my heart bleeds tears” were used since the 1300’s to express severe anguish and sympathy. The idiom has been used much differently since the late 1940’s.
Meaning of My Heart Bleeds for You
Although ‘my heart bleeds for you’ can be used sincerely, it is usually used today to indicate mock sympathy, as a sarcastic way to suggest that the person doesn’t really deserve any sympathy. In other words, the exact opposite is meant.
When the phrase is spoken directly from one person to another it is usually used in this sarcastic sense. However, when expressed in the past tense in regards to a third party it may be genuine. The alternative “my heart goes out to you” is a sincere version of the idiom.
A synonym idiom is “You’re breaking my heart,” spoken with mock sincerity.
Examples Of Use
“You only got a $5000 Christmas bonus? My heart bleeds for you.”
“Victor got some bad news he won’t stop talking about. His new swimming pool will have to be a foot smaller, because of zoning laws. My heart bleeds for him.”
Both Chaucer and Shakespeare used this idiom in a sincere way, to indicate great sympathy and compassion, dating the expression to at least the 12th century. Some meaning can be seen in the image of a wounded heart, and the pain that would come, thus indicating that the speaker shares the anguish of the person to whom they are speaking.
It is difficult to say why this expression changed to a more bitter and ironic version, but it may have been a reaction to overly expressive and insincere sympathy.
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