Saturday, March 9, 2002

And the romance goes on...

IT’S not difficult to figure out the connection between the heart and Valentine’s Day. The heart, after all, was thought in ancient times to be the source of all emotions. Which explains expressions like ‘the heart of the matter’ and ‘heart of the city’. Etymology tells us nothing much about the relationship between the heart and the emotions. We do know that the word comes from the Old English heorte, related to the Dutch hart and German herz and derived from the Latin corda and Greek kardia. Where the last two roots come from and what they mean is pure speculation. There is a theory that heart is related to the Sanskrit hrdya, meaning chest or heart, again just a speculation. Later, the heart came to be associated only with the emotion of love. It’s not clear when the valentine heart shape became the symbol for the heart, as we all know that it doesn’t look like that! It is speculated that the heart symbol as it is used today, to signify romance or love, came from early attempts by people to draw an organ they’d never seen. A peep into some of the other valentine symbols and their origins is an interesting exercise, worth the effort.

Less etymology, more romance
February 16, 2002
Random tales"
February 2, 2002
History and meaning
January 19, 2002
Psychiatry and Greek
January 5, 2002
Classic loans
December 22, 2001
Elected words
December 8, 2001
The Italian connection
November 24, 2001
Words in writing
November 10, 2001
October 27, 2001
The pickings of war
October 13, 2001
American English
September 29, 2001
September 15, 2001
Foreigners, come to stay
September 1, 2001

Red roses were said to be the favourite flowers of Venus, the Roman goddess of love; also, red is a color that signifies strong feelings. Lace has long been used to make women’s handkerchiefs. If a woman was interested in a man, she would intentionally drop her handkerchief to encourage him. So, people began to think of romance when they thought of lace. Love knots have series of winding and interlacing loops with no beginning and no end. A symbol of everlasting love, love knots are made from ribbon or drawn on paper. Lovebirds, colorful birds found in Africa, are so named because they sit together in pairs — like sweethearts do! Doves are symbols of loyalty and love, because they mate for life and share the care of their babies.

The use of the "X" sign to represent a kiss has an intriguing history. This tradition started with the medieval practice of allowing those who could not write to sign documents with an "X". This was done before witnesses, and the signee placed a kiss upon the "X" to show sincerity. This is how kiss came to be synonymous with the letter "X", and how the "X" came to be commonly used at the end of letters as kiss symbols — leading to ‘sealed with a kiss’. It is believed by some that "X" was chosen as a variation on the cross symbol. Or, it might have been a pledge in the name of Christ, since the "X" or Chi symbol is the second letter of the Greek alphabet and has been used by the church to represent Christ.



Four words in Hindi are used synonymously for heart: dil, hrdaya, man and ji. A peep into their origins reveals that in Sanskrit, their language of origin, dil is the pulsating organ made of flesh and blood, hrdaya is the abstract heart, man is the mind and ji , related to jiva, is the life or soul.

This feature was published on March 2, 2002