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Origins of Romantic Idioms and Phrases

Updated on July 15, 2016
Simpletons, The Sweet River: Luke Fildes
Simpletons, The Sweet River: Luke Fildes | Source

Common Romantic Idioms and Phrases

  • From the bottom of my heart
  • Wear my heart on my sleeve
  • Cut a rug
  • Fall in love
  • Labor of love
  • Have a crush on you
  • Sealed with a kiss
  • Head over heels
  • Love is blind

Where Do They Come From and What Do They Mean?

We use these idioms and phrases all of the time. They are a part of our daily conversations and we speak of them as though we know exactly what they mean. But do we really?

We do understand the interpretations of these figures of speech and can probably explain "what" they mean to an alien. However, these common romantic idioms and phrases actually do stem from historical, biblical, or psychological sources. These phrases actually do have literal meanings.

Let's jump into the love time machine, shall we?



Archimedes, a famous Greek philosopher
Archimedes, a famous Greek philosopher | Source

FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART

Meaning: With sincere and deep thanks or love

Origin: The ancient Greek philosopher, Archimedes, believed that it was the brain that pumped blood and that the heart was responsible for thinking or feeling. Therefore, saying, "I love you" or "thank you", "from the bottom of my heart" would be the most meaningful because that was where most of your feelings would be.

Another theory held that the heart is like a container that fills up with feeling (again, eluding that the heart controls emotion). This would mean that the bottom of the heart is usually the fullest...kind of like a tank that continuously refills itself. The bottom is never really empty. Hence, the bottom of the heart contains the fullest of emotion.

Knights wore the colors of their lady on the sleeve
Knights wore the colors of their lady on the sleeve | Source

WEAR MY HEART ON MY SLEEVE

Meaning: Display one's emotions openly

Origin: As far as we know, this idiom first appeared in William Shakespeare's Othello in 1604 when Iago decides to act as if he is "wearing his heart on his sleeve" in order to seem open, honest, and faithful.

Initially, however, the phrase is derived from the Middle Ages when knights would wear colored ribbons on their arms to show which lady they supported and fought for.

The Jitterbug dance gets its name from the "out of control" movements similar to how an alcoholic suffers from the "jitters"
The Jitterbug dance gets its name from the "out of control" movements similar to how an alcoholic suffers from the "jitters"

CUT A RUG

Meaning: Couple dancing very well together

Origin: "Cutting a rug" comes from the 1920s and the 1930s when couples would dance the jitterbug. The jitterbug was a vigorous dance that when done continuously by many couples in one area would make the carpet appear as though it was "cut" or "gashed".

Prohibition caused many underground clubs to appear in private homes. So when spontaneous dancing arose, rugs and furniture were usually pushed to the side to make room. This would preserve the rug from becoming cut or damaged.

When you are falling in love you display psychological symptoms of hypomania
When you are falling in love you display psychological symptoms of hypomania | Source

FALLING IN LOVE

Meaning: Realizing intense feelings of romantic love

Origin: How come we don't rise in love instead of fall in love? It stems from psychology and biology. Firstly, falling implies a sense of helplessness and fear of the unknown.

Secondly, it is said that the negative symptoms of being in love are similar to symptoms of depression - upset stomach, mood swings, insomnia, loss of concentration, dizziness, and confusion. Hence, the term "falling in love" instead of "rising in love".

Genesis 29:20, Jacob had to work to be with Rachel
Genesis 29:20, Jacob had to work to be with Rachel | Source

LABOR OF LOVE

Meaning: Work done to attain love or satisfaction, not money.

Origin: Read Genesis 29:20 where you will learn that Jacob lived with his Uncle Laban in Mesopotamia. Uncle Laban had 2 daughters - Rachel and Leah. Jacob loved pretty Rachel not ugly Leah. When he asked Laban if he could marry Rachel his uncle agreed under the condition that he would have to work for him for 7 years. On the the day of the wedding, Jacob pulled off the bride's veil revealing ugly Leah instead of Rachel! Jacob was furious and demanded to have Rachel. Tricky Uncle Laban said that Jacob could have Rachel too, only if he worked another 7 years for him. Jacob agreed again and had to labor for 14 years to finally get Rachel but it was worth it to him.

1861, "In the hatroom, at a 'crush', is the air freer from taint, because the men are fresh and young"
1861, "In the hatroom, at a 'crush', is the air freer from taint, because the men are fresh and young" | Source

HAVE A CRUSH

Meaning: Feeling of extreme infatuation for another

Origin: Back in the early 1800's in England the word "crush", now obsolete, was used to refer to a social gathering or dance. Dances were quite hot and crowded. Plus, women were wearing very large, puffy skirts which didn't help the matter. The term "crushing on someone" evolved into a phrase meaning a romantic entanglement at a crowded social gathering. These gatherings were the most popular way to hook up at that time.

By the 1860s the same phrase was being used in the US and first appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger in August 1862: "In the hatroom, at a 'crush', is the freer from taint, because the men are fresh and young."

St. Andrew was the first called apostle and is said to have died on an 'X' shaped cross.
St. Andrew was the first called apostle and is said to have died on an 'X' shaped cross. | Source

SEALED WITH A KISS or XXX

Meaning: S.W.A.K. - Written with love and care, XXX - Adult movie rating, sexual in nature

Origin: These two terms stem from the same place. In Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth there is a reference to the "kiss of peace". King Henry of England and Thomas Becket were to seal their agreement with a kiss.

Upon further research, I found that during Medieval times, most people were illiterate. Therefore, contracts were not considered legal until each signer included a "X" to represent Saint Andrew. Then to prove sincerity, each signer would then kiss the "X".

According to the bible, Saint Andrew (the first called Apostle) was sentenced to death by crucifixion but requested an X-shaped cross because he felt he was not worthy to die on the same shaped cross as Jesus.

The kissing of the "X" custom faded but the "X" became the symbol for a kiss. (XXX became extreme kissing, if you know what I mean.)

1834, 'Head over heels' was first used in the "Narrative of the Life of David Crockett"
1834, 'Head over heels' was first used in the "Narrative of the Life of David Crockett" | Source

HEAD OVER HEELS

Meaning: Feelings of confusion or dizziness for a lover

Origin: Originally "heels over head", this phrase was turned upside down just like what it means. "Heels over head", which makes more sense, was first coined in the fourteenth century. It meant to turn a somersault or feelings of joy. It also meant being upside down and not able to do anything, as love can make us feel sometimes.

It wasn't until 1834 when the the reversed phrase of "head over heels" appeared referring to love in the Narrative of the Life of David Crockett where he writes, "...soon found himself head over heels in love with this girl."



Love suppresses the part of the brain that controls critical thought
Love suppresses the part of the brain that controls critical thought | Source

LOVE IS BLIND

Meaning: You love who you love regardless of logic

Origin: This term was actually coined by William Shakespeare around 1596. It appears in several of his plays including Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry V, and The Merchant of Venice.

Actually, research completed in 2004 by the University College of London supports the idea that love blindness is not just a figure of speech. They found that feelings of love will suppress the areas of the brain that control logical thought.

LOVELY AND ROMANTIC CLOSING THOUGHTS

The next time you use a figure of speech do know that it came from somewhere. All English idioms and figures of speech originated from somewhere or from some event. Sometimes it's a matter of common knowledge but sometimes you'd never guess where it came from. Love is funny thing and so is the English language.

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      !!! 7 months ago

      1. it's the Bible, with the capital letter.

      2. There is NOTHING in it about St. Andrew's death!

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      Autumn 3 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Annart, this is one article that I'm particularly proud of since I teach Language Arts to 7th Graders. I wish I could inspire my students to be as curious as I am. Thank you for your comment.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Our language is so rich and so many of our idioms come from Shakespeare! 'Crush' is still used to mean a dense crowd of people but not for a dance - that was one I did not know.

      An interesting, informative hub. Off to have a look at your profile.

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      Autumn 3 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Frantisek78, your welcome. I had fun doing the research. Thanks for the positive feedback.

    • frantisek78 profile image

      frantisek78 3 years ago

      This is very interesting! Thanks for pointing these out, as most people have no clue, or even care to look into where common terms and phrases come from. Also, this was very good: "(XXX became extreme kissing, if you know what I mean.)" :) Voted up.