Languages Magazine

When Symbols Turn into Words

By Expectlabs @ExpectLabs


How did the word “heart” get turned into a synonym for liking something?

Some say the symbol first entered our vernacular during Milton Glaser’s “I Love New York” campaign in the seventies. Since a red heart was used to replace “love,” some people started referring to the symbol itself while saying the phrase, rather than what the heart stood for. Following the success of the campaign, people started slapping “I ♥” on to anything and everything they were fond of.

Here Glaser describes why he believes his work resonated with people:

“There’s something about the voluptuousness of the heart and the sort of the constraint of the letter forms, black against red, that persists neurologically, not intellectually.”

Another milestone in heart’s history appears to have started with the  I ♥ Huckabees movie in 2004, which was read out loud as “I Heart Huckabees.” In 2011, the Oxford English Dictionary added an entry for the heart symbol listed under the word “heart,” defining it is as a transitive verb meaning “to love.”

It is important to note that many people believe hearting is not the same as loving; according to Urban Dictionary, the term lies somewhere in between admiration and obsession, in a separate “hearting” universe. We can heart that.

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