Far and away the most abundant image of Valentine's Day, and of romance and love in general, is the heart shape. You've probably seen thousands of them, and rarely stopped to think about it. But here's the question - why does the heart symbol we're all so familiar with look absolutely nothing like a real heart? Obviously it goes without saying that a picture of a real human heart, with all its squishy bits and valves and veins and such like would look pretty unromantic.
But how exactly did the heart symbol come about?What does it really represent? In fact there is no single conclusive answer, but I can offer you three possible explanations from which you can take your pick. If you have any thoughts on the matter then do please jot your thoughts down in our comments box below.
The first suggestion is that the heart symbol was a simple way of drawing a real heart. But not a human heart. You see hundreds of years ago very few people were really familiar with what a human heart looked like. But thanks to a protein rich diet, most people were extremely familiar with cow's hearts, which do in fact look much more like the heart symbol than our own. How romantic, eh? Happy Cow Darling.
The second possible explanation is that the heart symbol was originally more associated with sex than with love, and yes, there is apparently a difference between the two. The heart symbol, so it is said, looks remarkably like, ahem, a woman's bottom when viewed upside down from the back. Depending upon how easy that was for you to visualise will reveal a great deal more about you than you may have anticipated revealing when first visiting this blog.
I'll say no more, but swiftly move on to the third alternative explanation. Around 1,300 years ago in Cyrene, then a Greek colony, later to become a Roman city and today is a town in Libya, a plant called Silphium was used widely as a seasoning. It was particularly highly valued as it was said to also have birth control properties, and it became such an important element of society for this reason that a picture of its seedpod was stamped on their coins. The seedpods of this, now extinct plant, looked just like the heart symbol we know today, and as it was clearly associated with sex, the association is apparent.
So there you have it - either a bit of a dead cow, a woman's backside or an extinct form of birth control from Libya. You take your pick, but a word of advice - best to keep such references out of the cards tomorrow!