Why Does the ❤️ Heart Symbol ❤️ Look That Way?

Why does the heart symbol look like this if
the human heart actually looks like this? And why do we believe that the heart is the
epicenter of love? Whether they’re filled with chocolate and
love notes, punctuating your text messages, or popping out of cartoon characters’ bulging
eyes, hearts are pretty much everywhere… Or they will be until all of the half priced
candy sales on February 15th. But considering the heart symbol looks almost
nothing like an actual heart and we’ve known what the heart looks like anatomically since
around the time of Aristotle, we thought this would be the prime time to ask: When did the heart symbol emerge? And what are some theories surrounding its
unusual shape? Well according to Evan Andrews at the history
channel, there are lots of origin stories of this funny little shape that’s a poor
man’s imitation of its anatomical cousin. For example, the heart shape is rumored to
be modelled off of other less…loving anatomy. Namely the shape of breasts and buttocks. But I guess it sounds more romantic to say,
“You’ll always be in my heart” rather than belting out the lyrics to “My butt will
go on…” Other theories about the heart pictogram say
that it’s not modelled after human body parts at all, but actually draws its inspiration
from nature. The heart shape is thought to be a depiction
of the shape of ivy leaves which are also connected to symbols of fidelity. Others theorize the heart shape is connected
to Silphium. Silphium (or silphion) is a type of big fennel
plant that hails from the ancient North African city of Cyrene located in modern day Libya. And though you’ve probably never heard of
it, silphium used to be considered as valuable as gold. It had many uses that ranged from being a
medicinal plant, being eaten raw or prepared as a high cuisine condiment, or as a crucial
herb in the bedroom with applications as a speculated aphrodisiac… and also as a potential
early method of contraception. You know, for the lustier sides of love. But don’t rush off to use this for everything
from wooing your love interest to curing dog bites, since this plant may very well be extinct
and, as a result, none of these uses are exactly verifiable today. But it’s silphium seeds and their peculiar shape
that brings us back to our old friend the heart symbol. When Cyrene was under Greek and later Roman
control, silphium was in great demand. Greeks printed pictures of the seeds on their
money and Julius Caesar is even rumored to have stored a secret stash of silphium in
his treasury (approximately 1,500lbs). Plus since songs and verse waxing poetic about
silphium existed when it was in its heyday and before it vanished, although the jury
is still out on that one, there are theories that the shape of its seeds are where we actually
draw the inspiration for the iconic heart. But some scholars aren’t entirely convinced
that the heart shaped symbol is such a giant departure from the actual anatomical heart,
So that leads us to our next question: Is the heart symbol actually that different
from the human heart? In his book Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes
Icon, art historian Martin Kemp notes that saying the heart symbol is a huge departure
from an anatomical heart really depends on how you look at it…and which kind of heart
you’re looking at. Kemp notes: “First, what a heart looks like depends on
what kind of heart is being studied, human or animal, and what we count as the main body
of the heart. Let us say we cut out a pig’s heart, severing
the aorta, pulmonary artery, and vena cava. We then cut away the untidy bits at the top
that seem not to belong to the main muscle-y mass of the heart (though leaving the two
auricles in place), and we end up with something that can, in its untidy, fleshy, and rather
asymmetrical way, be reconciled without too much special pleading with the heart-shape.” So if we hack into a heart with all the tender
loving care of a high school science dissection (or a serial killer) then it’s a bit easier
to imagine how this big muscular lump in our chest can also somewhat resemble the heart
shape. Maybe…but don’t try this at home. Also Kemp argues that some mixed up anatomical
assumptions by ancient philosophers, may have contributed to the familiar bumps on top of
the heart symbol. He notes that Aristotle and Alexandrian philosopher
and anatomist Galen described the heart as having a fovea (or a small depression) between
the heart’s 2 main chambers. And this little dip influenced some of the
earliest attempts at drawing human hearts. And Galen had a lot to say about the functions
of the heart, which he said kept the body warm, and operated like a muscular furnace,
because “…no other instrument performs such continuous hard work as the heart.” But he still thought that the heart was still
more of a back up singer, with the liver playing the lead role in the functions of the body. Aristotle on the other hand thought that the
heart is “The very starting-point of the vessels, and the actual seat of the force
by which the blood is first fabricated.” And even though that’s not true, today we
now know how vital hearts are to keeping your bodies healthy and…well alive. So either way you slice it outside of love
related metaphors, the heart is an incredibly vital organ. And considering the number of love songs,
artworks, memes, poems, and literature that give hearts a shout out, it might be safe
to say the heart is the hardest working organ in show business. So how does it all add up? While the heart symbol may trace back to ivy
leaves representing fidelity or a fennel plant panacea, it could also have drawn some inspiration
from its anatomical doppelganger. Kemp also argues that increased knowledge
about the actual shape of the human heart through medical exploration and scientific
drawings into the 1600s, could have had an influence of the iconic heart symbol today. But why do we associate the heart with love? Well the heart and the idea of the heart as
the central part of human emotions, feelings, ethics, personality, and love have also been
used metaphorically throughout history and across cultures. Hearts can have meanings that encompass sincerity
or something that is vital and essential. Which makes a lot of sense, since if those
tickers stop ticking you probably have a lot bigger problems on your hands than whether
or not you have a date for February 14th. So it’s easy to see how the logical arc
of the heart being something that is vital led to it being wed to ideas of love. So what do you think? What are some alternate meanings of both the
heart as a metaphor and the heart symbol? Add your findings below, remember all you
need is love, and we’ll see you next week! Thank you for all of your questions and comments
last week on the story of Rosa Parks! And a special shout out to our viewers Grace
Gordon and Dawn Duranleau on Facebook and Madam BFG, EAE, and Michael Vipperman on YouTube
for your suggestions for new episode topics and ideas! Also Origin of Everything just reached some
pretty cool milestones: we have 18,000 likes and 21,000 followers on Facebook, 11,000 YouTube subscribers, and our video on color coded children’s clothing
just reached 3 MILLION VIEWS on facebook!! You guys are so AWESOME! But don’t forget to follow us on instagram too
(@pbsoriginofeverything) and we’ll see you next week!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *