My recent vocabulary quiz entitled the Art of the Matter has inspired me to delve into a subject close to my heart: yes, today I'd like to focus on heart-y English expressions and proverbs.
My favourite one is to warm the cockles of some one's heart, which means to arouse one's innermost feelings in a pleasant way. Frankly, whenever I hear or read of the phrase, it warms the cockles of my heart.
Now, if knowing more about English is your heart's delight, as it is mine, you'll be happy to learn that the cockle is a bivalve mollusc belonging to the genus cardium. This word is Latin for heart. Think of related words like cardiologist, or a cardiac arrest, so named because of its heart-shaped shells.
There is another quaint expression to wear one's heart on ones sleeve: this came about because in more chivalrous days, a young man courting his sweetheart would boldly proclaim his love for her by wearing her name upon his sleeve. Since the heart was often used as a symbol of love, the expression evolved into wearing one's heart on one's sleeve, though Shakespeare might have popularised it in Othello (I, 1, l. 64).
No doubt you are also familiar with other expressions like learning by heart, having one's heart in the right place or pouring one's heart to someone but I won't lose heart.
After all, we could have a heart-to-heart session about certain English proverbs instead.
One that's particularly heartfelt during these hard times is the saying that a light purse makes a heavy heart. In other words, we cannot enjoy ourselves when we face financial problems. How we long for the day when a heavy purse makes a light heart!
Another proverb is one that encourages boldness and initiative in affairs of the heart: A faint heart never won a fair lady. This means that a suitor should not be timid but should assiduously pursue the object of his affection. However unattainable she might seem, he must take heart and not despair because there's another saying that goes: If it were not for hope, the heart would break.
As for the fair maiden setting her cap at her beloved, she had better improve her culinary skills because its believed that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach i.e. she should cook him special dishes and keep him well-fed. I myself think this proverb is outdated, because so many females are now busy career women who go out to eat, have maids to do the cooking at home or can only cook with the help of a tin-opener!
Then there is the proverb which needs no explanation: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. However, there is the contradictory proverb that says that when we are out of someone's sight, were also out of that someone's mind.
But the saying kind hearts and coronets might puzzle a few of you, as it did me when I first saw the famous black comedy of the same name, starring the versatile Alec Guinness in eight roles! Perplexed and inquisitive, I looked it up after the movie. Apparently, the proverb is derived from Tennysons poem Lady Clara Vere de Vere. Here the poet says that while nobility of descent is a source of pride to many, he himself feels that ones true nobility lies in being compassionate: kind hearts are more than coronets which of course symbolise ones aristocratic background.
Well, dear hearts and gentle people, (to pinch a song title), that's enough about this topic cross my heart!
By Audrey Lim