February 14, 2008

#01-072: "Sweethearts" Candies for Valentine's Day

around forty small, brightly-colored candy hearts with very short messages of love on each
Sweethearts candies are popular on Valentine's Day.

Note: "Conversation hearts"--the Valentine's treats we all know and love--have a history of over a century. This was originally meant to be published on Valentine's Day in 2008.

Get Ready: Is there a Valentine's custom you observed when you were a child that is still around today?

When I was in elementary school, we had to exchange Valentine's Day greetings with every member of the class every year. (It seemed a little strange to be giving Valentine's cards to our male friends, but the card makers figured out ways to make cards that said "Be my friend" instead of "Be my love"!)

There was plenty of candy exchanged, too. And some of the most popular items were little candy hearts, just a half-inch or so across, with very brief messages. Common ones from that time were "Be Mine," "Say Yes," and "Kiss Me."

What I didn't know then (thank goodness for the Internet!) was that these little hearts were all made by one company, the New England Candy Co. (NECCO), which started making them in the 1860s. (Note: Since 1988, the company has changed hands twice.) Actually, the first "message candies" were shaped like shells and had little pieces of paper inside them with longer sayings; the first printed candies weren't made until 1902.

And are they popular! They still sell about 8 billion hearts per year.

Now, this is a column about English. So let's look at an interesting thing about the "Sweethearts Conversation Hearts": the messages keep changing! They've used well over a hundred different sayings through the years. Sometimes messages become outdated, and are removed. And sometimes some of the old ones come back.

We probably wouldn't enjoy hearing some of the messages from the past, like this one from the days of the paper messages: "Please send a lock of your hair by return mail." And some messages that sounded "modern" just a few years ago might seem strange now, like "Page Me" or "Fax Me" from the 1990s.  The '90s also saw the addition of jokingly rude or sassy sayings, like "Buzz Off" and "I Don't Think So."

Last year (2007) was a year for pets, with new candies that said "Cool Cat," "Puppy Love," "Go Fish," and "Love Bird," among others.

Here are this year's (2008) ten new messages: "Melt My Heart," "In a Fog," "Chill Out," "Cloud Nine," "Heat Wave," "Sunshine," "Get My Drift," "Wild Life," "Nature Lover," and "Do Good."

Can you find a theme? They seem to be mostly about weather! I wonder why?

Happy Valentine's Day!


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweethearts_(candy)

Practice: Match the 2008 "Sweethearts" message with its possible meaning.

  1. Chill Out
  2. Cloud Nine
  3. Do Good
  4. Get My Drift
  5. Heat Wave
  6. In a Fog
  7. Melt My Heart
  8. Nature Lover
  9. Sunshine
  10. Wild Life

  1. a spell of hot weather, maybe indicating that the giver has strong feelings
  2. a symbol of happiness
  3. the idiom means "confused," so maybe "confused by my love for you"
  4. Being on this means one is very happy.
  5. Maybe if both members of the couple feel this way, they can enjoy outdoor activities together.
  6. "Understand what I'm saying?" Maybe this person has been hinting about his or her feelings!
  7. a double meaning: something about nature, or perhaps enjoying parties
  8. This expression can mean "behave properly" or even "be helpful to others."
  9. "Make me feel all soft and mushy inside."
  10. Relax; maybe "take your time," slow down," or "don't be so aggressive"

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 14, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. d; 3. h; 4. f; 5. a; 6. c; 7. i; 8. e; 9. b; 10. g