Friday, May 4, 2007

Heart-shaped Heart

Isn't it strange how, as a child, you learn to make the shape of a heart? Do you remember when there was a time when you couldn't draw a heart? You practiced it over and over again. It's hard to make it symmetrical. It was hard to make the humps the right shape, to make the points at the bottom meet.

Drawing a heart and learning to draw a heart is not like learing how to draw letters: everyone either makes those the same way or like drawing flowers, everyone makes them differently. Even if you can not draw, you are expected to be able to make a heart. It's realm is something other than a letter's: it is a symbol, a mark without much variance. If someone asked you to draw a flower, an eye, a clover, you expect some variance, but the heart--here you have two cloves of equal depth with inverted curves beneath them that must meet in the center. It is the heart. An english ideogram that is almost universal. It's a bit weird.


  1. Is it almost universal? Do people in China or Africa recognize it? Do they recognize it as a foreign symbol whose meaning they know? and what is its meaning? How did it get that meaning? Do we learn how to draw a heart before a star?

  2. I could find very little research regarding the heart-shape as an ideogram other than its earliest appearance (European hunters pre-dating the last ice age) and it rise to popularity a common usage (Middle Ages to Victorian England)  points to google and wikipedia. However, most ancient civilizations used roughly the same shape.

    Now comes the part I have not researched and is open to debate. The shape is so well known (due to its age and popularity) that every modern culture recognizes it. Far from being considered an Americo/Euro ideogram, Asian cultures have rampantly adopted it (at least they do in the song names on my DDR) and most see it as a pan-cultural, trans-lingual symbol, much like the five-pointed star (which was a b#*$h to learn how to draw).

    Unlike a star though, one recognizes only one heart shape (sweet "curved" points and straight symmetric points non-withstanding). I could draw a star-of-david, an asterisk, a five-point star, four-point star, or a 16-point star and upon showing each picture could receive the same response for each drawing. "Star".