April 04, 2011

i [heart] oed

The Oxford English Dictionary has posted a list of the newest words added to its electronic version. Among them are initialisms like "OMG" (classified as interjection and adjective) and "LOL" (classified as interjection and noun), both "strongly associated with the language of electronic communications" (note the plural). The really interesting entry, however, is a symbol ♥, as in "I ♥ NY." I was delighted to see that the earliest quote that is given involves a dog!

The new sense added to heart v. in this update may be the first English usage to develop via the medium of T-shirts and bumper-stickers. It originated as a humorous reference to logos featuring a picture of a heart as a symbol for the verb love, like that of the famous ‘I ♥ NY’ tourism campaign. Our earliest quote for this use, from 1984, uses the verb in ‘I heart my dog’s head’, a jokey play on bumper stickers featuring a heart and a picture of the face of a particular breed of dog (expressing a person’s enthusiasm for, say, shih-tzus) which itself became a popular bumper sticker.  From these beginnings, heart v. has gone on to live an existence in more traditional genres of literature as a colloquial synonym for ‘to love’.

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