February 15, 2006

Valentine’s Day Reading

Filed under: animals, culture — ted @ 7:09 pm

As could be expected, the Net produced plenty of appropriate reading today for those who long for appropriate yet lightly engaging reading material on this most commercial of days.

The good folks at Slate weighed in on a subject long confusing to me, the origin and meaning of the heart symbol. I’ve always wondered where it came from, and how it came to mean what it means. (My favorite explanation had to do with old Sumerian cunieform symbol for woman, and what it “directly represents.”) Turns out the answer is far from straightforward. Here’s one interesting theory:

The Catholic Church contends that the modern heart shape did not come along until the 17th century, when Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque had a vision of it surrounded by thorns. This symbol became known as the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was associated with love and devotion; it began popping up often in stained-glass windows and other church iconography. But while the Sacred Heart may have popularized the shape, most scholars agree that it existed much earlier than the 1600s.

At the New York Times, there’s a fun Op-Ed about kissing, why we do it, and why it’s so awesome:

If kissing is not universal, then someone must have invented it. Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist at Texas A&M, has traced the first recorded kiss back to India, somewhere around 1500 B.C., when early Vedic scriptures start to mention people “sniffing” with their mouths, and later texts describe lovers “setting mouth to mouth.” From there, he hypothesizes, the kiss spread westward when Alexander the Great conquered the Punjab in 326 B.C.

Thank you, India.

On a completely different note, some really serious reading showed up on Boing Boing today. Most interesting is a linked-to article entitled “Never Poke a Dragon While It’s Eating,” containing some fine ruminations on the Internet in China, inspired by the bad press Google and Yahoo have been getting of late.

Also, if you’ve got plenty of time, there’s this essay about Google Book Search and why it’s so wonderful.


1 Comment »

  1. someone told me that kissing may have emerged as an extension of feeding, such as how birds do it, which I find really disgusting.

    Comment by lauren — February 18, 2006 @ 8:28 pm

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