Etymology Usage

Heart-to-heart talk

Q: I’m bewildered by all those T-shirts that proclaim, “I ♥ ME.”  Why is “me” capitalized? And why isn’t it “myself”? I’m from Maine, and to me the message is “I love Maine.”

A: We can’t believe that you’re REALLY bewildered by the uppercase “ME” in that message.

Nobody with an Internet connection could be. We’ve been driven virtually deaf by now from all the capital letters that scream at us for emphasis in cyberspace.

Is there too much of it? Yes. Can we do anything about it? No, except perhaps to show a little restraint ourselves.

As for “I ♥ ME,” you can find it on hats, bags, compacts, valentines, stickers, cards, lighters, etc., in addition to T-shirts.

You can also find a lot of “I ♥ Maine” items. Most of them spell out “Maine” in upper- and lower-case letters, though some use all caps and others refer to the state as “ME.”

You may be interested in a posting we had a few years ago about the use of the word “heart” in place of the ♥ symbol. It turns out that the use of “heart” as a verb isn’t a modern phenomenon.

In fact, the first published reference for the verbing of “heart” dates from around 897, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. In Anglo-Saxon days, to “heart” meant to give heart to or inspire someone.

Last January the online OED added a draft entry on the colloquial use of “heart” as a verb meaning to love or be fond of.

The dictionary says the usage is of US origin, and adds, “Originally with reference to logos using the symbol of a heart to denote the verb ‘love.’ ”

The first OED citation for this sense of the word is from a Nov. 16, 1983, Associated Press article:

“From Berlin to the Urals, teen-agers wear T-shirts reading, ‘Elvis,’ ‘Always Stoned,’ and ‘I (heart) New York.’ ”

As for “me” versus “myself,” we’ve written about this business several times on the blog, beginning with a posting in 2006.

It would be OK to use either “me” or “myself” on the T-shirt you’ve asked about, though the shorter one is punchier and could do double-duty Down East.

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