It’s Amaze-Words Wednesday, when I head down another path in the labyrinth of language and try to discover something I didn’t know before. With an estimated $1.5 billion to be spent on candy for Valentine’s Day, I expect that candy makers and sellers around the world are preparing for another busy season when people give sweets to the sweet (and sours to the sour?).
While candy corn is associated with Halloween and Cadbury eggs with Easter, heart-shaped candies are associated with Valentine’s Day. What’s the most popular of them? Perhaps candy hearts — you know, those chalky colored hearts that are pretty much pure sugar and have short sayings stamped onto them.
Necco Company produced the original and began making Sweethearts candies in 1902. There are usually about 80 sayings used at any given time. The sayings must be short since only two lines of 4-5 letters across can fit on the hearts. Some popular sayings — like “Be Mine” and “Kiss Me” — are carried over from year to year, but Necco also solicits the public for ideas and incorporates new ones from time to time. This is why by 2011, you could find hearts with “You Rock” and “Tweet Me” on them. Outdated sayings are also thrown out. For instance, they no longer print “You Are Gay” and “Dig Me.”
So what can you find on Sweethearts these days? Though I started with online research, I quickly decided to take a hands-on approach instead. In addition to Necco’s Sweethearts, I purchased the copycat products of Wonka’s Sweetarts Hearts, Ferrara Pan Heart Lines, and Brach’s Conversation Hearts. Taking a sample of 73-76 candies per brand, I studied how we say Happy Valentine’s Day with our candy.
Necco had the most options, with 48 sayings, and Wonka the fewest, with only 8. The most popular sayings? “Kiss Me” and “Love You” appeared with the highest frequency. If you include variations like “Let’s Kiss,” “Love U” and “Luv You,” all four brands had these sayings. Apparently, the straightforward messages are alive and well.
Old-fashioned sayings like “Be Mine,” “Yes Dear” and “Hug Me” show up on the candy hearts. But here are some of the newer, funkier ones:
1 On 1
Crazy 4 U
Mad 4 U
Time 2 Dance
U Move Me
Other sayings confuse me. What does “Go Go Go” have to do with Valentine’s Day? Or “Jump 4 Me”? Is that one for your dog? “Love Bug” and “Race Me” also made appearances. Is this a Herbie movie?
Some of the pet names also seem rather syrupy to me. Does anyone really call their honey “Baby Doll,” “Cutie” or “Sweet Pea”? Perhaps they should opt instead for a little French-inspired love with the “Mi Amor” hearts or leap in fully with the “Soul Mate” hearts.
Basically, whatever message you want to send — fun, romantic, sexy, cutesy, hip — you can probably find it on a candy heart. In case you want to know which ones taste the best, I gave that task to my in-house candy experts (two junior high boys now on a big sugar high). Their unanimous results: Wonka Sweetarts taste the best (although they offer the fewest sayings), Necco places second (has the most sayings too), and Ferrara Pan and Brach’s come in at the end.
What were my favorite messages? Well, I think it’s hard to beat the classics – “Love You,” “XOXO” and “Marry Me.” Moreover, if you’re looking for a way to propose, upon request Necco will send you a bag of “Marry Me” hearts. And after my recent Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon, I was kind of happy to find a heart that said “Angel.”
What do you think of candy hearts? What would you like to see stamped on a candy heart? What message do you want to send this Valentine’s Day?