On this Valentine’s Day, you’re very likely to see the classic heart shape with the round bits at one end and the pointy bit at the other.
And if you know your biology, you know that this is not at all what an actual human heart looks like.
So where does this shape come from and why is it associated with hearts and love and Valentine’s Day?
There are a few explanations and they date back centuries.
One is from the ancient Greek city of Cyrene, in what is now Libya.
The community’s signature export was a plant called silphium.
The ancient world thought the plant’s sap could do it all: flavor your food, cure your coughs, settle your upset stomach, even keep you from getting pregnant.
Cyrene made so much money from trading silphium that they actually put the plant’s seed pod on their money.
And the seed pod is what we would today call heart-shaped.
That’s one explanation.
Another explanation is that the ancients created the shape they thought represented the biological heart.
Centuries ago, there was a school of thought that the heart had three chambers, that it had a rounded top and a point at the bottom.
They also believed that the heart was the source of human emotions and passions.
People in Medieval times loved the concept of courtly love, and so the heart shape started popping up everywhere, from textiles to playing cards.
Later, the heart shape became a big part of some Christian traditions, and once advertising got hold of the symbol, it started spreading everywhere, especially when the calendar showed February 14.
Today in 1912, Arizona became the 48th state in the Union.
Two hours west of Tucson, there’s an unincorporated area known as Why, Arizona.
It was a community near a Y-shaped intersection, so locals asked that its name be the letter Y.
But the law said town names needed at least three letters, so they spelled it “Why” instead.
And now you know why Why is Why.
The Shape of My Heart (Slate)
WHY WHY IS WHY (Arizona Oddities)