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Eat Your Heart Out
You've probably heard the phrase eat your heart out. Either someone has directed this phrase at you, or you've said this phrase to someone else. Have you ever thought about what you're saying? Wouldn't it be kind of gross for someone to rip his heart out of his chest and eat it? Yuck! And you certainly wouldn't want to eat your own heart. Where did this phrase come from, and what does it actually mean? Once you know it's origins and true meaning, you should be able to use it more effectively in your own writing.
When you say eat your heart out to someone, you are wishing for that person to be consumed by the powerful emotion of greed or jealousy. Is this what the phrase has meant since its origins?
This phrase was first used in the Greek myth of Belarophon. This unfortunate individual is left eating his heart out in grief after the deaths of his three children. The gods have turned on him in a fit of jealousy because of his success and have arranged for his offspring to die.
This phrase was also used by Homer in The Iliad and The Odyssey. Apparently in these books, it also conveyed very profound grief. Even though I had to read these books while I was in school, I don't specifically remember running across that particular phrase. But I don't really remember anything about those books because I didn't enjoy reading them.
The heart is the center of very strong emotions. When we experience fear, shock, jealousy, or even grief, the heart will beat faster. Long ago, before people realized that strong emotion was what made their hearts race, they may have thought that the heart was somehow responsible for these strong emotions.
The heart is crucial to our survival. Think about it – if you remove your heart, then you die. If you are ate up with grief in a bad way, then you may actually wish for death. Maybe this is why this particular phrase was linked with grief.
Today it is used as a term to tell others to be jealous of what you have accomplished. Maybe it doesn't sound as self-centered to tell someone to eat your heart out as it would if you told them to be jealous of you .
How could you use this phrase in your fiction writing? Instead of using it to denote jealousy, why not use it to indicate grief? Maybe one of your characters could be a word fanatic and know the original meaning of the phrase. He/she could insist on always using it with its original meaning. Or you could have a character who loves to speak in phrases, and this could be his favorite one.
Content copyright © 2013 by Lisa Binion. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lisa Binion. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lisa Binion for details.
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