Spelling Love with Candy Hearts: The History of Conversation Heart Phrases
by Holly Hartman
For more than a century, the makers of NECCO Sweethearts Conversation Hearts have come up with some of the sweetest ways of saying "I love you." Every few years the company presents new messages on the tiny colored hearts that have been a holiday tradition since the Civil War.
For 2010, NECCO introduced new flavors and sayings. The new flavors include strawberry, green apple, lemon, grape, orange, and blue raspberry. For the first time in its 145-year history, the American public was invited to participate in an online survey to decide which phrases of love would appear on conversation hearts in 2010. The winners include: "Tweet Me," "Text Me," "You Rock," "Soul Mate," "Love Bug," and "Me + You." The following classic expressions reappear on the candies: "Puppy Love," "Sweet Love," "Sweet Pea," and "Love Me."
Recent additions to the Sweetheart lineup include new boxes: Dazzled Tarts and Sweethearts en Español.
In 2015, Necco added BFF, TE AMO (I love you in Spanish), JE T'AIME (I love you in French), a smiley face and a handlebar mustache.
Sweet Talk for the Times
Some favorites among the more than one hundred Sweetheart sayings have been in circulation since the hearts were first factory-made in 1902. These classics include "Kiss Me," "Sweet Talk," and "Be Mine." Sometimes a motto is discontinued for a time and then makes a reappearance; others are gone for good. Sayings considered outdated by NECCO include the funky "Dig Me" and the cheerful "You Are Gay."
NECCO says that creating mottoes can be tricky. The new sayings can't be "offensive, distasteful, or too wordy," according to Walter Marshall, retired NECCO vice president.
Space is also an issue. Conversation hearts come in two sizes—the standard 1/2 inch and the larger 3/4 inch model. The small hearts generally can fit no more than two words with four letters each, while the large hearts may accommodate two words with six letters each. Fortunately, creative phrasing can help fit longer sentiments onto the tiny hearts, as in the case of "EZ 2 LOVE."
Say It Again, Sweetheart
If you miss some of the old sayings, or would like to see some of your own, you can have them custom-made. The catch is that you'll have to buy a full production run, or about 1.7 million candy hearts. But you'll have plenty of time to eat them—they should stay fresh for at least five years.
Production of Sweethearts for Valentine's Day has already begun. There's still a chance to submit your slogan ideas for next year, however. NECCO must produce about 100,000 pounds of the candy hearts every day in order to meet the Valentine demand, when about 8 billion hearts are sold in six weeks.
Conversation hearts were invented in the 1860s by the brother of NECCO's founder. These first hearts had printed paper notes tucked inside. The lengthy, old-fashioned sayings included such wistful thoughts as "Please send a lock of your hair by return mail."
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