Isn’t It Romantic: Um, Not Really

By Mark Skoultchi

February 14, 2011

Ah, romance. Chocolates and roses, stolen kisses and sexy lingerie…and of course, the predatory exploits of the ancient Roman Empire. That’s right: the origins of the word romantic were not exactly, um, lover-ly. And, like so many romances, it’s a long story. Apparently, according to Merriam-Webster, as ancient Rome expanded, different dialects of Latin evolved, and were dubbed “romans.” (Later, they would become the European Romance languages.) These dialects were then used to spin tales of “courtly love,” which came to be called—romances. The story of Valentine’s Day is also connected to those wild and crazy Romans: it’s named for one or more of the Christian martyrs of that name who were executed in ancient Rome.

So Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody. And as you snuggle with your sweetie (or your dog, or your hidden stash of chocolates), you can hail the Roman conquerors without whom February 14 might be just another nameless day.

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