Friday, July 12, 2013

Cross my heart and hope to die

In my neverending capacity for masochism, I've decided to not only do precalc over the summer, show up for preseason cross country runs, and get through all the Game of Thrones books (currently on Storm of Swords!), but also write one poem, one short story, and one blog post every day. Cross my heart and hope to die...

Which brings me to my inaugural post. Where does that saying, "cross my heart and hope to die," come from anyway? A Google search on the term brings up mostly inconclusive answers from not especially trustworthy sources (my AP Lang teacher would not be proud of me relying on and Yahoo Answers), but they'll have to do.

Yahoo Answers user Lorreign said this, "Probably the gesture and its binding nature were originally based upon the familiar Catholic sign of the cross. In my own Protestant childhood in Ohio, and my wife says the same was the case in Massachusetts, the oath was often accompanied by the irreverent doggerel: 'Cross your heart and hope to die, And hope the cat'll spit in your eye." From "2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song and Dance" by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993). Another Yahoo Answers user, who agreed with the statement that the origin lies in the Catholic cross, added this, "The British extended version (at least in South East England) is "Cross my heart and hope to die / Stick a needle in my eye."

I'm guessing that the Catholic Church never intended crosses to be used in vain by every child who has ever sworn an oath, the likes of Huck Finn's gang and solemn children who pledge themselves to death before they know what it is. After all, using God's name in vain is biblically prohibited; the rosary doesn't seem all that far off. It's interesting to me, how much we invest in symbols. That the cross itself can immediately evoke a movie's worth of images, feelings, and history--from the image of the man on the cross, to his life, to blood and sacredness and sacrifice--and all in one small piece of plastic, steel, or gold. And sometimes, we manage to invest so much in the object that we forget about the story. That, it seems, is precisely what happened with a simple childhood line called "cross my heart and hope to die."


  1. Definitely phrases like those always end up being taken for granted and having God's name used in vain.

    Our Muslim version is "Wallah" but I'm sure you're familiar with how trendy that word's become amongst school-kids!

    Anyway, looking forward to your regular blogging!

  2. Anonymous5:53 PM

    Your article is like defining zero, once a definition is made, zero cannot exist. Thanks for again proving the internet is full of a people rehashing google search.