My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “Star-Crossed and Loving It” (by subscription), takes a Valentine’s Day look at a Shakespearean idiom that’s been undergoing a major semantic shift: “star-crossed lovers.”
“Star-crossed” first appeared in print in 1597, in the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet. It means “doomed by adverse fortune,” and it foreshadows the lovers’ deaths in the final act. Four centuries later, however, some marketers and headline writers are seeing those stars through rose-colored glasses*. Here are a few of the examples I cite in the column.
- The greeting-card company Papyrus sells a Valentine’s Day card called “Star Crossed Lovers.” The outside of the card bears a pretty painting of a heart-shaped constellation; the text inside reads: You are the stars in my sky, you are my everything / Happy Valentine's Day with all my love.
Papyrus “Star Crossed Lovers”
- A Boston restaurant, Tryst, is running a Valentine’s Day promotion that includes “the romantic Star Crossed Lovers” cocktail, meant to be enjoyed by two smitten people. The ingredients do not include a vial of poison.
- A hotel in Vero Beach, Florida, issued this press release in 2011: “Star-Crossed Lovers Get Tarot Cards and Star Maps for V-Day at the Vero Beach Hotel.”
May the stars align favorably for you this Valentine’s Day!
* A much younger idiom, first documented in 1830 as “rose-coloured spectacles.”