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What does the Cockles of Your Heart mean?

Is There Such as Thing as the “Cockles of your Heart”?

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It has been said that a nostalgic story or an inspirational movie can “warm the cockles of your heart”. So have you ever wondered where these so called cockles can be found? Unsurprisingly, the answer is not something tangible but something figurative even though the phrase has been used medically during the 15th century. Beyond that time period, sadly, the meaning of the said phrase became obscure.

At one point in time, it was believed that the “cockles of your heart” were derived from cochleae cordis, the Latin description for the chambers of the heart. The word ‘cockles’ was believed to refer to the corrupted version of cochleae and probably ended up as part of common everyday vocabulary. According to medical experts at that time, the ventricles of the human heart had a great similarity to the cochleae or cockles, also known as the concentric shells of snails or small mollusks. This former did not affirm both the physical and emotional aspects of the heart but the latter seemed to have a striking resemblance to the human ear. Presently, the Latin word cochlea is still being used to refer to the ear and not the heart, or cardium.

Another theory regarding the origins of the phrase “cockles of your heart” was born in the Middle Ages. During that period, small mollusks and snails were abundant and their shells were similar to the shape of the human heart. Most probably the shape of these shells was seen to be similar to the human heart, which made perfect sense. However, the Latin origins of both mollusks and the heart are not the same and therefore the phrase might have been another form of slang.

There is, apparently, another meaning of the word “cockles” in the phrase “cockles of your heart”. It is an outdated definition and referred to the chambers of a kiln. The cold chambers of a kiln were compared to the cockles of your heart which only functions well at a specific temperature. It is definitely worth considering how a fire warms the cockles of a kiln the same way that a nostalgic story or even memory warms the cockles of your heart.

The last possibility is that of the word coquille, the French word for shell. The way the word is pronounced is very similar to “cockle” and the association of the mollusk shell shape to the shape of the chambers of the human heart. It isn’t the first time that foreign words become involved in everyday conversations and there is a possibility that the phrase “cockles of your heart” may have come from the pretentious phrase “coquilles of your heart.”

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