the heyday in the blood is tame (and what is a heyday?)

I JUST PUT the fin­ish­ing touches on a rewrite and up­date of an old ar­ti­cle of mine on '60s teen model Colleen Corby. While reread­ing the text and check­ing to see if the im­ages were linked to their source, the open­ing sen­tence caught my at­ten­tion. It read, "The term 'su­per­model' didn't ex­ist when Colleen Corby was in her glory days dur­ing the 1960s."

Alas, the pe­riod of my great­est vigor is a dim mem­ory, aroused as dreams by a frag­ment of un­der­done potato.

With­out much thought, I changed two words and the sen­tence now reads, "The term su­per­model didn't ex­ist when Colleen Corby was in her hey­day dur­ing the 1960s."

Af­ter read­ing and nod­ding in ap­proval at the change, I won­dered ex­actly what does hey­day mean and where did it come from? Like many peo­ple, I have been us­ing the term since we rode di­nosaurs to grade school and was fairly cer­tain that I used it cor­rectly

But I had never looked it up.

So I did.


Heyday book DanielCorrigan 700

Look­ing for an im­age to spice up this text and I came across this book, Hey­day: 35 Years of Mu­sic in Min­neapo­lis: "Daniel Cor­ri­gan be­gan tak­ing pho­tographs in the Twin Cities in the early 1980s and since then has cap­tured thou­sands of con­certs and mu­si­cians as a free­lancer, as­sign­ment pho­tog­ra­pher, and long­time of­fi­cial pho­tog­ra­pher for First Av­enue."

The heyday in the blood is tame

I al­ways turn first to Merriam-Webster, which de­fines hey­day as "the pe­riod of one's great­est pop­u­lar­ity, vigor, or pros­per­ity." Which is how I and most peo­ple tend to use the word. As ex­pla­na­tion they of­fer this:

"In its ear­li­est ap­pear­ances in Eng­lish, in the 16th cen­tury, hey­day was used as an in­ter­jec­tion that ex­pressed ela­tion or won­der, sim­i­lar to our word hey, from which it de­rives. Around the same time, hey­day saw use as a noun mean­ing 'high spir­its.'

It wasn’t un­til the 18th cen­tury that Eng­lish speak­ers, per­haps in­ter­pret­ing the day of the sec­ond syl­la­ble to mean 'a time or pe­riod,' be­gan us­ing hey­day to re­fer to the pe­riod when one’s achieve­ment or pop­u­lar­ity has reached its zenith."

Et­y­mol­ogy On­line of­fered a sim­i­lar back­ground on hey­day (and I have rewrit­ten their ex­pla­na­tion into some­thing re­sem­bling stan­dard Eng­lish for your ease in read­ing):

"The word hey­day or hey-day is from late 16th cen­tury where it was used as an ex­cla­ma­tion. It was an al­ter­ation of heyda from the 1520s, which was an ex­cla­ma­tion of play­ful­ness, cheer­ful­ness, or sur­prise some­thing like Mod­ern Eng­lish hur­rah.

Ap­par­ently, it is an ex­tended form of the Mid­dle Eng­lish in­ter­jec­tion hey or hei (see hey). The mod­ern sense of hey­day mean­ing one's 'stage of great­est vigor' was first recorded in 1751 — per­haps from a no­tion that the word was high-day—and it al­tered the spelling."

So now I know the mean­ing of hey­day and so do you!

More of gravy than of grave

The pull-quote at the top of this page ("Alas, the pe­riod of my great­est vigor is a dim mem­ory, aroused as dreams by a frag­ment of un­der­done potato") is a ref­er­ence to Ebenezer Scrooge's at­tempts to ra­tio­nal­ize his first vis­i­ta­tion from the ghost of Ja­cob Mar­ley. This is the full quote in Dick­ens' A Christ­mas Carol:

You may be an undi­gested bit of beef, a blot of mus­tard, a crumb of cheese, a frag­ment of un­der­done potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, what­ever you are!”

The mod­ern sense of 'hey­day' mean­ing one's 'stage of great­est vigor' was first recorded in 1751. Click To Tweet

Hamlet LaurenceOlivier 1 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: So, I'm guess­ing you're guess­ing what I had in mind when I chose this still from the 1948 movie Ham­let with Lau­rence Olivier and the beau­tiful Jean Sim­mons, right? Well, there's a very good ex­pla­na­tion! As an ex­am­ple of the use of hey­day as mean­ing high spir­its, Merriam-Webster of­fered Act III, Scene IV of Ham­let, when the Prince of Den­mark tells his mother, "You can­not call it love; for at your age, the hey­day in the blood is tame."

There you go . . .